Release day for a book I vowed I’d never write, and I’m as nervous as when I put out my first novel!
You boys have no idea how much I love you, and how much I miss you. Already, I feel the tears breaking the proverbial dam and gently rolling over the eyelids and down my cheeks. There are so many emotions attached to this particular release day that I don’t even know where to start.
I remember it as clear as day, that Friday in the second half of January 2013. Like all “great” upcoming authors, I wanted to share something free, something amazing, something short, on my blog. I had just finished writing Family Ties, I was still six months away from publishing anything, and I had no idea what release day anxiety could be. In my mind, I had a couple of pictures taking shape. First, an image of a man sitting in front of his fire place, dog at his feet, alone, lonely even, I wasn’t sure. The house he was in, a cabin of sorts, was located deep in a forest. The second picture was that same man walking around a lake. That lake was within sight of the cabin. It was winter, bitter cold, everything frozen.
That is how it all began, and if you read the first lines of Jonathan’s Hope, you might recognize those pictures:
It was supposed to be a short story, really, I swear, but when my fingers typed the following words, about two thousand words into that “short story,” how could I have stopped?
“He didn’t hear the footsteps outside the house, he was too deep in his own thoughts. He didn’t even hear the first cautious knocks on the door, timid, trepidatious.”
This is how I picture you, Dan, walking with Rascal along the shore of your little paradise in the forest.
Dan, tell me: how could I not have continued, pressed on to find out who had suddenly arrived, knocking on the door of your cabin?
I had no idea it would be Jonathan. And I certainly had no clue where you would take me, what you would share with me. But I kept going, and I wrote for two full weeks before I put down the “proverbial pen,” having completed my second novel in a month, the second novel in my life.
Yes, I cried. I cried a lot, not only when you, Jonathan, sat down on that bench at the bus stop (what did you think, huh?) and I had to stop writing for two full days, in shock, not knowing how to proceed.
To this day, I still have readers contact me about how that scene scares the shit out of them.
The ending of Jonathan’s Hope… Well, ain’t that a peach. I recall the first ever negative review I ever received. Poor Shannon:
“My advice to anyone reading this book….skip the fucking epilogue!!”
My new novel, the sequel to Jonathan’s Hope, deals with difficult topics, such as love at old age, and relationships when “for worse” is really tested. Yes, love plays a major role, but not the lead.
No, Shannon, you don’t get to skip it. The epilogue is the most important part of that story. It is hope realized, the reality of love, a happy relationship, a large, loving family. It was the very reason I wrote the book, the question: can two guys, twelve years apart in age (incidentally like me and my husband) be happy, start a family, a dynasty even? Without the epilogue, the book would’ve been just another story of “boy meets boy.” The epilogue makes Jonathan’s Hope into the very powerful novel it is. I’m sorry you didn’t understand that.
The epilogue accomplished something else. Set sixty years into the future, it ensured I’d never, ever, be tempted or asked to write more about the two of you, or so I thought. Don’t misunderstand this. I love both of you, dearly. But I had just stopped reading series, having given away more than one hundred Star Trek books to charity. I was sick and tired of reading them, of the decrease in quality, in storytelling, the out-of-control spiraling of events, bigger, grander, crazier, that accompanies all series, on TV or in books, over time. I was tired. I wanted fresh, new stories, with a set beginning and a finish. I don’t want to worry about missing out, only to be disappointed by “same old, same old” or “WTF?” scenes.
It’s become my trademark: stand-alone novels. And I am proud that even though families, children, and relationships are often recurring themes in my books, that each and every one of the people who have sprung to life are strong individuals, very different from each other:
Raphael, the architect grieving the loss of his son, unable to return to a normal life.
Micky, who has to distance himself from his overprotective mother, and who firmly believes in Raphael.
Haakon, tender, naïve, and utterly Scandinavian. You had to work harder than anyone else for your redemption.
Michel, so much life, so much to give, and I am so sorry that you were taken from us far too soon.
Willem, I still wonder where the leadership qualities you display came from. Wow! I admire you so much.
Hery, I am in awe of your beauty, your confidence, against insurmountable odds.
Neil, you grew up so fast, a mature, strong young man, fighting for his family, come what may.
Chris, with a heart of gold, and what a gentleman you are, a real dream partner, for any man.
Ross, I don’t think I’ve done you justice. You’re a good man, and I am proud to know you.
The Jonathan Trilogy. We kept with the theme of book one, for the two sequels, with each also signaling key topics from the story, metaphorically speaking.
But, and this is a rather big one, even the epilogue didn’t stop fans and readers from asking for more. Questions about the missing link, the sixty years, keep flooding my way, and even I wondered at times: what had become of the two of you? What happened when Jonathan was in college? How did your relationship survive such a delicate time? What did you do with the inheritance? What about Dan’s relatives, his family? ‑ a question initially raised by my husband when he read the first manuscript. All those questions kept brewing in the back of my mind, while I wrote the stories of the characters above. For three years, they remained unanswered. Until today.
Starting today, this book can be yours to have and to hold, and to hopefully cherish as much as I do. Photo: Andrew Michaelsen
Boys, it’s release day of the sequel, Jonathan’s Promise. I am afraid, terrified even, that the story you’ve told me isn’t novel enough, isn’t good enough, afraid of readers judging it “WTF?” I always am, no matter which of my books I am releasing, constantly wondering when the emperor’s new clothes will be revealed, when someone steps forward and tells me that I’m a fraud, a miserable writer. Lots of writers feel this way on release day… Knowing it doesn’t make it easier.
To revisit the two of you, listening to what you told me about how you started your family, the adoption of Rick, about Jeanette’s birth, how Jonathan failed when Jeanette brought home Paul, when we filled in the blanks about your past, Dan…
I feel privileged that you told me more, that I’ve learned about the details of your life, your struggle as a family, as a couple, your work with the foundation.
But I’m also glad I got to know Parker better, and Cody, and that they are following in your footsteps, proudly carrying on the legacy of the Jackson family.
One final memory, before I let you go. When I started writing the sequel, I was 100% sure it would be a single book, a sequel. I had absolutely NO intention to turn this into a trilogy. And you boys, of course, know why. I knew exactly how the story would end. In theory, there was really only one way it could end: I had to reunite you two. And given the epilogue of Jonathan’s Hope… Yeah, you get it, right?
However, writing it was entirely different from imagining it, and as I approached the end, as I wrote the final chapter, numbered twenty-four, my anxiety grew. When the story reached that second to last page, I was unable to even see what my fingers were typing. Not even the short “encore” made things better, even though the Queen of UHE made sure to end it on a note that would maintain Her Majesty’s solid reputation.
I, the author, however, your friend, your father of sorts, could not let it end there, because of Marc – you know what I mean. I had wronged him in the most horrific possible way, and I had no choice but to set it right. And that is where Jonathan’s Legacy comes in; that is why the sequel became the second novel of a trilogy. Unexpected, unplanned, but utterly, utterly necessary. Writing that story was difficult, compared to Jonathan’s Promise. I know you guys. I didn’t know Marc very well, and he seemed to be really upset with me, didn’t talk to me. He didn’t let me in easily, and it wasn’t until a key scene in Adam’s office that he finally saw it fit to forgive me. From then on, it was smooth sailing, to the first ever truly “happily ever after” in my writing career. Even Her Majesty approved, knowing it was thoroughly necessary to bring closure. I look forward to the release day of that book on September 29th with the same mixed emotions as I head into today.
Thank yous are also much needed here: Natasha Snow, for her cover designs, Debbie McGowan for her thoughtful editing, Beaten Track Publishing for believing in me, proof readers for their hard work, and to friends, fans & family for their encouragement! I keep saying it… It takes a village!
Jonathan, Dan, I must thank you again! Thank you for allowing me a glimpse into your lives, thank you for letting me share in your love, your despair, your adventures, your hope, your promise, and the amazing legacy you leave behind. I am forever in your debt.
I love you from the bottom of my heart!
Happy Release Day.
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I mentioned the other day that I was considering a change to how I will work on this blog, and one of the things I was considering was the frequency of blogging, and that I was thinking about my writing plans for the year. For several years now I’ve been writing Monday through Friday, and it’s not a big secret that not every blog post was of the quality that I’d want it to be. There were simply days where I was tired, out of ideas, and didn’t have any ideas. Last fall, I began to plan my blogging. Every day had a topic, and while it was easy enough to fill the days with content, the basic problem remained, as I see it (you’re welcome to contribute with your views in the comment section):
My blog focuses on writing, travel and then some… It is the “then some” that is troublesome. I have opinions and ideas about so many things, but most blog readers don’t enjoy blogs that focus on a plethora of subjects. They like them to stick to a single topic, whatever that may be.
There are days where I could write three or more posts and days where I have no inspiration at all
While scheduling posts is easy, it also gets in the way of being ‘edgy’ (yesterday’s post is a good example. It should’ve released on Monday, when it was written, but that day, I had already published a post)
My new novel, sizzling hot erotica. Down to earth, funny, sexy and romantic.
I’m not entirely done with my process of weathering out topics, but as an author, I think it makes sense for me to focus on writing, reading. I also notice that my travel posts and my reviews are popular with the readers. Whereas my views on the state of the world, the economy, society, well, not so much…
So, time for me to focus, and starting next week, I’ll only be blogging Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Mondays and Fridays will be focusing on writing (my own, writing, publishing in general, reviews, author/reader interviews etc.), while Wednesdays will be my travel day. Sure, you might think that travel and writing have nothing in common, and you’re obviously right, if that is your conviction. Personally, I think the two are connected, not the least through my own writing, which has always been inspired by travel. So many of my stories are inspired by exotic places, characters are shaped by people I’ve met elsewhere, and it’s not uncommon for my characters to travel, too. Besides, this is my blog, and I do what I want… 😉
Why reduce my blogging?
I would like to focus on my writing, and I’m also looking at going back to a day job. My writing isn’t making enough money (nowhere near) to support me, and I’m not getting younger, my 401K empty and well invoices need paying. My blog isn’t making me any money at all, and it takes a lot of time to write good posts, at least ninety minutes every day, that’s on average a full day’s work, every week. That’s a lot of time, time that could be spent differently. The three hours I save can be used to write novels (I have two more scheduled releases this year), market my writing, create videos (see below, contact me if you’re interested in my help) etc.
In two weeks, my new novel will be released, and I finally had the chance to put together a little video for it. Ross Deere is quite an unusual book for being mine, in a way it’s the result of all the nagging from people around me to write something more commercial. I have a hunch my dad wouldn’t be too thrilled if he knew how I took his advice to heart. LOL I’m sure he didn’t have erotica in mind, but probably a crime novel or a thriller. It’s just not my cup of tea. Neither is erotica, really, but it was a fun experience to write Ross’s story, and I like him, and I like John, his partner. I don’t read erotica myself, and as you can see from some of my posts before the holidays, I’ve done extensive research into the topic, reading quite a few books in the genre. Having said that, I also know that there are a lot of people out there who read erotica, who enjoy the thrill of high octane sexual encounters.
What did I hope to contribute to the genre? Well, hopefully I’ll bring a bit of realism to the table. While BDSM seems to be the fad of the day, it’s not my cup of tea, and while many erotic stories take sex to the nth level, twisting and bending bodies, using angels and other supernatural beings to turn sex into something exotic and surreal, my take is different. I’m a vanilla boy, and I’m not ashamed of it. Sure, I do enjoy my sex to be passionate, raw at times, but I also like it tender, bubbly and happy. Above all, I like sex to be realistic, human. I think I’ve achieved that with Ross Deere – Handy Man.
Two weeks from now, you’ll be able to judge for yourself. Until then, please enjoy the release video (be “legal” to view it, whatever that means in your country…)
Her Majesty wishes you a Merry Christmas & Happy and prosperous 2016!
It’s been a crazy year, hasn’t it? It’s hard to believe that it’s almost Christmas… For instance, do you remember her?
Aye, what a dashing lady! I have such amazing memories of that night…
2015 was a good year for me, and while it could’ve been a better one for humanity, well, all I can say is that we deserve what we get… I can only hope that 2016 will be better for us, that the positive tone set by the Paris climate summit, as opposed to the same city’s wails only weeks before, will prevail and instill hope for a better future for our planet, and for us, all of us, no matter what faith we hold dear, where we come from or where we live.
This is the final post for 2015. As this post goes live, I’m already on vacation, with my entire family, somewhere in South-East Asia. I really look forward to it, need it. It’s been a hectic couple of months since the picture above was taken. I’ve written one and a half novels since (see film below), and finalized the edits for Ross Deere – Handy Man. The latter is due to reach book stores on January 14th, marking my seventh novel and the first release of four (!) for 2016. Yeah, it’s going to be a very hectic year, again.
But it’s all good fun, and I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else (except make [more] money doing it perhaps?) It is what it is. 2016, what’s in store? Well, besides four novels, of which one Erotica and one Thriller, we have the sequels to Jonathan’s Hope to look forward to, and in terms of conventions (i.e. if you want to see/meet me), there are four scheduled cons on my calendar right now: the Rainbow Book Fair in New York in April, EuroPrideCon in Berlin in June, the UK Meet in Southampton in September and finally, provided I make the cut, GRL in Kansas City in October. And no, Her Majesty will not travel next year, unless you pay her to…
I’ve been thinking a lot about how to “end” this year and what to put on the blog, and I finally decided to try this, a little film. I’ve been writing fiction for three years now, and I still remember my first one, Family Ties. Yet it seems so much has happened since. Thank you for joining me on my journey, and thanks to everyone involved, no one mentioned, no one forgotten!
Today I get to release my sixth novel: Spanish Bay. Have a look:
But first, some thanks: thank you to Debbie McGowan, my trusted publisher and editor, who’s always there for her authors, no matter what! Thanks to Natasha Snow for yet another amazingly beautiful cover. Thanks to Amberr Meadows for another book tour well organized and your assistance with this site. Thanks to Claudine Clarke and several others for proofing the text and a huge thanks to my fans (yes, both of you) for standing my by side. <3 I would also like to thank my son for being the sunshine of my life and my husband, for being the best partner anyone could ask for. You’re always there for me, no matter what!
I’m really excited about this book. My recent three novels were very heavy, dark even, and even though I always deliver a happy ending, as unconventional as it may be, the topics were difficult. It’s the “curse” of social realism, and that is pretty much what I write.
Spanish Bay is continuing this tradition, but I really wanted to make this a feel-good, a happy book, something to instill hope in young people who need light, who seek the guidance of literature to see that “it gets better”, for real.
Meet Neil and Chris, two young men who meet by chance outside a café in Carmel-on-the-sea, California. They fall in love and build a relationship. No, it’s not a happily ever after right away, but their relationship is strong, and they defy their own parents at times, they struggle with their families, with the hurdles thrown in their path by life, which is, after all, unpredictable.
But while the main protagonists in your typical romance novel never get to actually be a couple until the final pages, Neil and Chris never once have to doubt their love or their relationship. This isn’t a romance novel. It’s a novel about love, about family, and about the mountains you can move if you trust, let go, and rely on your partner. Neil and Chris have that kind of relationship, and I wrote it that way intentionally. Not only am I bored with traditional romance (knowing how it ends, but suffering with the characters and the hell they have to go through to get to the HEA), I also find it doesn’t give people hope: Do I really have to go through all this before I get to find happiness???
So what’s the difference between Spanish Bay and a romance novel? Neil and Chris have each other, always.
Having lived in relationships for much of my adult life, I know how much strength I gather from having a partner, from not being alone, not having to face “life” alone. Because even in Spanish Bay there is “evil”, there is “tragedy”, there is “sadness”, “happiness”, “sorrow”. Some of us call that life. Yes, shit happens, life happens. But wouldn’t you rather face life together than on your own? I see that as a read thread running through much of my writing, I allow my couples to face their trials together, their being a couple never the core of my books.
The other topic of this novel is of course Neil’s disability, and not just his. There is another character that is disabled in this book and who plays a significant role. I feel that we need more positive role models, no matter whether you walk on two legs or use wheels, whether you’re blond or brunette, blind or seeing, cute or look like me. In Spanish Bay, I focused on telling a life-affirming story of a man in a wheel chair, and it’s written in a way that even Young Adults may (there’s no question about can or will) enjoy it.
Release day for an author is like kids leaving for college for parents
I was completely exhausted last night, and by seven thirty pm, I was fast asleep, compliments of a tiny little pill. I don’t know what had gotten me so tired, a combination maybe of nerves (yes, I was quite nervous), a bug that’s been plaguing the rest of the family or a particularly busy day. I don’t know.
I still love this cover. It’s such a great encapsulation of the story.
So I missed midnight. I missed Willem leaving the house and going out to fend for himself, and I feel just a little bit like that awful parent who won’t drive their kid to the dorm, to make sure they make it there in one piece, get settled in, cry a bit. I’m sure you’ve seen the movie…
Willem is gone, and he’s left me feel empty.
I had a short chat with my publisher yesterday, and it’s symptomatic for those hours before you’re done:
Me: Ready for tomorrow..? smile emoticon
Deb: Hi. And yes? I think…
Me: You’re not convinced..? smile emoticon
Deb: Wondering always if there is something else I need to be doing.
This is not unusual, but I’m pretty convinced that we’ve managed to get it all done. Sure, you can always do more, more marketing, more PR, etc. But I feel good. We’ve already gotten some great reviews in, and today Willem is guided into the world by a few release day posts. The first one is already out, and I was smitten with Becky’s enthusiasm.
What does an author do on release day? There are parts of my who wish to take another pill and crawl under my covers, but that’s probably what Willem would want me to do. So here’s a letter to my hero instead:
My Willem, or at least the model we used. He had exactly the quality I was looking for. Wouldn’t mind knowing who he is… And if he would be proud to stand model for the hero of my book. First time ever I used a real human on a cover…
I remember exactly the day you came to me. I remember the anger I had felt at people’s reaction to my desire to write about a black hero. For days I hadn’t written when I sat down that morning and you stood there, pale, skinny, tall in your coverall, googles and gloves, a gangly youth tending lovingly to your oranjes.
Authors aren’t supposed to do that, but I fell in love with you, that very moment. I felt like a pervert when I watched you take off your clothes to enjoy the artificial sunlight deep inside the Tafel. You were completely innocent, there wasn’t anything bad about you. Nothing. You were pure innocence. When Bongani found you, and after the accident I was afraid. I was afraid about what Mavuto would do to you. He hated you so much…
I held my breath when you were pushed out of the gates, afraid as much as you that you’d not survive. What would you find out there? It’s been such a privilege to follow you. There are a few episodes in your life that will forever stay with me, that first meeting with Hery in the ruins of Cape Town, tasting mofo gasy for the first time, the shock in Stéphane and Magda’s house when you realize that you’ve just mated Hery, that still makes me crack up…
But my all time favorite moment is your reunion with Hery. It still makes me cry. It’s been a long while since I watched you sail into the sunset, and it’s been difficult for me. Not knowing how you’re doing, not knowing where you are. That really is the most difficult part of letting go, that uncertainty, but just as parents must let go of their grown up kids, so must I let go of my Willem. And you are, after all, Willem of the Tafel, you are Madiba to the people of Cape Town. You are better equipped than anyone I’ve met to be successful! I’ll celebrate you by writing a little today. Hopefully it will get me to think about something else.
Feel free to visit my other pages here, and to subscribe to this blog (top of the page, on the right) for more. I typically write about writing, travel, parenting, life, equality, humor, I occasionally rant about something and more…
I was asked earlier this fall if I wanted to contribute and since I had written a Christmas short a long time ago, I donated that story to the anthology.
Donated, yes, because we, the authors, don’t make any money off of this story. Neither does the publisher. All proceeds go directly to the Trevor Project, and I’m very proud to be a part of this anthology, not just because I’m glad that “A Christmas Tale” is finally meeting a wider audience (more about that later), but also because we get to help some of the most vulnerable people out there: LGBT kids & youths. The Trevor Project is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) young people ages 13-24.
If you’ve read my recent post on the number of homeless children in the USA, you know the ultimate consequence for many of these children if they dare to come out (or even if they’re suspected to be LGBT), and the Trevor Project helps and can step in to prevent those kids from harming themselves. I am very proud to be a part of this endeavor!
I wrote my contribution, “A Christmas Tale” a long time ago, in 1991 to be exact. I was working on a special project, aka Christmas present for friends and family, and created a book with black & white photography, poetry and a short story at the beginning of the book.
Needless to say, it was not a big hit with my family. I had just come out for the second time, and the last thing my parents wanted to read was “angsty” YA gay poetry (although not all poems were explicit, and none were sexually “explicit”.)
My parents just didn’t want to deal with the fact that their miserable gay son had feelings in the first place, let alone romantic ones, god forbid for other men. So the book disappeared unnoticed into the darkest corners of people’s book shelves, and the only person to ever thank me for it was my grandmother. Another reason why she was my big hero!
This is where “A Christmas Tale” was first published in 1991, in German.
The short story in “Momente” (moments, the name of the book) was “A Christmas Tale“, and it told the story of a young man who is forced to celebrate Christmas on his own. He’s recently relocated and has to work the Holidays. The story is – obviously – inspired by my own background, I had left my parent’s house after graduating and lived in a different city. Being gay was difficult back then. We were tolerated, sure, but those years were also the most difficult ones for many of us, given the AIDS hysteria. The story is really short, but sweet and hopeful, inspired by the way we celebrated Christmas in Switzerland when I was young, which, despite the superficial similarities to the way the US celebrate Christmas, is quite different.
I am really proud of the work my friend Debbie McGowan, the publisher and one of the editors of this anthology, has put into this two-volume book, and I’m proud of each and every one of the twenty two other authors who contributed. So here’s the deal:
I am giving away TEN copies of the e-book version of my short story and ONE copy of the entire print version (both volumes) of the anthology, and – as a bonus – five personally signed copies of the original book “Momente” from 1991 (!) for the best comments to this post.
I do this to give a bit more money to the Trevor Project (god knows they need all the money they can get), and as an early Christmas gift to you, my dear readers.
All you need to do to be eligible is to comment on this post and tell me how you plan on helping someone in need this coming holiday season. Remember, the real joy of Christmas isn’t receiving… it’s giving!
Happy Holidays and comment away! The winners will be announced on December 13th (Saint Lucia here in Sweden) in a separate blog post. Please make sure I know how to reach you. If you comment is anonymous, you’ll have to send me an e-mail telling me that it was you. And no cheating please! 🙂