Book Recommend/Review: What It Takes, by Jude Sierra

As mentioned in my last blog post, it’s so crucial for authors not to just bang on about their own books, but to talk about the books they’re reading and the authors they admire.  And hey, I get to do both here! I was fortunate to get my hands on an ARC (Advanced Reader’s Copy) of Jude Sierra’s second novel, What It Takes. Jude has a background in poetry, and she has a lyrical writing style that I was really looking forward to reading.

LGBT literature m/m fiction

This is maybe one of the most intimate reading experiences I’ve ever had. Continue reading

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Going beyond lip-service. How to really support authors you love.

Well, lip-service is a big part of it, actually. Active lip-service?  You’ll see.

I’ve spoken before about how to support authors — reviews are key, maybe even more than just you buying a copy of their book, and WHERE you should put your reviews — but I read another writer’s post that goes into the serious nitty-gritty of the publishing world, and it just hits home so much harder.

book reviews authors readers

Guys, we’re not making a lot of money here*. If your name isn’t something like Rowling (or Kardashian or King), you’re making a small percentage of a few hundred (or hopefully a few thousand) sales. If that’s a 10,000 print first run–pretty decent for a standard Big Name publishing contract–and you sell out in a year, that author made $20,000! …before taxes. That becomes $16,000. For the year. Those are poverty level wages in the USA, if not accompanied by any other income.

Keep in mind that I just posited a Big Name publishing contract. When you talk about smaller presses, you’re in the 1000 printed copies for a first run range. Big difference, huh? Hey. It’s a business. It’s how it works.  (This doesn’t include eBooks, but the number of sales and the percentages are the same.)

What tips all of this over into a livable wage (which, anyone who writes would love to make their living writing stories. That’s the dream! Most of us have second jobs.), is when more people beyond our small social media scope begin to read our books, either through a purchase at a bookstore, online, or through a library.

writers block typewriter LGBT

 

But how do other people HEAR about such and such author? From you.

From the article by Kristen Lamb:

Reviews are more important now than ever before, especially for the indie and self-published author. The reason is that with the change in the publishing paradigm, the slush pile (unfortunately) has been dumped into the reader’s lap. There are a lot of bad books out there. But even then, that really isn’t all that big of a problem.

With the Internet and social media and the explosion of books there is SO MUCH content. This means consumers are overwhelmed with choices. Reviews help writers sell books because if readers see a book with no reviews or five reviews versus a similar title with thirty reviews? Who will they choose?

Instead of sending me an e-mail about how much my book changed your life? Put it on Amazon and change MINE! 

Readers are essential to our success beyond just the sale. If you love our books, your promotion means a thousand times more than any ad I could pay for. Ads and marketing don’t sell books. Never did and never will. Only thing that sells books is word of mouth.

I don’t want to sound ungrateful for those private messages I’ve gotten about how much you’ve enjoyed my books. I am so, so grateful for them. I keep them safe and warm and pull them out on days when I think about giving up (something that happens a lot, to be frank).

But you know what really helps? What makes me feel like maybe I can do this, maybe I can put another story out there, maybe work a little harder at this whole “being a professional writer” thing? When I see reviews out in public.

book reviews readers share

Who doesn’t love knowing that people are willing to stand by you publicly? Privately is nice, but publicly legitimizes your work in such a magnificent way. It not only means so much emotionally, but it means a lot to the bottom line, and that, my friends, is what will enable your favorite authors to continue to give you stories you love.

The sad truth is that until a book gets at least 50 reviews on Amazon, Amazon won’t advertise that particular book. But once you hit that magic number? They start promoting the hell out of it. You know when your Kindle goes into the home screen? That’s a big one.  Or when you buy a book and they do the whole “people who bought that liked” thing?  Oh, yeah. Or when you click onto Amazon and they have a book title as the banner?  [salivates and makes ungentlemanly noises]

That means more exposure for an Indie author, which means more likelihood that they’ll be able to give you more stories.

writing books typewriter vintage

It’s a symbiotic relationship. We need each other to keep this beautiful, crazy cycle going. Your reviews are crucial. They can literally make or break a book.

Reblogging and liking posts on Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook is awesome. Even more awesome is going to a place like Amazon and sharing your thoughts. Talking about books you love to the general public is how people decide what to read. It’s been shown that people tend to buy books based off of trusted reviews from people they know/follow.

So you guys sharing your favorite books with the public at large? Yeah, that’s the stuff. <3

*and this doesn’t even go into the serious damage that pirated books cause. Yeah, I know, we all hate how Lars from Metallica and Taylor Swift were griping about losing money from their stuff being pirated, but those are multi-millionaires with multiple revenue streams. Authors are hundredaires. You pirate their books, and you’re seriously harming their careers to the point where they can’t afford to keep writing you books. See the difference?

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Psst! Ever wonder how you can read new book releases for free?

Look, books are expensive. I appreciate every one of you who buys my book in either print or eBook format, but I also get that it’s not cheap. And you’re probably a lot like me: a voracious reader. That habit adds up. So what do you do? Okay, there’s this place you can go and find new releases like, on the day they come out, and you won’t have to pay a freaking dime*.

THE LIBRARY.

WAIT. HEAR ME OUT.

Yeah, yeah, that seems obvious, but a lot of times your library doesn’t have genre fiction, especially if it’ a subgenre or from an Indie press like my publisher, @interludepress. So what now?

LIBRARIES LOVE TO BUY BOOKS. Here’s what happens when you ask your very excited librarian if they can get a copy of a particular book for the branch:

  • They go in the back room and hit the WE GOT ONE! buzzer, and all available librarians put on their party cardigans and do a choreographed dance number to I’M SO EXCITED
  • The winner of the dance off gets to approach the branch supervisor with proof that patrons want new books, DIVERSE BOOKS at that!
  • which, GEORGE (all crappy supervisors are named George. I don’t make the rules here, I just state them), is why you can’t reallocate the new book funds for a bigger parking space for yourself
  • they get all the relevant information (ISBN numbers basically) and put in an acquisition order and send that off
  • the books arrive at the library shortly after
  • the librarians breakdance in their pink satin jackets (yes, the men are wearing them too, because duh, they’re fabulous with appliqued glasses and hot pink lips on the back) and update the branch’s database with NEW BOOKS ARE HERE COME ON AND READ THEM
  • and now you and anyone else who comes into the library has a chance to read a new book

AND IT’S FREE FOR YOU, THE PATRON. The best scenario possible, really.

And who are you to deprive these book warriors their dance offs, huh? Why don’t you stop being selfish and think of the librarians? THEY WORK HARD.

library librarians books LGBT

FUN FACT: a lot of libraries have ONLINE REQUEST FORMS for people, if you might be a little adverse to going out in public and speaking directly to a person. I get it! It’s nerve wracking! So how cool is THAT? Trick question. Very.

(World Cat is the catalog for books in libraries, and you can see if YOUR library has the books you want.) Make a librarian’s day! (Janice won the last dance off, and your favorite librarian would just LOVE to make her eat it. The delicious treats she found on Pinterest, of course, and thoughtfully brought in to share with her fellow employees.)

*no dimes involved unless you don’t bring the book back on time.

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The Birth of a Notion

One question I’ve often been asked (and I love it!) is,  “Where do the ideas for your stories come from? What’s the kernel? The 4-1-1, as the kids say (if the kids are 33).” For Bitter Springs, I stumbled across something that led me to months of research into actual LGBT history and a proper education of our past, and not the straight-washed “everyone was murderered if they were even kind of homo back in the day” mindset most people hold.

First off, that’s not even how you spell it. Second, it is my utter delight to show all the ways in which that mindset is incorrect, this idea – that every single LGBT person was shunned, that they were hidden away inside attics and broken down sheds at the edge of their family’s farms*,  or basically forced to live their lives in misery until dying from their ‘gayness’, not unlike consumption**. Turns out, that’s not true. LGBT people lived long, happy lives with their partners, and often. Not everyone did, religion always messes things up, but enough folks did to make it a Real Thing.

Gay cowboys gunslingers Tombstone

I’d like you to meet, as I call them, “The Fellas.” Bobby Jackson, Frank Hart. Boothill Cemetery, Tombstone, AZ

*Let’s not act like the whole attic thing isn’t a completely rich, white straight thing for illegitimate children born on soap operas. Because that’s what that is. Yes, I grew up on All My Children and Days of our Lives, why do you ask?

** I use “gay” as a catch-all term to encompass the many beautiful and varied colors of the LGBTQIA rainbow because we still have a long, long way to go

But back to these gay gunslingers who couldn’t bear to be separated even in death… Continue reading

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Meet the characters of Bitter Springs: Henry “Hank” Burnett

black cowboys gay vintage The day before the wedding, a visitor arrived at Vista Verde an entire week early. Renaldo, ready to wash up and eat dinner after a long, hard day–his side ached from roping cattle as a part of Paloma’s training, his hands were full of bits of raw hemp from the stock lassos, and one of the calves had kicked him high on the thigh–walked back from the barn using his hat to slap at the dust on his chest and thighs. He noticed a tall, striking young black man standing at the door to their home speaking with their father. They didn’t see many black men this far from civilization; with the Civil War ending so recently, many were staying close to where they’d been forced to live, were heading far out west where there were more opportunities to make a new life or were going north seeking less hostile society. Who he could be?

He was about as tall as Renaldo, maybe an inch or two more, broad-shouldered and whip-thin, dressed in well-worn, simple clothes. He had a close-cropped beard, but instead of hiding the shape of his jaw, it accented its sharpness. His light eyes, almost luminescent even at this distance and glowing like amber, were ringed with thick lashes, nearly to the point of being girlish, but there was nothing feminine about the man. With his lean but strong-looking chest, muscular arms and curved backside, he managed to carry himself with a confident air while standing idly; his body was still, but in a way that made Renaldo think of a raptor sitting on an abutment, watching and waiting.

“Oh, here he is,” Esteban said, motioning for Renaldo to join them, saying, “Señor Burnett, allow me to introduce to you my son, Renaldo.”

This? This was the legendary mesteñero, Henry Burnett?

~From Bitter Springs

Yeah, Renaldo. Not all legends are old men. Henry Burnett was not an easy man to get to know, not for me, and certainly not for Renaldo. I had to unlearn a lot of false history to allow his creation to happen, first off. The sheer lack of information readily available about black cowboys in the 19th Century is staggering. Continue reading

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A pretty special reader review of Bitter Springs

“So often, queer stories set in the past, and even the present, are stories about pain and rejection, violence and untimely death. From a certain perspective Bitter Springs serves as a thesis statement, a way to change the conversation. There is a way to tell queer stories, our stories, in a way that shows the light at the end of the rainbow. It is possible that the story that we’ve been told over and over, that the queer journey is a journey of tragedy and loss, is somewhat like the titular springs – a story told so often, it appears to obscure all other possibilities, but just one story.

With Bitter Springs, Laura Stone is changing the conversation. We have had happy endings, we do have happy endings, and we will continue to have happy endings.”

It’s important to me, to my children, and to our fellow LGBTQ friends that a positive message replaces the sheer damage done by the sexual prohibition movement at the turn of the 20th Century, a message that continues to undermine progress.

Boston Wives vintage LGBT

For every “but that isn’t realistic” comment or review I see historical LGBT books receive, a part of me crumples in frustration. It is. It is realistic. It is real. LGBT people had happy, long, loving lives, and it’s important that we stop erasing that. It’s important that we put a message of love and hope out in the world. It’s important that we remember that the lies we’ve been told for 100 years, lies that at best pushed people back into the closet and at worst have led to awful, ugly deaths at the hands of bigots and zealots, it’s important we remember that LGBT people have had opportunities in the past to lead happy, loving lives, accepted by their families.

black LGBT gay men

Thank you so much for this beautiful review, and for adding a message of hope out into the world.

(And there’s a reason why all of the queer stories of the 20th century ended in suffering and tragedy, but that’s a conversation for a different day. Today: let’s remember all the queer couples who were able to love each other and go to bed every night content in that love.)

vintage gay ranch hands,gay ranch hands,LGBT ranchers

Just guys being dudes. Dudes being guys.

More on the straight-washing (and white-washing) of the Old West, including a bibliography

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Bitter Springs: Virtual Book Tour & Giveaway

It’s time! Release Day! To go along with Bitter Springs hitting bookshelves around the globe, I’ll be traveling along this series of tubes and cat memes we call the “inter-net” at various book blogs to talk about the book, the proper way to make nachos, why Haas avocados are essential for the very best guacamole, and why dudes on horseback are basically the best dudes.

THIS IS GREAT FOR YOU, AND I’LL TELL YOU WHY: every blog stop on my tour means a chance for you to laugh (I seriously try to make it as fun and entertaining as possible) and every comment left at every stop is automatically entered to win a copy of my book!

Bitter Springs gay cowboys

Multiple stops every day. MULTIPLE CHANCES TO WIN. EVERY DAY. ALL DAY ERR-DAY. Okay, until the 16th, when my stops end, but YOU can keep on entering if you missed a stop until the 23rd of December. PRETTY COOL.

I’ll keep the schedule updated as the stops happen, so bookmark this post and check back daily for where cool people are talking about books (mine in particular). You can also track where I am at my official Tumblr. Just look for Paloma-she’ll keep us on the trail. (Oh god, I am sorry. But not?)

Virtual Book Tour Stops:

Dec 3:

Dec. 4

  • Divine Magazine – chance to enter and win!
  • Gay Books – link to a thoughtful 4 star review, too (aww! THANK YOU!)
  • Books 4 Ever – Fun interview where you might learn some new things about me 😉

Dec. 7

  • Bayou Book Junkie, where they very thoughtfully gave me a 4.5 Star review! <3
  • Reviews and Ramblings, where I talk about former (and present) pets on top of other things
  • Unquietly Me, where I give some writing advice
  • And the wonderfully named, Two Chicks Obsessed, where there’s a fun, lengthy interview and I have to say that I love their blog layout a LOT. (That’s a thing for me.)

Dec. 8

  • Book Reviews Rants And Raves, where I talk about this book being a way to show my dad that yeah, Badger Clark DID have gay cowboy poems, because he’s of the generation where if something is in print, it’s Truth. (omg. I mean, it is true, but you feel me.)
  • My Fiction Nook, and this is the one with the To Do List. 😀 (I liked that so much that I’ll add it to my Official Site soon with the other short story tie-ins that are going up this month.)
  • Not officially on my tour, but Jude Sierra shared such a lovely review, and I was so touched that I’m linking it here. When a wonderful writer pays you a compliment, it’s just freaking awesome.

Dec. 9

  • The very delightful Elin Gregory, where she and I gushed over pretty book cover art in comments (it’s like old school days of LJ where the best things happen in comments! /nostalgia)
  • And Books and More, where I was asked about the inspiration for the book (it’s a good story) and if I write while naked.  And I answered. [kitten purr while stroking my throat]

(Apparently I want to be Madame. Someone bring me my diamond choker and bejeweled turban. WOW I JUST DATED MYSELF THERE.)

Dec. 10

Dec. 11

Dec. 14

  • Dawn’s Reading Nook There’s a nice interview here that ends in me sharing recipes for the best pizza toppings (after talking about how fun conventions are!)
  • Happily Ever After (FB page) with a SURPRISE excerpt from my next book, And It Came To Pass
  • QUEERcentric Books Where during the course of the interview I reiterate how awesome supportive friends can be, as well as a book recommendation. (Spoiler alert: Something Like A Love Song. Good lord, I can’t recommend that enough. GO GET IT.)

Dec. 15

  • CheekyPee BooksandReviews where I’m interviewed after the blurb, and it contains nuggets like who I love to write with and some word association.
  • And Elizabeth Noble, a fellow M/M writer kind enough to host a Raffle Widget ALL FOR YOU. SHE IS DOING IT FOR YOU.  (And you get 20 chances to enter!!)

Dec. 16

  • BFD Books and Reviews, which I assumed meant “Big F*cking Deal” because they have the best banner and lots of awesome books, but apparently stands for Books, Friends and Drinks, which happen to be three things I love more than anything else. Yeah, they went with the right one there.
  • And last but certainly not least, the Mack Daddy of book blogs, Prism Book Alliance, and here I got to relive the glory days of the @okaybutlistenpodcast and talk about the TV show I’d love to bring back and why.

You have 20 chances to enter to win, so stop at each place and get your entry in!

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Meet the characters of Bitter Springs: Abuelita

Introducing Abuelita, a gentle Tobiano with pretty rounded white splotches and a tender heart. But more importantly, I want y’all to meet Doc, the Wonderhorse on whom she’s based.

Horses cowboys vintage LGBT

           Artwork by Colleen M. Good

“Abuelita is a good choice,”Francisco said to Burnett, nodding toward the horse. “Gentle, good instincts.”

“Abuelita?” Burnett asked, looking between the two brothers.

“Little grandmother,”Renaldo said, grinning and running his hand along Abuelita’s copper flank. “She mothers the other horses and watches out for the foals. Gracias, Francisco.”

Francisco nodded and gave his brother’s shoulder a squeeze.

“That’s good thinking,” Burnett said. “Could help us out there. Gracias.”

The brothers looked at each other, amused at Burnett’s American-South accent as he attempted to pronounce Spanish. Burnett caught that, rolled his eyes and took the lead, walking Abuelita to where she could join his horses in one of the corrals.

“Be good, eh?” Francisco said quietly, ruffling Renaldo’s hair.

 

Under the cut is Real Life Abuelito, aka, Doc, the best quarter horse ever.
Continue reading

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Meet the characters of Bitter Springs: Paloma

As we get close to December 3rd, I thought it might be fun for you guys to get to know the various characters in Bitter Springs.  And while this isn’t a book where the animals have lines, the horses are still an integral part of the story.  All of the horses, by the way, are based on real people.*

 

illustrated horses vintage horse

Pencil artwork by Colleen M. Good, cover artist for Bitter Springs.

*horse folk know that animals are people, too.

Continue reading

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Early reviews are coming in and they’re…

…overwhelming me with pride (ha) and happiness!

The American Library Association gives Bitter Springs a thumbs up (oh my gosh, libraries are so important to me).

“This is a very moving novel, expertly written with much dialogue, and sage third-person commentary. The author’s character development is superb, especially regarding Renaldo and Henry, but also including Renaldo’s many relatives. She also offers fine and technically-accurate descriptions of the horses in their midst.”

Publisher’s Weekly also has a positive review.

“Simple, clean storytelling and an uncomplicated plot keep the story quietly intimate. Stone (The Bones of You) walks the fine line of keeping her protagonists traditionally masculine but never posturingly macho, and they’re often vulnerable with each other and gentle with the horses.”

My favorite bit, though, is “a scene of Renaldo teaching Hank Spanish endearments is particularly delightful.”  Y’all, I’m not going to lie to you. Some of that Spanish is straight up dirty talk. And you should add that to your vocabulary STAT. Haha.

I think this deserves a nice bottle of wine to celebrate. (So grateful!)

lesbian wine drinking woman

Bitter Springs is available for pre-orders at Amazon, B&N, and the IP Store, preorders at my publisher’s store will also get you a free eBook. It will be out on December 3, 2015.

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