Pro-Choice (Sex Positivity Blog Hop)

spbhbadgeSex is, quite literally, everywhere in our society. Turn on the television and you’re bombarded with images of shirtless men and near-naked women selling everything from beer to shoes to toilet paper. Go into a shopping center and the stores are plastered with the same kinds of images. Most music videos are minor sex shows. The internet? Well, as Avenue Q told us, the internet is for porn.

At the same time, though, a huge swath of people in this country give lip service to the idea that sex is dirtybadwrong. They clutch their pearls, and their Bibles, and they wag their fingers, and they exclaim, “Think of the children!

(Meanwhile, many of these same people are having affairs, or watching porn, or abusing children, or any of a number of other things that fly directly in the face of their public stances.)

Society in the United States has a completely unhealthy relationship with one of the most natural parts of being human. We love sex, but we’re ashamed of it. We fight our own needs and desires as if they’re demons and then wonder why we’re all stressed and unhappy. We tell kids “don’t have sex or else!” but refuse to teach them even the most basic information about how to stay safe when they inevitably give in to their raging hormones. We ignore the avalanche of statistics and studies and science that explain what’s wrong with how we view sex and how to fix it, because OMG dirtybadwrong.

And then, if you’re still a virgin when you hit college—or God forbid, still a virgin when you graduate—you’re a weirdo, or you’re gay (because OMG the horror of that!), or there’s just something fundamentally wrong with you.

We are one messed-up bunch.

But I don’t think any of you need me to tell you that.

I grew up in a staunchly conservative Christian household. My parents were, and still are, very traditional in many ways. My mother’s parents were even more conservative than mine are, and my dad’s father was such a staunchly conservative Catholic that he disowned my father for marrying a Protestant. (His mother was less so, but she wouldn’t go against my grandfather.) Unsurprisingly, my mother was a virgin when she got married. My dad wasn’t (he was a Marine, after all), but both of them have been completely faithful since they started dating. Fifty years later, they are still happy, still in love, still attracted to each other, and, yes, still having sex.

(No, the idea of my parents still having sex doesn’t gross me out, though naturally I do not want details.)

Unlike many of their peers, my parents have always had a very healthy attitude toward sex. Despite the way they were raised, despite the things people around them said they should and shouldn’t do, they gave me and my sister clear and comprehensive information about sex. Abstinence was the first line, of course. Don’t have sex, and you don’t have to worry about the possible consequences. But unlike the ineffective programs that stop there, they also gave us good information about how to have safe and healthy sex.

When I was 10, my mom gave me a set of books that explained everything about sex, from basic biology all the way through some fairly detailed mechanics. It even included masturbation as an option. This was before the AIDS era, but other kinds of sexually transmitted infections were covered. All of it was handled in a straightforward, not fear-mongering manner.

At age 10, I was already headed into the early stages of puberty. I understood those feelings I was getting sometimes, and by the time I was 11, I was figuring out that masturbation could be pretty fun. I knew what it meant, too, but despite what some people would probably think, that wasn’t because I’d had comprehensive sex ed but because of the world I lived in. The books Mom gave me didn’t introduce concepts I wouldn’t have heard about otherwise; they helped me make sense of things I already knew about. The books taught me the facts, not the often-ridiculous stories kids share on the playground.

The books also kept me from having sex.

At first glance, that last sentence might sound like a bad thing. But for me, it wasn’t. I was absolutely, positively, not ready to have sex when I was a teenager. I might have been able to handle it in college, but even then, sex would have messed me up pretty badly. Or, I should say, the inevitable breakup of the relationship during which I might have had sex would have been infinitely harder on me had sex been involved.

Part of it was the atmosphere I grew up in. My parents were pretty awesome, yeah, but we still lived in the rural Deep South. We were surrounded by people whose attitude toward sex made me wonder if they’d ever had sex—or decent sex, at least. And any woman who had sex outside of marriage was clearly a harlot who deserved to be shunned by polite society.

Men got a pass, of course. They were men, after all, and men have needs.

(Sorry. Had to pause to roll my eyes there for a minute.)

For a number of reasons, some healthy and some not so much, I didn’t have sex until I was in my early 30s. By then, I knew myself better. I’d survived my twenties and gotten my career on solid ground. I’d learned a lot about myself and my body on my own. And, probably most important of all, I’d come to terms with the fact that I would never have a perfect body, and that if a man didn’t like me the way I am, then he wasn’t worth my time.

For me, what it took to develop a healthy relationship with sex was to… not have it. But because of our messed-up societal view of sex, my choice made me an anomaly. A weirdo. I couldn’t possibly have just decided I didn’t want to have sex. Something must have been wrong with me.


So, yeah, one little look around at society will show you that, when it comes to sex, we’re all losers. No matter how or when you choose to have sex, or not have sex, someone (usually a lot of very loud someones) will take you to task for it. Yes, sex can carry some risks, but so can pretty much any part of life. We don’t stop eating because we might choke.

So what’s the answer?

The answer is up to you. How and when you choose have sex is about you. (And your partner[s], of course.) Sex isn’t dirtybadwrong or any of the other crap people might try to throw at you. Sex is fun. It’s a beautiful way to celebrate your body and your attraction to another person. (Or persons! It’s all good!)

Sex is your decision. Whatever you choose to do, or not do, don’t let the haters and hypocrites get you down.

They’re probably just jealous anyway. ;)

Layla M. Weir, Winter Wooing, and Ransom

Today my guest is Layla M. Weir, here to talk about her new novel release, Held for Random. Take it away, Layla!

Hi Shae! Thanks so much for having me!

My new novel Held For Ransom came out on Friday, and today I’m having an all-day release party at my Facebook and blog:

If you’re reading this, feel free to stop by, chat, enter contests, and watch me liveblog my failure to write! \o/

Okay, so: about the novel! Held For Ransom is a spinoff, of sorts, to my short story “Waiting For the Light” in last year’s Snow on the Roof anthology, although the two share little other than their setting. When I wrote “Waiting For the Light”, I had to put it somewhere, so I decided to set it in central Illinois, where I lived for four years in the early 2000s while my husband went to grad school. Held For Ransom takes place in the same area (fictional Heatherfield County, Illinois) while featuring a different cast of characters. (Certain characters from “Waiting For the Light” just might cameo, though — keep your eyes open!)

I have a longtime fondness for books, movies and TV shows about small towns populated with lovable eccentrics. I also love big ensemble casts. Now that I’ve got the cast assembled, I’m pretty sure this won’t be the last time I write about Heatherfield County.

In Held For Ransom, the little town of Osmar is gearing up for their annual winter carnival when a mysterious, motorcycle-riding drifter rides into town and sweeps the carnival’s organizer, DJ Lanning, off his feet. Ransom just might have the key to saving the carnival from financial disaster, but his pretty face is hiding more than a few dark secrets. What is the tragedy in Ransom’s past that haunts him even today? While he’s busy saving the carnival, will Osmar — and DJ — end up saving him?

In today’s excerpt, DJ and Ransom flirt while Ransom finds himself being sneakily wooed … into volunteering for the Osmar winter carnival:

“So, tell me about the winter carnival,” Ransom said.

DJ looked like his train of thought had just derailed again. For an instant he looked crestfallen, then rallied. “Ah, yeah, it’s kind of a disaster. Did you actually put up the flyers?”

“I did. All over Aldona.” Ransom smiled. “What did you think I’d do, throw them in a trash can as soon as I was out of sight?”

“Well, I wasn’t sure,” DJ said defensively. “It’s hard enough finding people in town who are willing to do anything to help. Oh, everyone wants to, but they evaporate as soon as there’s actual work to be done. Mom had a knack for getting them all pointed in the right direction.” A shadow crossed his face. “Mom used to run the carnival. It was her baby.”

“Now that she’s gone, they’ve got you doing it,” Ransom said. It was a familiar story, the light-side version of his own, he supposed.

“Yes,” DJ said, a world of exhaustion in that tone.

Ransom grinned at him and hoped it looked sympathetic. It was relaxing, somehow—DJ’s world of small problems, and the way he was so bound up in them, as if they were the most important things in the world. And Ransom could help, after all. That made him warm—giddy, almost. And he made a decision. Tonight he wanted to lose himself in DJ’s light-side world. Just for a little while. He didn’t want to think about the road, or the coming snow. He didn’t want to think about the world outside at all. “Hey,” he said, and reached out to touch DJ’s lips lightly with his forefinger. He hoped he hadn’t read the signs wrong. If so, he was about to get thrown out on his ass, and he’d probably deserve it. “It’s okay.”

DJ shut up and looked baffled.

“It’s okay,” Ransom said again. “You want to know why I came back?”

“Yes,” DJ said. He still looked confused. To speak, he had to part his lips, sending a small electric charge through Ransom’s fingertip as they brushed it.

“Because you were so involved with it,” Ransom said quietly. “I wanted to help. I still do. I don’t know a small-town carnival from a hole in the wall, but it really moved me that you were so obviously invested in making it work. I want to help, I really do.”

“Well,” DJ said, and took a deep breath. “We need volunteers for the booth construction, the bake sale, if we can manage to get it pulled together in time—well, basically everything at this point. Do you know anything about advertising? Because Mom always handled that end of things—”

Ransom hushed him with the fingertip again. “Okay, I get it,” he said, laughing. “There’s a lot to do. To each according to his needs, right?”

“Did you just quote Marx?”

“I have depths,” Ransom said, grinning.

HeldforRansom200x300Two weeks before Christmas, the small town of Osmar is gearing up for its annual winter carnival, but the death of the event’s long-time organizer might mean the end of the festivities. Everyone is turning to her son DJ to save the carnival, but DJ can barely save himself. He’s spinning his wheels in Osmar—working part time at the gas station, living in his parents’ house, and trying to figure out what to do with his life. DJ is caught in a large, loving web of well-meaning family and friends, but they can’t fix his life for him. 

Into this mess comes Ransom, a handsome mystery man on a motorcycle. Ransom is traveling around the country, making up for his past sins by doing “good deeds.” He and DJ have a one-night stand that neither can forget, but that’s just the start, because Ransom has a plan to save the carnival, and DJ has a plan to save Ransom… and possibly himself.

Buy Links:

Dreamspinner Press:


About Layla:

Layla M. Wier is a writer and artist who grew up in rural Alaska and now lives on the highway north of Fairbanks, where winters dip to 50 below zero and summers yield 24 hours of daylight. She and her husband, between the two of them, possess a useful array of survival skills for the zombie apocalypse, including gardening, blacksmithing, collecting wild plant foods, and spinning wool into yarn (which led to her first Dreamspinner Press novella, “Homespun”). When not writing, she likes reading, hiking, and spending way too much time on the Internet.

Where to find Layla:


Link to all stops on the Held for Ransom blog tour (Nov. 12-Dec. 1)

Planning Ahead: My 2015 Writing Schedule

2015_StuartMilesPutting together a writing schedule is a brand-new thing for me. I had a sort of de facto schedule for the second half of 2014, just because I had several deadlines that forced me to write stories in a specific order. I’m going to try to carry that on into 2015 and see if a schedule will help keep me on track.

Here’s my tentative writing schedule for 2015. Keep in mind this doesn’t include publisher edits, release dates, or event attendance—it’s just getting stories written, beta read, and ready for submission.

January–March: Nobody’s Son (Sons, Book 3)

March–June: Help Wanted (M/F contemporary)

June: Cabin Fever (anthology novella)

July: Snow Come Down (Christmas novella)

August–December: Under the Lights trilogy (NA, M/M, football)

I have firm deadlines for Nobody’s Son and the Cabin Fever novella. Everything else is super flexible at this point, except that I do want to have a novel ready to pitch at RWA next July. Right now, that’s slated to be the M/F title, but that could change. I’ll likely have at least one more short to fit in there too!

All this PLANNING stuff brings up an excellent question. We hear the plotter vs. pantser discussion about the writing process all the time, but what about when it comes to your writing schedule? Do you plan things out, or do you just write whatever comes to you next?

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /

This Little Pig Jig

bigpigjigOn Saturday, I went to a south Georgia festival known as the Big Pig Jig. I’d seen signs for it along the interstate for years—it’s in Vienna (pronounced Vie-anna, this being the Deep South), which is about an hour from where my parents live. But I’d never stopped in to check it out.

The big reason I made time to stop this year is that I have a story in the pipeline that’s about competition barbecue cooking teams, and I wanted to get a closer look at how those work for research purposes. This event is the state pork cook-off of Georgia (yes, such a designation exists), but as it turns out, my timing was way off. When I got there, the judging portion was underway, so I missed the cooking parts, and I didn’t even get to sample the results.

This year's festival theme was "Gone With the Swine." Porky's speech bubble reads, "Frankly, my dear, I don't give ham!"

This year’s festival theme was “Gone With the Swine.” Porky’s speech bubble reads, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a ham!”

(Well, I could have, but I would’ve had to hang around for another two hours for that, and the “festival” part of the event was a great disappointment and certainly not worth that amount of time.)

What I ended up doing, since I was there, was some “local flavor” research instead. I took some pictures, as this post will attest, and I grabbed a copy of the event brochure for some more background information. I’m also going to look up the cooking teams whose signs I photographed and see if they’ll answer some specific questions. The competition part is the backdrop of the story, of course, since it’s a romance between members of rival teams, so the information will need to be right but not necessarily extremely detailed.


On the other hand, the winner at the Big Pig Jig gets to compete at Memphis in May, which is home to the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest. Maybe I should make plans to go in 2015 and finish up my research there. Mmmm, delicious, delicious research… ;)


Temporarily Flying Solo

Yesterday morning, I took my sister to the airport for her fifth annual trip to Cambodia. She goes each year with a mission group from her church to visit an orphanage there. (It’s not a proseltizing-type trip; the orphanage is attached to a church already.) They spend a lot of time with the kids, and near the end of the trip, they’ll go to Angkor Wat and some other touristy areas.

What this all means for me (because of course it’s all about ME) is that I have nine long, glorious days without a roommate.

*dances naked*

(Okay, not really.)

For much of my adult life, I’ve lived alone. I moved into my first apartment in 1991, and for most of the next 17 years, I didn’t have a roommate. Then my sister moved to Atlanta to go to graduate school, and she moved in with me to save money. We’ve been roomies ever since.

In the spring, we’ll be splitting up, in one form or another. Sister has a very serious boyfriend, and they’ll likely be getting married some time next year, so we’d been talking about getting separate places when our lease is up in March. I was just starting to think about the possibility of living alone again, and then my good friend J.P. Barnaby said she wanted to move to Atlanta and wondered if I might want to room together.

As it turns out, yes, I did. Sure, I lived alone for a long time and I liked that, but over the past 7 years, I’ve gotten used to having someone around. I’m mostly a homebody, but I like being social too, so having a roommate is the best of both worlds.

(Plus, J.P. says she’ll be in charge of emptying the dishwasher. I hate emptying the dishwasher.)

So over the next few months, I’ll be scoping out possible new places to live, my sister and I will be figuring up how to divide up our things (the fannish collections are going to be tough, man), and the new roomie and I will be deciding what we need to keep, toss, or buy. Spring cleaning will take on a whole new meaning when it consists of clearing out old spaces and settling into new ones.

But for the next week, I’ll enjoy having the place to myself. Maybe I’ll dance naked after all. Or maybe I’ll just drink milk straight from the carton and eat the last of the ice cream.

My life is just full of excitement, isn’t it?

Andrea Speed Interviews Holden Krouse

Today’s guest is Andrea Speed, whose Infected series is being re-launched under the banner of DSP Publications, Dreamspinner Press’s new imprint for genre fiction. You can find links to all the Infected books and the other DSPP books released so far on the website.

With the relaunch of the Infected series, I decided to interview some of the characters. But this time, I’d let the internet spit out random questions for my characters to answer. Today’s vict- I mean interviewee is Holden Krause.

1. If you were a crayon, what color would you be?

Holden: Glitter. I’d be the first and only glitter crayon in existence.

2. What do you like to cook?

Holden: Nothing. I prefer other people do the cooking.

3. What class in school has proven to be the least useful?

Holden: All of them.

4. What question should you never ask a man?

Holden: That’s the best you’ve got, huh?

5. What is your favorite season?

Holden: Fall, probably. I’m not really sure why, as it was a real bitch when I was homeless. But then again, all seasons are a bitch when you’re homeless.

6. What three adjectives best describe you?

Holden: Sexy, mysterious, ruthless.

7. What would be your personal hell?

Holden: Living with my parents.

8. What cartoon character do you identify with?

Holden: Brock Samson

9. Do you have any hidden talents?

Holden: A few. But if I show them to you, it might be the last thing you ever see. So let’s just leave it there, shall we?

10. How would your friends describe you to someone you have not met?

Holden: I’m a fixer. If you have a problem, odds are I can help you find a solution. For the right price, of course. I can be altruistic to my friends, but you’d better be a good friend. I’m open to bartering.

11. If you were to write a novel what would it be about?

Holden: Street kids. Throwaways, people who fall through the cracks, people you ignore every day of your goddamn life. Not that I’m singling out anyone in particular.

12. How do you think the world will end?

Holden: However it ends, stupid old straight white men will be behind it. They always are.

13. Who is there in your life that you would take a bullet for?

Holden: Oh fuck. Roan, I suppose. I’ve come close.

14. Is there anything that you absolutely refuse to do under any circumstances?

Holden: Water sports and scat play. We all have our things, but those are so not mine. I know some people who will go along with it if the price is right. Let me know if you need numbers.

15. If you could have one superpower what would it be?

Holden: Reality warping. Go big or go home.

16. If you were in a band, what part would you play?

Holden: I’d be the dynamic front man, of course, with an insatiable appetite for drugs and groupies. I would hope I’d die of excess before I got fat and old and ended up on some goddamn reality show.

17. What do you believe will last forever?

Holden: Styrofoam and stupidity.

18. On a scale of 1-10 how honest are you?

Holden: Zero. Oh, maybe minus ten. Can we get into imaginary numbers? I think that’s best. I’d never trust a single thing I say. Hell, I might be lying right now.

19. If you had a 60 second Super Bowl ad, what would you want to show a billion people?

Holden: Hardcore man on man porn. It could only do the world some good.

20. I’m really good at …

Holden: Evening the score

InfectedPreyFSInfected: Book One

In a world where a werecat virus has changed society, Roan McKichan, a born infected and ex-cop, works as a private detective trying to solve crimes involving other infecteds.

The murder of a former cop draws Roan into an odd case where an unidentifiable species of cat appears to be showing an unusual level of intelligence. He juggles that with trying to find a missing teenage boy, who, unbeknownst to his parents, was “cat” obsessed. And when someone is brutally murdering infecteds, Eli Winters, leader of the Church of the Divine Transformation, hires Roan to find the killer before he closes in on Eli.

Working the crimes will lead Roan through a maze of hate, personal grudges, and mortal danger. With help from his tiger-strain infected partner, Paris Lehane, he does his best to survive in a world that hates and fears their kind… and occasionally worships them.

Buy link



NaNo? Nope

redpenimageFor the past four years, I’ve been an eager participant in National Novel Writing Month. My first time out, in 2009, I was a “winner” with 53,000 words on a fanfic writing project. In 2010, I wrote 63,000 words that ended up as my first novel, Sand & Water.

The past two years, I haven’t gotten very far at all. I’ve tried two different projects and made little progress on either one (though one of them ended up as Unfortunate Son, which releases in January 2015). I don’t think my failure to finish the last two years means I’m done with NaNo by any means, but this year, I decided to step off the treadmill, for several reasons.

Reason one is simple: I have a short story due at the end of November, so even if I did sign up, I’d have to go in as a “rebel” and work on something else along with that to get to the 50k marker. I also have releases coming up in December and January, so I’ll be working on getting things together for blog posts and such. Finding time to write 50,000 words just isn’t going to be on the table this time.

That’s not to say that I won’t be working on other writing projects. Book three of the Sons series is due at the end of March, so I’ll be getting started on that soon. I’ve also had a back-burner (excuse the pun) story centered around barbecue cooking competitions, so I’m going to go to a competition in November to do research (and eat some yummy, yummy barbecue, of course). Plus, I have an M/F novel idea I’d like to take a shot at, possibly to have ready to pitch at RWA in July.

(And then there’s the whole YA thing to consider. Nessa won’t stop poking me!)

So yeah, I have plenty to work on in November, and beyond. It’s just not going on the wall on the NaNo site. Maybe in 2015, my schedule will line up right again, and I can jump back in. But either way, I hope everyone who is doing NaNo next month has a great time with it. It’s hard work, but even when I haven’t been a winner, I’ve always had fun with it. :)

GayRomLit in (very very) Brief

I am not going to attempt to list everyone who was awesome at GRL because I would leave people out FOR SURE. But here are a few highlights:

1. First and foremost, getting to listen to Shira Anthony sing. She did several classic showtunes and torch songs plus a couple of opera arias, and she basically blew the walls off the place. WOW.

With Michael Kudo

2. The always fabulous J.P. Barnaby picking me up at the airport on Wednesday and delivering me back there on Sunday.

3. Michael Kudo and William Cooper being absolute sweethearts every moment of every day.

4. Cuddling by the fire with Posy Roberts (and everyone else who was trying to stay warm!).

With Posy Roberts and Bru Baker

With Andrew Q. Gordon

5. Andrew Gordon recruiting me to be his “arm candy” and good luck charm during the Casino Night party, and then dragging me onto the dance floor at the costume party.

6. Getting to have dinner and drinks with local friends N, J, and R.

7. Seeing all the awesome folks from Dreamspinner and Wilde City (and the other great publishers in attendance!).

8. Buying two of my all-time favorite books in print and getting them signed by the authors.

9. The fabulous T.C. Blue bringing me water and Coke from her offsite run so I wouldn’t have to pay hotel prices.

10. The Firefly crew at the costume party!

With Cherie Noel (Zoe), Jambrea Gaff (Kaylee), and Ally Blue (Inara)

With super!reader and friend Sue N.

11. And, of course, handing out the HUG ME! buttons, which turned out to be the best idea ever, if only for the dozens and dozens of hugs they garnered me. :D

(Thanks to my fellow con-goers for the pics: selfies with Andrew and Sue, I think Lisa Horan took the one with Michael, and the fabulous official event photographer Madison Parker for the costume party group shots!)

Recommended: Special Delivery and Strawberries for Dessert


Another in my occasional series of recommendations for books/series. Disclaimer: Just because I don’t mention a certain book/series/author doesn’t mean anything bad! These will simply be ones that really stand out, usually ones that get regular re-reads.

I started reading in the gay romance genre about four and a half years ago, after I became aware that it even existed through fanfic friends. I waded in slowly, picking my reads with care, but it wasn’t long before I found the first one that stuck with me. That book was Special Delivery by Heidi Cullinan. (This was the first edition, of course.)

SpecialDelivery300Special Delivery had so many elements that stood out. The older man/younger man pairing. The road trip. The dirty, dirty sex. Vegas. And, of course, Randy Jansen. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read that book, and it hits me in the gut every time. I fell in love with Sam, and Mitch, and yeah, Randy too, and I’ve never quite gotten over it. They say you never forget your first? Well, Special Delivery wasn’t the first book I read in the genre, but it was the first one I never forgot.

(The sequels are great, too. Double Blind, Randy’s love story, had a bit too much poker-ese for me, but I loved it anyway. Especially that limo scene. Tough Love almost, but not quite, landed as high on my list as SD. Oh, and don’t miss the freebies, too! Links to all on Heidi’s website.)

StrawberriesforDessertLGA little farther into my time in the genre, I came upon Marie Sexton’s Strawberries for Dessert. I can’t remember what made me pick the book up. I had read the first book in the series, Promises, but I didn’t realize that until after I read SfD. (How I missed that, I don’t know. I suppose it was just that I was cramming so many books into my brain at once that some aspects didn’t stick.)

SfD was probably the first book in the genre that actually made me cry. You may not know what a huge thing that is, but I am not a crier. At all. Even tearing up is rare. And when I am that affected by a scene, it will nearly always be a happy or bittersweet moment, rarely something truly sad. What got me in SfD? The moment at the end of the book when Cole finally lets Jonathan all the way in. I’d fallen in love with Cole right along with Jonathan, and seeing him laid bare just broke me open. Still does whenever I re-read.

(Again, this is part of a great series, the Coda series. I like Promises next-best, I think, though the direct sequel, Fear and Bread Pudding, is pretty close. Marie has a series reading order on her website, and I’d recommend following that, although as I showed with SfD, some of them do work as standalones. Oh! And there’s another Coda story, Shotgun, coming in 2015! Squeee!)

Last weekend at GayRomLit, I discovered that both SD and SfD were available for purchase in paperback from the publishers. I snatched them up and got Heidi and Marie—who are both fabulous women I adore—to sign them for me. It doesn’t matter that I own both in ebook format. I wanted those hard copies on my bookshelf, so that every time I glance over, the memories make me smile.

Image courtesy of Anusorn P. Nachol /

Brynn Stein on Real Life in Fiction

My guest today is Brynn Stein, here to talk about her new book Through the Years and how real-life events seem to find their way into our stories.

Thanks Shae, for hosting me today.

I’ve noticed over the years (for fan fiction) and year (for original fiction) that real life likes to creep in.

In Haunted, the fact that Jason kept his journals stuffed in a locked drew in a desk came from real life where my mother had a bazillion journals stuffed in her desk. She insisted that we get them before getting rid of the desk. It was years and years of random thoughts. Not so much a diary as just everyday things. She had grocery lists and reminders of PTA meetings. All sorts of stuff. Jason’s were much more organized and of more import to the story. But the idea came from there.

In Living Again, the trip to the zoo drew from my own trip with my daughters to the zoo. They wore me out running ahead, hollering, “Mommy, look” and then running back to get me and drag me to the next exhibit.

In Through the Years, there are quite a few things taken from real life. I already mentioned, on other blog tour stops, that the prologue came from a real life scene at the hospital, and Luka is based on two different students of mine. But little things like reading Winnie the Pooh to the girls before bed, or living with (or around) alcoholics, crept into the story.

There are some books coming up that have touches of real life in them. In Ray of Sunlight, CJ’s road trip mirrors that of my daughter’s and mine coming back from the beach. We kept seeing signs that could be taken dirty, or made into innuendo and we laughed all the way home. CJ has an even dirtier mind than either my daughter or me, so it’s a funny scene.

In For Mac, Liam and Branson go to see “Rise of the Guardians” because Liam loves all things Chris Pine. In the story, there are three teens sitting in front of them and the five of them collectively are the only people in the theater. My youngest daughter and two of her friends were literally the only people in the theater when they went to see that movie. In the story, the teenagers’ giggles make Branson uncomfortable. When my daughter read that part, she said, “Oh, sorry Branson. This scene is my fault.”

Liam and Branson are also big Isaac Asimov fans, and avid trekkers, as am I in real life. In fact, several of my characters in various stories are Star Trek fans. In a story I’m writing now, Cody is trying to teach Adam “Texas Hold Em” and Adam says it would be easier to learn to play Fisbin. (Go to YouTube and watch the clip from the original Star Trek series where Kirk is making up a card game to provide a distraction. It’s hilarious).

What about you, writers? Do your interests or odd things that have happened to you or your family or friends, make it into your stories? Readers, have you ever read something minor in a story and wondered if it had really happened to the author or someone the author knew?

Comment below to be entered into the raffle.

Here’s how the raffle works:

I’ve listed the tour stops on my website. Feel free to stop by as many as you want. For each stop that you comment on, you will receive one entry to the giveaway. I’ll check all the stops numerous times throughout the tour and will draw five winners on Thanksgiving Day, so even if you come in late to the tour, you can go back through the list and comment on past stops.

I’m giving away five prizes. Prize 1) a signed paperback copy of Through the Years; Prizes 2 and 3) electronic copies of Through the Years, Prize 4) your choice of either a signed paperback copy or an audiobook of Living Again (the audiobook won’t be available until December), and Prize 5) an electronic copy of Haunted.

ThroughTheYearsLGEdward and Gene were instantly drawn to each other when they met at college in Maryland. Fast friends, they developed a “closer than brothers” relationship. But then Edward began to feel more for Gene. In 1967, those kind of feelings would not be tolerated. Not even by Edward himself.

Gene always thought he was asexual. He had never been attracted to anyone… until he met Edward. He dreamed of Edward as more than a friend throughout college, but he knew Edward would not welcome that kind of attention. So Gene wasn’t surprised when Edward reacted badly to a drunken kiss just before Edward’s graduation. He was surprised when Edward moved to Florida and had little to do with him for years afterward.

When fate finally brings them back together, Edward is married and has a little girl. Gene gladly accepts the role of “Uncle Gene,” happy to have Edward in his life in any capacity. Together, they face all the trials and tribulations life throws at them, including the death of Edward’s wife, and as each grows and matures, their life views change. The relationship they’ve secretly wanted all along is closer than ever, and if Edward can break free from his homophobic upbringing and admit his feelings for Gene, there might still be a chance for them to share their lives in the way they both desire.

A Bittersweet Dreams title: It’s an unfortunate truth: love doesn’t always conquer all. Regardless of its strength, sometimes fate intervenes, tragedy strikes, or forces conspire against it. These stories of romance do not offer a traditional happy ending, but the strong and enduring love will still touch your heart and maybe move you to tears.

Buy from Dreamspinner Press

brynnsteinlogoBrynn Stein has always loved to write. Fan fiction, original fiction, whatever. While Brynn wrote in numerous genres – everything from mystery, to contemporary, to supernatural – she had always tended toward strong male characters. And then she discovered ‘slash’, male/male romance, and all those strong male characters were finally allowed to express their love for one another. It seems that there are always at least two characters clamoring to tell Brynn their story.

Brynn lives in Virginia with one of her two two-legged children, and two four-legged ones. Her supportive family encourages her writing and provides a sounding board for fledgling stories. When she isn’t writing, Brynn teaches children with special needs. In free time, when such a thing exists, she reads anything she can get her hands on, and haunts bookstores. She draws and paints, and enjoys the outdoors—especially if she can get to the beach—and is always thinking about her next story.

Please feel free to contact Brynn at any of the following: