A Non-Binary Perspective on M/M Fiction by L.A. Ashton

Happy Wednesday Scribblers, this week I have fellow NineStar Press Author L.A. Ashton over as a guest blogger.  L.A. will be sharing their perspective on writing M/M romance. It’s a thought providing post that I hope you all enjoy:

For many readers, books are an escape. We slip between the pages to experience a life more interesting, be a person more daring, and revel in stakes immensely dire. But the thing that makes readers really connect with a story isn’t usually the wild rides or fantastical surroundings. It’s the thing that speaks to us and our lives—it’s the very real and very relatable.

Whether its sharing religious or philosophical beliefs with the protagonist, having the same dry humor or sharp temper, or maybe being a boy who also loves boys, it’s the similarities that can make a story speak to our heart. All those little details that can make a person feel seen for the first time, or maybe feel like they can better see themselves.

I was a voracious reader before I was a writer, but I rarely felt seen. It wasn’t something I even realized I was missing until I started penning my own stories, and for some reason the main characters kept turning out bisexual. The reason for that became apparent over time. I was also writing a lot of M/M, which was something I was neither ashamed of, nor thought had any deeper meaning—I was a queer person who wrote queer fiction.

All sorts of people write M/M, and while I am a huge supporter of #OwnVoices, the movement was never meant to snatch stories out of other people’s hands. The M/M stories I read and wrote were ones I cherished, and so long as they were written with care and kindness, I wouldn’t be giving them up.

To be clear: I am not an “M/M Author”. While I have written three gay romances, I have F/F and other things in the pipes right now. But M/M was where I kept landing, and where I was finding myself most often.

As time went on and I became more comfortable in my own skin, I couldn’t help asking myself some questions. Questions like, “Why have I gravitated toward M/M so fiercely?”; “What about M/M is especially lucrative right now?”; and eventually, “Why is it easier for me to connect with male main characters?”

I hadn’t heard the terms non-binary, genderfluid, agender, genderqueer, etc., until I was well into my twenties. Finding those terms was like a lightning strike: illuminating, but terrifying. I had never questioned being a girl, because I had never been taught beyond the binary. If being a man didn’t feel right, then, obviously, I was woman.

But it wasn’t obvious. I had just been ignorant, and now my world was exploding.

It took me a while to accept those terms for myself, which feels strange in retrospect; I would never call myself a girl now—it’s not what I am.

I don’t understand gender at all. As someone who has spent massive amounts of time thinking about their gender, I am startlingly clueless. And I think that’s one of the traits that comes along with being who I am: sometimes I’m closer to one end of the spectrum, and sometimes another, but usually my gender could be summed up with the general idea of a void or black hole, or perhaps an old fashioned question mark.

I will never have a body that aligns with who I am inside. I would have to be a shapeshifter or something else from legend; there is no single form that I feel can capture me best. But I can escape.

For me, writing M/M is like slipping into a skin that binds and frees me. I can experience life in ways that aren’t possible, and envision something sure and certain. It is the exact magic that made me fall in love with reading in the first place: the transportation out of myself that also connects me even more firmly with who I am. It is the fantastical and the relatable, the real and the imaginary.

Reading and writing are liberating. They have been my safe haven and my refuge, a place to feel powerful as well as peaceful. All I can hope to do with my writing is offer some of that in return, whether it helps someone feel-out their identity, or just makes their afternoon a little brighter.

***

Wow! A special thank you to L.A. Ashton for stopping by today and providing this wonderful guest blog post.  If you have questions for L.A. Aston leave them below and I’ll ensure they swings by to answer, or you can find them on Social Media, see the links below. As always if you enjoyed this content and want to help spread the word not only about L.A. Ashton like and share below. Until next time have a great week.


About L.A. Ashton:

L. A. Ashton is an LGBT+ author writing LGBT+ fiction. They were born and raised between neat grids of corn and soybean fields. They enjoy rock music, traveling, and anything else that adds color to their daydreams. They believe in the healing properties of art and of having a cat firmly stationed on one’s lap.

Where to find L.A. Ashton:

Official Site: http://laashton.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LAAshton_

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AshtonLA

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17171457.L_A_Ashton


About: Valhalla

Sakuma has served as a Valkyrie for centuries, smoothly escorting thousands of souls to the grand halls of Valhalla. While the world tears itself apart during WWII, he is summoned to retrieve the soul of a fallen Japanese soldier, Ishii Hiroshi. To Sakuma’s surprise, Ishii refuses his invitation to eternity.

The two meet again and again as the war repeatedly sends Ishii to death’s door, and what should have been a fleeting encounter becomes something much greater for the both of them.

Sakuma is determined to give Ishii the reward he so deserves, but Ishii’s stubbornness may condemn him to an eternity outside Valhalla.

Where to Buy:

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2E71zWY

Barnes and Noble: http://tinyurl.com/y6yh8sw5

Kobo: https://tinyurl.com/y2op2pd6

Smashwords: http://tinyurl.com/y4qyz268

Ninestar Press (publisher): http://tinyurl.com/y4afrz2l


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About Echoes

After one thousand years of listless eternity, Oskar is used to his particular brand of loneliness. But a long walk through middle America and a few chance encounters will lead him straight to a man he’d known to be long since dead—his childhood best friend, Aranck.

Being undead hasn’t stopped Aran from living life to the fullest. He has all the money and power his charm and business savvy could earn him, and plenty of friends. Lately, though, something seems to be missing. After a millennia, perhaps the world’s shine has worn off—and that’s when Oskar stumbles back into his life, reminding him of who he used to be.

Together the two vampires remember what it felt like to live, all the while navigating a conflict with the local pack of werewolves. A lot has changed in a thousand years, and only time will tell if those changes will bring Oskar and Aranck closer together, or ensure they remain apart.

Where to Buy:

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2E71zWY

Barnes and Noble: http://tinyurl.com/y6yh8sw5

Kobo: https://tinyurl.com/y2op2pd6

Smashwords: http://tinyurl.com/y4qyz268

Ninestar Press (publisher): http://tinyurl.com/y4afrz2l

Genderfluidity and Pansexuality by Grace Kilian Delaney

Happy Wednesday Scribblers. I was reminded that today is the third anniversary of the Pulse Nightclub shooting. We has a humans are capable of great works of beauty and can show huge amounts of compassion. Conversely we are capable of mass destructions and cruelty beyond belief. We need to choose the kind of world we want to live in and focus our efforts on making that world. Kindness, compassion, and understanding should be the foundations we build our world on.

That said, this week I’m honored to have fellow Ninestar Press author Grace Kilian Delaney here to speak her truth and to share her story. Everyone, has their own story. This is hers.


Thank you, M. D. Neu, for having me at your blog! Before I get into the topic, I’d like to take a moment to remember the lives lost on this day, June 12th, at Pulse nightclub. I wish I had more to add, some words of hope. But this tragedy only fuels the importance of Pride to me, to celebrate the LGBTQIA community and to honor those who fought and continue to fight for equality.

In the little suburb of Boston where I grew up, I never heard the words bisexual, pansexual, gender fluid, or transgender. A person identified as gay or lesbian, and if they dressed in a way considered opposite of their assigned sex at birth, they had to be a musician. Or at least this was how my mostly sheltered, young teenage mind understood life back in the late 80s early 90s, a time when men wore makeup and drove up Aquanet’s stock value as much, if not more than women, and when Glam metal bands like Poison and Mötley Crüe ruled magazine covers and airwaves. It was also when I decided I wanted to be a badass musician like Chrissie Hynde or Joan Jett. Screw makeup. Screw dresses. But as acceptable as that was for those female musicians, I was a mere mortal, too afraid to present myself in such a masculine way for fear of being rejected by my family. So I settled for ripped jeans and thick, black eyeliner like every other girl at my high school, and silently accepted sometimes I was uncomfortable as a young woman.

It wasn’t until a shy male friend of mine asked if he could model a dress he bought that I realized I accepted, loved, and remained attracted to him however he chose to represent himself, and in turn grew more accepting of my own inclination to wear clothes that matched how I felt on the inside. This wasn’t a full-on revelation yet. This was more of a fuzzy awareness, a half-light of teenage sexual awakening. Full awareness came twenty years later. The main reason for such a gap is, I fell in love at a young age, got married, and presented as a straight, cisgender woman to the outside world. My partner knew I was bi (pan) from the beginning of our relationship, and he recognized, accepted, and even loved that sometimes I felt more masculine than feminine. But we lived in a mostly straight world, occasionally hanging out with friends who were cisgender gay or lesbian without ever discussing identities that fell under the transgender umbrella.

Writing romantic stories, gay and straight, had been a long-time hobby, and after reading The Backup Boyfriendabout five years ago, I became inspired to publish a novella about Devon, a cross-dressing mechanic and Stone, a bisexual heavy metal rock star. Devon identifies as gender fluid, a discovery he makes in Waking Oisin. Creating these characters helped me stitch together my own history and understand and accept that I am gender fluid, attracted to a person as a whole, not their parts, and overall be more comfortable with who I am.

Grace thank you for stopping by today and sharing your story.  If you have questions for Grace leave them below and I’ll ensure she swings by to answer, or you can find her on Social Media, see the links below. Until next time have a great week.


About Grace Kilian Delaney:

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Grace Kilian Delaney is a LGBT writer, musician, animal lover, and author of the sweet and sexy bisexual romance Living on a Dare: A Shore Thing Novel. She spends her free time performing kitchen concerts to an audience of her two cats and a dog and loves long beach runs. Her previous books include Seven Minutes(Dreamspinner Press) and Waking Oisin(NineStar Press).

Where to find Grace Kilian Delaney:

Twitter: @GracekilianD

Facebook Group: Delaneys Dirty Dearies

Goodreads: https://bit.ly/2HRcaqN

Amazon Author Page:amazon.com/author/gracekiliandelaney

Website:gracekiliandelaney.wordpress.com

Mailing List:https://tinyurl.com/yym8jvvp


About Living on a Dare:

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Stuntman Draven O’Connor never turns down a dare—even if it means getting down on one knee to propose to his former college roommate and friend. The same man he’s been crushing on since the first day they met. The same man that has grown distant over the past year. And the same man who just agreed to be his fiancé. 

Julien Bouchard is tired of living a lie. He spent the past year exploring his sexuality in secret, enduring countless dates with women to appease his mother, and dodging his best friend, Draven, who knows everything there is to know about him, except the one thing that could change their friendship. Ready to face his friend, he meets him at a bar and is greeted by an unexpected marriage proposal. The dare isn’t surprising; it’s the scorching hot kiss that sends Julien’s head and heart in a tailspin—and gives him an idea for the perfect plan. 

But his plan hits a bump when news of their fake engagement spreads to their families as fast as a wildfire, forcing them to confront their true feelings about each other and hope they don’t get burned.

Where to buy Living on a Dare:

Available on Kindle Unlimited

Amazon US: https://amzn.to/2WpmdN6

Universal Link: getbook.at/LivingonaDare

Question and Answers with Lori Blantin CEO of IndiGo Marketing

Happy Thursday everyone. This week I’ve had the honor of having two wonderful guests here on my Scribbles Page the first was fellow Ninestar Press author Sarah Elkin, you can read her Guest Blog here. And today I’m excited to shake things up and bring you this great chat with Lori Blantin, Lori is the CEO and Creative Director of IndiGo Marketing. I have had the pleasure of working with Lori in the past and I’m thrilled to bring her here today.

Welcome Lori, instead of me giving a summary of your background and your experience why don’t you tell us about yourself and your company in your own words.

I’ve been an avid reader my entire life.  My happy place is curled up in a cozy spot with a great book.   In 2008 I discovered Goodreads and soon after joined several groups where I could talk books with other avid readers. A year later I read my first M/M romance and I was hooked! Eager to find other M/M readers, I joined the Goodreads M/M Romance group and was so excited until I realized that there were only 7 members and no discussion happening.  Not to be deterred, I reached out to the author who had stated the group and asked her if she would make me a moderator.  She did, and with the help of a few friends, we grew the membership to over 20,000 members.  That caught the attention of a small boutique publisher who approached me about helping them with their social media marketing.  That was the beginning of my passion for helping authors market their books.

What attracted you to marketing and PR and why did you decide to break out on your own?

Before becoming involved in the M/M Romance group, I didn’t know anything about marketing. My career as a Data Aggregation Specialist was dull and dry and aside from my passion for spreadsheets, not very creative.  When Silver Publishing hired me, I finally got the chance to grow my creative side and fell in love with book promotion.  After working part-time for several publishers, I decided to branch out on my own and IndiGo Marketing & Design was born.  IndiGo has always been a side hustle but it’s my biggest passion and I hope to grow the business into something I can do full time.

PR and Marketing are two areas that, not only authors, but others who want to create a brand for themselves aren’t always experienced with and have trouble with. I know I’m still learning and I have a background in marketing and events. Can you share with us five basic marketing strategies anyone can take to improve their brand?

Even as a “marketing professional”, I find marketing my own business much harder than marketing for someone else.  I think that’s a challenge that most entrepreneurs face and as an author, you must think of yourself as an entrepreneur.  Once you do that, you’ll discover that your marketing strategies are not that different from any other small business.

  1. Create your brand.  Before you do anything else, you must have a clear vision of who your target audience is, what your “author voice” will be and what “look and feel” will most adequately reflect who you are and the story you’re telling.

  2. Once you know what your brand is, then you need to start applying that brand everywhere.  You do that by creating a website and developing social media sites that consistently reinforce the message that you’re delivering about your persona, your books and your readers.

  3. Develop a social media strategy.  Now that you know what your brand is, you have a website and social media accounts, it’s time to develop a marketing plan that will put those to the best use.  Be consistent and follow the rule of thirds.  1/3 of your content promotes your books, 1/3 of your content consists of sharing content that others post and that is relevant to your followers and the final 1/3 should be posts in which you engage with your followers on a more personal level.

  4. Take advantage of unexpected opportunities to promote your books.  Develop your “elevator pitch” so you have something prepared whenever you get the chance to talk about your book.  Always have some free swag with you to hand out or leave behind.  Hand out cards with a promo code or have a few autographed copies of your book with you that you can offer up for charity auctions or gift baskets.

  5. Don’t try and go it alone.  Take advantage of the marketing assistance offered by your publisher.  Work with other authors in your genre and cross-promote.  Develop relationships with bloggers, readers and “influencers” to help you get the word out.  Consider hiring someone to help you with your marketing.  Consistent, effective marketing takes a lot of time and you may find that your time is better spent writing and letting someone else do the heavy lifting. 

When it comes to authors what would you say are the three mistakes that writers make when it comes to marketing their work? How can they avoid these mistakes or fix them?

  1. Don’t be a passive bystander.  I see so many authors that don’t do anything to market themselves.  You must play an active role in the promotion of your book.  If you’re relying on your publisher or think that just having a book on Amazon will generate sales, you’re not going to be successful.  

  2. Don’t wait until your book is in the editing process to start thinking about your marketing strategy.  You should start formulating your plan before you even start writing your book.  Have a checklist that includes marketing your book throughout the entire process.  Promo shouldn’t be an afterthought.

  3. Don’t be “that” author.  Even the most popular, bestselling authors get negative reviews or find themselves criticized in social media posts.  While it’s tempting to defend your work or yourself, it’s never a good idea.  I’ve seen too many promising careers implode because the author ended up on the “authors behaving badly” list.  Yes, there is such a list and you don’t want to end up on it.

Visuals, like book trailers, teaser sheets, sell sheets, or other videos are exceedingly important for marketing, what are the three or five things that all of these visual colleterial pieces must contain in order to be the most impactful?

  1. Well designed, professional looking visuals are imperative for being noticed.  It all starts with a great cover.  A bad cover can be the death knell to what may otherwise be a great book. Invest in a high-quality cover and the rest of your visuals will be much more effective.

  2. Make sure that all your visuals reflect your brand and fit the theme of the book or books they represent.  Someone scrolling though a crowded timeline or Facebook group should be able to instantly associate that image with the book and author. 

  3. Sometimes less is more.  Focus more on why the reader should want to read your book rather than where they can purchase it.  If you’re sharing graphics on social media, it’s better to include purchase links in the body of the post rather than crowding the graphics with logos.  The only exception to this rule is if the book is available from Kindle Unlimited since this is something that many readers look for. 

  4. Entice readers by including snippets from reviews or testimonials from other authors.  Quote a line or two from your book that is provocative and will leave the reader wanting more. 

  5. Include a call to action.  Announce a price reduction, offer a prize for signing up for your newsletter, create a sense of urgency with a limited time offer or announcing a new book in a series.   

Can you tell us why having a proper media kit is so important? And what is the best way to make use of your media kit once you have it?

Having a media kit that includes all the basic information about our book, the book cover, purchase links, your author bio and contact links is something every author should have as soon as that information is available.  You can’t market your book without one.  Your media kit should also be in different formats; text only, Wordpress HTML and Blogspot HTML.  One you have a good media kit, you’ll use it for cover reveals, blitzes and tours, review sites and other promotional opportunities.  Your media kit should also include printed materials like a sell sheet that you can leave at events, book signings, libraries, etc…

A question that stumps so many creative types is how to build their mailing list, given the rules with GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) that the EU has enacted and California will be adopting next year, what are some ways to increase those names on our lists?

Giveaways using a platform like Rafflecopter are probably the most effective way of growing your email list.  You should also have a subscription form on your website and Facebook page that asks your visitors to leave their email address.  Having gated content, like a short story or serialized content, on your site is another way to collect email addresses.  This is content that is hidden until your visitor enters their email address.

No matter what method you use, be sure that you make it clear that by leaving their email address, they’ll be receiving emails from you and make it very easy for them to opt-out.   If you have a checkbox, make sure the default setting is that the checkbox is empty. Of course, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the laws so you stay compliant and they may vary depending on your location. 

Now that we have those names on our mailing list or subscribers to our blogs, what do we need to do to keep them? What suggestions do you have for us keeping these friends engaged?

My best suggestion is to be realistic about how much time you’ll have to devote to email campaigns.  Unless you’re an author who cranks out a book every 3 months, coming up with content on a regular basis can be daunting.  Before you send that first newsletter, really think about what your content is going to be, where it’s going to come from and how often you’re going to send out a newsletter.  If you write cozy mysteries and feature a lot of food in your books then chances are good that your fans would be interested in recipes, food blog reviews, that awesome new sauce you just discovered, etc…  But if you struggle to identify what your target audience would be interested in, then a monthly newsletter is probably going to be overwhelming to create and not very effective.  And again, remember the rule of thirds that I mentioned above.  Don’t make your content just about your books.  Engage your fans by appealing to what their interests are and if you’re not sure, ask them!

Okay, what have I missed?  Is there anything you want to talk about that I missed?

You had such great questions I don’t think we’ve missed anything!  I would like to reiterate what I said earlier about making marketing a priority as opposed to an afterthought.  Start the process early and don’t be afraid to ask your publisher what they plan on doing to market your book.  If you don’t feel like you’re going to get what you need from your publisher, then consider hiring a professional.  There are lots of great companies out there.  Just take your time and make sure you find one that is a good fit for you and the types of books you publish.  You’re hiring them so ask lots of questions, let them know what’s important to you and make sure you understand what their expectations of you are.

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About IndiGo Marketing:

IndiGo was founded out of a passion for books and the authors who write them.  As the mom of a gay son, it’s so important to me that authors who write LGBTQI+ books have every opportunity to find their audience.  I’m so honored to be a part of that process and I know its cliché to say that what I do is a “labor of love” but it really is.   

Where to find IndiGo Marekting:

Check out the website here.

Find their Facebook Page here.

Find Lori’s Facebook Profile here.

Find them on Twitter here.

Find them on Instagram here.

Guest Blog by Author Sarah Elkins

This week I’m pleased to have Sarah Elkins here my Scribbles Page as she shares with us her journey in the writing world and gives us insight into her new novel The Facility. So without further ado, Sarah Elkins.

I have always daydreamed. A lot. As a kid I'd be going about my school day while at the same time, in my head, I was having adventures with characters from books or T.V. shows that I liked. I don't remember exactly when it was that I realized the shows and books I enjoyed had all started as stories inside someone else's head. When that thought occurred to me, however, my mind was blown. I could share the weird stuff I imagined with other people, if I could just figure out how to translate the pictures in my head into words.

In middle school I wanted to be a film writer. I wrote down one of the adventure stories I had going on in my skull as a script. It was over three hundred pages of pink jelly pen scrawlings detailing the exploits of characters loosely based on myself and friends. There was even a talking car and the main character was a were-dinosaur of sorts. I'd ask friends if they wanted a character in the story and what super powers they wanted. Anything went. It was a blast. I even made some storyboards for the script to better visualize what was happening in it. In high school I still wanted to be a writer and researched what it would take to work in film. It was before indy films were big so I researched the screen writer's guild for a project. I was absolutely heartbroken to learn how much it cost to be in it. I was from a lower middle class family. I wasn't sure how I'd get to go to college much less how I could afford to move to California and pay to be a writer.

I started to think of other ways I could tell stories and it dawned on me. I could just work on my own and write them. I could draw them as comics or write them as novels or do both. I hadn't taken an art class since middle school and had a bad experience already in high school regarding the art class there. The short version is the art students were in charge of selling valentine's candy. I knew no one would buy me one so I bought one myself so I wouldn't look like a loser when they delivered them. My candy didn't arrive. I insisted I knew I was supposed to get one because I bought it and had to go to the art room and show them where I signed up. Needless to say I felt miserable and didn't want to register for art class my last two years of high school even though I had free periods. I wound up just hanging out in the nearby park by myself. Is it any wonder I spent a lot of time in my head daydreaming growing up?

I decided to learn how to draw comics on my own and started posting a very poorly thought out fancomic on the outside of my locker in the school Band Hall. (It was the only place my school even had lockers.) I learned a lot from that little comic. When it came to writing prose I worked on a fantasy horror book at night using an old lap top my family had gotten at a pawn shop. I put each chapter in its own file. Part way through writing the book I asked my English teacher if I would get extra credit for writing a novel. She said yes and I was so excited I finished the book well before the end of the year. I wanted to turn it in early enough that she'd have time to read it. Only she didn't. I didn't get the extra credit and to my knowledge she didn't even look at the files.

I was heartbroken.

For years after that I thought I had no business writing prose. I focused on learning how to make comics. How to write them. How to draw them. I dated another artist I knew from online. Things didn't work out with the relationship but I learned a lot from them. Mainly, I learned that their opinions of the ideas I wanted to execute in my writing were contradictory to what they wanted to do. I'd mention a webcomic idea and they'd shoot it down insisting I do a pitch to a company. I knew I didn't have the experience to finish a comic for a company. I didn't even finish the pitch. I tried that several times. They didn't seem to like my ideas regarding prose either but I experimented with that anyway. Eventually I posted a few chapters of a story online and showed them to a friend who had just sold his first book to a publisher. That friend said I should stick with prose and not give up. I was super excited and filled with a bit more confidence. But I knew I had a lot more to learn.

Still I focused on comics. I worked as a professional flatter (comic coloring assistant) for eight years until my right arm hurt too much to hold a pen. I couldn't even feed myself with it. It was constant pain any time I tried to move it. I had to quit work. The remains of the relationship with the artist I had dated (who I had tried to remain friends) with evaporated. It was more than half a year or so before I was able to see an orthopedic surgeon who knew what was wrong with my arm and how to treat it. During that time I dusted off my little netbook computer and wrote on a story to deal with the pain and stress of suddenly having no future.

I wrote draft one of The Facility with my left hand.

I can't remember if I finished the rough draft before or after I started to recover use of my right hand. My memories are a bit fuzzy due to the pain and lack of sleep. I know at one point I didn't sleep for a week, then broke a toe and didn't realize it because the pain of my arm was so severe I just couldn't feel anything else. I don't think I was able to use my right hand until I was already hammering away on the second book, now titled The Hunt, which will hopefully be out later this year from Ninestar Press. Looking at the timestamps on the earliest drafts of The Facility I finished it while smack in the middle of my arm problems. I queried it to literary agents and publishers. Sending out queries was one of the jobs I gave myself so I had a purpose. When queries didn't come out well I worked to rewrite the book. After being diagnosed and learning how to deal with my ever ossifying elbow tendons I wrote a different book and serialized it on Patreon.

The Facility is a story in which I recycled some characters from those early pink jelly pen adventure scripts I wrote as a kid. I replaced the concept of the main character being a were-dinosaur with her being a were-Tesla. I tossed in ideas from the failed comics I had attempted over the years. I poured my stress and anxiety and pain into it to give myself a future in a time when I thought I had none.

It's a book I felt I needed to tell myself to distract myself from the pain and fear of the future so I'd survive and also a book I wanted to share with others. The Facility is rough. It's no perfect first book. The characters, particularly Neila the protagonist, are messy and anxious. The plot builds slow and then things happy quickly. In that way it echoes the damage done to my arm. There were signs something was wrong for years. Signs I ignored. Until everything came to a head and it felt as if I had been stabbed. My muscles were red and swollen. It hurt to make a fist. It hurt to sleep without it on a pillow. It hurt to sleep with it on a pillow. I didn't sleep much.

The things that got me excited to be a writer as a kid, the idea that I can share my constant daydreams with strangers, and the things that got me excited to be a writer as an adult, that I could help someone else escape whatever they were going through when they read my work, are very different. Both are ever present in my mind. Psychic Underground: The Facility was born of both those reasons for writing. I am proud I finished the book and prouder still that it's found a place in print and in the hearts of readers. They may be few but they are dear to my heart. Thank you if you've read the book, and thank you if you choose check it out. No matter what I go through, I will not stop writing because it means I can continue to create worlds and have adventures even when my body betrays me.

Sarah, thank you for sharing your personal journey with us. I’m so glad you persevered and continued writing, it’s an inspiration to everyone who has a dream. Never give up your dreams and they won’t give up on you. Well Scribblers, I hope you enjoyed this week’s author spotlight. Remember to like and share below, especially if you know people who may enjoy The Facility. Until next time have a great week.

About The Facility:

Being psychic is just another aspect of life for Neila Roddenberry. So are dreams of a past life as Nikola Tesla. She's sure the last part is the result of reading the wrong mind at the wrong time without realizing it. neither are things she talks about much. Her friends know she's psychic, but no one knows about the dreams. She's twenty-three, asexual, and unemployed with ambitions to become a freelance artist and writer.

On the way home from visiting friends, Neila gets caught up in a terrorist attack, then wakes up in an underground psychic testing facility. Raised by a doomsday-prepper father, Neila is unusually prepared for the possibility of being whisked away to a secret lab somewhere. When she is faced with the choice of working for the scientists studying psychics at the facility, she takes the job as both an agent and a test subject.

But not everyone in the facility wants to be there.


Where to Buy The Facility:

Get it on Amazon here.

Get your copy at NineStar Press here.

Get it on Barnes and Noble here.

About Sarah:

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Sarah Elkins is a freelance comic artist and writer who nearly had to give up art entirely due to a form of ossifying tennis elbow that forced her to be unable to use her dominate hand for nearly a year. She spent much of that time writing novels with her left hand as a means to deal with the pain and stress of possibly never drawing again. Thanks to a treatment regime she is able to draw again albeit not as easily or quickly as she once did.

Sarah enjoys reading science fiction, horror, fantasy, weird stories, comics of every sort, as well as any biographical material about Nikola Tesla she can get her hands on (that doesn't suggest he was from Venus." She has worked in the comics industry since 2008 as a faltter (colorist assistant,) penciler, inker, and colorist. She contributed a comic to the massive anthology project Womanthology. Currently she (slowly) produces a webcomic called Magic Remains while writing as much as her body will allow.


Where to find Sarah:

Find Sarah on Twitter here.

Check out her website here.

Find her on Facebook here.

Blog Take Over by Matt Doyle

Happy Wednesday Scribblers. This week we are shaking things up. I’ve invited fellow NineStar Press Author Matt Doyle to drop by and take over my blog for the week. Matt’s going to share about himself, his writing, and his amazing series The Cassie Tam Files. I’ve had the pleasure of starting the series and I can’t wait to see what Matt has to share with us.


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Hey everybody. Before we dive into my main post, I wanted to give you all a short introduction to myself and my work. Don’t worry though, I’ll keep it brief. So, my name is Matt Doyle. I was born to an Irish family in England, and that dual nationality status is something that I’ve always liked to embrace. I identify as pansexual and genderfluid, and believe me, it took a long time for me to find the right terms to fit my circumstances.

I’ve done a lot of different things over the years, including performing a duet with my brother at a charity concert and spending ten years working in pretty much every side of the pro wrestling business. I also run a pop culture website, and design T-shirts. Oh, and I created my video game at age fifteen, and intend to eventually get around to working on a new one when time allows.

I’m a published author. While I started out with a four-part self-published series, I also have three books with NineStar Press and (a fourth on the way), and have appeared in multiple anthologies ranging from Queer Sci-Fi’s annual flash fiction collections to Bad Dog Books’ furry series, ROAR.

I’m a lifelong sci-fi fan and so, while I tend to write stories that span multiple genres, there’s almost always a grounding in science fiction. I also tend to write LGBTQ+ characters in almost every story. Growing up, I was less interested in coming out stories, and really wanted to see stories about people like me who’d found their place in the world. So, my characters usually (but not always) are already comfortable in themselves and their orientation just happens to be part of them rather than a focal point of the tale.

So, that’s me in a nutshell. Today though, I want to talk a little about my current series, The Cassie Tam Files. It’s a lesfic mystery series with a sci-fi setting, and is published by the LGBTQ+ publishing house NineStar Press.

The Cassie Tam Files – An Introduction To The Themes And Characters

The World of Cassie Tam And New Hopeland City

The books are, in many ways, reminiscent of the old novels of the noir era, and have had comparisons to the works of Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett and Marele Day before now. At the same time though, that science fiction influence is still there. The story is set in the near future, and New Hopeland itself was built to be a very technology focused place. What this means is that, through the setting, you get to see some examples of potential places we could be heading with technology. Everything you see in that regard is a natural progression from where we’re at. From VR being used by businesses to tech enhanced theaters, and futuristic fursuits to theoretically plausible vampire gear, everything exists to a degree now. This just ramps it up.

So, expect hardboiled inner monologues and forays into a dingy criminal underworld, all playing alongside cyberpunk-ish science fiction elements and a slow-burn shy FF romance that spans the whole series.

Cassie Tam

Our protagonist is a PI working in the fictional city of New Hopeland, Utah. She’s a snarky, hardboiled detective that solves cases with a mixture of smarts and toughness, all the while sticking stubbornly to her rigid moral code. It’s that stubbornness that is, in some ways, both her best tool and biggest downfall in the job. Once she decides that a particular outcome is the correct one, she pursues it doggedly, no matter the consequences, which does seem effective, but also lands her in a lot of difficult situations.

Cassie is a lover of horror films. She doesn’t strictly have a preference for style; practical effects or CG, creeping dread or gore, it’s all much the same for her. Despite this love of the genre, they almost always give her nightmares though. This is something that confuses her as she’s encountered plenty of real-life life or death situations and can’t quite figure out why fiction hits her that hard. When not scaring herself silly, she’s a big coffee drinker. I’m not entirely certain that her blood isn’t ninety per cent caffeine at this point.

Despite her confidence in her abilities, and the tough persona she adopts when on a job, Cassie is not the most confident when it comes to social situations, especially romantically. She tends to keep most people at arm’s length until she knows them well, and is prone to bouts of embarrassment with prospective romantic partners. Her previous relationship ended despite neither her nor her then-partner Charlotte doing anything specific wrong, so when she starts to find herself attracted to her client in Addict, she isn’t entirely certain how far to push it. After all, if you can seemingly do everything right and still have things fall apart, that’s got to be a risk going forward too, right?

When it comes to technology, Cassie makes use of what she needs, but has a bit of a love-hate relationship with the various new things that get released. She has a particular issue with Tech Shifters as one of her first major collaborations with the police in New Hopeland was during a spate of brutal murders carried out by people in Tech Shift gear.

Lori Redwood

Cassie’s client in Addict is a Tech Shifter. This means that she uses a metal suit to roleplay as an animal in her free time, in this case a panther called Ink. The process involves an operation to insert rubber tipped plugs running from the Shifter’s head down to the base of their spine, so it’s not something that people enter lightly. It also means that Lori keeps her head shaved at all times so as to avoid hair getting tangled in the plugs.

For Lori, Tech Shifting is a form of non-sexual kitty-play that she uses to destress from the week, though there are many reasons people do it. She’s well respected in the local Tech Shift community and actually runs a regular meet for those looking to meet like-minded people. Lori works as a photographer for a local news company, and is often called upon to cover some difficult cases. For Lori, that causes some issues because she often feels like she’s not able to do enough to help people. This is something that spills over into other parts of her life too, as she has a tendency to blame herself for things that she can’t control.

In Addict, she hires Cassie to investigate her brother Eddie’s death. He was a virtual reality junkie, and the police put his death down to an accidental overdose on experience enhancing drugs. Lori doesn’t believe this because, to her knowledge, he never used drugs, and was working towards getting a career in a VR focused company. Though initially going through a whole host of emotions in response to her situation, she grows an attraction to Cassie.

Unlike Cassie, Lori is quite naturally flirty and approaches most social situations with a smile and the occasional joke. She particularly enjoys teasing Cassie when she gets flustered, but never acts in malice. She is willing though to point out when Cassie is doing something silly, like overanalyzing a situation that simply doesn’t require it, and so tends to try to keep Cassie on track rather than encourage some of her potentially negative traits. Lori tends to fall hard and fast in relationships, and is making a conscious effort not to push this too hard with Cassie as she fears scaring her off. 

Bert

Perhaps the most popular character in the series, Bert is an AI gargoyle that lives with Cassie. Familiar Units were built to act as replacements for flesh and blood pets in New Hopeland. Their durability meant that they wouldn’t get hurt when playing with heavy handed children, but would also be very good in security roles. Most units are built to take on one of these two roles exclusively, known as Family or Protector classes. Bert differs in this regard because he has a hybrid programming of the two.

The reason for this is due to Cassie’s job. She reasoned that Protector class programming would be useful for tough cases but that, as she lived and worked in a small apartment, she couldn’t have a miniature tank running about the place. The result of this hybrid programming is that Bert has a few character quirks. He’s certainly loyal to Cassie, and will rush in to save her if her life is in danger, often in a brutal manner. At the same time though, he enjoys playing and gets bored easily. This often results in him causing mild issues, such as deciding that the bag of sugar on the kitchen worktop may be an intruder that needs to be taken down. Cassie describes him as being akin to a particularly sarcastic house cat that happens to be loyal enough to protect its owner.

Bert can only say, “Caw.” Despite this, he is perfectly capable of showing a range of emotions, often including exasperation. 

Devin Carmichael

A regularly appearing and popular side character, Devin is a bit of an enigma in the city. He’s known to be an assassin for hire, but the police won’t touch him. The reason for this is that, when they can’t themselves deal with a criminal that’s committed an atrocious crime, Devin is often called in to clean up. As such, he has become strangely ingrained with the fabric of the city, working with not only law enforcement but the criminal underworld.

Like Cassie, Devin has his own rigid moral code. He understands his job and what it entails, but will not take every job that comes his way. He likes to understand not only his client and target, but the reasons for the hit, and won’t kill someone that he views as relatively innocent.

Though their roles should put them at odds, he and Cassie get along well, with Devin describing her as the closest he gets to a friend in his job. Though she’s never hired him to kill anyone, Cassie has worked with him in a number of different capacities, such as paying for information and for additional protection when Bert isn’t an appropriate option. He seems to know more than most about what’s going on in the city, at least most of the time. 

Where Are We Right Now?

The series is set to run to five books in total. Right now, the first three are already available. The details for these are as follows:

Addict – Cassie is hired to investigate the death of a local VR junkie. Though she expects it to be an open and shut case, she soon finds herself drawn into a potential murder investigation that threatens not only her life, but that of her client’s.

The Fox, The Dog, And The King –Cassie finds herself hired to find a missing dog. The case sees her not only hunting for the pooch, but also getting embroiled in a conspiracy that could shake the New Hopeland criminal underworld to its core.

LV48 – When walking home from a night out with Lori, Cassie is attacked, and wakes up at the police station. She expects help, but instead finds herself forced to act as bait to draw out an attacker with a fascination for blood. She wouldn’t mind so much if doing so didn’t mean facing down a tech-suited wannabe vampire.

An untitled fourth book has been signed by NineStar Press and is currently going through the editing process. This book collects two novellas into one. The first is told from Lori’s POV and sees her helping Cassie on a case relating to workplace harassment. The second is back with Cassie as she’s hired to deal with a stalker.

The fifth, final book will bring the previous four together and see Cassie delving into the deep secrets of new Hopeland City. I’m currently busy road mapping the book before I start writing. 

And Finally…

Well, that’s about it from me! So, here’s a big thank you to M.D. Neu for hosting me today, and another to everyone who reads my ramblings. Please do feel free to check the books out. You can find them on Goodreads, and all the purchase links are on my site.

There’s plenty more to come from me too. My current plan for what to do after I finish with Cassie is for something that I can only describe as James Bond meets Alien with a genderfluid protagonist. In the meantime, I cover a ton of different things on my site, ranging from diverse books and comics to video games and anime. I also have a webstore, so feel free to check that out too. Thanks again everyone, have a good one!


Thank you Matt for taking the reins today and sharing The Cassie Tam Files with us. I hope everyone rushes out to pick up their copy of book one and diving in on this amazing series. Now, don’t forget if you know someone who might enjoy these novels or anything else you’ve read on my Scribbles Page you can share this post by clicking the ‘share’ button below. Until next time have a great week.