Saturday, December 31, 2016

For New Year's Eve, get yourself down to FFF.

This Christmas I released the newest book in my Groupie universe, which intersected the lives of all your favorite characters. This includes Andy, Vanni, Graham and Maggie from Groupie, Jace and Jordi from Fierce, Rachel, Alex and Jonathan from The Fullerton Family Saga, Carly and Eli from Glitter on the Web, Rudy and Tony from Masked in the Music, Devlin Masters and Caz Bixby from the Masters series, and Jonah, Lacy and Clementine from the Southern Rockers saga.

They all meet at a popular Hollywood nightclub called FFF - the place where you are free to be. You can let your freak flag fly. You can live your life on your terms. You can be among your tribe, full of people who support you and accept you for the beautiful, unique creature you are.

Of course, being so unabashed and shameless comes with certain consequences. The more unapologetic you are, the more your critics demand that you apologize. This comes to an explosive head at FFF, which shatters the Groupie Universe forever in the first two chapters.

Out of the ashes of this unspeakable tragedy, owners Clementine, Carly, Eli and Antoine attempt to raise FFF like the beautiful, defiant phoenix it is, which, of course, draws even more critics. Enter Jack Darby, an arrogant writer who uses their pain to make a name for himself. He challenges Clementine to prove that her way of life is any better than the more traditional rules society abides by. She decides to entertain the facade, but on her terms, for her own reasons.

They both quickly learn they have bitten off way more than they can chew.

Enjoy this excerpt from "Full-Figured Floozies," available NOW.

It was her turn to pick their festivities for the evening and she had a whopper in mind for Mr. Jack Darby. They would start on her home turf, her beloved FFF. She didn’t care if everyone got to see the current state of chaos it was in as it underwent construction. She wanted them to see it. She needed them to see it. She wanted every single protester and supporter to know how much they would have to fight back to get back on their feet.

That was part of the strategy.

Leading arrogant douche nozzle Jack Darby to the back room with the dancing poles was the other.

He met her gaze with a skeptical one of his own. “So this is your idea of a date? Pole-dancing?”

“Absolutely,” she said as she tossed off her robe, revealing her flesh body suit. To the world it would look as if she wore nothing at all, which was the point. They thought they could shame her 212-pound body after the horse-riding fiasco, but she came back more defiant than ever before. She wanted them to look at every square inch. She didn’t care if it made them uncomfortable. As long as she was comfortable in the skin she was living in, no one—absolutely no one—got the right to make her feel lesser than just because they didn’t like what they saw. She wasn’t there for their amusement or their entertainment. She got to be a person whether they liked it or not.

One look in those surprised blue eyes and she got the sense Jack Darby liked it more than he cared to admit. She’d seen that look plenty, the one of reassessment, where the guy suddenly wondered what other tricks someone like her had up her sleeve.

“What’s the matter, Jack?” she challenged sweetly. “Never had a workout date before?”

He shrugged out of his jacket and threw it over a nearby chair. “Workout dates are my favorite kind of dates,” he said as he peeled away his shirt. He proudly displayed his bare chest with hardly an inch of fat to be seen, which sadly proved his point. Clem’s tummy tightened a little, almost to spite her.

“Good. Glad to hear it.” Clem walked over to the sound system and threw on a Jessie J track. Both ignored his assistant Ashley, who disappeared behind the camera to film the whole thing. “I wanted to show you some of the tricks I learned from Ana Rivera. You might remember her. She’s one of the victims who lost her life in the main room, near the stage.” Clem walked over to one of the poles.

His eyes narrowed as they studied her, trying to figure out her angle. “Yeah. I remember Ana.”

“A lot of people dismissed her as a stripper just because she knew how to work a pole. But those of us who knew her knew she was an athlete, who simply used the pole to work every single muscle of her body.” With that, Clem launched onto the pole with strength and agility she knew would blow Jack’s small mind apart like confetti. Using the music, she spun herself around, gliding easily and effortlessly, contorting her larger body into elegant lines as she fluidly wound herself around the pole. She climbed up high and, using only her forearms, was able to extend the lower half of her body into a straight line.

That she was carrying more body mass only made the feat of strength that much more impressive, and Clem knew it. She scissored her legs perfectly, showing not only her strength but an agility she knew every single person watching wouldn’t expect. She wore a victorious smile as slithered back down the pole again and glanced to Jack. “Your turn.”

He glanced up at the tall pole. After a bit of strategizing, he grabbed the shining stainless steel.

“Oh, wait,” Clem interrupted, almost as an afterthought. “You really should wear something more… forgiving,” she said as she glanced down at his snug jeans. She pulled a leotard in the same nude flesh color that she wore and tossed it to him. “I had to guess what size. I really didn’t know what you were working with.”

But soon they all would, which was the point. If he thought that he could shame the size of her body, she’d turn the tables in a way that many men feared.

Unfortunately for Clem, Jack didn’t blink an eye. He didn’t have to. That leotard fit his body like a second skin, and proudly showed off every solid inch. As a plus-size size queen, even Clem couldn’t deny that he had a lot to be proud of. Using her handheld remote, she changed the track to Missy Elliott and leaned against the bar, almost daring him to impress her.

Granted, he was a little awkward. He was strong, to be sure, but he lacked the finesse it took to conquer the pole. But it sure was a lot of fun watching him try. His muscles rippled as he attempted to balance himself in the same way that she had. Only he wasn’t able to hold himself perfectly still and vertical like she had done. Instead he wobbled and landed on his feet a few seconds after trying.

She wore the same smile as she walked back to her pole. “Not as easy as it looks, is it, Jack?” Once again she hoisted herself onto the pole and spun around so fast she knew it’d make him dizzy. She practically bent herself in half as she circled the pole all the way to the ground. When she stepped away, she walked to where he stood. Her eyes met his. “Your turn.”

He stood a little closer. “Spot me?”

“Of course,” she grinned. She’d spot him all the way to the ground, the arrogant dickhead.

But as he attempted once again to mirror her move, she found herself instructing him the way Ana once instructed her so long ago. She held him up, helped him find his groove, and worked with him until he could manage at least half of the work she had done.

He was sweating when he finally landed on his feet. “This is your workout?”

“Three times a week,” she confirmed. “We do free classes here for our regulars who want to stay fit.”

“But you’re…,” he started, and for once couldn’t complete the insult.

“Fat?” she filled in for him. He nodded. She offered a throaty laugh before she changed to the next track, a slower, more sensual one, as she stalked back to the pole with her sexiest strut. She used all her seductive prowess to enthrall him as she spun around the pole, lifting herself off the ground effortlessly and seamlessly, scissoring her legs into perfect splits. She practically made love to that pole as she danced for him. Thanks to his leotard, she knew exactly what she was doing to him. His brain may have called her fat, but Mr. Happy was growing more impressed by the inch.

Whether it was that, or he just couldn’t allow her to show him up, he returned to his pole to match her movement by movement. He wasn’t as graceful by a mile, but he made up for it in effort. He didn’t care how many times he had to start over. He was determined to meet her unspoken challenges. Their exertion left them both breathless and sweaty as the last note faded from the room like a heartbeat. She met him in the middle of the room.

“Not bad, Jack. Not bad. Keep this up and you’ll be a professional pole dancer before you know it. In case, you know, this writing thing doesn’t pan out.”

He laughed. “I guess I’ll owe my first dance to you.” His eyes swept her face. “So what’s next on the agenda?”

“Food,” she answered simply. With a snap of her finger, some of the FFF crew brought in a blanket and some Mediterranean food they could eat under the dazzling laser light star show she started with another click on her remote.

“It’s like you’ve done this before,” he commented as he sat on the blanket.

“I’m a card-carrying founding member of the FFF. I’ve got game,” she agreed as she joined him.

“Do you always like to be in control, Clementine?”

She dug out one of the containers. “Always. Don’t you?”

“I’m expected to,” he shrugged. “Are the men you date ever intimidated by you?”

She laughed. “Probably. But I don’t think that hurts anything.” She used warm pita bread wedges to scoop out some spicy hummus. “The best seductions take you by surprise,” she said as she offered to feed him the treat by hand.

His eyes never left hers as he took a bite. Despite her best intensions, she felt her belly stir at what she saw there in those blue depths. As it turned out, she wasn’t the only one challenging someone on this particular date. She watched his tongue wipe away the stray bit of hummus that fell on the corner of his mouth. “Yummy,” he murmured softly.


Happy 2017 everyone! Hope it is full of sexy surprises. ;)

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

This November, elect Caz Bixby as your Scoundrel in Chief. #freeread #Kindle

Because there's only one way to handle a demagogue...

We get by with a little help from our friends.

Get MASTERS FOR LIFE, the second book in my Masters series FOR FREE today only, and MASTERS FOREVER, the exciting conclusion, at a discount price. That means you can read the whole series for less than $5! (But buy quickly, Book 3 will go back up to regular price by the end of today.)

Enjoy getting to know one of my favorite characters of all time. He'll be around a while.

**Fair warning**

If you need a warning to read a book, this series is *definitely* not the one for you.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

September 25: Why it's such an important date.

I have so many reasons to celebrate September 25, it's kind of an embarrassment of riches. It was the date I met my first husband 29 years ago, which took me on the adventure of a lifetime.

It is Hal Sparks' birthday, a man who has broadened my perspective and made me reach for the stars, believing I could actually touch them one day if I really tried.

It is a date that has brought so much hope and goodness, love and friendship into my life that I always take the time to honor it each and every year. But there's one very important reason why I decided to release my new book MASKED IN THE MUSIC on this date.

The biggest reason it is so special is that is on this date in 1980 that I met my best friend, my BFF, my bestie, my brother-from-another-mother (God, I sound super white when I say that). The Universe kindly dropped a kind, generous, funny, intelligent, loving person into my life right before it ripped my dad right out of it. This was wise of the Universe. I don't think I would have made it otherwise.

I was ten years old when I met Jeff. I had just moved, AGAIN. I think by the time I was 10 we had moved at least ten times. When I think back to my early childhood, I can mark years basically by where we were living at the time. We weren't military, we just moved a lot. In 1980, this meant we moved from my hometown of Abilene to Amarillo - where my mom and dad had met and fallen in love. He had kids there from another marriage, and my sister had moved there - which seemed to be the biggest impetus of us moving anywhere.

Despite the trauma I endured when I was four, I was a pretty outgoing child who didn't give a rat's ass what people thought of me. I had self-confidence out the wazoo. I was a good student, and, most importantly, I had the unconditional love of a devoted dad whose supportive voice was just loud enough I could ignore all the negative things others might have said about me. I eagerly participated in life, even if it made me a gigantic dork to do it. If you ask my bestie about "Country & Western" day, when I showed up in a denim dress, boots with a wooden purse, he can tell you the inner horror he felt for me. Back then the whole gay thing was way under wraps, but if it hadn't have been, I'm sure the words, "Oh, gurl," might have escaped his lips.

He told me years later that part of it was the fact I wasn't afraid to be seen, and being closeted didn't afford him the same liberties, but let's face it. I probably looked ridiculous. My school photo from the year we met was a frizzy, dizzy mess. I wanted curly hair for my pictures, so I slept with curlers in my hair, which was losing a war with prepubescence and all the oily, stringiness that implies. Needless to say, it didn't come out well.

Like most girls, the most negative stuff always came from me. And it got really bad in 1980, when I arrived in a new school where I wasn't able to win people over like I had in previous years. Recess, which I used to rule with all the creative gameplay I came up with, was traded in for P.E., a class that became my nemesis all throughout the rest of my school career. It even factored *heavily* into my dropping out of high school six years later. (If you've read THE LEFTOVER CLUB, you got a little insight into the kind of abuse I suffered from a coach, which made me ditch high school and everything that came with it like a bad habit. Instead I took my GED test when I was 18 - passing with higher averages than high school students, I might add - and taking college classes later.)

(I'm unstoppable, I just have a low tolerance for needless suffering.)

The transition into fifth grade at Eastridge wasn't an easy one. Because of the onslaught of puberty I had developed early, with all the skin problems and weird hair growth that came with. The boys, who were just starting to notice girls at this age, had plenty to say about it. The strongest pack in our fifth grade class was convinced that I had been held back, which was the worst insult anyone could lob at me. I was a straight-A student. If there was one thing I could count on, it was that I was one of the smartest in the class. But because of how I looked, people started to question it. I honestly didn't know how to handle it. I wasn't sure I'd make any new friends there until the day the boy sitting in front of me turned around to talk to me about politics.

We were progressive even then. Seriously what ten-year-old asks another ten-year-old, "If you were old enough to vote for president, which one would you vote for?"

That neither of us came from politically active families makes this even odder.

Little did I know at the time, the Universe was positioning someone into my life I'd need very badly and very soon. My dad died December of that year, and in an instant all the positive voices in my world were silenced. My dad was my main caregiver. He was older and disabled, so he stayed home with me while my mom worked. Losing him left a huge hole in my life. I became a latchkey kid in 1980, coming home to an empty house at 3:30 in the afternoon, and remaining on my own until I went to bed later that night, before my mom returned from her job at a factory closer to midnight.

I had to fill my own time. I had to make my own meals. I had to parent myself with all the wisdom and insight I'd developed by age ten. Most of all I had to manage staying alone in an empty house, a young kid who suddenly had the entire basis of her emotional security ripped out from under her. It took until last year for me to realize that I had been suffering through PTSD throughout my childhood, that was neither identified or treated. The first trauma, what happened when I was four, was never addressed or dealt with. Then my dad died, and, being strong, southern stock, I was expected to just roll with the punches because life sucks sometimes and there's nothing you can do. "Trust God," they'd tell me.

But God had taken my beloved Daddy away. I had major beef.

Had I not had a kind, conscientious friend, who would call me every single night to ease the loneliness, fear and uncertainty, who knows what might have happened? With Jeff I didn't have to be an instant adult. I could be a kid. I could be silly even at one of the darkest moments of my life. I could play. We bought and listened to records, which broadened my love for music. I went to the movies, which I had never really done before him. He told me jokes. We laughed for hours about all kinds of jokes. With Jeff I could test these limits.

He was my biggest support when I was floundering at school. During the blasted Presidential Fitness test, when I struggled to run a mile (I was fucking ten, for fuck's sake) he was the one who trotted back out to run with me, which inspired a scene in MY IMMORTAL between two of my principle characters. In fact, he's inspired a lot of my characters, including Brian from the aforementioned title, THE LEFTOVER CLUB.

We were the leftovers. And that was usually fine by the both of us.

My friendship with Jeff bloomed even though my mother moved us AGAIN. I ended up across town in yet another school, where the whole boy-girl thing got even worse. This was bad enough, but phone calls kept us connected all the way until my mom decided once again to follow my sister back down to Abilene. I was devastated. Not only was I leaving my first major crush behind, but I was forced to leave my very best friend. We vowed that we would keep in contact, writing each other.

We were twelve by then, and by then we were both tired of friends moving away and having to start all over with someone else. So the letters came faithfully every single week, sometimes two at a time. I would run out to the porch whenever I knew the mailman had come, excited to see that tell-tale green and white envelope that could only mean one thing: Muppet stationary. My mother, guaranteed, wasn't getting any mail on Muppet stationary. That meant it was just for me. When you're twelve and you have something just for you, particularly when everything else was routinely taken away, it's elixir to the soul.

We both kind of forget how remarkable it is that we sustained our friendship long-distance for so long. We've been friends thirty-six years, and have only lived in the same town eleven of those years. We had letters for the rest, which makes Beaches an even HARDER movie to watch for the both of us.

By the 90s we traded handwritten letters for instant messages, which is about the best thing ever. Now we have texts and Face-time, where I can bring him with me wherever I go. (And I do.)

It is because of him I became such a passionate ally for LGBT causes, even though I think I was wired to do that regardless. Because of him, though, I had a reason.

So when it came time to write my first M/M love story, something he was owed after reading 33 books that were all based on straight relationships (including straight sex), there was no other day I COULD release it than September 25. I'd have to check the anniversary list but I'm pretty sure year 36 is paper, right?

MASKED IN THE MUSIC, which released today, is my anniversary gift, and love letter, to my bestie, who has been with me through thick and thin and literally saved my life on more than one occasion. It was an honor to write this story, learning so much about his journey by walking in his shoes. He was my consultant throughout the whole thing, so I knew I was on the right path. Some of his experiences even made it into the book, in the details that helped me color in this new world. This book literally wouldn't have happened without him.

To Jeff, thank you for everything. You not only saved my life, you gave me a life worth saving. I wouldn't be who I am without you. Love you forever and always. Happy anniversary. Here's to 36 more years. <3 <3 <3

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Your Sneak Peek Saturday: "When there is no ending." (You have been warned.)

If there's one thing I suck at, it's writing an ending. That's not a indictment against my skill, by the way. It's not that I don't plan them out in advance and build towards them with patience and keen diligence. I'm a professional writer with decades of storytelling experience. I can craft an ending. I just don't like to write them. If I write "The End," my time with those characters and that story is done, and sometimes - well, all the time - I'm just not ready to say goodbye.

I don't let go easily of the things I love. Ask anyone.

Way, way, WAY back in the day, I honed my storytelling skill with a growing population of Barbie dolls. I created this whole ongoing soap opera around characters I painstakingly created day by day, story by story. I didn't need to change anyone, I just added to the canvas. Ken and Barbie became David and Laura. When they were settled in marital bliss, I added Superman and Golden Dream Barbie as Robert and Jenny to their world, full of the excitement of new love, with a steady stream of supporting characters in a universe I built one story at a time. And I kept these stories going for *years*. It would take me months to work out a plot. My favorite example of this, mostly because it sticks out most in my mind, is when my model Jenny Gold was kidnapped by her stalker, photographer Kevin Sherwood, in the spring of 1982. He kept her on a private island almost the entire duration of her pregnancy, where he attempted to woo her and win her heart. Kevin was deranged and he thought if she had the baby there, with him, they could start over as a new family even though he wasn't the biological father. Over long, arduous months, Jenny had to get through to her abductor so he could return her to her husband, her daughter, her friends and family, and the entire world who believed she was dead.

Yes, I was twelve at the time I came up with this, but I grew up watching General Hospital. What, really, did you expect?

Day after day I would return to this story and these characters, excited to watch it play out. I would go so far as to tape tissue around her tummy in every so small increments to show the passage of time via her pregnant tummy, which - looking back now - was the mark of a budding screenwriter. Talk about "show don't tell."

I let this whole storyline blossom in real time, and yes, that means over nine months. I knew where I was going with it, but I cranked out that angst by the day as if I didn't. I had just way too much fun in the details of telling the story I didn't want to end. Jenny was one of my all-time favorite characters, wholesome, devoted, down-to-earth, much like my character Rachel grew up to be, and I loved watching her try every single day to fight for herself and her family as she dealt with a man so damaged that he didn't know how to love anyone or truly connect beyond some crazy sick power play.

Ah, me and my damaged men.

He went on to return Jenny home to her husband in time for the baby to be born, and ultimately changed enough and grew to find love again years later. Yes. Years. He had one disastrous marriage with an opportunistic starlet (Bambi) before he met the woman who was so damaged she needed *him* - and they saved each other.

You're going to see a story like that unfold in the near future, methinks.

Honestly I don't know how my crazy Barbie soap opera ended, or if it ever did. If I know me, it didn't officially end, it was merely abandoned. There was always a new story to tell, and I learned from my soap operas that there is no such thing as a happy ending. If your couple finally gets together, you better cut and run because things won't stay happy for long. Happy people make for boring stories. If you want to keep your favorite characters in the forefront, there has to be conflict. Period. That's what keeps you going back time after time. You just have to see how the story ends.

Makes me kind of sad to bid all my characters adieu because that means that excitement is over. N' I don't want it to be. I spent so much time with them and now they have to go away because that's just how books work. They need a beginning, middle and... sadly... an end.

When I got to Book #11, Mogul, I decided to start Stephen-Kinging things. Stephen King, for those who don't know, has callbacks in his books to OTHER books he's written, other places, other characters. It's just a little hidden gem that only the true fans will see and "get", which made me feel special. So I decided if I couldn't indulge my characters beyond a HEA without throwing a lot of drama their way, meaning a never-ending saga with cliffies and frustration galore, they could make guest appearances in books so my fans will know what those characters are up to.

I figure if I want to know, maybe you do too.

I ended up building this universe of interconnected characters. I write a lot about music, so my mogul Graham Baxter shows up on the regular, as do his biggest stars like Vanni Carnevale and Jace Riga. I wrote a book about caterers, so now I have people to cater all of these big events. I created a club just for the kinds of characters I love to write (big girls and the gay men that love them.) Through it all you get peeks at the life beyond the HEAs where I begrudgingly said goodbye to in their own books, simply because I had to abandon the story before it took another rocky turn.

This left me only one rule to abide by: I couldn't change their story. I could add to it, I just couldn't undo what I had already set in stone in previous books, because you know what that means. More books. Lots and lots of books. Books with lots of loose ends that drive many readers of romance up a tree, who expect you to follow two strict rules: write primarily about one relationship and end it happily.

Here's the thing about rules. They're meant to be broken. Story, which is my only master, sometimes demands it.

MASKED IN THE MUSIC was never meant to be just another romance who happened to star two hot men this time around. The thing that plants my butt in the chair is if I have something to add to the conversation about what is going on in our world. After Orlando I knew I had some things to say, particularly about the violent hatred that surrounds our LGBT brothers and sisters. See, I remember quite well leaving a gay bar in Amarillo, Texas, where beefed up macho dickheads in their Douche Trucks surrounded around the joint, yelling epithets and waving baseball bats, ready to do some damage because they thought one group in particular deserved it. You'd think, some twenty years later, our conversation would have evolved. But when so-called men of God use the massacre in Orlando, that some have called the worst terrorist attack since 9/11, to drive this hateful agenda home, you know things are as bad as they ever were.

The conversation still rages on.

When I stepped into the shoes of a young gay man, I knew I couldn't shy away from these painful realities and scary possibilities. And, in true Ginger fashion, I tossed it all in a pile, covered it with gasoline and set it on fire. To change the conversation, the story has to have an impact. And it has to hurt in order to make that impact.

I wasn't afraid to show the consequences of what happens when we allow blind, bigoted hatred to fester. It shattered my heart to realize I needed to risk some of the characters I loved most to do it.

Warnings on books drive me crazy, but I'll break my own rules here and offer you one. (Again, story demands it.) Someone you came to love in a previous book will pay the ultimate price when everything explodes at the end of MASKED. And to raise the stakes I make sure *everyone* is there during this critical moment. Vanni, Graham, Andy, Rachel... No matter what book you read - all of your favorite characters are present when the shit hits the fan.

You want a warning about my books? Here it is: From now on, all standalone books that have a complete story are part of a bigger book universe. If you want to know more, the "more" is out there. If you want to stop at the HEA, or HFN, then you have that option too. (Mostly. As always, I cannot and will not ensure each book ends with a HEA.)

Welcome to my universe. Enter if you dare.

Sneak Peek from MASKED IN THE MUSIC, which releases THIS SUNDAY, September 25th.


I met the guys at Graham’s downtown office at eight-thirty in the morning. We were ushered into the enormous waiting room with a view stretching all the way to the ocean. The furniture was fine leather, and the walls were covered with photos of Graham’s twenty-year success as a record mogul. There were platinum albums from all his biggest acts, including Dreaming in Blue, Jace Riga, Jordi Hemphill, and Eli Blake. There were photos from the hit TV show he produced, Fierce, and the up-and-coming acts he had discovered there, like Jonah Riley and Lacy Abernathy. There were also movie posters of several award-winning movies he produced, as well as photos taken with heads of state and A-list celebrities.

All of these documented his years of successes, showing that he had the Midas touch when it came to popular music and popular culture.

This could be our future.

I was increasingly nervous as each minute ticked by. Though he tried to play it cool, one look in those stunning eyes of his showed Tony was feeling the pressure too. In another world I may have reached for his hand, to give it a reassuring squeeze.

But Lando sat between us. As always.

Finally Graham’s assistant called us into his office. Like the waiting room, it had a spectacular view facing west all the way to the Pacific. More photos and awards lined the walls, with every statuette from every major awards show lining his bookshelves.

And then there was Graham, sitting behind his large desk that was littered with personal photos, including his wife Maggie. He stood as we entered.

Honestly, he was a beautiful man. He was tall and trim, his lithe body wearing his forty-plus years every bit as well as he wore that thousand-dollar designer suit. When he reached for my hand, I could feel the power within him, confidence earned over decades of carving his way in this world. When he looked at me, I could tell he was assessing everything and missed nothing. I felt a tremor run through my body, which I’m sure he felt. His mouth turned upwards in a slight smile.

“Thank you all for coming,” he said as he sat, giving us permission to do the same. We had already sent over a press kit, which he had open on his desk in front of him, studying our bios and pictures. One of Tonos de Oros’s independently produced CDs, which had been made before I came along, played in the background.

“Thank you for inviting us,” Tony replied.

“I won’t waste a whole lot of your time,” he said as he turned off the music. You could almost hear the air escaping from every single one of our balloons. “As I already told Rudy some weeks back, I felt the band was a little too generic for my label.” He handed over the CD. “There was nothing special about it, nothing that distinguished it from the rest of the bar bands out there.”

I could feel Lando bristle from two chairs away. I prayed he’d keep it together just long enough for Graham to make his point. He didn’t call us in here just to tell us he wasn’t interested.

Graham leaned back in his chair, his hands clasped together. “But something changed in Las Vegas. I saw a glimpse of what you could be. Sure it was still banal covers and live karaoke for a bunch of easily entertained drunk gamblers. But every now and then, I felt the music trying to break out of the mold. A lot of that has to do with Rudy,” he said, glancing at me. “Your talent on the guitar, especially given your age, is undeniable. The problem as I see it is that you don’t know yet who you are.”

He glanced at the rest of the band. “I can forgive Rudy’s ignorance as a byproduct of his age. But for the rest of you, you have to purposely decide what kind of music it is you want to play. You can’t just grit your teeth through a pop song, waiting to hit your own solos in the harder stuff,” he added, looking straight at Lando. Every single one of us glanced his way, silently pleading that he not blow his top. “I mean, that’s fine if you’re okay with being some mediocre band that gets by from gig to gig but never plans on going anywhere. Some people play as a hobby, and that’s okay. But I have to tell you. From what I saw in Vegas, I think you’d be selling yourselves short.”

It was the first positive thing he had said. We all pounced on it like the last floating door in the freezing Atlantic.

He stood and walked over to the window. I couldn’t help but marvel how handsome he was, like a movie star himself. “I love this town. I love how it is a melting pot for all kinds of races and cultures. Everyone lives and works side by side, like this sweeping mosaic of humanity. We’re trend-setters. We blaze new paths for the rest of the country to follow. We’re not afraid to be different. I can tell you from experience producing Fierce that is exactly what Middle America wants to hear. There are places where the menu offers nothing but boring old white bread. People hunger for flavor, for spice. For uniqueness and individuality.” He turned back to us. “And for those who are unafraid to give it to them.”

He walked back to his desk. “With Rudy’s inclusion, your band is a lot like Los Angeles. He can play any type of music and I know it’s still him. That’s what I want from Tonos de Oro.”

“How do we do that?” Tony asked, before Lando could say anything.

Graham sat at his desk. “You do that by playing to what makes you so interesting. You’re a family band with a rich Mexican heritage. Your father plays mariachi, for fuck’s sake. Why isn’t there more Latin flavor in your covers?”

Tony was speechless for a moment. “I didn’t want to copy my dad,” he said at last.

“I’m not saying you have to copy anyone,” Graham clarified. “In fact, I advise strongly against it. But that music is in your blood. You’re bilingual. Sing a cover in Spanish. Toss everyone on their ear.”

“Isn’t that going to make us some niche band?” Lando finally asked, with an edge in his voice that I could tell Graham noticed.

“Aren’t you already?” he shot back. Lando’s jaw clenched, but Graham kept going. “When Rudy plays a cover, he doesn’t play it note by note like the original. He uses a little flair, interjects his own personality whenever he gets the opportunity. That is what an artist does. And artists,” he said, referring to his walls and awards, “make hits. They don’t just cover them.”

He leaned forward onto his desk, resting on his elbows. “You show me that kind of artistry, the kind I think that you’re capable of, and I’d sign you in a heartbeat. You’re good. You’re a good, solid rock band. You work well together. You’re all hot as hell and would attract groupies of every age and color.”

I could feel us all exhale in relief at the same time. This was what we had hoped this meeting would yield.

But he wasn’t done.

“The only thing is… I don’t sign ‘good’ acts. I sign great ones.” Again our balloons deflated. “And truth is I could use a great act right about now. I have a hotel in Las Vegas, where we use a lot of live music. I have Fierce, which goes into production again in September. This could put guest acts in front of a worldwide audience numbering in the millions. I’m considering at least three scripts which need scores. And there’s the charity fundraiser at the end of September at FFF, one of L.A.’s hottest night clubs, where all my big acts will be performing. You show me that you can stand out, be different, be uniquely you in a way no other band can copy, and I’ll put you to work, giving you every opportunity you’ve only dreamed of.” He called his assistant into the room. “I know the promoters who hired you for the summer. They tell me you could sign on for eight weekends. I think this is critical for the growth of your band.” His assistant handed him an envelope, which he offered to Tony. “I’ll come and see you at the end of summer, just to see where you are and what you’ve learned.”

“What’s this?” Tony asked.

“Accommodations at my hotel for the next eight weekends. Two suites you can split between you. All expenses paid. Vouchers for the restaurants, and permission to use the stage downstairs in the showroom to rehearse your act.”

We all stared at him dumbfounded. He smiled as he sat back in his chair.

“I don’t mind investing in my talent, especially one that shows as much promise as you do. This is your opportunity to wow me, with zero excuses why you can’t give it one-hundred-percent of your resources. But if I come back in two months and it’s the same ol’ same ol’, any further offers and opportunities with my label will be rescinded.”

We all nodded. We understood. He was giving us the opportunity of a lifetime. He saw us to the door, but held me back for a moment, closing the door between me and my band. He stood close and bent to speak softly, so no one else could hear. “I want you to know that I’m not making this offer because of the band. I’m making it because of you. You’re extraordinarily talented. I could make you a star in less than a year. But you’ve chosen to stay faithful to this band, for whatever reason, and I have decided to trust you. You see something I haven’t yet seen.” Those eyes pierced mine. “I’m counting on you to bring it out of them. If you can get them on board with what you’re doing, great. I’ll make you an offer by the end of summer. If not, then the only offer I can ever make is to you alone. Do you understand, Rudy?”

I nodded, breathless. He was offering me everything I thought I had always wanted. But now, with Tony, I wanted it all. “I won’t let you down, Graham.”

He smiled as he patted me on my shoulder. “Just be yourself, Rudy. That’s all you ever need to be for me.”

He opened the door and pushed me through so I could join my band mates.


MASKED IN THE MUSIC releases September 25th. You can pre-order it now for the discounted price of $1.99. It goes up to regular price after release.

Fair warning... if you need a warning to read a book, this will NOT be the book for you.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Sneak Peek Saturday: The Universal Longing

Confession: I was hesitant to write a M/M love story. The reason I was so hesitant is because I didn't feel it was my story to tell. There are plenty of gay writers out there who are brimming with stories to share, inspired by their own experiences, dreams and desires. I never wanted to drown their voice with my own, like only I could add something to the conversation.

But when your long-suffering gay bestie has read 33 of your books about shameless heterosexual conquests, waiting so patiently for the book where he gets characters that he can identify with, love stories that give him his own happily ever after, with unapologetic sex scenes that take the gay character from a wise, asexual friend to a fully realized character all his own, there just comes a point when you just have to pull up your big girl pants and say, "I'll see what I can do."

Truth be told, it wasn't that hard to step into young Rudy Renfro's shoes. And it's not because I've been an LGBT ally and advocate for nearly thirty years, although that probably didn't hurt. And it's not because I am the Queen of Research, who can take apart, examine and put back together the pieces of the human experience with relative efficiency.

No, it was because as a writer it's my job to find the commonalities of the human experience, so readers who don't have these same circumstances, dreams and goals can figuratively walk in the shoes of people they might not have. When your reader can identify with the characters you write, good, bad and ugly, then you've done more than just told a story. You've broadened a perspective.

I like that.

I like it a lot.

So how do I reach a reader who might not know or think they can identify with the journey of an LGBT individual? What universal experience do we all share, that would connect us with someone whose desires are so different from our own?

The first step is realizing that those desires aren't so different after all. We all have our own closets in which we hide, particularly when it comes to relating to the objects of our affection. At some point we have all wanted that one person we thought was too out of our league that we'd languish in unrequited love rather than risk hearing the truth - that our crush could never feel for us the same way we feel for them.

We've all been there, and I've been there more times than I can count. I thought I understood what it felt like to want something so bad you could taste it, never knowing if it'll ever really be yours because the world around you thinks there's something inherently wrong with you that makes you deserve your happily ever after a little less. I've written reams about it from the heterosexual perspective. It took watching America's Got Talent for me to understand it from the gay perspective, when Brian Justin Crum destroyed with his rendition of the song "Creep."

If you identify with this song at all, this version will leave you gobsmacked. This isn't about loving who has chosen not to love you... this is about loving someone who simply cannot love you back the same way. If only 10% of the population is gay, the prospects of your feelings being returned shrink so much that you take quite a risk telling someone you have feelings for them, particularly if you don't know if you're going to get physically harmed for even harboring the thought. Think of how that might feel, to risk telling the person you want or love that you want or love them, and being treated lesser than because of it, like you really are a creep, or that there's something wrong with you, so much so they have to run away from you. That this version of the song dropped into my life when I was writing this particular story is no accident. It helped me understand my character in a way I was struggling to, and I'm not ashamed to admit that I wept openly once that connection was made.

My bestie told me something about growing up gay in the 70s and 80s that I had never considered. He felt alone, like he was the only one who had feelings like this. Of course he would feel that way. It wasn't like he saw his story represented back to him. This was something taboo in the media because of our own peculiar hangups when it comes to sex. So no matter what he did to fit in, there was a part of him he always felt would stand out. How lonely and isolating that must have been, feeling he was the only person in the world like himself. How liberating, then, to find someone who knew the language he happened to speak.

Walking in Rudy's shoes was a privilege. I made him stronger than I ever could have been at nineteen, but I broached that specific vulnerability with the experiences I have had, pining over people who simply couldn't return the favor. In that way, it became a very easy book to write. It became my story to tell.

And if I did my job right, hopefully the readers will identify with his journey, whether they are gay OR straight. This isn't just a M/M gay romance, even though that's there. It's not just about titillating sex scenes with hot guys, even though those are there. It's not about just sex because NONE of my books have ever been just about the sex. Like every other book I've written, it's a life story.

Enjoy this new snippet.


I glanced down at my phone at the missed call from a 323 number I didn’t recognize. That area code meant L.A., and there was really only one phone call I could expect from there. My hands shook as I returned it. I knew who it was the second I heard his voice. This was a good thing, because he didn’t bother introducing himself.

“How are you at songwriting?”

I cleared my throat. “Fair, I guess. I just started.”

“Come to my loft. I want to try something.”

With that, the call ended. I stood staring at my phone for a long moment. It was everything I always wanted, and it was right there in the palm of my hand. Literally. Everything else was forgotten as I raced upstairs.

I was back at Tony’s loft just a little before nine o’clock. Again my hand shook as I knocked on the door. This time, however, Lando did not answer. It was Tony, and the rest of his apartment was empty. Instead candles lit up the darkened space and wine chilled on the coffee table. I practically choked on my own spit. What the fuck did it all mean?

“Punctual,” he commented as he leaned against the door. “I like that. It shows you take things seriously.” He glanced over my more straight-laced clothes, and I cursed myself for not taking the time to change. I really did look like some clueless kid from the O.C.

It was time once again to bluff. I cleared my throat. “It’s a job, right?” I asked, because at that point I wasn’t really sure.

“It’s more than a job,” he replied softly, which made my heart trip happily to my feet. “It’s a calling,” he added as he opened the door wider. He didn’t move away from the door as I stepped inside, which meant I could smell the spicy sent of his cologne as I brushed past. “Make yourself at home,” he said as he followed me further into the room.

I set my guitar case next to the sofa before I sat.

“Wine?” he offered as he poured himself a glass.

“I thought you didn’t want to contribute to the delinquency of a minor,” I shot back.

He chuckled as he sat on the sofa next to me, sprawling in one corner so that he could watch me with those clear eyes as he sipped the pungent red liquid from his glass. “You’re old enough to vote, live on your own, own a gun and die for your country. What’s a little glass of wine?” He paused as he studied me. “You’re a man, right?”

A shiver shot right through me. “Right.”

He poured another glass and handed it to me. I prayed he couldn’t see how my hand trembled as I took it. I sipped gingerly. Merlot was never a favorite, but I needed something to take the edge off of my nerves. That he watched how the glass touched my lips only frayed them even more. I put the glass on the table before I dropped it.

“I hope you don’t mind the candles,” he said softly. “But music is a lover. She deserves to courted. She begs to be seduced.”

His use of the feminine pronoun aside, I found myself thoroughly and completely courted and seduced. But I answered his question anyway with a slight shake of my head. “I don’t mind,” I stammered. He smiled before draining the rest of his glass before putting it next to mine on the table.

“Let me show you what I’ve got,” he said as he reached for some paper with lyrics written in bold handwriting. I scanned the first verse.

I felt you tremble when I touched your hand. One look in your eyes and I know I’m a man. I want to do something I thought I’d never do. Open yourself to me, let me lose myself in you.

My whole body caught fire. I cleared my throat again. “You just wrote this?”

“This afternoon,” he confirmed with that same potent stare. He sat forward, practically leaning over me. “I wanted to circle around the idea of breaking some rules. You know what I mean?” he asked softly as our eyes met.

I nodded. “I think so.”

“Show me,” he commanded in that same soft voice.

Part of me wanted to slip my arms around him and kiss that irresistible pout of his. The other part of me was scared shitless that he could never mean what I thought he meant, that this song was written because of me, because he had felt the same instant electricity I had. There was no way he could mean that, right? He was straight as a fucking arrow, right? He was Tony Ladykiller Rojas, right?

Out of desperation I reached for my guitar, because that had always been my sword and my shield. I played around with the melody until I came up with one that fit the situation I found myself, sitting in a candlelit room, drinking wine, next to one of the most seductive people I had ever known. The music was hopeful, tentative, gentle; inquisitive. The words bubbled out of my mouth before I could even stop them.

“Tired of pretending, playing the game. I can tell by your stare you’re feeling the same. Don’t put up a fight tonight. Give me your love tonight. Let’s break the rules of a game we can’t win.”

His face broke apart in a smile. “That’s it. Play me more.”

I nodded and kept going with the melody. He worked out the second verse of lyrics. “Needing you, wanting you, and tonight here you are. In your eyes, with your touch, suddenly I’m a star. Let me drown inside you. Let me make your dreams come true. Just say the word, baby, and I’ll break every rule for you.”

That he sang these words to me only compounded my confusion. I tried to focus on the music, making notes on the same scrap of paper where he added more lyrics. He pulled out his laptop so we could mix the music, filling in percussion, and he let me play around on his bass to underscore the rhythm. The more we tinkered, the better it got, and the closer he got as we recorded the different pieces to fill in the song. It proved the most frustrating, but most creative, hours of my life. When we were done, we had our first song. He poured me another glass of wine to celebrate. This time I practically guzzled the whole glass. I needed something to distract me from the look in his eyes, the sound of his voice, or the nearness of that incredible body.

He watched me for so long that I truly expected him to reach for a kiss. Instead he reached for more wine, pausing briefly to check his phone. There was a message there, but it was swiped away quickly. He resumed his spot in the corner of the sofa.

“I like you, Rudy Renfro. You’re young. You’re white. But there’s something about you. I think you’ve got something special. If you want this job, it’s yours.”

My eyes met his. He had just handed me the chance of a lifetime. How could I tell him that suddenly I wanted so much more? “I’d be honored to join Tonos de Oro,” was all I could manage to say.

“We’re glad to have you,” he responded in that same low voice that was doing a serious number on my nerves. He could have me any which way he wanted... but did he want it? That was the million-dollar question. He sat up and leaned closer. “We have a gig in two weeks. Big name club in Hollywood. Think you can be ready by then?”

I couldn’t stop myself even if I wanted to. “I’m ready now.”

That kissable mouth broke apart in a wide, slow grin. “Not yet, young Rudy. Not yet.” His gaze swept over my face, lingering on my mouth. “But soon.”


MASKED IN THE MUSIC releases September 25th. You can pre-order it now for the discounted price of $1.99. It goes up to regular price after release.

Fair warning... if you need a warning to read a book, this will NOT be the book for you.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

I've got two words for your Sneak Peek Saturday: Caz Bixby.

God, I love this man. Oh, and we might meet the woman who will change his world very soon.

So. There's that. >.<



“That was brutal.”

I shot to my feet and spun around, peering into the darkness just beyond the light’s edge. I saw the bright tip of a burning cigarette, though when the smell hit me, I knew it wasn’t an ordinary cigarette. The man stepped from the shadows, coming more into view. He sported a tux like nobody’s business, tall and beautiful, roughly around thirty, with sun-bleached sandy hair that flopped over one of his incredible amber eyes. He offered the joint.

I didn’t refuse it. When other people walked through the doors, he motioned for me to join him in the shadows, where we could partake in private.

Out of sheer curiosity, I followed. I gave him back the joint, and he inhaled deeply. “God, I hate these things. Fucking boring as hell. That’s why I bring my own party favors,” he grinned before he exhaled a cloud of fragrant smoke.

“Then why do you come?” I asked as I took the joint for another hit of my own.

He shrugged. “It’s a good cause. Besides, wearing a tux, dancing with all the pretty girls and drinking from a full bar all night isn’t a bad way to make a living.”

I peered at him even closer in the low light. Why did he look so familiar?

He answered my unspoken question with an outstretched hand. “Caz Bixby. In case you’re wondering where you’ve seen me before.”

My eyes opened wide. His reputation had definitely preceded him. He was the one who had demolished an entire presidential campaign when he came out as the potential first lady’s boy toy for hire. He was probably the best known male escort on the planet, hence why he’d be working a party like this one. I took his hand, which he held for just a beat longer than necessary. “And you are…?” he asked with one cocked eyebrow.

“Rudy Renfro,” I supplied. His smirk deepened.

“Please tell me you have a job worthy of such a celebrity name,” he teased.

I shrugged. “I play guitar in a band,” I dismissed easily.

“A rocker,” he surmised as he glanced me over. “Not what I would have guessed. Good for you.”

Another shrug. “I don’t know what I am anymore.”

He chuckled again as he took one last hit, before he snubbed it out on the stone wall. “You’re not in love with that pretty girl, you know that much.”

“Yeah,” I muttered as I glanced back at the patio.

He clapped his hand on my shoulder. “Hey. Don’t beat yourself up. You can’t help it you’re gay.”

My eyes shot to his. Even in the shadows of the darkened gardens, I could see how they pierced through my armor to see right to the very heart of me. It was one thing for my sister to see it. She’d known me her entire life. It was another for Tony to see it, because he could see physically how I reacted to him. But a stranger I just met? I stammered as I tried to find my footing.

“I’m not… I just… what?”

He pulled me into the crook of his arm. “Don’t panic, Rudy Renfro. Your secret is safe with me. And before you drive yourself crazy with the question, no. I don’t think everyone can tell. But it’s my job to see what people lack so that I can give it to them. And dude, your frustration is full-tilt.”

My gaze narrowed. “Is this where you give me your card and tell me to call you for a little alone time?”

With the flick of his wrist, he offered his card.

“Sorry,” I said as I pushed away. “I don’t think I can afford your rates.”

He chuckled as he followed me through the darkened garden. “You are probably right about that, young Rudy. I’ve never been in one but I’ve heard bar bands don’t pay a whole lot.”

I made a face he couldn’t see. He could read an awful lot for such a short acquaintance. “So I guess you’re just wasting your time.”

I could feel his shrug. “Maybe it’s the mood of the evening, but I’m feeling kind of charitable.”

I spun around to face him. “I’m not interested, okay?”

His grin deepened. “Is it the whole virgin thing, or are you just that tied up in knots over some guy who won’t return the favor?”

I gaped at him. He stepped forward.

“Again, your secret is safe with me.” He put his card into my breast pocket. “But if you ever need a friend, especially one who has many friends in the music biz, call me. No strings. No hourly rate.”

I cocked an eyebrow. “You mean you’d fuck me for free?”

He chuckled as he stepped forward, till we were practically nose to nose. “I don’t give away freebies to men,” he assured as he bent closer, his mouth above mine. “But you remind me of someone I used to know. And I guess I kind of like you, baby.”

With that he kissed me. It wasn’t sexual—just a peck. It floored me all the same as he patted the pocket where his card now hid and left me alone in the darkness.


MASKED IN THE MUSIC releases September 25th. You can pre-order it now for the discounted price of $1.99. It goes up to regular price after release.

Fair warning... if you need a warning to read a book, this will NOT be the book for you.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Sneak Peek Saturday: When Lightning Strikes - Rudy meets Tony

22 days to go... are you ready for Tony and Rudy?


If I ever had any doubt at all I was gay, it was eradicated the minute I met Tony Rojas. Truth be told, it wasn’t that uncommon for me to become attracted to other men by the time I was nineteen. It usually happened quite subtly. Something as simple as the way that they walked, or a slightly upturned smile, or a stare that lingered just a second longer than it had to, would tickle at my brain as something significant, but it was generally so innocent in nature I could discard it as nothing more than misfiring hormones.

I was weird. I knew that.

I never cared much for naked girls. I didn’t salivate when I saw a couple of tits or nice rounded hips that beckoned other guys my age. I didn’t seek out the Great Vagina whenever the occasion presented itself, such as a couple of hours’ uninterrupted Internet time.

Frankly I didn’t understand what the big deal was.

I liked girls, I even preferred the company of girls. It was safe there. It had always been really safe there. Even when I was six and playing “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours” with my next-door neighbor, there was no threat of anything happening. I just wasn’t that impressed. And neither was any other part of my body. Pretty much… ever.

Yet I’d get a nagging semi-boner during a pep rally at school, when the football team would burst through the banner. I chalked it up as delayed reaction over the cheerleaders and went on with my life, blissfully ignorant to all the signs that pointed me straight towards a life I knew I should never pursue.

Of course I knew this. It had been screamed at me from a pulpit. It had been taunted at me from the schoolyard. I was half a man if I ever admitted I wanted another man.

So the minute I saw Tony Rojas, I knew I was in serious, serious trouble. If I had any sense at all I would have turned right around and walked back out the door...

“Are you sure you’re at the right audition, man? I think the comic squad meets down the hall.”

Lando Espinoza laughed at his joke before he sent a glance to the sofa where the drummer, Emile “Sticks” Gutierrez, sat, just to ensure he, too, found it funny. Emile chuckled dutifully before he went back to drumming on the table, working out some kind of new rhythm.

“Nope,” I said. “I’m here for Tonos de Oro. Otherwise I learned all the wrong music.” I added another smile as I held up my guitar case. Both gestures were confident. If he challenged me on any of the music they had made, I was fully prepared to wow him.

Another gaze crept over me. “I guess we’ll see.” He opened the door wider and allowed me to enter. I carried my guitar case further into the room. I headed straight next to the spot next to the amp. “What kind of music do you play?” Lando wanted to know. “Because if it’s pop, you can just leave right now. We don’t play that pussy shit.”

I said nothing as I hooked into the amp and then tuned the guitar. Once satisfied I glanced up at Lando and Sticks, who were watching me with indifference, expecting me to fail.

I loved it when people expected me to fail. It made proving them wrong so much fun. I launched into “Walk” by Pantera, nearly knocking both of them off their seats. Sure I looked like a dork, with my horn-rimmed Buddy Holly glasses and my geeky shirt. But I knew how to rock.

After Lando picked his jaw up off the floor, he nodded slowly, particularly when I went into the guitar solo. I kept my eyes locked with his as I finished off the song. He nodded, stroking his jaw. “Not bad, homie. Not bad. What else do you play?”

“Anything,” I answered. “Everything. What do you got?”

For ten minutes straight he would toss songs at me and I would respond by playing them. From classic songs by Santana to current songs from Muse, I didn’t miss one beat. Finally he pulled an acoustic guitar from the wall, where dozens of instruments hung. I decided to play Coheed and Cambria’s “Welcome Home,” just to give him that flavor he was looking for. Sticks was so impressed, and inspired, he hopped on the drums to join me, and Lando finally picked up his bass to join in. The loft filled with music, which wafted out of the opened windows to the street below.

It was enough, apparently, to draw Tony from the other part of the loft, which had been sectioned off with a wall made of colorful glass bricks in every shade of blue, purple and green. The minute he stepped from behind the glass, wearing torn, faded blue jeans and a black shirt that fit to every single inch of his muscled torso, time seemed to stand still. My fingers fumbled and I missed a note, which was exceedingly uncommon for me. But nothing—and I mean nothing—could have prepared me for the moment those blue/green eyes met mine.

Tony Rojas was tall, like me. He stood over six feet, and there wasn’t any extra flesh on his 180-pound body. It was like his muscles had muscles. His face was a little fuller, and almost painfully beautiful, so beautiful it would have made average women cry.

Stubble lined the soft curve of his cheeks and his dark hair fell in unruly curls towards his shoulder, making those incredible eyes stand out even more. They pinpointed me and I was rooted to the spot. I couldn’t take my eyes off him as he walked closer, our gazes locked as he picked up his microphone just in time to sing the lyrics of a song that blended hate and love, desire and scorn, hope and despair.

The longer he held me locked in that stare, the more my hands trembled. I fought through it all to play, to wow him, to show him I wasn’t just some stupid kid playing rock star. I switched back to my electric guitar for the solo, but Tony paid little attention to what I was doing with my hands. His eyes were locked on my face, and all the embarrassing primal grimaces I bore there. It was beyond my control. Music was a part of me. Where it guided, I followed. I didn’t even question.

I knew he understood this, so I felt very safe in the intensity of his gaze. It as if fire blazed around me, and though I felt the heat—it never burned. When the song finished, Tony sauntered over to where I stood, sweaty and panting. He held out a hand. He didn’t introduce himself. He knew he didn’t have to. “Solid performance,” he complimented, his comment hanging in the air as he waited for me to supply my name.

“Rudy Renfro,” I said as I shook his hand. I could only hope he didn’t feel my tremor when his fingers closed around mine.

His lip curved in a teasing smile. I felt my stomach drop somewhere around my toes. “Stage name?” he asked.

“No,” I corrected with a good-humored grin of my own. “Totally real. And I’ve got the scars from three solid years of ass-kicking in middle school to prove it.”

He laughed. It was a rich, musical sound that reverberated off of each tightly drawn nerve. “And which school are you in now, Rudy?”

I sidestepped how my name sounded falling from his mouth to concentrate on the question, which I knew damned well was about my age. I knew I looked young, like some fresh-faced high school student. Being underweight probably didn’t help that much. “None. I’m nineteen.”

He nodded his approval before he spread himself in a leather recliner, clearly the king on his throne. “Legal. Good. Tonos de Oro is known for hedonism and debauchery. It would be bad for business if we contributed to the delinquency of a minor.” His eyes swept over me. Unlike Lando’s critical stare, I felt my body traitorously respond to Tony’s inspection. I was glad I had my guitar in front of me, like the shield it had always been. “How long have you been playing?”

“Picked up my first guitar when I was nine,” I answered. “Never looked back.”

“I can tell,” he nodded. “You’re young, but you’re really good.” He released me from his gaze long enough to direct a question towards Lando. “What do you think?”

Lando wasn’t as impressed. “He plays all right, but he’s white. He looks like the dorks we used to beat up in high school.”

Tony chuckled as he turned back to me. “You’ll have to forgive my cousin. He’s a shameless racist.” Again he looked me over. “Can’t do anything about you being white. Everything else is just image. Clothes can change. It’s what underneath that counts.” Those eyes met mine. “Take off your shirt.”

His softly issued command made me shiver. “What?”

His eyebrow cocked. “Hedonism and debauchery, remember?”

“He’s nineteen,” Lando told Tony. “You don’t need to waste million-dollar words.” He turned to me. “This band is all about the pussy, man. You like pussy, Rudy Renfro?”

His direct question shocked me. Of all the things I had expected to be asked during this audition, whether or not I was down with OPP was not one of them. I stumbled over my answer, unsure what to say.

“Chill out, Lando,” Tony chastised, his eyes locked on my face. “He’s still a kid. He might even be a virgin.”

Lando and Sticks laughed. “Give us one gig and we can fix that,” Lando stated.

I felt the air crackle and pop between Tony and me. Those eyes never wavered.

There was only one thing I could do. I slid out of my shirt. I may have been underweight, but a few semesters of weight training in high school left me with a ridiculously toned core. I was still glow-in-the-dark white, but I mustered up as much heat as I could as I began to play one of their songs. I opted for one about sex, since that seemed to be the next hurdle to jump. It was a song simply entitled “One Night,” all about pursing a one-night-stand. Tony had laid it all out in the lyrics he wanted a good time, not a relationship. “I ain’t looking for love, there, I said it. One night with me, you won’t regret it. Leave your man, your folks, your church behind. One night with me and I’ll blow your mind.”

Maybe a small part of me kinda sorta meant it, but I wasn’t willing to admit that yet, even though Tony’s turquoise stare nearly made my knees knock.

I was just nervous.

It was an important audition.

He studied me thoughtfully as I finished the song. He also shamelessly inspected my body. I gripped the neck of my guitar tight and tipped my chin. Another smile inched across his handsome face.

“We have more musicians to audition,” he informed me as he stood. “We’ll likely make our decision at the beginning of next week.”

I nodded, trying to hide how crestfallen I was. After all that, I didn’t nail it? After all that, there was a chance he’d still say no?

Was my being white and young and an unabashed dork going to slam my first door in my face? Or could he tell I was hiding a semi-erection, because the thought of one night with him did things to my body I couldn’t control?

I tipped my chin even higher. “Of course.” I dug in my pocket for a card, which I handed to him. “Here’s my contact information. If you could let me know either way, that’d be great. I have a couple of other auditions lined up.”

It was total bullshit, of course. But I came from a family of lawyers. The art of bullshitting was coded in my DNA.

Tony’s smile never faltered as he grasped the other end of the card. “Of course,” he murmured, mimicking my response back to me.

So he knew. Everything I was trying so desperately to hide, he knew. That triumphant gleam in his eyes only proved it. He knew all my secrets and wanted me to know he knew. Fuck. Fuckity fuck fuck.

“It was nice to meet you,” I said, opening up my hand for a parting handshake. He took it again, this time slower, so I know damned well he felt the tremor that ran through my fingers. The deepening curve of his smile only proved it.

“You got a lot of raw talent, kid,” he told me as we reached the door. “Keep plugging away. You’ll get it.”

My spine straightened. What an asshole, I thought. He was dismissing me as some kid when there were only about seven years between us. I looked him right in the eye and said, “You too,” with a nod. He thought he could patronize me? He had another thing coming. I didn’t care who he thought he was. With that, I hoisted my guitar a little higher and I left the loft without another glance behind me.


MASKED IN THE MUSIC releases September 25th. It goes up to regular price after release.

Fair warning... if you need a warning to read a book, this will NOT be the book for you.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Sneak Peek Saturday: Your first look at Masked in the Music

Happy Saturday, everyone! We're less than a month away from my next release, MASKED IN THE MUSIC. This one is a brand new type of romance for me, with TWO hot guys in the forefront. It was a challenge issued to me by my bestie for years, but the idea finally came to me - or was given to me - when I was hanging out with a couple of friends of mine who are actually in a band. I think it's fair to say that this story was conceived at the Rainbow Bar & Grill on Sunset. I'm not sure you can get much more rock-n-roll than that. Months later we have Tony and Rudy, who are up against every known obstacle to pursue their romance. You want angst? I got your angst. And then some.

I'm proud to introduce Rudy, who allowed me to live in his head for a while, and taught me some things as he was learning some things. It isn't often a pretty story, but it was one that needed to be told. I'm honored that he told it to me. <3



I knew I was meant to play guitar from the moment I was nine years old. I had just witnessed Prince perform in the Super Bowl Half-Time Show, and it was unlike anything I had ever seen or heard before. The way he made that guitar sound, the sheer bliss on his face as he played it, it was like he ceased being human and bent long and sparkling into the fabric of the universe, like a god. Echoes of ancient music bled through his fingertips. I could hear the beat of tribal dances of the natives, the echoes of the tortured gospel of the slaves that later gave root to the foundation of rhythm and blues. All really great music challenged and changed the status quo, that was no big surprise. But what he did with it was out of this world. It was ancient and yet it was unlike anything I’d ever heard before, something so futuristic that I nearly thought he was an alien being from outer space.

After that I became obsessed. I got every album and listened to them until I could sing them in my sleep. That Christmas I got my very first guitar, the only thing I had written on my wish list. I wanted in on this miracle. I wanted to reach deep into this mystical bliss. I wanted to transcend the murky paths of mediocrity and reach that summit of excellence, and I knew what I had to do to make that happen. By then I knew that this genius who had first inspired me had taught himself how to play dozens of instruments, and I set out to do the same.

It took me eight years to go from playing a guitar to a guitarist, someone worthy of the title, one to share with my idols like Prince, and Hendrix, and Frampton, Clapton, Van Halen, Slash, Dimebag. The list goes on and on. Each one taught my hands new way to travel across those steel strings until my fingers bled. Finally, on my eighteenth birthday, I composed my first song. Accidentally, yet purposefully. Inevitably.

That’s when I reached that euphoric state of self-awareness I’d been searching for. I wasn’t just wishing or hoping or aspiring anymore. I wasn’t dreaming of who I could be someday in the inky, undefined darkness of the future. Through hard work and perseverance I pulled back every last layer of fear until I became who I was meant to be.

I was an artist.

It took me a little longer than that to come to terms to the fact I was gay.

I had always known I was different. I wasn’t like everyone else, with dreams of some steady job somewhere, with a mini-van, two kids and a dog. I didn’t want the requisite white picket fence future with a wedding, a mortgage and a retirement plan. I wanted what so few of us ever truly obtain—the freedom to define myself for myself, on my own terms. I decided early on I had to shake off the expectations of the world around me to do that.

Most settle for security. They find a job they can stand, they sell large chunks of their lives for a paycheck, they buy the right car, live in the right neighborhood, participate in society with the polite, numbing acquiescence of remarkability, choosing instead to blend into the background of tapestries other people had the courage to weave.

This never interested me. Not in the least. For a long time I chalked this up as a casualty to my ambition. I walked—no, sprinted—down an alternate path with one goal in mind. I wanted to be a rock god. Certain notable exceptions aside, most of that didn’t result in golden anniversaries with spouses of either gender. I forfeited dates for late nights studying my guitars, or my keyboard, or my computer, anything that could help me speak the only language I had the courage to speak. When it came time for prom, I didn’t care to dance, or make out, or lose my virginity. I just wanted to listen to the band, to absorb every last note until they became a part of me, filed away in my subconscious to inspire and cultivate my own voice.

The music was all I needed. That was all I wanted. It was a lot less complicated than revealing the real truth—that the random, token girls I tried to date throughout high school left me cold. It wasn’t even their fault. They were funny, pretty, interesting…everything every red-blooded American boy would want. They’d touch me with eager hands and shower me with tentative kisses, but I was always left wanting more. Like anyone else I was waiting for the lightning bolt, but—in keeping with the alternate theme of my life—it always seemed to strike with the wrong people.

When I was five years old, I remember sitting in my mom’s car in front of the store, waiting for her to finish loading the back with our weekly groceries. I was playing with one of my cars, running it over the dash, making funny sounds with my mouth as it accelerated over the graceful sloping curve. All that stopped when I caught sight of a man walking into the store. He was talking on a cell phone. He had a brilliant smile framed by a beard trimmed neat, and I could almost feel the heat of his gaze from a full thirty feet away even though he wasn’t even looking at me specifically. I remember how I forgot about my toy car, my mom, or even the colorful popsicles I normally couldn’t wait to tear into the minute we got home. It was like time itself screeched to a halt.

Simple aberration, right? Lightning misfired. It does that sometimes. I didn’t feel that way again until Mr. Johnson started teaching me music theory in eighth grade. He was just twenty-eight and, simply put, he was the most beautiful man I had ever seen. A tall, golden Adonis with a strong chin, broad shoulders and a killer smile. I’ve always been a sucker for a great smile. But it was more than that. For the first time I felt a stirring deep inside for something I couldn’t yet name. I remembered how his big strong hand wrapped around the neck of the guitar, and it made me shiver all the way down to my toes. He had these bright blue eyes that twinkled when he laughed, and he laughed a lot. I convinced myself that I hadn’t really fallen in love with him. It was a crush, misplaced because of the intense passion we shared for the music.

Another misfire, obviously.

Though I wanted to, I never felt that same excitement, that same joy, that same connection with girls, despite all the dates I’d endure simply to appease my family and friends. I tried, God knows I tried. I chased that lightning bolt for all it was worth, but it continued to elude me.

That was until I met Tony Rojas. Five minutes in his presence and I was every bit as enamored as his legion of groupies. He was more than a rock god; he was a sex god. From the intensity of his unusual turquoise eyes or the sexy curve of that smile carving into the bronze perfection of his face, I found myself from worshipping at his altar from the moment we met. It was beyond me. I was locked into the ride and there was nothing left to do but hold on. Looking back I can see that Tony was put in my life to awaken me. I had spent my life painting the canvas with only one color, thinking that would be enough. It only took one moment to convince me otherwise, but that moment was undeniable. When I looked into those captivating blue-green eyes for the very first time, and felt really and truly seen for the first time in return, I knew the real truth.

Nothing would mean anything if I didn’t take the chance to be really and truly happy. To do that, I had to be honest. Lightning struck and I was in love, even though that love was about to cost me everything.

But I would do it all again for one more minute in his arms. I loved him no matter what it cost me, my family, my music… even my future. Nothing meant anything without him. That was when I knew the deepest truth of all. I was meant to love him. And he was meant to love me.

This is our story. A love story. A horror story. It was erotic, it was romantic. A comedy, a tragedy. A cautionary tale.

It is a life story.

It is my story.

And sometimes one chance is all you get to tell it.


MASKED IN THE MUSIC releases September 25th, which is a very special date for me personally - and reason #1 why I chose it. You can pre-order it now for a discounted price. It goes up to regular price after release.

Fair warning... if you need a warning to read a book, this will NOT be the book for you. I'm keeping it real, folks. As always.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

"Glitter" Confessions

1. "Glitter on the Web" likely would never have happened had it not been for Macklemore.

The bestie and I share movies and videos with each other every weekend, which is pretty cool that even 35 years into our friendship, we find new things to share between us. We're still teaching each other things, and he, inadvertently sometimes, purposefully other times, has inspired more than one story doing it. Many months back, he sent me the video for "Downtown" by Macklemore.

In the video, Macklemore shows some love for a bigger girl:

Now do you or do you not wanna ride with me
I got one girl, I got two wheels
She a big girl but ain't a big deal
I like a big girl, I like 'em sassy

First thought: "Aw, that's cool. Hope he means it." So, being me, I dug a little deeper as I'm known to do, to find a pic of his wife to see if she, too, was a big girl. She wasn't. It got the gears turning. What if a popular singer showed love for bigger girls, endearing him to that particular audience, but it was all a marketing ploy? Hence, Glitter was born.

Confession, Part Two - I had completely forgotten about this until the bestie showed me ANOTHER Macklemore song where he, once again, proclaimed his affection for bigger girls and it sparked the memory. (I still hope he means it.)

2. GLITTER is my unintentional homage to Purple Rain.

This one happened by accident, really. It's Eli's fault. He started playing an instrumental piece early in the book, and it just felt right to give it the Purple Rain treatment. That movie makes the list of one of my favorite closing scenes ever, given the emotional payoff at the end. To have a musician struggle with an important piece of music, to figure out what he wanted to say, and say it when it had the most emotional payoff, made sense. I had already given Eli a few Kid/Price-like qualities, including his teaching himself to play the piano, and producing/writing/performing all of his earliest work. So really, it was unintentional, but in the end I was proud to pay tribute to one of my idols, especially one who taught me so much how to be my own kind of artist. Little did I know at the time it would be a memorial. :(

3. It took me a long-ass time to title this book.

Names come to me relatively easy. It's not so much a choice as it is a discovery. When I name my characters, I generally know who they are before they have a name to go with the character. So I go down a list of potential names that I keep (and add to,) until I find the one that feels right, like I'm looking for someone who already exists and I'm just waiting to have them step forward for roll call. (This is also why I generally don't change names easily when I've found the one that clicks, and why working with anyone else creatively is so challenging because they typically want to change these names first thing. It's like taking your kid to school and introducing them, only to have the teacher say, "Hum, we already have a Justin. Can I just call him Doug?" Self-publishing allows me the freedom to allow my characters to be who they were supposed to be, something I got to know very early on in the creative process.) Book titles are even harder, because if you inadvertently name your book after a book that already exists, you can risk suffering from comparison. I knew I had to think outside the box with this one, because I really, really wanted it to stand out. With GLITTER, I had my concept and my characters, but I had no idea what to name their journey. Finally I circled around to the "web" idea, given the story is about a big lie. What's the only thing that could entice someone like me onto a web? My husband doesn't call me a magpie for nothing. Also, GLITTER ON THE WEB leaves a little wiggle room if I ever want to revisit the story... like... GLITTER DOWN THE AISLE, or GLITTER IN THE CRIB... that kind of thing. Y'know... just in case... ;)

4. Eli is based on real men I've known.

If you're really close to me, you probably recognize Eli. I really didn't hide what I was trying to do with this character. While reading it, my husband turned to me and said, "You think So-N-So will recognize himself in your book?" My first thought was, "Probably not, because anyone who would really Eli me wouldn't read the book in the first place." Which is true. All I can say is I hope so, even though the So-N-So Steven referred to isn't *technically* the whole inspiration for the character (though bad experiences involving him definitely worked themselves out in the book, as they tend to.) Truthfully I hope every guy who has ever Eli'd me sees themselves in the book, because they're all represented in every nasty thing Eli said or did. I threw it all into an Asshole Bouillabaisse as my way of saying, "How you treated me was not okay, and I only wish I had had Carly's ovarian fortitude to tell you that." Everything Eli did or said to piss you off has happened to me at some point, just like it has probably happened to many, many women of size reading the book. Typically these were the things I accepted and excused when I was too stupid to recognize my own value, and this was my way to rewrite things, to let someone else know that it isn't okay of if someone treats them this way. Stand up for yourself. You can. And if the guy is worth having, he'll cowboy the fuck up. (Many don't, but that's okay. If they can't see your worth, they don't deserve you anyway. Trite, but true.) Honestly, it gives me great satisfaction when I hear that people hate Eli. I wanted you to. I wanted you to see how unacceptable this behavior is, so that we learn to nip that shit in the bud in real life. He is the voice of our media... he's the voice of our society. It's *our* job to stop agreeing with it, and demand the respect and human courtesy we deserve.

5. Eli's and Carly's story isn't over.

For everyone who wanted an epilogue, to see what happens with this couple beyond any kind of HEA (or HFN, you don't know,) there's a reason I didn't include one. Their story isn't over, and you WILL see them again. FFF releases this November, and will focus on all THREE of the owners of the club, Carly included. Oh, and Caz hasn't gone away either... so this should be all KINDS of angsty fun.

Have you read GLITTER? Tell me what you thought!

Saturday, May 14, 2016

The weight of writing "plus-size" fiction, and why I cannot be shamed.

The story of how I came to write "plus-size" or Rubenesque romances is pretty well known by this point. As a "plus-size" woman, I was sick and tired of reading books where women who looked like me were treated as the supporting characters, the comic relief, or the sad examples of what not to be. This was not my experience. As the star of my own life, I have had quite a bit of romance, quite a bit of sex, and quite a bit of drama all on my own. It rubbed me raw that, especially in romance, the "ideal" I needed to "escape" to was someone other than me. See, that kind of thing just feeds my internal chatterbox, which is already running 24/7 telling me I'm a piece of shit anyway. It ends up reinforcing this societal message that if I don't conform to the standard of beauty set by other people... I just don't count. I don't deserve to find love, I don't deserve to be successful, and I certainly don't deserve a happily ever after.

Entire multi-million-dollar industries are literally banking on this premise, from the magazines we see screaming at us from the check-out aisle, to the cosmetics and fashion industry and... let's not forget the weight-loss industry, which brings in BILLIONS per year. So naturally the women we see reflected back to us in the media all tend to fit a certain type, and woe to the women who don't. Any time any woman dares to dip her tippy-toe outside of this narrow definition of ideal feminine beauty, there's shame the size of Texas waiting to be heaped on her, to corral her back into line.

And we all kind of accept it. We all kind of go along with this idea that women in particular deserve our ridicule and our disdain simply because of how they look, which reinforces the even more destructive social messaging that a woman's value hinges on something so temporary and so superficial. If you dare to be successful in any OTHER way, whether professionally, intellectually, in your character, with your achievements, even if you want to be president of these United States, it all comes back to how you look.

If you don't look a certain way, you simply don't deserve to be happy.

And it's bullshit.

I used to shovel the shit, same as the majority of folks in our culture. I wrote thin and beautiful women, desired women, who didn't know they were thin, beautiful and desired, something I wouldn't know dick about, and publishers told me thanks but no thanks. My characters were "too perfect."

But that was how I saw the women mirrored back to me. They were certainly more perfect than I was, and more deserving of good things than I was.

I mean, that IS the message, right?

In 2007, I set out to change that message. I wrote my first Rubenesque romance, LOVE PLUS ONE, about a size-12 (gasp! shocker!) gal who not only didn't know she was beautiful... she had the world around her reinforcing that sad message. She had to fight through BOTH piles of bullshit to find her happily ever after.

THAT... I know.

Since then I've written all sorts of "plus-size" fiction, with all sorts of heroines. I have my confident, DGAF heroines who embrace the fact they are different and don't give a rat's ass who agrees with them. (Rachel from THE FULLERTON FAMILY SAGA, Andy from THE GROUPIE SAGA, Coralie from THE MASTERS SAGA, Caitlin from PICTURE POSTCARDS and Carly from GLITTER ON THE WEB.) I have my more insecure heroines, who are fighting uphill through molasses to figure out their worth. (Jordi from THE FIERCE TRILOGY, Shannon from LOVE PLUS ONE.) I have my pissed off heroine, who gained weight just to keep men dafuq away from her, (Jessica, UNDER TEXAS SKIES,) and the character who has battled the chatterbox a lot like me over the past four decades, even when she couldn't see the great things that were right in front of her. (Roni from THE LEFTOVER CLUB.) Joely Morgan, from BACK FOR SECONDS, was a 40-year-old mother of three who gained weight and alienated her hubby, who dropped her like a bad habit for a 20-something size-perfect beauty. She got the interest of a younger, hotter man who wanted to get his hands all over her neglected curves, again... writing what I know from real-life experience.

I've written characters who are where I used to be. I've written characters who are who I want to be. And each and every one I allowed to be who they were, no physical changes necessary. They had to change their attitude only, one that said, "You're allowed to find love the way you are. And that must always start with you."

Needless to say, there's been some negative feedback. In a genre where fantastic, unrealistic things happen all the time, I've heard my share of complaints that "plus-size" fiction isn't "realistic" enough to sell. One blog I read treated the whole Rubenesque genre as a joke, saying it would be more realistic to her if two mentally challenged people found love together, as long as they were hot. You can be an asshole, you can be missing limbs, you can have the IQ of a kumquat, but God forbid you're larger than a size-6, which is where this particular blogger started her fat-shaming because "No man I know would ever date a woman bigger than that!"

So the majority of American women, who tend to be a size 14/16, are SOL when it comes to finding love... even though they do, even though they date, have sex, marry, have families and generally live happy lives.

I've had personal reviews that reinforce this sad message. One reviewer, an admitted size-16 herself, said my GROUPIE SAGA was unrealistic because no rock star AND music mogul would fight over a woman who wore a size-16.


Oh yeah. Nothing to like THERE. She's only the first model of size to grace the cover of the coveted Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. She's listed in People's Most Beautiful. Oh, and she's also married to a hot guy who digs her curves like there's no tomorrow.

And she did all that as a size-16.

Another interviewer took issue with the fact that I don't shy away from numbers in my book. CC Cabot (or Coralie) from my MASTERS SAGA was also a size-16, which... if you look at the Victoria's Secret Sizing Guide, is 42.5-34-44.5. Coralie is 46/34/44. I made her top-heavy because some women don't necessarily have sizes that fit these cookie-cutter sizes, and my whole message with Coralie was that American fashion sizing is bullshit (particularly the use of the term "plus-size.") She, as the daughter of a fashion industry icon, couldn't even find stuff to fit or flatter in her very own store because of this segregated idea of feminine beauty. I wanted to make it hard for her to find clothes, because for many of us it IS hard to find clothes. Even Salma Hayek and Scarlet Johansson, some of the hottest babes in Hollywood, overfill certain sizes. Salma is 39-24-36 and Scarlett is 36-25-36. Back at Victoria's Secret, a size-4 is 34.5-26-36.5, but you don't get into the 39" bust size until a 12, or a 36"-bust size until an 8. Did I mention already that the fashion industry standard for "plus-size" starts at a size 6? WHICH, btw, is a SMALL at Victoria's Secret.

See where I'm going with this? THIS guy does.

But because I said that Coralie had a size-46 bust, a reviewer took issue with my gender identity. "Is this writer even a woman?" she wanted to know, because 46 inches was HUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUGE.

She's right. I don't know much about being a size-16, as it's been about three decades since I wore a 44-36-44. My current bust size now is 48". Whether I'm a woman or not... well...

Many a guy has looked at my chest and didn't give a shit about the number (unless it was my phone number,) but thanks for the reality check, I guess. Living in my skin day to day, I had forgotten what an anomaly I was. Thank GAWD someone was there to remind me how I don't fit in. Having made the career of my dreams out of thin air, raised two amazing men, and been loved and desired by many amazing guys, my confidence was getting OUT OF CONTROL. Someone definitely needed to put me in my place.

Even though I can point to real life examples of what I write...including my very own story, it's "unrealistic." I'd venture to guess more size-16 women get married every single day than college graduates get whisked away by gazillionaires, but ... y'know... whatever. Gotta protect the message.

It should be crystal clear by this point I don't give a flying fig about "the message."

Actually that's not true. I care enough about the destructive nature of this bullshit message to change it. This is why I write the books I do. I was sick and tired of being told I wasn't the ideal, I couldn't have my happily ever after, and I was not good enough. This is the uphill battle I climb every single time I walk outside my front door, facing a culture that would rather shame me into conforming than understand me as I am.

In my book, GLITTER ON THE WEB, Carly Reynolds shares this same mission. She is likewise a size-16, but she doesn't give a fuck if you think she's huge. She dates. She has an active sex life. She lives her life on her terms, and fuck the naysayers who want to shame her for any of it.

Because every plot needs an opposing force, I decided to make a living embodiment of our social standard. I've done that before with Eddie in FIERCE, but this time I had a different agenda. I was going to put these two opposing mindsets together, and use the resulting chaos to change the fucking message. So I created Eli Blake, who is the perfect ideal of a man, according to society standards. He's painfully good-looking. He's white. He's rich. He's straight. He's successful in the eyes of the world. These are his "get out of asshole" free cards that society hands to guys like this, even when they're ginormous douche bags.

It really is amazing what we, as women, tolerate from guys who simply look a certain way. (I'll get to that more in a minute.)

GLITTER was my way of shining a light on the destructive nature of the shaming mindset that goes hand-in-hand with shaping a message around beauty conformity. Needless to say, Eli had his biases when he got into this relationship, but so did Carly. Forced to work together, and live together, to perpetuate the lie of being a couple, they were able to get past the bullshit. And that's where the real chance for romance starts.

Fast-forward to May 9, the day before I released my ambitious project, and the book world exploded around the concept of "fat-shaming" when a male model went on a social media rampage against fat women, both the authors and readers of romance. I won't name him, he got enough publicity at the start of the week, but his message was that fat writers had to write romance because they weren't getting any dick at home, and readers of romance should just go eat ice cream and hang themselves in the closet.

No, really. That was his message, word for almost fucking word.

That he wasn't more widely panned by the women who had become his "fans" as a fitness role model and cover model for romance novels, just reinforced the power of this destructive message. It's also a sad social statement that women accept abusive behavior from jerks just because we think they're good-looking. (Raise your standards, ladies. S'all I'm saying.)

This is a guy who told us fat girls to go hang ourselves in the closet. I want no part of that message. Instead I'm trying to tell us all that no matter what your size, you deserve to be happy. You don't lose your worth as a human just because some jagoff is pissed off you're not doing more to attract him.

For some reason, some guys get really REALLY mad about this. I mean, why else would you say to someone that they need to hang themselves in a closet??

He did try to wrap this "concern-trolling" bullshit with the more socially accepted "obesity epidemic" trappings. But this guy doesn't give two shits about your health if he's trying to tell you you need to end it all simply because of what you weigh. What kind of fucked up message is that?? "I really want you to lose weight so you can live longer. But fuck that, you're a fat slob of a pig. Kill yourself now." That is a passionate, deep-seated hatred of you as a potential sexual partner who didn't do enough to please him, like you owed it to him to be hot.

Spoiler alert: You don't.

Like Jennifer Weiner said, there is room in the world for the unpretty. You don't owe it to him to give him a boner or to get his attention. From this kind of explosive meltdown, I'm going to go out on a limb and say this is not the kind of man you want ANY attention from. EVER. But regardless of who or what, you don't owe it to anyone else to be thin, to be pretty, to be perfect, to look good, to fit into a certain size - OR exercise and diet and starve yourself just so the people who are trying hard to find reasons to hate you will somehow like you one day.

Spoiler alert: They won't.

I didn’t want to tell her that “they” would never stop finding things that girls are “too” this or that for, to deny us our happy endings, like we somehow didn’t deserve it anymore because we’re not perfect. It starts with too young, then it becomes too fat, too thin, too loud, too quiet, too timid, too bold, too chaste, too slutty, too ugly, too pretty… until finally we’re too old, and we get put out to pasture like any brood mare who was no longer useful.

“‘They’ will always try to make you feel like a half-person, who will never be complete until you have a man to validate you. But ‘they’ are full of shit. You are an amazing person all on your own. The right person will see that. It’ll turn all those things that are too much into just right.” - Carly Reynolds

I've talked about fat-shaming before, where I was actually FAT-SHAMED for doing so. (Not surprised.) In fact, there are some who would fat-shame me for writing romances about bigger women, just because it's "unhealthy" to encourage happiness/self-acceptance when the accepted wisdom is fat is bad. Even though studies have proven that fat-shaming is way more damaging than helpful, which I know from my own personal experience.

All of this stuff just reinforced why I write the stories I do. My entire purpose on the planet is to change the message, because I know first-hand how destructive it is. You want to be really, truly healthy? Try loving yourself enough to be imperfect. Convince yourself that you matter. You have value. You are here to be what no one else can be... and that's you. You're here to love, to learn and to grow, and you deserve to be happy. If you're not happy where you are, then change it. You have the power to do that. If you are happy where you are, then work on those things to make you stronger, to help you live longer, so you can show all the naysayers that no matter how much they try to steal your thunder, you're here to shake things up, and fuck 'em if they don't like it.

So stop accepting these ill-fitting boxes they try to cram us all into to make THEM feel better about themselves, when they're the ones who are limited. You matter. And you deserve to be here. You're going to make waves standing out, being different, but don't you dare apologize. People will try to shame you, sure, because they don't know how to handle it. This usually indicates these are people who aren't fit to judge you anyway. So don't accept that shame. There's no one on this planet more qualified to judge you for being you except you. And I got news for you... you're fucking perfect at it. Because of the scars you wear... not in spite of them.

Shake off the haters, lift your chin and own. You might be surprised who might someday agree.

“You really don’t care what people think, do you?”

“What do you mean?”

“Like today. I tell you to skip makeup, you put on sunglasses like it’s nothing. If I had said that to Rhonda, she would have spent the next ten minutes yelling at me in Spanglish, telling me I didn’t understand what it was like to be a woman in the public eye.”

“Big difference. I’m not in the public eye.”

“Yeah, you are,” he corrected. “You just don’t care. At the spa. On the beach. You just walked through a crowded lobby in beachwear, and don’t even notice if other people stare or talk behind your back. It’s like you’re a queen and they’re all beneath you.”

I chuckled. “Oh, I notice. But you’re right. I don’t care. I’m not defined by the opinions of others.”

His caresses grew even gentler. “Like a queen.” I said nothing. “It’s sexy,” he murmured, his fingers trailing over my shoulders and down both arms as he leaned closer. “You’re sexy.”

My eyes met his. “Surprised?”

He nodded. “Every day.” He leaned forward for another kiss.

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