Winter Sports by Kate Sherwood

I’m Canadian. When someone talks about winter sports, I think about hockey. As an author, I’ve got an m/m novella centered around a hockey team and an upcoming three book series of YA romance also centered around a hockey team. Winter sport? Hockey. (Ice Hockey, for those of you who live in places where there’s another kind.)

But maybe that was a bit too obvious. Writing is about stretching yourself, right? So I thought maybe I should write about a different sport, and I remembered how much I love the Winter Olympics. Yeah, okay, the big ticket event is the hockey, but my favorite part about the Olympics is how it makes people care about every sport, even the obscure ones. Luge? I only hear about luge once every four years, but for those few days of caring, I care a lot. I’ve been in sports bars where every person there, including the staff, exploded in excitement after a particularly stirring bit of luging. (Yes, that’s the right word – I looked it up!)

Same goes for cross-country skiing, speed skating (short and long track!), curling, biathlon… they’re all fascinating, once every four years.

But is intermittent, short-lived fascination what winter sports are really all about? I don’t do any of those sports, and most of them I don’t even want to try. What do I do? I ride horses in the winter, and it can be magical on a crisp, windless day, with the horse’s hooves tossing up little explosions of powder, his breath frosting as he snorts. But most days it’s just cold and slippery, and I don’t really enjoy it as much as riding in other seasons, so it seems like a bit of a cheat to call that a winter sport. What do I do just in the winter?

I shovel snow. Lots of snow. I gave in a few years ago and hired a guy to snow-blow my driveway, but he doesn’t do the walkway or the little edges of things, he doesn’t do a path out to the bird feeders, he doesn’t clear off my deck so I can do a little mid-winter grilling. So I shovel. A sport? Well, it definitely takes fitness—there’s a spot in my lower back that I am completely unaware of all year long, right up until I have to start shovelling the white stuff. Enjoyment? Well, I don’t have fun while it’s happening, but I get a certain sense of satisfaction when it’s done—I bet that’s all the Olympic cross-country skiers can say for their sport. Fun to watch? I would absolutely rather watch someone shovel than do it myself, so maybe that counts.

What other winter sports do I take part in? Helping little kids get into snowsuits can be an absolute workout, of patience as well as physical flexibility. The vigorous arm-waving and contortions I go through when walking on icy ground must certainly test my balance and skills, and my hand muscles are well-exercised when I white-knuckle drive through a snowstorm.

My favorite winter sport, though? Fire building. The workout of carrying the logs inside, the technique of building the kindling and adding wood, and then the flexibility involved in stretching out on the couch, cat on my lap and dog at my feet, to enjoy the dancing flames? A good book, a glass of red, maybe some popcorn if I’m feeling ambitious. That’s the kind of sport I can get behind, and it’s definitely one that’s better in the winter!

~ Kate Sherwood

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Winter Sports – A Chilling Proposition by Serena Yates

 

skiingWinter sports are not exactly a hobby of mine, so when Christy Duke first suggested I guest-blog about them for Lissa Kasey, I wasn’t sure what I could possibly come up with. But as I chatted with her, I realized there was more to the topic than I had first thought—including some very personal memories.

Growing up in The Netherlands didn’t exactly predispose me to knowing, liking, or understanding snow. Skiing was an exotic activity for me, and my first personal memory of snow is of finding it on the top of a mountain – during summer holidays in Austria. Weird, right? But my second personal memory is no less strange, and it has to do with ice. Icy rain, to be exact. It was sometime during the 1970s, I think, when one winter got so cold the rain froze to the streets. Everything was covered with ice for a few days, highly unusual where I lived, close to the coast of the North Sea where temperatures rarely drop below freezing—even in winter. Life in the city came to a standstill. To be honest, we were hoping for a day off school, since no public transportation was running, and only the most daring idiots braved the streets in their cars. But then someone came up with a solution: ice-skating! Almost everyone owned skates at the time, since the many grachten—canals crisscrossing the country, one quarter of which is below sea level—occasionally did freeze over, and the Dutch love skating on them. So for one glorious day we took over the streets and ice-skated to school.

elfstedenAnd then there is my third personal memory, of trying downhill skiing with my sister and her family one winter. Not something I remember fondly. Racing down a hill (I never made it to the mountain stage), out of control and afraid of hitting the next tree, or one of my fellow skiers, for that matter, is decidedly not my idea of fun. I did take up cross-country skiing for a while, since, paradoxically, I have no issue with the cold. Gliding through a wintry landscape with (ideally) the sun making all that white stuff glitter is a lot of fun, and a beautiful experience. It appeals to my sense of beauty and I love the silence.

Personal memories aside, and probably because I was never exposed to them other than reading abut them in newspapers and books, I never took to winter sports. I don’t really like summer sports either though, so it may just be me after all. I am fascinated by the idea of winter sports, the concept of them, but I’d much rather watch from a distance than participate.

Even in my writing I have never really explored the ice and snow, though I have one book set in a wintry world (Winter Challenge, a story set on an icy planet in a parallel dimension), and my Mistletoe Science trilogy features a glaciologist as one of the main characters. He ends up falling into an icy crevasse in the third book… But that is as close as I have come.

All in all, to summarize my thoughts about winter sports, I’d have to say that I really do think they are a chilling proposition!

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A Wonderful Short & Recipe by Lissa Kasey

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Sei didn’t care much for Valentine’s Day because he’d spent so many years believing love wasn’t possible. The idea that I had a valid excuse for giving him gifts and showing the world how crazy about him I was made the day important to me. I just had to figure out how to get my holiday reluctant boyfriend to join the festivities with me.

The jumble of ideas kept distracting me from balancing the books for Bloody Bar. Technically at midnight, it would be the big day, and at the moment, Sei was upstairs in his condo, sleeping. Maybe I could wake him up with a little sweet love-making, convince him to stay in bed with me for a while, or take a long bath together. It’d almost been a week since we’d last had sex, only because he’d been working long hours and came home so tired he fell into immediate sleep.

Tomorrow he had the day off as I’d requested mostly because I planned on spending the entire night with him. The elevator dinged. Jamie stepped out when the door opened. He had a big box in his hands. The smell of chocolate and sugar filled the condo. The sweet treat was a special order from Sei’s favorite bakery.

“It smells amazing, but I haven’t dared to open it,” Jamie said as he set it on the counter.

I shoved the computer aside and pulled open the top of the box. The flourless chocolate cake was capped in a delicate layer of gently folded whipped cream, and fresh strawberries. A sculpted plaque made of chocolate simply said “I love you.”

“Wow,” Jamie whistled.

“I hope he likes it. Since this will be our first Valentine’s Day as a couple.”

“In Sei’s eyes at least.”

It was the first time he didn’t have an excuse to tell me not to celebrate the holiday with him. I grabbed the glass cake dome that Sei kept in my kitchen and carefully placed the pastry inside. I had a box full of rose petals that needed to be spread out. Sei didn’t care much for cut flowers, but I was pretty sure he’d like the live orchids and mini cherry tree I’d gotten for him.

“Do you want me to wake him up?” Jamie asked as he headed for the elevator.

“No. I’ll do it. Thanks, Jamie.”

“You’re welcome. And if you need to extend your activities to Sei’s condo, don’t worry. Kelly is upstairs at my place for the night.” He left with that, the smile on his face telling me more than enough.

I began decorating. By the time I finished it was quarter to midnight and the four bottles of QuickLife I’d had were swirling in my belly with unease. When I finally made my way upstairs, the whole five feet to his door made me anxious enough to nearly turn around. The last time I’d tried a romantic adventure, he’d run from me. He preferred simple tokens of my affection, like passing kisses and nights curled up reading together. This was so far beyond that.

Risky.

But while he liked the little things, I wanted to do bigger things. Like buy him a house, or a room full of dolls, or fly him to a private island for a weekend together. The irony was that I’d spent two thousand years searching for someone who loved me just for being me instead of for my money or power, only to find him and I wanted to give him those things.

I used my key and snuck into the dark condo. Sei slept peacefully on his side, arm wrapped around a pillow. I crawled in beside him, and curved my body to spoon him from behind and tugged a blanket over the both of us. There was no immediate need to wake him. The morning was hours away and sharing a warm bed even for sleep was a sweet little treat. I closed my eyes and let myself settle in.

The soft touch of a hand on my cheek awoke me. I hadn’t realized I’d dozed off until that moment. Sei had turned in my arms and was watching me with a gentle smile on his face.

“Hi,” I said.

“You’re so beautiful,” Sei told me.

“Not as beautiful as you.”

“Gabe, shush,” Sei protested and kissed each of my cheeks. “You’re beautiful. I love your curly hair, your pretty green eyes and long lashes. I love your neck.” He licked down my neck. “And your strong shoulders.” He pushed back the buttons of my shirt and kissed each shoulder.

I directed his head up so our lips could meet. The kiss lasted wonderful ages. He pressed against me. I held him tight and just enjoyed the taste of him, the closeness, and his happiness. When the kisses finally ended, Sei gave me a sleepy sigh, but I had no intention of letting him fall back asleep just yet. “Come with me.” I pulled him up from the bed.

He looked down at his clothes, a pair of sleep pants and a tank top. “In my pajamas?”

“I promise you won’t need them long.”

Sei put his hand in mine and rewarded me with a sultry smile. I led him downstairs to my condo. The orchids were set out on the counter next to the cake, and rose petals made a small heart around them. He traced the stem of orchids, and grinned at the cake. “Yum.”

I carefully lifted the top off the dome and handed Sei a plate. The slice I cut was probably larger than he would normally eat, but the night was really about sensuality rather than hunger. I restored the dome and left Sei at the counter to head into the bathroom where I’d set up the rest of the evening. The tub filled with warm swirling water and the scent of something green, a gift from a certain nosey redhead.

Petals trailed to the bathroom and the tub. I could hear Sei moving around the apartment slowly, as if unsure what to do, but I stripped out of everything, putting a towel around my waist so he would understand that sex wasn’t the ultimate goal, though it would be had if Sei had any say in it. I poured two glasses of the sweet dessert wine Seiran loved and waited for him.

He appeared in the doorway only a few seconds later, plate in hand, cake untouched, eyes curious.

“Gonna eat that?” I asked him. He stepped closer. I took his fork and swept a small bite into my mouth. The chocolate tasted sweet and slightly bitter and I fought not to swallow, but nearly lost the battle when Sei’s expression turned to one of concern.

“You’ll make yourself sick!” He launched himself at me. I took the plate from him and set it on the tray beside the tub before catching him and meeting the ferocity of his kiss. Sometimes having vampire speed was a good thing. He licked away all the chocolate he could find in my mouth and didn’t pull away until I dropped my towel and stepped carefully back into the tub.

The flush heating his cheeks made me smile.

“Going to join me?” I asked him, making room on my lap.

“I don’t understand what all this is,” he whispered.

“It’s called a romantic interlude for Valentine’s Day. I’m pretty sure there are scenes like this in some of your novels. It’s also pretty much the only work out I get in the winter, since I’m not into running like you.”

“Like you have to work out. Vampires don’t change.”

I glanced down at the proof of my change. “No?”

His blush deepened, but he looked away, examined the walk-in shower across the room with interest. “Maybe I could sit on the edge of the tub?”

“Okay, who are you and what have you done with my boyfriend?” I demanded playfully. Sei loved the water almost as much as Kelly did.

“I just-” he stopped like he didn’t know what to say. Finally he clipped his hair up on top of his head, tugged off his top, and shoved his bottoms and underwear down in one swipe then stepped into the tub with me. Instead of cuddling into my lap he sat across from me.

The distance made me swallow back a gulp of worry. I thought we were beyond this, but maybe I’d been wrong. “Talk to me, Sei.”

“You’ll be mad,” he whispered, still refusing to look at me.

“How often am I ever mad? Seriously, what is wrong?”

Instead of saying anything he turned his back to me, rising just far enough from the water to leave the sleek line of his back free of the suds. The last of the lather slipped down, trailing onto his tight little butt cheeks, and revealing colorful words scrawled across his back from right shoulder to the middle of his back, my name. Gabe—not Gabriel—which I’d spent most of my life recognized as. Sei had started the trend of calling me Gabe and it stuck. The letters bloomed in red with roots of green stems. The center of the “a” and “e” were paw prints instead of empty space.

I wanted to kiss him, to taste that skin, and show him how much I loved seeing him branded with my name, but the slightly raised edges meant the ink was fresh and still healing. This was commitment. I was more than a little shocked. He shuddered, and I realized I still hadn’t said anything.

“Christ, Seiran, I love you so much.” I pulled him into my lap, careful not to touch the sensitive skin of the tattoo.

“Do you hate it?” His wide sapphire eyes searched my face with all the fear of a child seeking acceptance. Someday that fear would leave him, and he’d realize that all that mattered to me was him, whatever he was and whatever he did.

“It’s beautiful.” Beyond beautiful. “I love it. You know you didn’t have to do that for me. It must have hurt.”

“It wasn’t so bad,” he lied, his bravado obvious. “You have my name. It’s only fair that I have yours.”

So that’s what it was. I’d had Sei’s name tattooed over the top of Titus’ years ago. The Japanese letters gave it some flourish, and I’d had some color and detail added in the past few months simply because I wanted that connection to him to be visual. I’d been grateful numerous times for choosing to have his name in Japanese instead of English because I’d fear he’d panic if he knew the truth. “How’d you know?”

“I drew a picture of it and asked my mom.” He looked away again. “You were doing things to it after I found out what it meant. So I was worried you were going to cover it up. But then you added the new moon, and the paw tracks, and the leaves….”

“I’ll add even more to it when your babies are born.”

“Our babies,” Sei corrected. “They’re yours as much as mine. Just like they are Ally’s as much as Hanna’s. I hope you’ll be their daddy too.”

“Of course. I look forward to it.” I massaged his neck until he finally rested his head on my shoulder. “Two months until you’re a full-fledged, card-carrying, diaper-changing, daddy.”

“We should make the most of our alone time right now then.” He reached over and took a forkful of the cake, then turned his head toward me, after swallowing, for a kiss. It was a game we often played. I licked the edges of his lips before diving inside for a taste of the chocolate over him.

We picked up the glass of wine and raised them to clink together.

“Will you run away from me if I say Happy Valentine’s Day, Seiran?” I took a hesitant sip of the wine watching him for subtle changes that meant he wasn’t happy about celebrating my frivolous holiday.

“Nah. I’m comfy.”

“Oh, so I’m a pillow, eh?”

He bit back a smile, and then sipped his wine to cover it up. “I love you, Gabe. Pokey bits and all.” His hand slipped beneath the water to touch me, and his eyes peered up through his long lashes. “Happy Valentine’s Day.”

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Prep time: 30 min | Cook time: 40 min | Total time: 1 hr 10 min (plus cooling)

Yield: 12-14 servings

 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
  • 7 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 6 eggs
  • Powdered, for garnish
  • Fresh strawberries, for garnish

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Grease a 10-inch round cake pan (a springform pan is easiest).
  3. Bring water and 1 cup of the sugar to a boil. Remove from heat and add both chocolates. Stir until chocolate is melted. Add butter and stir until melted.
  4. Heat a kettle of water (to use for a water bath) on the stove.
  5. Combine remaining half cup of sugar and eggs in a mixer. Beat until light and fluffy. Gently fold chocolate mix into egg mixture.
  6. Pour the batter into the cake pan. Place the cake pan into a larger, deep baking pan and set the larger pan inside the oven. Pour the hot water from your kettle into the larger pan, filling about halfway up the side to create a water bath. Bake in the water bath for 40 minutes.
  7. Remove cake from the water bath and cool to room temperature. Heat on top of stove for 30 seconds and then unmold onto a cake plate. Chill the cake for at least an hour.
  8. Garnish chilled cake with powdered sugar and fresh strawberries.
  9. Optional: If you’d like to garnish with whipped cream as well, whip 1 cup heavy cream and 1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar together until thick.

Read more about Gabe and Seiran in the upcoming rerelease of Inheritance:

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Snow Hot by A.J. Llewellyn

When Christy Duke (who kindly wrangled us authors for this guest-blogging gig) mentioned the topic was winter sports, I had to laugh. My personal idea of winter sports is sex in front of the fireplace. Snow is not usually involved. If it is, it’s outside far away from me!

However, winter sports can be dead sexy. I love watching the winter Olympics and Derek Parra remains one my favorite fantasy playmates.

Ahem.

My first inkling that winter and skiing could be alluring was watching Robert Redford in the movie Downhill Racer. Wow was he hot!

In my family however, it’s not such a titillating activity.

It’s more an obsession, a way of life. I just have no idea how this particular gene managed to bypass me, but it did.

Growing up in Australia, my family spent summer at the beach (typically Avalon or Avoca). My father is a sun seeker and relentlessly avoids the cold. As we kids grew older and easier to handle, we had summer holidays in northern Queensland, Nouméa in New Caledonia, Hawaii, and California.

And then he met my stepmother and suddenly he enjoyed arctic blasts and we spent our winters at Perisher Valley, one of the major ski resorts in Mount Kosciusko.

Yes kids, there is snow in Australia!

My stepmother was a fanatical skier and my dad and brothers took to the slopes easily. I did not. I perched, freezing on the edges of chalet coffee terraces drinking hot chocolate and reading Mills and Book romance novels dreaming of sun and fun. I was a dreadful skier but I did lust after a few of my instructors. Boy oh boy where they yummy!

I deeply fantasized about playing with their balls – snowballs, of course.

Ahem.

And yet, for all my inabilities to keep track of a solid pair of ski poles, or to master the art of the snowplow, I think there’s a lot to be said about winter sports in stories.

I have only one that really involves snow and that’s Snow Drive, about two guys who go to Switzerland to drive Aston Martins in the white stuff. I had tons of fun writing that story, but it’s the only one so far.

My family remains passionately devoted to mountains and ski runs, but their tales have never inspired a book for me. The last time they talked me into giving skis a try was in Aspen a few years ago. I was appalled at what skiing has become. I got run down by a snowboarder. Man, was it always this lethal out there? As I rose on wobbly legs, a snowboarder skied right over me!

I retreated to my brother’s apartment, where I watched the idiots outside bobbing and banging into each other. I came up with the idea for my Cat Vs. Dog shifter series there.

What shocked me however, was my niece, who has become a celebrated little skier. And over the holidays I got this email from my brother:

Your niece has just finished her ski racing for the winter (thankfully) and I believe she set a new record for the number of times to be taken down the mountain in a banana boat (three).  She also was taken once by helicopter from Perisher Valley to Canberra Hospital.  I now call her ‘My Tormentor’.  Broken bone in her right hand (still in cast), torn ligaments in her left hand and damaged spleen were just some of the highlights.  Why could she not be a tennis player?  

I know my editor says that jaws cannot drop but mine did. I had to reread the paragraph above. Especially when my brother went on to say,

Anyway she is fine now. Her mother and I are drinking more heavily.

Yeah, I would be too!

but My Tormentor seems happily intent on skiing as fast as ever.  She will join a training program in Austria in December.

Where did this kid come from? Why does she thrill and gloat over high speeds and dangerous stacks – see I am learning the lingo! Stacks are falls in skiing – and God help me, she even got a Christmas present that really flipped my lid, a special camera she can put on the end of her ski pole to film herself as she plunges down the mountain.

I am thinking I need to steal all of this for one of my Phantom Lover books.

I can see Kimo and Lopaka agonizing over their kids skiing, especially little Pele. Hmmm…not sexy but fun. Real. I’ll leave the hot, naughty bits to Kimo and Lopaka. I can see them now, playing with each other’s balls.

And not their snowballs. But that might be nice, too.

Yes kids, there is snow in Hawaii!

Hey, I think I just wrote the beginnings of a book!

How do you feel about winter sports? Do you do them or just like to read about them? Please post a comment to win a free copy of any one of my currently published books – reader’s choice!

Aloha oe,

A.J.

hot snow

A.J. Llewellyn is an author of M/M romantic fiction who was born in Australia, and lives in Los Angeles. An early obsession with Robinson Crusoe led to a lifelong love affair with islands, particularly Hawaii and Easter Island.

Being marooned once on Wedding Cake Island in Australia cured her of a passion for fishing, but led to a plotline for a novel. A.J.’s friends live in fear because even the smallest details of their lives usually wind up in her stories. A.J. has a desire to paint, draw, juggle, work for the FBI, walk a tightrope with an elephant, be a chess champion, a steeplejack, master chef, and a world-class surfer. She can’t do any of these things so she writes about them instead.

A.J. I started life as a journalist and boxing columnist, and still enjoys interrogating, er, interviewing people to find out what makes them tick.

How to find/friend me:

email: ajllewellyn@gmail.com 

website: www.ajllewellyn.com 

www.facebook.com/aj.llewellyn 

www.twitter.com/ajllewellyn

More Free Stuff!

Newsletter sign-up: ajllewellynnewsletter@gmail.com – each month I give away a free ebook!

I’m an app! Download my FREE A.J. Llewellyn App for Android here:  http://tinyurl.com/lkbc4wm 

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What’s All This I Hear About Winter Sports? by Tom Webb

What’s all this I hear about Water Sports? It’s the middle of winter, and everybody in the northern part of the country is shoveling themselves out of a billion inches of snow. So why in the world would anybody want to be playing water sports?

Unless it’s those nasty people who like to pee on each other, and I just don’t understand the big deal about it. What two people do in the privacy of their own bathrooms is—

Editor: Um…Ms. Litella, that’s Winter Sports, not Water Sports.

Oh. Well, that’s very different.

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Winter Sports.

The first thing that comes to mind is ice hockey. And I gotta tell you, growing up in the South, you may be surprised to know that we actually had a professional hockey team here for years. The Atlanta Flames. Yeah. Nothing gay about that name at all, is there?

Then they went and moved to Canada and became the Calgary Flames, and we were left with nothing. Although there is a minor league team here just a few miles from here named the Gwinnett Gladiators.

For being known as the redneck capital of the world, two teams from a sport best known for on-ice fights, guys with knocked-out teeth, and hard ass checking into the boards, there’s just something about ice hockey that speaks to my Georgia soul.

The first thing you need to understand is the rules of the game. There are a bunch of men in baggy uniforms skating around a rink

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(as opposed to the ice skating most of us gay men are used to—

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sequins, gloves and fabulousness). The point of the game is to score the most goals (as opposed to soccer, where the point is to score the most goals, or basketball, where the point is to…well, you get the point). The game is played on a rink 200 feet long and 85 feet wide. It’s divided down the middle by a red line, and there are two blue lines that help divide the action also. Each team has a goal, and there is a goal line it sits on. Also, there are five face off circles.

ice rink

Hockey teams have six players on each side—a goalie, two defensemen, a right wing, a left wing and a center.

  • The goalie sits in the little net and keeps the other team’s players from slapping the little hard puck into the net.
  • The two defensemen help keep the other team from scoring. One is more defense minded, and the other has an offensive mindset.
  • The right wing plays the right side, and
  • The left wing plays the left side.
  • The center is the quarterback and directs the action.

You would think that with the specific names, a player would have to stay in a certain position. Au contraire, mon Cherie! Only the goalie is limited in where he can go, and that is up to the red line. Everyone else can run around the whole rink, causing all kinds of havoc.

The most important things to understand is that players pass the puck back and forth to each other and set up the action. To do that, they slap the hard little puck around the ice, aiming for where they want the players to go, not where they are. It’s important to remember you can’t pass over more than one line, or the action stops and a face-off happens. That’s where two players, one from each team, stand facing each other and the official drops the puck between them and they fight over it.

You can hit another player, but only in certain places. If you hit him with your body, it’s called a check. You can’t hit his head or knock on him on his ass from behind, or you get to go sit in a little time-out area, your team is down a player and you usually get a reputation as an assassin.

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All the other players and referees can point and laugh. No no no. Bad boy.

There are three 20 minute periods in a hockey game, and in spite of all the melee, the score usually stays low.  2-1. 1-0. 0-0.

Oh, and you still get credit for a tie.

The season goes on goes on for months and months, and almost every team ends up making the playoffs. They go on forever, and finally, a champion is crowned and they win the Stanley Cup.

Then, the winning city has a parade, the fans riot and act like idiots, and Canadians look rueful since they usually don’t win. Boo-hoo.

They take a day off and start the madness all over again the next day.

So…why watch?

Easy.

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Hockey. Not just for Yankees and Canadians anymore.

Author Bio

T.A. Webb is the writing name for the Mean Old Bear That Could. He’s worked with people living with HIV/AIDS and with children in the foster care system for over twenty years, and takes the smaller pay for the chance to make a difference for those who can’t help themselves. After hours, he’s the proud single papa of a couple of rescue dogs, was born and raised in Atlanta, where he still lives, and is a pretty darned good country cook.

His sister taught him to read when he was four, and he tore his way through the local library over the next few years. Always wanting more, he snuck a copy of The Exorcist under his parents’ house to read when he was eleven and scared the bejesus out of himself. Thus began a love affair with books that skirt the edge, and when he discovered gay literature, he was hooked for life.

T.A. can be found at Facebook under AuthorTAWebb, tweeted at #TomBearAtl, or if you really want to, you can email him at AuthorTAWebb@aol.com.

 

24789078New Orleans, Louisiana. 2015.

A bank is robbed and two guards killed under the unblinking eye of a security camera that shows…not exactly nothing. There’s plenty of blood, but no evidence on the videos to show who—or what—is doing the killing. Human victims. Human Only establishments. Preternatural killer. It’s not the first, and it won’t be the last.

It’s been almost three years since a vampire burst into flames on television and humans were forced to face a new world where supernatural beings exist. Some are more accepting than others—ask Sam Garrett and Travis Boudreaux, former NOPD detectives. Once human, they find themselves part of the preternatural world. Different lives, different rules.

An invisible killer. Humans Only separatist groups. A vampire with political ambitions who might be forming his own army. No one’s safe in a world where humans—and supers—are forced to adapt, or die.

Working together as part of a team sanctioned by Homeland Security to carry out Justice Department decrees, Sam and Travis ensure the deadliest of supers pay for their crimes. Permanently.

Warning: This is a steamy urban fantasy. In this series the vampires don’t sparkle, werewolves kill, and the men sometimes have sex. With each other.

The Altered States Series should be read in the following order:

Altered States (The Prequel)

Deep Blues Goodbye

Deadly Shades of Gold

Free Falling Crimson

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Guest Post by Ada Soto

Me, New Zealand, and Rugby (you know that game kinda like football but with no pads, no timeouts, and no touchdown dances)

The field was muddy before the first cleats hit the grass.  The white lines are already half washed away but everyone knows where they are by pure instinct.  The rain makes for more fumbles but a wet field is less painful to play on.  For 80 minutes thirty guys, half sponsored by the local pub, the other half by a hardware store the next town over, clash their bodies together trying to get an egg shaped ball over a white line.  There are no pads, no timeouts, just a break half way through for guys a decade past any hope of a national call-up to catch their breaths.  They throw their bodies around the field like it’s a World Cup final all to have their team name on a cheap brass plaque, named after some native son whose deeds have long since been forgotten.

A week, an island, and a world away Eden Park, in the center of Auckland, is filled with 50,000 fans, 45,000 dressed in black.  This year’s team Jockey ads are on the side of busses and the big screens are showing the team’s newest PowerAde spot.  In the changing room a 21 year old kid is pulling on the black jersey for the first time and trying not to throw up, but he will cry during God Defend New Zealand, and get four minutes of play time while one of the veteran players has flowing blood washed out of his eyes on the sideline.

This is rugby, or at least rugby in New Zealand.

^^^^^

I moved to New Zealand for graduate school on a manic whim in 2005 having never visited the country and knowing nothing about it.  I had only planned on staying two years.  That was a decade, partner, kid, and mortgage ago.

One of the many things I didn’t know about New Zealand and one of the first things I learned was the national obsession with rugby.  A country of only four and a half million people, 40 million sheep, and their national side, The All Blacks, hold pretty much every major international rugby trophy available to them.  The coach and top players are household names.  The current team captain turned down a knighthood.  Each Test match is front page news the next day.  A loss at the wrong moment can swing an election.  Ask any little boy what he wants to be when he grows up and the answer is an All Black (except for the skinny kid with thick glasses who wants to be a spin bowler like Daniel Vittori).

I was recently flipping through a half deteriorated notebook that was intended to document my first year of graduate school and found some early thoughts on rugby.  When I first moved to New Zealand I was right around the corner from Eden Park, the grand cathedral of New Zealand rugby, not that I knew this.  When a classmate, a soft spoken little country girl, found out where I lived she invited/insisted that I come to a rugby game with her, especially since her home team was playing.

It was Waikato verses Auckland.  The stadium wasn’t even half full and I have absolutely no memory of who won, (though my notebook says 28-7) I just remember spending 80 minutes supremely confused and saying ‘Oh my god is that legal?!’ a lot, while that quiet little country girl screamed at the top of her lungs.  A decade later it’s more ‘What the hell, he was nowhere near that guy’s neck and it was a blatant forward pass what the fuck is the ref smoking?!’

I was not a sports fan growing up mainly because I was bad at all sports and the kids who picked on me at school the most were the jocks.  I went to that Auckland/Waikato game more out of manners.  I was anticipating the general boredom that enveloped me during the constant stop/start of a football game.  I was not expecting to enjoy it.  I was not expecting to leave still utterly confused but with a strangely exhilarated feeling as though I had fed off both the energy of the fans and the almost non-stop flow of the players.

I had no clue going into that little rugby match what I’d stepped into and what I would become.

^^^^^

If you’re an American like me there are good odds you know rugby as ‘That Game Kinda Like Football’.  And it is, sort of, a little, not really.  The field is a similar shape and size and there are polls at each end.

There are no pads, so when a 6 foot, 200 pound fullback crashes into a 6 foot 7 inch, 250 pound lock, that is flesh and bone hitting flesh and bone.  You can hear the bodies collide from the other side of the field.

There are no timeouts.  When that fullback and that lock crash into each other they are meant to get right back up and keep going.  There is no taking a knee at the last 30 seconds to decide a play.  When the ball hits the ground nothing stops, it’s just free for the next person to grab it.  The clock stops only if an injured player can’t get off the field under their own power.  If one goes down and they’re still awake the clock and the game keep going while team medics try to patch up the fallen right there on the grass.

There are also no touchdown dances.

^^^^^

A few months after that little Auckland/Waikato game the British and Irish Lions Rugby Union team toured New Zealand for the first time in over ten years and for the first time I saw truly good rugby.  I never go to bars yet for each of the three test matches I found myself, through one new friend or another, crammed in shoulder to shoulder in some pub, slightly drunk, shouting at the TV over a game I still didn’t fully understand and occasionally asking questions like ‘is it legal to step on someone’s head’.

It’s a brutal game, rugby, no one will argue different, but when done right, like I saw for the first time on that tour, there can be a fast flowing grace to it as if entire teams are mind melded together.  A dozen perfect passes from one end of the field to another, each player dancing around defense, or taking the hits, passing the ball at the last second, with the final player sliding over the line, under the polls for a perfect Try is an amazing thing.  It gets the heart pounding, and even if you don’t know what’s going on there is an urge to jump to the feet with a shout and a cheer because beauty is an easy thing to recognize.

A conversion (kick for two points) going through the polls in the 80mph wind gusts of Wellington can seem like the act of a benevolent rugby god.

A perfectly executed line-out involves throwing 200 pound halfbacks into the air like ballerinas.

A scrum- well a scrum looks like sixteen guys trying to lay an egg and there are so many rules involved half the time the refs are just making it up.

But did I mention no touchdown dances?

Between the second and third test match of that tour terrorists hit the London transport system.  Players and fans sat in hotel rooms and rented campers trying to get calls through, and for one minute before the start of the third test every pub in New Zealand, for possibly the first time in history, was actually silent.

All three games went to New Zealand but the Lions made them fight for it, and as I shouted my throat raw with the rest I started to understand how an entire country can hold true unwavering passion for one team.

^^^^^

I learned to truly understand and appreciate the finer details of rugby during a crappy, dull, soul sucking job that had me stuck in a tiny room for 8 to 10 hours at a stretch with a bunch of sports mad guys.  (I also learned to appreciate cricket but that’s another discussion).  It was a matter of survival, and perhaps a little Stockholm syndrome that had me glued to a tiny TV we weren’t supposed to have, analyzing every second of the 2007 Rugby World Cup.

Not that the guys in the office cared but the USA Rugby Eagles played well that year and lost every game.

Oh yeah, side note, America has a national rugby team.  We are currently ranked 16th in the world (one up from the last time I checked), in-between Georgia and Romania.  We are currently the reigning Olympic champions in rugby, though I should mention that it hasn’t been played at the Olympics since 1924. We have a national men’s team, a national Sevens team, (Sevens is a smaller and shorter form of the game), an under 20 team, a women’s team, and a women’s Sevens team.  Sevens is going to be played at the Rio Olympics for the first time and I think the Women’s Sevens have a good chance at bronze, probably coming in under New Zealand and England.  They’re all on Twitter, go follow them.

And while we’re here there is no reason why we should be 16th in the world.  We have thousands upon thousands of college football players who don’t make the NFL every year who should be perfectly capable of throwing off the pads, upping their stamina (because no timeouts), and kicking ass in the game.

Anyway back to the 2007 Rugby World Cup and that cruddy little office.  The US was in a death pool with South Africa, England, Tonga, and Samoa.  We did not stand a chance.  We did get two Tries against South Africa which is pretty damn impressive.  Actually really fucking impressive.  My first psychiatrist was South African and he brought up the way Takudzwa Ngwenya danced past Bryan Habana in that game in our first session in 2010.  (You can find the game on <a href” https://www.youtube.com/embed/8auHLM8emWQ “>YouTube</a>, the try is about 37 minutes in.)

There are vast Wikipedia articles explaining the mechanics of the game in detail if you’re interested but what the articles don’t describe are things like the noise of the crowds.  Not the way they cheer but the way they go silent.  Each game starts with a roar then within the first few seconds everything goes quiet, pub or stadium, there is focus, sharp eyes not just tracking the ball but all 30 players and the ref.  There is no need or reason to make a sound until a player breaks away, sprinting for his try line, the fans raising their voices the faster he goes.  A cheer for the try, another for the conversion, then quiet again.

The Cup was the first time I’d noticed this and still love it.

That year I started to develop <i>opinions</i> on the game.  It’s hard not to have them when it’s all you hear about at work and it blankets the evening news.  The primary thing to have an opinion on that year was the All Black’s rest and rotation policy which is still criticized as the thing that got the All Blacks knocked out of the quarterfinals by France.  My opinion was that it didn’t help but previous world cup losses and the fear of more simply weighed the team down until they choked at the wrong moment.

Yes, I had opinions.  This was about the same time I was trying to convert my student visa into a long term work visa.  When it hit a snag I mentioned in my pleading letter to Immigration that I now enjoyed rugby and had managed to learn the rules of cricket and that had to count for something.  I’m not sure if it helped.  I like to think it did.

After that I fell into the general joys of being a fan.  If you’re a fan of anything, not just sports, you understand.  It’s a thing that lets you strike up conversations with complete strangers, to form connections with people you might otherwise pass by.  In New Zealand it’s probably the quickest form of cultural integration.  Wearing an official All Blacks jersey is nearly as good as pulling out your passport and presenting your visas and permits.  Being able to carry on a conversation about the state of Richie McCaw’s knees is always a bonus.

^^^^^

Of course I’m one of those poor sods who’s a glutton for punishment.  Where’s the fun in pulling for a team that has world record winning streaks and in over a century has only lost games to five other countries?

Time for the USA Eagles and the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

I always used to mock people who would follow their team around to other states or even countries.  That’s what TV was invented for.  Then the World Cup came to New Zealand and I plunked down 570 bucks to follow around a team that was almost guaranteed to lose every game.  I justified it as a bit of nationalism and that someone needed to come out for the USA since they weren’t going to be bringing many fan with them.

But to be honest, by this point, I wanted the experience.  I wanted to see hard fought rugby, pulling for the little team with pride.  I knitted a truly awful red, white, and blue scarf that made me look like I was with the French.  I drove through the pouring rain, getting lost in Hamilton, to watch USA v Russia at the little Yarrow Stadium.  The USA actually won.  The field was more mud than grass.  The rain was verging on becoming sleet.  If it was just Americans and Russians there would have been a hundred people there, instead New Plymouth came out just to watch two bottom of the table teams play a game they loved.

I risked flying into Wellington to watch the USA get slaughtered by a cranky Australia, and risked flying out of Wellington to see the USA v Italy game (which the US should have won but the ref had his own interpretations of offside and advantage rules).

It was freezing.  It was awesome.  It was exhilarating and disappointing.  It was like the best fandom convention with mud, beer, and lots of shouting.  People weren’t just there to support their team; they were there for the game itself in all its fast, brutal, graceful, glory.

^^^^^

8 June, 2013 – Baby’s First Rugby Game, 14 days old.  New Zealand v France, Eden Park, 23-13. Watched at grandma’s house from Dad’s lap.

^^^^^

It’s World Cup time again.  USA is in Pool B against South Africa, Samoa, Japan, and Scotland.  South Africa would have to be completely stoned to lose. Samoa could go either way.  Japan we stand a chance.  Scotland is a probable loss but it could be close.

New Zealand is in Pool C against Argentina, Tonga, Georgia, and Namibia.  Argentina might give them a run but that’s about it.  I’ll watch anyway.  It’s being hosted in England so I’ll be getting up at strange hours.  I might knit a new scarf to wear at the pub at five in the morning with a handful of expats who have also learned to enjoy the true beauty that is rugby.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Ada Maria Soto is a writer for hire currently publishing with Dreamspinner Press

Her blog can be found at http://adamariasoto.com.

She can also be found on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.

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Guest Post & Giveaway with JR Loveless

New Year’s Resolutions: We all make them, but how many of us actually keep them?

Happy New Year’s, everyone! 2015 is nothing like they said it would be in the movies back in the 80’s! They all thought we’d be in flying cars, and have all kinds of sci-fi-esque equipment, although I guess in a way we do have a lot of advancements that they would consider to be so, but nothing close to what they depicted in movies like Back to the Future! Maybe we will in 2025?!

back to the future

New Year’s is always the time for us to reflect on what we did with our lives the year before. How much money did we save? Did we get the job, the car, the boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse, house, etc. that we wanted? Did we accomplish the goals and resolutions we set for ourselves at the beginning of that year? If any one of you are like me, I’d say most of us would say we didn’t keep our resolutions. Usually it’s, “I’m going to lose weight” or “I’m going to save xxx.xx amount of money” or “I’m going to quit smoking”. The money thing is usually because something unexpected comes up where you can’t save the money, of course, but it all works out to the same in the end.

Previous New Years

This year, 2015, I set several resolutions in place for myself because I realized that I’m in a stagnant place. I’m not really going forward. I’m just… here. I go to work, come home, eat, walk the dog, sleep, rinse, repeat. Same routine. I’ve also spent almost my entire life, since the age of twelve at least, being overweight. 2014 showed me just how negatively that can impact my life because of health issues with my knees, my back, and more. Oh, I’ve made the typical New Year’s resolutions, join a gym, lose weight, blah, blah, blah, but I’ve never stuck to it. I’ve always let myself get sidetracked by this or that, or made this excuse or given that excuse. But after going through the multitude of doctor’s visits and the tests and seeing all these pills I have to take now, I have reached a level of determination I never had before.

2015 is the year I go forward, I no longer will stagnate. I am going to get myself organized, write more,  get my financial situation in order, and the biggest challenge, lose weight. Previously, I would make the resolution, wait until the Monday following New Year’s to go on the diet and then a couple months later, fall off and start stumbling before completely giving up. I would get discouraged, let anything set me back, just because it was hard. But anything worth having is hard! If everyone gave up because something was difficult, nothing would ever have been accomplished and our society today would not exist! So instead of waiting for the Monday following New Year’s, I began my lifestyle change on New Year’s day. I spent the day eating healthier and working on organizing things in my home so that I would be destined to spend my year in the same fashion. Or at least that’s supposedly the rule of thumb, however you spend the New Year is how you will spend the entire year. So make sure to spend New Year’s Day doing what you want to do the rest of the year! Anyway, it is now 26 days into the New Year and as of the day I am writing this blog post I am down 15lbs and going strong! Encouragement from friends and using an app/website called My Fitness Pal has helped tremendously. Anyone interested in joining me in the fight, look me up. ;) I am on there as JrLoveless!

which step

How many of you made a resolution this year on New Year’s Day? What was it? Have you been keeping it? After reading my post, are you going to work harder on keeping it? LOL. I don’t know if you are aware, but my second True Mates novel Forgiving Thayne was released in October of last year. I haven’t really spent a whole lot of time doing any blog tours or posts about, or rather any blog tours or posts about it. So today, as a way to ring in the New Year, I am giving away a free e-book copy to a random commenter on my post. Winner will be chosen on 1/27/2015, so comment below, with the answer to my questions to enter!  :) 

ForgivingThayne5

Dreamspinner press Buy Link 

Amazon.com Buy Link

Good Luck to those entering and Keep Moving Forward with your New Year’s Resolutions, everyone! Don’t give in to the temptation of the easy path! It’s easy to stray, believe me I know. Happy New Year and may it be a safe, happy, and prosperous one for all of you!

~Kisses~

J.R.

Website: http://www.jrloveless.com

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/authorjrloveless

Blog: http://jrloveless.blogspot.com

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Welcoming 2015 by Jaime Reese

First and foremost, thank you for inviting me!  And thanks to all the readers who are taking the time read my post.

In January, people often reflect on the past year and set resolutions, goals and milestones to target for the upcoming months. I’m a huge lover of lists, I have one for just about everything. And sadly, I’m a slave to my calendar. Juggling both cover art and writing is a challenge. (I design cover art under the name Reese Dante). Throw into the mix organizing the annual GRL Retreat, and it can be rather chaotic. Oh yeah, and let’s sprinkle in something of a personal life. It can get difficult, and sometimes, it feels impossible. But in the end, I’ve learned to take things one day at a time. I am my own worst critic and I can easily set a personal goal that is so unattainable, I can feel like giving in. I’m persistent, many would say I’m hard-headed. But I don’t like to do things halfway. If I do something, I have to believe it is the best I can do for whatever it is I am doing.

So, do I have New Year’s resolutions? Not really. Other than the traditional eat better and exercise more (um…yeah, right), for me, it’s tough to outline an entire year. So I sort my lists into two groups – things I must do, and things I really hope to do.

Website updates

For both of my personalities (yes, I do love to complicate my lists LOL) – I must update my websites. As a cover artist, a portfolio is key when potential clients seek you out. I haven’t updated mine in quite some time. *hangs head*  So that’s a “must” goal for me this year. Another important item on my list is to redesign the site. Maybe I should move this to the ‘things I really hope to do’ before I shoot myself in the foot?  :)

As an author, I’m a horrible blogger so I won’t even attempt to add this little nugget onto my list. Not to mention always having that dreaded question hovering over me – ‘what do I blog about?’. Kudos to people who can blog at the drop of a hat. Sadly, I can’t. So I try to focus the time on my writing. However, I do have my site lacking on updates for my character pages, review pages and such. So that’s something I definitely “must” update soon. Either by the time I release my next book or soon after. *adds star to item on list*

Must:

  • Reese: Update portfolio
  • Jaime: Update character pages and other site pages

Hope:

  • Reese: Redesign cover art site.

Finding a way to capture a little more time in the day

I’m fairly good at juggling tasks (as good as can be expected) but I want to try setting a few time frames so I can focus a little more on my writing. I tend to ‘squeeze’ in my writing time but I often crave more time to spend with my stories. I find writing to be a relaxer for me so I cherish it. I cringe at the thought of having to wake up earlier each day, but I’ve been slowly trying this to see if it works for me. It’s a good thing my hubby makes the expresso shots at home, otherwise, I’d break the bank with all the trips for the needed caffeine jolts.

So I’ve added this to my ‘hope to do’ list.

Hope:

  • Find a way to capture more time in my day to write

Publishing

HH-Series-Banner600x210

I plan to continue writing in The Men of Halfway House series. Right now, I have at least two additional books mapped out in my mind after the next one.  They aren’t finished (one isn’t started at all), but I hope to dedicate more time to my writing so I can release them with smaller windows of time in between. I’m not as prolific as other authors in the genre, but I’d love to be able to release books with less than a year in between. This is also on my ‘hope to do’ list.

Hope:

  • Release books with smaller in between time windows.

So, I’ve set a few short-term and long-term goals for myself. Nothing unattainable but still requires some degree of dedication to achieve. Now I just need the stars to align and help me make them happen. :)

That is my disorganized way of planning. Have you set any goals for 2015? Do you make resolutions or set goals and track them?

Before I hand off the baton, I wanted to share the blurb for my upcoming book titled A Restored Man. It’s the third book in The Men of Halfway House series and is scheduled for release on February 17, 2015.

A Restored Man-400x600

A Restored Man

Series: The Men of Halfway House

No. in series: 3

Word Count: ~118,000

Expected Release Date:  February 17, 2015

Book link on website: http://jaimereese.com/a-restored-man/

BLURB:

Cole Renzo thinks his greatest challenge is to behave for the remainder of his term at Halfway House. Until he meets his new boss, Ty Calloway, a man who ticks off every box on Cole’s list of interests.

A sought-after restorer and customizer of exotic and collectible cars, Ty had enough confidence to command what he wanted in life, until one fateful night changed everything. Almost two years later, he’s slowly rebuilding his life with great control. He’s defied the odds and works tirelessly to be the man he once was—but he still feels broken.

Cole’s candor and unfiltered personality awaken Ty’s barely-remembered desire to greet each new day with a smile, while Ty’s unwavering acceptance of Cole’s quirks and brash humor makes Cole feel as if he fits in for the first time in far too long. When a nemesis threatens Ty’s personal restoration and the things he holds dear, Cole is determined to protect their relationship, even if that means sacrificing everything he’s worked so hard to achieve.

But Ty will have to let his guard down, surrender control, and admit he needs Cole first, even if that puts himself at risk of breaking beyond repair.

Author Bio:

Jaime Reese is the alter ego of an artist who loves the creative process of writing, just not about herself. Fiction is far more interesting. She has a weakness for broken, misunderstood heroes and feels everyone deserves a chance at love and life. An avid fan of a happy ending, she believes those endings acquired with a little difficulty are more cherished.

~ Jaime Reese ~

———

~ Reese Dante ~

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Guest Post & Giveaway with Dan Skinner

We’re thrilled to welcome Dan Skinner today, and his words of wisdom. Don’t forget to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway at the bottom for a chance to win one of his 5 books!

Be Fearless.. It’s All An Adventure

I’ve had a number of people ask me what resolutions I made for the New year and I had to honestly say that, after the last two years, I was pretty much resolution-ed out. I’d already become a better person through adversity, stayed calm during the most tumultuous times of my life, and found peace when my heart was filled with anger. I’d spent the last two years getting in shape, becoming a vegetarian and abstaining from alcohol. So there just wasn’t a lot more on the list for me to do. Now I’d like to say that I am telling this not in a boastful way because all of this was simply what I knew I had to do to make it through what had happened to me and stay sane. So my resolutions were requirements rather than the things I thought I needed to do to make myself a better person. In this instance saying sane and out of prison made me the better person. However, I did learn something else that I’d like to share with everyone. I hope it gives everyone I know and don’t know some encouragement.

No matter what you are going through, no matter the pain or heartache or stress and anxiety you feel for what is thrown at you unjustly or by surprise, it is survivable. You will get through. You will be okay. You will learn. You can walk away either physically or mentally from something that feels like it may destroy you to live and tell the tale.  You will.

Life is not a fairytale. It doesn’t guarantee us happy endings, but it does promise us it will be unpredictable. To me that means it is an adventure. Long ago I had a friend who was an avid mountain climber who told me that looking at an impossible climb was not just a test of what they could do physically, but how they approached it. He chose to look at the mountain with excitement rather than dread. So that treacherous climb became a challenge and every step up it was a success. It was tough. It hurt. It tested. But he made it to the top, and on the way back he knew one thing in his heart that was greater than the climb itself. That was.. he could do it and did it..and lived to tell the tale.

I feel like I have done the same. And now on the other side of that mountain I learned some things about myself that really changed everything for me. No matter what… do not ever give up; do not ever give in. Give no one else control of you. Let nothing make you doubt yourself. Do not stop. Stand on your own. Speak loud to be heard. Do not respond in anger. Make friends. Love yourself.

Be fearless. Life is an adventure…

Author Bio:

I took my first professional photo as a teenager. I had been in photography for many years, shooting covers for hetero romances when I had an epiphany: shooting gay romance covers was a definite possibility. I then set out to make cover photos of two men as acceptable and mainstream as hetero ones. It was a big risk and many people warned against it. Their thoughts were that it might not be profitable, and could quite possibly ruin my reputation. I was tired of seeing the proliferation of covers featuring a man and woman, the cologne and perfume ads featuring a man and a woman… every ad under the sun – featuring a man and a woman, knowing that the straight side of life was being spoon fed to us as the only acceptable aspiration and ideal. It made me angry, crazy, and determined to do something to change it. We were here… didn’t anyone see us?!!

I had several things working against me. The m/m fiction genre was just beginning to come into its own, but television and the entertainment industry were slowly allowing gay and lesbian characters to be depicted as folks who existed right alongside everyone else.  I knew the popularity of gay literature was going to eventually grow as well. Will and Grace on TV and Brokeback Mountain in theaters helped with that. So I had hope. I crossed my fingers and I made what I thought was a good and conscientious choice. Finding guys in the Bible belt of the country, the Midwest, was going to be the tough part. But I did it. And as my reputation as a professional spread, the models started coming to me.

While spending the largest portion of my career behind a camera, I picked up a pen and began putting down some of my own stories. Yes, I said pen. I always start out writing longhand and then eventually type it up. When I began exercising regularly, I found that the creative part of my brain, the part where the stories lived, came alive. As I ran, or did cardio, the stories grew and developed until they screamed to be told. I finished the first one about ten years ago, but just recently polished it enough to try to publish it. With the encouragement of a dear friend, I released my first novel, Memorizing You in 2013.

I have always been a Midwestern boy. A recent move from the country back into the city has opened my eyes to the endless potential for location shoots everywhere around me. As always, I strive to grow and change as a photographer and a writer. Each story I tell through photos or book I write is completely different from anything else I have written. No “Write By Numbers” for me. I am looking forward to the future… the possibilities are limitless.

I can be found online here: http://danthedanimal.deviantart.com/

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a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Ringing in the New Year by Z.A. Maxfield

Ringing in the New Year!

January. How did it come to this! Another year, done and dusted. Another holiday season over. I’m ashamed to say my Christmas things aren’t put away yet, but honestly, if that’s the worst of my sins let the word ring forth… I’m a sloth.

I love January for a lot of reasons, not the least of which are the three children in my family who have January birthdays. (Two on the first, one on the fifth). While that makes for an extended holiday season and an exhaustive holiday spending total, it also makes for enforced creativity: for example, I got so sick of package wrapping presents, I established the birthday treasure hunt, where we hid unwrapped birthday presents and yelled “hot or cold” until the children found them.

Doesn’t every family do that? *Blushes*

My laziness has turned this into a cherished family tradition with the bonus that I got to turn the present-hiding over to the kids themselves. Each year, they get even more devious.

I love January because it’s a do-over. Not in the trite, New Years’ Resolution sense, because everyone knows those last about three days, but in the lasting sense. January is when you get to take stock. You look around and decide what’s working and what’s not. You have the doldrums of winter to think about whether you want things to be the same when spring comes or if you need a little course correction.

Last year I’m ashamed to say I missed some important deadlines. I had some things going on in my life, and I failed to put first things first. I’ve never allowed that to happen in my writing career, and I am struggling with how to make sure I never let it happen again.

On the other hand, I put out books I’m really proud of. I got into better physical shape. I have reconnected with my family and friends and I have plans to continue that trend—plans, not resolutions. These things are all continuation of work I began early last year. They’re lasting goals, not momentary ideas, not wishes. They’re destinations, not desires.

There are a lot of reasons to find comfort in the depth and quiet of the winter season. However there are those who feel blue and need a pick me up. If—unlike me, lucky California girl that I am—you’re suffering from lack of sunlight or you find your energy low and your spirit sagging, you might want to consider purchasing one of those Verilux natural spectrum lights. They’re a great way to get a little sun with no harmful UV rays and get back on track.

The good thing is, whatever you choose to focus on today can shape the whole rest of the year. 2015 stretches out ahead of us. It’s a blank canvas, waiting to be painted. What are you going to do with your New Year?

About the Author

Z. A. Maxfield started writing in 2007 on a dare from her children and never looked back.  Pathologically disorganized, and perennially optimistic, she writes as much as she can, reads as much as she dares, and enjoys her time with family and friends. Three things reverberate throughout all her stories: Unconditional love, redemption, and the belief that miracles happen when we least expect them.

If anyone asks her how a wife and mother of four can find time for a writing career, she’ll answer, “It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you give up housework.”

Readers can visit ZAM at her website, Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr.

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