Christmas Traditions—The BIG Day arrives!

Holiday traditions are as wonderfully diverse as the families who practice them. In conjunction with my new release Bear Creek Christmas, allow me to share some of mine!

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The following excerpt is taken from Bear Creek Christmas.

Levi awoke to the wind’s moans and whistles as it tore past the cabin. Given the light level in the room, Knox had let him sleep in, and he turned to look up into his mate’s stormy blue eyes.

“Good morning, love. Merry Christmas!”

Knox framed his face with both hands and kissed him.

“Merry Christmas. I got the best gift ever this year.”

At length, they got up, turned on all the colored lights, and made a fire in defiance of the still-raging storm. Levi tuned in to some holiday music, and they teamed up to prepare a breakfast featuring banana walnut pancakes. Thus fortified, the giddy lovers returned to the living room to begin their celebration. First, Levi took the filled Christmas stockings from the mantelpiece, handing one to Knox.

“What’s this?”

“Our family has always filled them with candy and small gifts, but you can’t have any until Christmas Day. Next year, you get to decide what goes in them.”

Later, Levi picked up the only gift under the tree and presented it to his mate.

“You’re a hard man to buy for, so don’t laugh!”

Knox removed the wrapping paper and opened the box to find a Christmas ornament inside. It was a dancing black bear, wearing a holiday sweater and a red bow on his head. On the bottom, he found the date and an inscription, Knox and Levi – Our First Christmas.

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As a kid, the worst part of the holiday was Christmas Eve. It must have been the only day of the year where I longed to go to bed—but only so the magic could begin when I awoke. While the waiting seemed interminable, there were things going on behind the scenes I knew nothing about until much older. Bit by bit, my parent’s enormous stash of gifts had been secretly wrapped and tagged by my older siblings, hidden away in mom and dad’s bedroom closets. They already knew Santa wasn’t real so they became honorary elves and helpers. Since I was third from the last, I only got to do this a few times and it was enormous fun being “in the know” and keeping secrets from my siblings!

I also didn’t realize that mom had been collecting candy—something Santa was supposed to provide when he showed up with the loot. Seeing the empty stockings hanging there for DAYS was another test of my childhood patience. It had to have been a considerable amount to fill eleven of them to the brim, though I never discovered mom’s hiding place.

Following midnight mass (yeah, I had to endure that too), it was a race to get into bed. We all knew that Santa would not come to our house unless we were all asleep first. I remember a couple of times when dad remained outside, tossing rocks onto the roof. Mom must have been in on it, because we were told that the noises were coming from Santa’s reindeer, and we better hurry up and get to sleep! Coupled with the phony radio and TV announcements of Santa “sightings”, we were convinced it was real.

Christmas Day didn’t officially start until eight am—at least that’s when we were allowed to get up and prepare to run downstairs. If someone had miraculously overslept, we’d go down the hall banging on bedroom doors to get everyone up. Once we had permission, the whole troop raced down the steps and into the living room to see the spectacle. Every available space under and around the tree was taken with gaily wrapped gifts of all sizes and shapes. Others leaned against the wall or were stacked up, leaving a good portion of the floor covered.

The other early excitement was being allowed to have our stockings—now filled to the brim with candy and topped with the largest oranges mom could find. Warnings were given regarding how much of it we could eat, but it didn’t prevent some horse trading between siblings. We’d dump them out to see how many of our favorites were included this year. Most of it was individually foil-wrapped—the only thing preventing wholesale gobbling before breakfast.

Next came the wait for Grandparents to arrive so we could open gifts. I swear, it took them longer ever year to show up! When the time arrived, my siblings and I would find a spot to claim on the living room floor while the adults sat on the couch and chairs where it was safer. Once the gifts were all handed out, the show was ready to begin; highly anticipated by everyone for the entertainment value if nothing else.

With movie camera in hand, my dad called out the countdown of “three, two, one—GO!” and the room erupted in a frenzy of shredded wrapping paper and shrieks of delight. Meanwhile, dad was filming the event in wide, fast sweeps of the camera that usually only captured the mayhem instead of individual moments. Across the room, multiple thanks were shouted to the gift givers—literally shouted, because there was no other way to be heard over the din.

Mom and dad loved this, having spent a lot of money to make this day special for us, year after year. Each of us got at least one big and small present from them, perhaps another from Santa, and then one more from a sibling (we picked names out of a hat once we were old enough to earn money). Unfortunately, we also received something from my grandmother and her husband. No, not socks or other practical gifts, but flea market items with dubious value. They did what they could, but what a disappointment to a kid looking for a shiny new whatever.

When all the hubbub settled down, it was our turn to be quiet and watch as mom opened her gifts. She usually had quite a few and made a point to ooh and aah over each one, no matter what it was. I honestly don’t recall my dad opening anything, though I’m sure he must have had gifts too. He was more concerned about his kids enjoying Christmas, and remained annoyingly difficult to buy for his entire life.

The main meal that day was in the evening. In my younger years, mom would duplicate the Thanksgiving menu, though desserts were more plentiful at Christmas if I remember correctly. We’d crowd around the main dining room table, with the younger kids seated in the overflow in the corner. Like the gift opening, it was a loud, high-intensity affair with everyone eating and engaged in overlapping conversations. In later years, the menu switched from turkey and dressing to spaghetti and meatballs with garlic bread. Yum!

The other parts of the day were filled with table games, watching sports on the TV, or nibbling on snacks or candy. As our family grew to include in-laws and babies, some of the dynamics changed a bit, but we always seemed to have a lot of fun. I miss that holiday vibe from my youth, and at times, wish I could capture it once again for just a little while. I guess I’ll have to be content with old photographs and fading memories. Whatever you and yours do on special days, make the most of them while you can.

Your turn to share. Please tell me what you and yours do for the holidays!

Christmas Traditions—Decking the Halls

Holiday traditions are as wonderfully diverse as the families who practice them. In conjunction with my new release Bear Creek Christmas, allow me to share some of mine!

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The following excerpt is taken from my new release, Bear Creek Christmas.

Levi opened the box from home and took out some strange looking do-dads and funky homemade ornaments—all bearing the marks of time and frequent handling. Knox pointed to a particularly homely configuration of popsicle sticks, glued together in the approximate shape of a star. It had been spray-painted gold and then covered with glitter, topped with a bright red loop of yarn.

Levi couldn’t quite reach the top, so Knox picked him up to hang the gold star where it belonged. He received a kiss for his trouble, and they began placing the other items from the box. Afterward came the new decorations: balls, bows, ice crystals, candy canes, sleds, and several tiny teddy bears. Lastly, Levi spread the bright red tree skirt around the stand and snapped a photo.

Knox hung the stockings on the mantle and the pinecone wreath on the front door, while Levi found places for the knick-knacks, scented candles, and the centerpiece for the dining table. The holiday hand towels went up in the bathroom and kitchen, leaving only the garland, twinkle lights, and mistletoe.

The mistletoe came last since Levi knew Knox would be distracted by the kissing part of the project. By the time they finished, Levi wouldn’t be able to move more than ten feet before passing underneath a bunch of mistletoe—exactly what Knox wanted. It took a lot of snogging to complete the job, though neither of them minded.

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My parents spent more on gifts than decorating, which we certainly appreciated as kids. Mom still made an effort to dress up the house for the season, and it all started with the tree. Dad always bought a real one and brought it home on the top of the car. No one ever went with him for this important purchase, probably so he could get in and out without delay.

My sister Lynn was their first child, born on December 17th. I’m not sure why, but mom decided that all things Christmas would begin on that day every year. Lynn even got a tree-shaped birthday cake, which she thought was so cool!

Once dad got the tree in the house and set up in a stand, he disappeared and let mom direct the decorating. She did the lights first, which for many years were the large (and hot) old-style bulbs. I still like them better than the tiny lights we use now, but they were a fire hazard and often left large sections of the tree without lights if one of the bulbs burnt out.

After that, we put up the glass ornaments; fragile and easily broken but oh so pretty.

There were other decorations, such as the ones we made in school or store-bought baubles of various kinds. The tree-topper changed over the years from gold glass to fabric angels.

Tinsel came last and it was the REAL THING, made of thin strips of aluminum foil. Mom tried to make us slow down and do it right, but we were always in a hurry to get it done. The foil easily creased and tore, and sometimes showed up as big blobs here and there.

The final touch was the red tree skirt which mom wrapped around the base and then placed the Nativity set front and center.

Afterward, we sang some carols around the finished tree and checked every day for the appearance of wrapped gifts.

The rest of the house wasn’t entirely ignored. Stockings were taped to the living room bookcase and garland wrapped around the staircase railing. Mom hung up a few sprigs of plastic mistletoe and there was always a festive wreath on the front door.

Two round glass jars filled with red silk balls and holly made an appearance too. On Christmas day, mom brought out a poinsettia tablecloth for the meal, but I don’t recall any centerpieces or other bric-a-brac.

Even the second floor got a bit of cheer with holiday coloring book pages taped to bedroom doors.

I’m sure I’ve forgotten some things, but too many years have gone by. Thanks to my parents, Christmas was always a special time and the good memories live on.

Your turn to share. Please tell me what you and yours do for the holidays!

Christmas Traditions—Sweets and Treats (holiday snacking at its finest)

Holiday traditions are as wonderfully diverse as the families who practice them. In conjunction with my new release Bear Creek Christmas, allow me to share some of mine!

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The following excerpt is taken from my new release, Bear Creek Christmas.

Knox produced matching holiday aprons from one of the bags, and they got busy. Levi turned on the radio for background music, and they started churning out pan after pan of lightly browned pine trees, stars, bells, and other familiar shapes. The cabin soon filled with the sweet butter and sugar aroma of fresh-baked cookies. Per Knox, any broken or defective ones were immediately eaten as a part of “quality control”.

The delight on Levi’s face was obvious as he relived happy memories of doing this with his family, and they began decorating the cookies with frosting, colored sugar, sprinkles, and nonpareils. They decided to give away the best ones and keep all the boo-boos to eat—though if Knox kept chowing them down like popcorn, there wouldn’t be any left at all. But, it didn’t matter because they were having fun and making memories of their own.

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Aside from store-bought candy, our holiday included cookies and other treats. My mother went all-out for Christmas, providing us with a steady supply of snacks that only showed up in December.

As mentioned in the above quote, sugar cookies were one of the things we got to help make and decorate. The mouthwatering aroma was distinct and provoked memories of warmth, family, and good times. Mom would roll out the dough and bring out a set of well-used aluminum cookie cutters in basic shapes: bells, balls, stars, and pine trees. After they cooled, we slathered on colored powdered-sugar frosting—concerned more about taste than presentation.

Other yummy seasonals appeared, including fudge with walnuts, divinity, snowballs, thumbprint cookies, meringue cookies, glass candy, peanut brittle, and popcorn balls. Despite the long list, I’ve probably forgotten some things. Another classic for us was an extra-large box of Russel Stover candies that included a “map” of what each variety was by its location in the box. The chocolate/caramel turtles always disappeared first, and nobody liked the ones with coconut.

The box I remember was a LOT bigger than this!

Two things come to mind as I reminisce. First, how did my mother find the time to make all this stuff for a household of thirteen? Second, I’m horrified by the amount of white flour, sugar, corn syrup, and margarine we consumed every year. I set aside those unhealthy eating habits long ago, but the dangers weren’t known or discussed back then. Still, the memories are worth savoring, and I lived to tell the tale.

Your turn to share. Please tell me what you and yours do for the holidays!

Making THE LIST of Best LGBTQ Christmas Books

AuthorsXP has just released a Best LGBTQ Christmas Books list, including my new release, Bear Creek Christmas! Click HERE to see the list and get started with your holiday romance reading!

While you’re there, check out everything AXP has to offer, whether you’re a reader or an author. Sign up for the daily free and discounted book newsletter, enter fabulous giveaways, or join the read and review program. There’s something for everyone!

Christmas Traditions—Stockings (where they go and what to put in them)

Holiday traditions are as wonderfully diverse as the families who practice them. In conjunction with my new release Bear Creek Christmas, allow me to share some of mine!

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Taken from chapter 20 of Bear Creek Christmas

“At length, Knox and Levi got up, turned on all the colored lights, and made a fire in defiance of the still-raging storm. Levi tuned in to some holiday music, and they teamed up to prepare a breakfast featuring banana walnut pancakes. Thus fortified, the giddy lovers returned to the living room to begin their celebration. First, Levi took the filled Christmas stockings from the mantelpiece, handing one to Knox.

“What’s this?”

“Our family has always filled them with candy and small gifts, but you can’t have any until Christmas Day. Next year, you get to decide what goes in them.”

They poured them out on the sofa cushion and began comparing and trading. Knox exchanged some of his licorice for chocolate, while Levi traded a keychain for emoji stickers. The rest went back inside the stockings, which were re-hung on the mantle.”

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I came from a large family, and each of us had our own Christmas stocking emblazoned with our name. (There was less pilfering this way if you were dumb enough to leave it laying around!) They got ratty and soiled through the years but no one seemed to care. If I recall correctly, they were store-bought and made of green or red felt. After we all grew up and moved away from home, my mother began creating beautiful hand-quilted stockings for her grandchildren.

While tradition says you’re suppose to hang them on the mantle (providing the North Pole invader easy access), our home didn’t have a fireplace when I was young. This created two very serious questions in my young mind: how did Santa get inside the house without a chimney, and where were we supposed to hang the stockings? My mother told me in all seriousness that Santa simply used the back door to get in, and no, he did not need a key. She also said he knew exactly where to find our stockings—taped to the shelves of a built-in bookcase in the living room where the tree was set up.

We always hung the stockings on the same day we decorated the tree—December 17th, which was my oldest sister’s birthday. There they remained, empty, until late on Christmas eve when mom filled them with candy of all kinds, along with the largest oranges she could find. Evidently, this was one her own traditions, having grown up during the depression when fruit was a little easier to afford than gifts.

Our stockings were the first things we grabbed after being allowed to go downstairs on Christmas morning; mom’s warning not to eat it all ringing in our ears. I don’t recall much in the way of toys or non-edible things—it was all fuel for the coming sugar rush. My favorite was the round balls of chocolate, about the size of marbles and wrapped in bright colored foil. I never did like the traditional hard candies like ribbons, though peppermint candy canes were a welcome treat. We often traded with our siblings, looking for a better deal or just more chocolate.

Your turn to share! Do you hang stockings? Where? If you fill them, what goes inside?

NEW RELEASE! Bear Creek Christmas

Eager for a fresh start, Levi accepts a teaching position in the human-shifter community of Bear Creek. Focused on his students and the upcoming Christmas celebration, romance is the last thing on his gift list. However, when a local shifter shows interest, Levi’s recent breakup leaves him reluctant to get involved.

Just outside of town, Knox lives the simple, quiet life of an unmated shifter. When his bear picks up an intriguing and unforgettable scent, he’s determined to win over the cautious new music teacher. After a rough start, he patiently breaks down the walls around Levi’s heart, hoping for a future neither man thought possible.

Aided by the magic of Christmas, a cozy cabin, and a lot of snow, Knox and Levi discover love is the greatest gift of all. Follow the twinkle lights to Bear Creek for a warm and furry holiday romance with a guaranteed happy ending! (Contains steamy M/M content.)

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“In the holiday tradition, Elliott gifts us with a new romance. It includes a bit of drama and danger, and features a hearty amount of steamy scenes to keep the reader engaged. This is a HEA tale all wrapped up in Yuletide Cheer. Don’t hibernate and miss out on Bear Creek Christmas!” DC

“Alexander Elliott’s Bear Creek Christmas was a super love story and the highlight of my pre-Christmas Season. It is well written and made me feel warm and nostalgic. This is a must-read at Christmas time!” CV

“A fun and festive Christmas read with just the right amount of romance and drama. Many happy childhood Christmas memories came back as I read about Levi and Knox building their own holiday traditions, and I loved that everyone knows and celebrates bear shifters.” KA

“I just love Knox & Levi’s story! Knox is a big bear shifter who falls for Levi, the new guy in town. Sweet romance, sexy bears and lots of happily ever after!” RB

Christmas hugs for anyone leaving a review! I love hearing what you think, and other readers will appreciate it. It’s the gift that keeps on giving!

BEWARE! epub.pub – Book Pirates and Scammers!

More scum in the indie author sea – epub.pub  

I found at least two of my books on their site via an author name search on Google. They claim to offer a free version of the book for download, but when I clicked on the “Download Now” button, my anti-virus software flagged it as a “known malicious site” and strongly recommended that I not open it. I did not.

Clicking on the options at the bottom of the page (About Us, Terms & Conditions, Contact us, DMCA, Links, Donate) will only take you to a different page that says “If you require any more information or have questions or suggestions, please feel free to contact us by email: epubpub @ outlook.com This is a dead link and went nowhere.

MAJOR RED FLAG – the only link that works is “DONATE”. There you find five different cryptocurrencies to choose from! It’s no surprise what these slimy bastards are really after.

Apparently, there’s no way to remove my copyrighted property from their site. It seems likely that they are only using the cover and part of the blurb and do not possess the actual eBooks. I certainly hope so, anyway!

Like pirates of old, their ship should be boarded, the crew hung, and the vessel burned. I’d be happy to help if they are ever caught.

Rise of the Draman – Now available in paperback!

Get it HERE!

For those who miss reading “real” books, the wait is over. Rise of the Draman is now available for purchase as a paperback! Draft2Digital is distributing the book through the following channels: Amazon, Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, Kobo (including Kobo Plus), Tolino, OverDrive, Bibliotheca, Scribd, Baker & Taylor, Hoopla, Vivlio, and BorrowBox.

I’ve been working on this since last December, but the pandemic has been wreaking havoc with the printing industry and things are moving very slowly. At some point I will add most of my other books, but can’t say when. It’s an involved process to make the needed alterations to the book before I can even upload it to the printer, plus the time they need to set it up and make the title available for purchase.

Allow me to say something here about the price. By the time you figure the actual cost of printing, and then add in everybody’s cut, (plus shipping) the book is much more costly than I like. Alas, I have little control over the process, and my royalty on each one is miniscule. The truth is that print on demand books, even paperbacks, are expensive. Double thanks to those die-hard fans who purchase copies anyway!

Here are some reasons why readers still love traditional paper books:

  1. Better Sensory Experience — The feel of paper matters when reading a book. There is a real human experience to holding a book in hand, smelling the paper, hearing the crackle of the binding and flipping through the pages. Observing the number of pages you’ve read and the number you have left to read also plays a part in the psychological experience of reading.
  2. Better for children — Studies have shown that babies and children learn better with paper books. The more interaction a child has with an object, the better he or she learns. Parents and children also talk and interact less when using e-readers, compared with reading paper books.
  3. Better for your health — According to a Harvard Medical School study, reading a light-emitting e-book before bed hinders your ability to sleep, decreases your alertness the next morning and negatively affects your overall health. Paper books don’t create the same adverse effects. They also bring a wealth of benefits, including increased language skills, enhanced mental development and improved memory (and, no batteries required!)
  4. Better at conveying information — A study reported in the Guardian concluded that people using e-readers were less likely to recall events in a short story than people who read the same story in print. The research suggests that the tactile experience of using an e-reader doesn’t offer the same benefit.

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Addendum – just a few days before the paperback went live, I received emails from two different readers. Both had read the eBook and wanted to know if it was available in print form. I was delighted to write back and inform them that , yes, a paper and ink version was now available. Below are snippets of the correspondence, both timely and incredibly encouraging.

Lesley – I read this book on my Kindle and want to buy a print copy for my great-nephew, but Amazon only sells the e-book. Are there any hardcover or paperback books to be found?

Alexander – UPDATE – a paperback version of Rise of the Draman is now available from multiple retailers, including Amazon!

Michael – This book should be published in print. It is perfect for upper elementary or middle school readers.

Alexander – I would love to see Rise of the Draman in the hands of young readers. A paperback version of the book is now live. Let your local library or school library know that it is available, and thanks for spreading the word!

Michael – I’ve ordered one for a Media Specialist to read and endorse, then I will encourage other media people to get it too.

MY 2021 PUBLISHING ANNIVERSARY!

It seems like more than four years have gone by since the release of my first book. Having re-visited the last three anniversary posts, I discovered that while the tune has changed, the dance remains the same. Progress? Undoubtedly. Frustration? By the bushel. Pleasure? Enough to keep me addicted. Desire to continue? Yes! Before looking ahead, allow me to share some snippets from the last three anniversary posts.

2018

“l wish I had some fellow authors I could talk to when I need to vent or ask advice.” Unfortunately, this wish is yet to be fulfilled. I’ve always had difficulty making friends and am not very good at putting myself out there. I haven’t the foggiest idea how this will ever happen, short of a writer’s conference or something similar, and I lack the funds and confidence to ever attend one!

“Other than sales, I find motivation in two things: I love to write, and readers enjoy my work.” Thankfully, this is still true! While sales are encouraging and provide the resources to continue publishing, I continue writing because I have stories to tell, and people want to read them. It’s encouraging to note that my skills improve with each new book, confirmed by increased sales and reader feedback.

2019

“I intend to focus on shorter works rather than novels and will probably set aside romances for more sci-fi and fantasy.” The grand experiment of shorter works kept me going during a financially lean year. I posted a series of five stories on my blog in serial fashion, which took most of the year, and finally published them as Rise of the Draman in 2020. While the book garnered wonderful reviews, it’s a tough one to market. Sadly, I can’t afford to write only what I want (yet) if it doesn’t bring in enough income to pay for itself. So, for now, I remain busy with romance and plan on other genres in the future.

Incidentally, readers have been asking when I will write more Sci-Fi. Truthfully, I don’t know. It’s not for lack of interest, and I have some creative and exciting ideas to explore. Aside from no time, one issue is that many sci-fi readers are difficult to please, insisting that only hard science fiction is TRUE science fiction and anything else is garbage. I vigorously disagree, but those same readers have no qualms about bashing authors with scathing reviews if they happen to pick up a story that doesn’t meet their expectations. While I have no desire to paint a target on my back, I refuse to let them win.

2020

“Despite personal setbacks, financial concerns, and the pandemic, the last twelve months have been fruitful ones.” Oddly, the pandemic helped me focus and brought new readers who were locked in at home with nothing to do! I enjoyed seeing increased output and a significant upswing in sales, giving me a much-needed boost during trying times.

“Last year’s goals never materialized for various reasons.” I’m afraid this trend continues, as only one and a half of my five goals were reached! I did manage (sort of) to set up one of my titles for print-on-demand. I started the process last December, and it’s still ongoing due to the pandemic’s impact on the printing industry. My other books will have to wait until the world returns to some kind of normal.

The one goal I achieved—to focus on writing new material—resulted in publishing two books last year and writing a significant portion of another. In June of this year, I released my tenth novel!

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Moving Forward

Currently, I am working on a new romance series based on major holidays featuring bear shifters and their human mates. Meanwhile, if time allows and my creative juices provide good plot ideas, I intend to write one or two more Gladstone Shifters stories. My hope is to move on to other projects in the next couple of years.

At present, I have one simple goal – WRITE. Write to the exclusion of almost everything else and publish as many books per year as possible. Each new release creates a sixty-day frenzy of excitement and sales before dropping off. If I can increase from two book releases per year to three or four, it gives my brand that much more exposure and boosts income. Meanwhile, I learn more about the craft and incrementally improve my skills. Everybody wins this way, and I don’t stress out over all the things I’m supposed to be doing.

Even with this stripped-down focus, it’s very difficult to address some of the goals on my wish-list, which include wider distribution beyond Amazon, a newsletter, an updated website, membership in writer’s groups, print-on-demand for my backlist, and the introduction of audiobooks. Unfortunately, all of those things require either time, money, or skills I don’t possess—so they have to wait while I focus on what I can do.

As I said back in 2019, “Perhaps I’ll get a lucky break and win an award or be offered a movie deal.” While that would be wonderful, I’m not counting on it! I believe realistic goals and persistence will eventually get me where I want to be, and I’m looking forward to another great year!

The writing of FORBIDDEN MOON

This story was a labor of love, with the emphasis on labor! While it’s the third book I’ve published since the start of the pandemic, it affected Forbidden Moon far more than the others. Though I never contracted COVID-19, pandemic fatigue plagued my writing efforts from the beginning. Distracted by work issues, stress, and the disruption of life routines, my poor brain lacked the energy and creative juices needed for the project.

When I began, I fully expected the process to take about four months. Instead, it launched after eight and a half! There were serious plot issues to fix, doubts to overcome, and days where I couldn’t write anything at all. Bone tired and discouraged, I wondered if the manuscript would EVER be completed. When the glorious day finally arrived, the sky-high word count forced me to cut over eleven thousand words—and it was still too long. I came to the conclusion that Forbidden Moon was destined to be both BIG and beautiful!

Despite the challenges, the book contains some terrific ideas that were fun and exciting to write! It also included a number of firsts for the series:

  • first Black character
  • first human/shifter mating
  • first wedding
  • first visit to the Afterworld
  • first bar scene
  • first shifter-human conflict

It may not be apparent to the reader, but this story wasn’t supposed to have two bad guys. Originally, I intended for Dominic to be the heavy and then make sure he was suitably punished. Well, that idea went out the window about twenty-five percent of the way through, as I came to realize I couldn’t do that to him. I liked the character too much to bring down the full weight of wrath upon his head!

Instead, I cooked up a different but related evil character in the person of Russell. Doing so was no easy feat, and for several weeks the manuscript came to a standstill while I figured out how to integrate him into the story. I was terrified that I’d written myself into a corner and would never get out. That left two options: start the book over or abandon it altogether.

 I can’t recall now exactly how the solution came to me, but it finally did and I got busy writing again. In the end, Dominic unintentionally caused a lot of trouble for the pack, but he goes on to find a better life. On the other hand, Russell became the sketchy character I needed to pull off the dangerous and dramatic portions of the story. Of course, he got what was coming to him.

As mentioned above, this book features my first Black character (RJ). He even made the cover! You may wonder why that’s such a big deal, but I was eager to present him realistically without my own cultural baggage and attitudes. So, I searched for information and found an informative blog post written by a lovely Black author. Her guidance gave me the courage to move ahead with the idea, and I wrote to tell her so. Coincidentally, her mother was also going through stage four cancer treatment, the same as RJ’s mother! I still consider this real-life connection to my fictional characters inspirational.

My favorite story threads were those relating to the romance of Jonah and RJ. I grew to love them as they struggled to build an unconventional relationship under difficult and dangerous circumstances. It was a fun challenge to create and implement an entirely new set of rules for the first shifter-human couple. They turned out to be sweet, funny, and smoking hot in the bedroom! While their future family situation remains unresolved for now, I expect to address the issue in a forthcoming book.

Introducing new characters is always enjoyable (even the bad guys), and this book has quite a few. I found Dominic’s story arc particularly satisfying, and my sassy waitress, Darlene, was a hoot to write! Walter’s nephew, Gray Claw, was another intriguing addition, though there wasn’t adequate time to give him the attention he deserved. Something tells me we’ll be seeing more of him in the future.

I must also mention the importance of recurring characters, as they are the backbone of the series. Readers tell me repeatedly how much they love the Gladstone pack and miss them between books! Honestly, I’ve come to think of them as real people and enjoy watching them grow and change with each new story. The tough part is choosing which ones get the limelight since no single volume could ever contain significant updates on all of them. It’s a somewhat arbitrary decision, but I try to give past characters a chance to shine, whether a little or a lot, in each addition to the series.

Lastly, I want to mention the creation of the book’s cover. This one turned out to be a collaborative effort between the author and the graphic designer. I always look for photos that resonate with me and send them to the artist for consideration. So far, none of my suggestions ever made the final cut. This time, she loved the image as much as I did, and it fit perfectly with the overall design of the series. After a few minor tweaks, it became not only my personal favorite but hers as well.

No one is more invested in a book than the author, and while I love each volume of the Gladstone Shifters, Forbidden Moon is a personal triumph over daunting circumstances. Is it perfect? No. Is it the best in the series? You decide. Am I proud of it? Yes!