New Release: Life After Humanity Out Now!

And it feels good.

I’m really fond of the Thorns and Fangs cast. Whenever I come back to writing this universe, it feels like catching up with old friends (and old not-so-friends). And I’m really pleased with the progress Nate and Ben make in this chapter of their story. While admittedly they take some steps backwards, they both end up coming to some really important understandings throughout this story, and one of them at least ends the story in a much better place.

I’m not alone in this opinion. Life After Humanity already has some great reviews on Goodreads. This one just arrived today:

From Mari Cardenas of Bayou Book Junkie:

This is a very plot-oriented book and there are several things going on in it, one thing is for sure, it will keep you on the edge of your seat with all the twists and turns. It’s brilliantly written and entertaining, action-packed and angsty, with great main and secondary characters. Each installment has been better than the previous one and I just can’t wait for the next book to see how it all will end! Highly recommendable!

Mari also adds (and I would agree with this): Life After Humanity is book 3 in the Thorns and Fangs series and it needs to be read in order or you’ll be thoroughly lost. Also, this book ends in sort of a cliffhanger, so if you don’t like those, just wait until the last book of the series is released in February, thankfully, it won’t be that long of a wait this time around.

LifeAfterHumanity-f500

Ben is a recovering vampire determined to pick up the pieces of the life that came to a halt when he was murdered over a year ago—even if that means distancing himself from his few remaining friends. Nate, struggling to navigate his new identity as a Class 3 Unknown paranormal, knows it will take more than mastery of his affinity with plants to convince Ben they belong together.

When Ben’s application for human status is denied, he must fight to leave the paranormal world behind him while Nate’s generous impulses drag him into conflict with a werewolf pack with designs on ruling New Camden. As Ben’s vampire family draws closer to finding him, his vampire instinct awakens—throwing his continued existence into jeopardy. The hunt for the missing werewolf continues, and Nate and Ben become pawns in Councilor Wisner’s plans to take control of the city. Their only hope is each other—if they can see that before all is lost.

Purchase Links:

Ninestar Press | Amazon | Smashwords | Kobo

Life After Humanity: Exclusive Excerpt

LifeAfterHumanity-Slider

I’m feeling really good about this! The entire Thorns and Fangs series has been me challenging myself. Life After Humanity is no different. I’ve taken chances and written the story I wanted to write. I have second-guessed myself, worried myself, worried my editor… but now that release day is approaching I’m feeling really good about it.

On the theme of taking a chance, I’m sharing an exclusive excerpt today. It’s not user-friendly in that it probably won’t make a lot of sense if you haven’t read Thorns and Fangs (and contains major spoilers for the story), and won’t appeal to everyone–but it is a scene that has appeared in every single incarnation of this story (and there have been a few). It’s also one of my favourites. While saying you’ll either love it or hate feels like too big a claim, this one I think will leave you either really excited for Life After Humanity or faintly confused.

If the former, preorder Life After Humanity from the NineStar website now to get it on January 12th.

LifeAfterHumanity-f500

Ben is a recovering vampire determined to pick up the pieces of the life that came to a halt when he was murdered over a year ago—even if that means distancing himself from his few remaining friends. Nate, struggling to navigate his new identity as a Class 3 Unknown paranormal, knows it will take more than mastery of his affinity with plants to convince Ben they belong together.

When Ben’s application for human status is denied, he must fight to leave the paranormal world behind him while Nate’s generous impulses drag him into conflict with a werewolf pack with designs on ruling New Camden. As Ben’s vampire family draws closer to finding him, his vampire instinct awakens—throwing his continued existence into jeopardy. The hunt for the missing werewolf continues, and Nate and Ben become pawns in Councilor Wisner’s plans to take control of the city. Their only hope is each other—if they can see that before all is lost.

Read on for the exclusive excerpt!

(more…)

Going Backwards to Go Forwards: 2018 Goals and Life After Humanity

LifeAfterHumanity-SliderI’ve been in a really weird headspace for about the last month. It started with the lead up to Christmas, and continued, with a few brief breaks, over New Year’s. I seemed to shake it off for a little while, but it would sneak back, insidious and subtle, and before I knew it, I’d spent another day unable to do anything.

I’m still not exactly sure what the cause of it was, but I suspect I let myself get overworked and overwhelmed in December, and by fussing when I should have surrendered, inadvertently prolonged the mood. Yesterday, I had an afternoon of forced doing nothing. I showed up too early for an appointment, and had nothing to do but sit and read. It was glorious. Today, despite having had a busy morning and a full on afternoon babysitting, I feel full of light and energy, and I’m finally ready to face my last years goals.

I’ve been putting it off and putting it off because I have a really hard time admitting failure. And I knew that I’d fallen short of my goals. Luckily, I’d forgotten what those goals were so when I was stewing in my bad mood, I wasn’t beating myself up as much as I might have otherwise.

2017 Goals.
▪ 8 books published.
▪ 1 year entirely supported by writing.
▪ Investing in my work (marketing/learning)

How did I do? Well…

  • 3 books published —Uprooted, Wing Commander’s Curse and The Charity Shop Rejects Live in Concert.

So not great! However, I remembered this goal as ‘8 books written’ and I did slightly better on that front—Life After Humanity, Dead Wrong, Wing Commander’s Curse, The Charity Shop Rejects, Gentlemen Don’t Murder, and Morgen Prince. I also revised Banging the Supernatural, which I think gives me a total of seven books written—and if you count freelance projects I ghost wrote for clients, I can add four more.

I realised in November/December how difficult I was finding balancing my freelance work with my own writing and family commitments. I made the decision that once I’d completed my current freelance projects, I wouldn’t be looking for more. In fact, I’ve launched a serious job hunt. I think having a regular schedule and taking some of the financial pressure off, will mean I stress less and have more mental energy to give to writing. Unfortunately, job hunt is practically synonymous with stress and uncertainty. Here’s hoping that the short term uncertainty pays off with long term productivity!

  • 1 year entirely supported by writing.

Success! I did expand into dog-walking and babysitting, but I supported myself throughout all of 2017 primarily by writing, mostly freelance work. I find it really reassuring to know that if necessary, I’ve got this as a fallback.

  • Investing in my work (marketing/training).

Actually, I did make headway in this direction, too. Not as much as I’d like, of course, but overall, I didn’t really need to beat myself up as much as I did.

2018 goals.

I’ve only got one 2018 goal, and I’ve already mentioned it—publish a book or story a month throughout 2018. I’ve got January and February covered, but I’m already behind. I’ve only just started on the story I intended to write in December, but I’ve suddenly realised that’s okay.

In 2017, I struggled to write in January. I started the new year enthusiastic but tired, and my creative project quickly got overwhelmed by doubt and a freelance project I was working on.

In 2016, my January got taken over by school and cold and being sick. Can’t remember January 2015 either, but I’d be surprised if I got anything done. And I know that January 2014 I struggled to write anything at all.

This is a really obvious trend. So obvious that I really need to acknowledge it, take some pressure off, and celebrate what I have managed to achieve. Even if it doesn’t feel like much. Even if it’s a step backwards.

And speaking of backwards…

Life After Humanity (Thorns and Fangs #3) releases in one week!

Life After Humanity came about in a really backwards way. I wrote it as the second book in the Thorns and Fangs series, learned a hell of a lot while editing Thorns and Fangs, pretty much rewrote it a second time, submitted it to NineStar, and was in the early stages of reworking it when a writing friend helpfully pointed out the series was missing something, and I realised Life After Humanity was book three, not book two. It was on hold while I wrote Uprooted, and the ways that Ben and Nate developed in Uprooted meant that I had to rewrite Life After Humanity a third time (or possibly fourth time)—and it became something entirely different. There are things I miss from the earlier drafts, but this story leads into Dead Wrong in a really powerful way, and makes the series really hold together, so I can’t regret the changes too much.

I do regret that I didn’t see what was missing sooner, or that I didn’t plan the entire series before jumping in and getting started writing. But I’m wondering if I shouldn’t just let that go. After all, a big part of Life After Humanity is Ben stepping back to get his life straightened out, even though that means putting his relationship with Nate on hold. I support sideways moves or even a step back to regroup when friends or family members need to figure out life stuff. Why is it so hard to give myself the same permission?

I am really nervous to see if readers are willing to allow Ben and Nate a step backwards. I think it’s necessary for their development individually and together, but it’s not something you see a lot of in typical romance. Luckily, I think my readers appreciate atypical romance…but we’ll see! In the meantime, stay turned for sneak previews, where the central plot of Life After Humanity came from, and more.

Guest Post: Prelude to Love by Anne Barwell

PreludeToLove_FBbanner_DSP

Fellow kiwi author and friend Anne Barwell has a new release out, and it’s set here in NZ! I asked Anne if she wouldn’t mind talking about some of the special locations in the story, and she obliged—with photos! I’ve really enjoyed hearing Anne’s thoughts about these locations, and am hoping to visit some of them when I catch up with her later this month. It’s going to be great!


Thanks for hosting me today as part of my blog tour for Prelude to Love, a Dreamspun Desire novel from Dreamspinner Press.

I have a Rafflecopter running as part of the tour so be sure to enter.

Prelude to Love is set in Wellington, and most of the story takes place in the Hutt Valley where I live. Most of the locations are real places or inspired by real places. The only one that isn’t is Avalon College where Joel is a music teacher. Avalon is a suburb in Lower Hutt, and there is an Avalon Primary and Intermediate but no college/high school. As the school and its inhabitants play a big part in the story I didn’t want to use a real place, but it is inspired by schools where I’ve worked or visited.

I also took care to use different locations from Sunset at Pencarrow—co-written with Lou Sylvre—which released in 2017. However, there were some locations which I had to reuse, such as Wellington Airport, and the Petone Esplanade. It’s difficult to get away from those, although I must admit Nate from that story lives only a few blocks away from Joel in this one!

I enjoyed being able to share familiar locations, and as an added bonus I didn’t need to use google maps. In fact at one point I was writing a scene, and couldn’t remember the specifics of that particular location so I went for a drive and took photos, and had a bonus cuppa with my daughter at the same time.

Bridge Te Whiti Park 300x400

An area alongside the Waiwhetu stream plays an important part in the story, and serves as a location for several scenes. I like the area because it’s peaceful and, as an added bonus, near a really nice café. Joel and Marcus visit that café in the story and, although I haven’t named it, locals will recognise it by its description.

When I was taking photos on the bank of the stream I noticed a rather unusual tree. Inspiration struck and I knew I could use it in the story.

Joel's Tree 300x400

Joel spotted a familiar tree, one with a shape that had made him smile at the time. He’d never been sure whether the trunk had split in two very early on, or whether two trees had grown close together, giving the impression of one. Ivy grew up the middle, linking the two as they’d reached for the sun. 

“Interesting-looking tree,” Marcus said.

“Yeah. It reminds me of a relationship, of two people still doing their own thing but linked by their love for each other.” Joel crouched in front of it, checking the grass wasn’t too wet before he sat.

I love it when location inspires the story.

Oriental Bay at dusk

A story set in New Zealand has to feature a beach somewhere. We’re surrounded by water, particularly here in Wellington. So at one point Joel and Marcus share ice creams at Oriental Bay—a popular beach in Wellington close to the CBD (central business district).   I took this photo of the spot where that part of the story takes place, but while they visit during the day earlier in the year, this is a few months later and at dusk. To the left is the Wellington waterfront, and across the harbour is the motorway along the edge of the shore leading to the Hutt Valley on the far right. The larger boat is one of the Picton ferries heading toward Wellington at the end of its journey from the South Island crossing Cook Strait.

I enjoy being able to set stories in New Zealand, and share a bit of my country with readers, so am planning to do more of it—and across a couple of different genres—in the future.

perf4.250x7.000.indd

Blurb:

Music speaks directly to the heart.

Two very different men face turning points in their lives after the collapse of long-term relationships….

Joel is a music teacher who knows it’s time to forget his ex and move on, while Marcus runs a lawn-mowing business and has come to Wellington to escape the reminders of a recent breakup. Although they’re opposites, when Joel and Marcus connect, their romance has the potential to hit all the right notes.

Too bad neither of them feels ready for new love.

With family and friends in common, dating is risky—things could get messy if it doesn’t work out. The sweet song of possibility draws them to each other, though, and they share a kiss following a Chopin prelude. But it will take some practice and perseverance to find their perfect harmony….

Dreamspinner Press  | Amazon |Barnes and Noble  

Excerpt:

Although the room was sparsely furnished, Marcus hadn’t really noticed it before. Apart from the piano and the small table and chair next to it, there was only one sofa and a bookcase full of sheet music in the corner.

“That works.”

Nannerl pushed past Marcus and jumped up onto the sofa, sprawling out to take up the entire seat.

“Or not,” Marcus said. “I’ll take your usual seat.”

“You can shift her, you know.” Joel glanced at Nannerl. “I swear that cat has a mind of her own.”

“She’s a cat, and your chair looks comfortable enough. Besides, I can see better from here.”

Marcus pushed the chair back, stretched his legs out, and crossed them at the ankles. “What’s the music?” Not that it would mean much to him, but he still wanted to be able to put a name to it.

“It’s a Chopin prelude. I’ve always liked playing Chopin. I find it relaxing, as it’s easy to lose myself in the music, so I’m hoping that helps me not to stress out too much on the night of the concert.” Joel adjusted the distance between the stool and the piano and then began to play.

Marcus nodded. He’d heard the name Chopin before—probably from Joel.

Despite his intention to watch Joel play, Marcus found himself closing his eyes and listening to the music. It felt as though Joel projected some of himself into his performance. Nuances of emotion reached out to Marcus as the melody grew louder, in both volume and intensity, and faster. Then slower again, the melody taking center stage, with a repeating deeper note before the music finished, and Marcus realized Joel had stopped playing.

“Wow.” Marcus opened his eyes.

Joel still sat poised at the keyboard. He placed his hands on his lap, interlacing his fingers, his knuckles white. “Wow? Really? I still need to practice, and that bit with the—”

Marcus didn’t have the words to describe what he’d heard. He’d liked it. A lot. Not just for the music but the insight it gave him into Joel. He leaned over, gently brushed his fingers against Joel’s face, and when Joel turned toward him, Marcus kissed him on the lips. Softly at first, then deepening as Joel threaded his fingers through Marcus’s hair and pulled him closer.

Joel tasted of coffee and beer. He caressed Marcus’s lips with his tongue, and Marcus groaned. Why had he waited so long for this? Kissing Joel felt right, as though he’d found something he’d never known was missing.

When they finally broke the kiss, Joel leaned his forehead against Marcus’s. “Wow,” he whispered. “I should play for you more often.”

Rafflecopter:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

You can find the list of sites taking part in the blog tour here:

https://annebarwell.wordpress.com/2018/01/01/blog-tour-prelude-to-love/

(Or, if you prefer, here’s a coded list of the sites):

January 2 – Happily Ever After Chapter

January 3 – Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

January 3 – Gillian St Kevern

January 4 – Love Bytes Reviews

January 5 – My Fiction Nook

January 8 – Kimi-chan Experience

January 8 – Two Men Are Better Than One

January 9 – Boy Meets Boy Reviews

January 10 – Dreamspinner Press Blog

January 11 – Anna Butler

January 12- Nic Starr

January 16 – Aisling Mancy

WordPress smaller

Bio:

Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand. She shares her home with two cats who are convinced that the house is run to suit them; this is an ongoing “discussion,” and to date it appears as though the cats may be winning.

In 2008 she completed her conjoint BA in English Literature and Music/Bachelor of Teaching. She has worked as a music teacher, a primary school teacher, and now works in a library. She is a member of the Upper Hutt Science Fiction Club and plays violin for Hutt Valley Orchestra.

She is an avid reader across a wide range of genres and a watcher of far too many TV series and movies, although it can be argued that there is no such thing as “too many.” These, of course, are best enjoyed with a decent cup of tea and further the continuing argument that the concept of “spare time” is really just a myth. She also hosts other authors, reviews for the GLBTQ Historical Site “Our Story” and Top2Bottom Reviews, and writes monthly blog posts for Love Bytes.

Anne’s books have received honorable mentions five times, reached the finals four times—one of which was for best gay book—and been a runner up in the Rainbow Awards.  She has also been nominated twice in the Goodreads M/M Romance Reader’s Choice Awards—once for Best Fantasy and once for Best Historical.

Website & Blog: http://annebarwell.wordpress.com/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/anne.barwell.1

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/sylvrebarwellhoffmann/

Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/115084832208481414034/posts

Instagram: https://instagram.com/anne.barwell

Twitter: https://twitter.com/annebarwell

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4862410.Anne_Barwell

Queeromance Ink Author Page:

https://www.queeromanceink.com/mbm-book-author/anne-barwell/

New Zealand Rainbow Romance Writers:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/491382394538058/

Sign Up For My Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/c6D9wP

Resource: Save The Cat! by Blake Snyder

Noticed how for the last couple of months ‘read books about craft’ has been a constant on my monthly to-do list, and yet no books about craft were getting read? Yeah, me too. I’m hoping to read and review one craft book a week throughout 2018, starting now.

Writing friends, if you have any recommendations for me, feel free to share! I’ve got next week’s book picked out, and a list I’m hoping to work my way through, but I’m always up for suggestions.


Save The Cat: The Last Book on Screenwriting That You’ll Ever Need.

Blake Synder.

41HHiRRusVL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

I put off reading Save the Cat for ages, mainly because while I was still living in Japan, I had a writing friend who read it and was not impressed. I forget what her objections were now, but I think it was along the lines of the fact that Blake Snyder overly simplified things, and didn’t really take into account all of the differences of genre. Other writing friends have been underwhelmed by it, so I went into it with very low expectations. As a result, I really enjoyed it.

At this point in my writer’s journey, most of the advice in Save the Cat were things that I’d encountered before, but I really appreciated the simple way that Snyder presents them. Sure, a lot of them are obvious, but take it from me, it is really, really easy to overlook the obvious. I do it on a regular basis. Take Snyder’s title for example: save the cat, a beat near the start of the story where the hero does something that puts the audience on their side. This is usually, though not always, done by having your protagonist do something heroic, e.g. help someone, do something selfless, or otherwise engage our sympathy. The point isn’t that they do something heroic, a distinction which many people, myself included, miss. The point is that they engage reader’s sympathy. This is something I overlooked in Ibiza on Ice. As a result, many readers reported struggling to feel any sympathy  for my unlikeable hero, Aston. Whoops!

I also really appreciated the refresher on structure and Snyder’s beat scheme, which tallies very nicely with the advice of James Scott Bell, and Michael Hauge, my writing go-tos for plotting. But Snyder said something else, which I have never encountered before. When writers set up their writing outline, in this case a board, and play around with cards, pins, colour coding, and stationery choices, we are not simply wasting time, we are allowing the story to sink into our subconscious. I fully subscribe to this theory! I mean, it explains a lot about writers and our love of stationery/procrastination.

There were things that grated. Snyder’s likes and dislikes are clear and he paints them as examples of things that don’t work rather than as things that didn’t work for him. However, I was willing to forgive him this, because he considers Legally Blonde one of the best films ever made, which it is. So yes, I enjoyed reading this, and while I’m probably not going to rush out and purchase a copy of it for myself immediately (I borrowed this from the Christchurch City libraries), I think it will be a really useful reference to have and one I’ll probably pick up in the future as a reference.

My Top Holiday Romances

Corey Alexander shares their holiday recs, helpfully organised by theme, so you can find exactly the seasonal story to suit your mood. There are some familiar reads on the list, including Handmade Holidays, Tow Trucks and New Years Kisses, and my own The Ugliest Sweater.

Kink Praxis

This post focuses on fall and winter holidays and includes romances centered around these: Halloween, Samhain, Durga Puja, Chanukah, Winter Solstice, Christmas, Kwanzaa, New Years Eve. (About half are Christmas stories,  there are so many more out there.) It definitely shows my bias towards contemporary romance, but there is a smattering of fantasy and historical romance too.

I read a bunch of holiday romances to get to this list. Most of these are novella length or shorter, which is one of the things I appreciate most about holiday romances–most are shorter, which is often more accessible for me to read. I am grouping them by theme. Most could belong in more than one category. I link to reviews where I have written them; that’s the place to find trigger warnings.

I’m listing rep at the end of my descriptions, which is a new thing for me. If you spot something incorrect…

View original post 2,501 more words

Room at the Inn and Of Printers & Presents

It’s Boxing Day here in NZ, and I am not yet ready for Christmas to be over. So, I’ve been prolonging the festivities by mainlining seasonal fiction, courtesy of NineStar Press’s 2017 Seasonal Collection (the same collection The Charity Shop Rejects appears in). I’ve already talked about Handmade Holidays. Today, I’m reviewing Room at the Inn and Of Printers and Presents.

Holiday-WinterSeason-RoomattheInn-f500

Room at the Inn by Drew Marvin Frayne is a contemporary story set in the hotel where Jason, the main character, works. The premise will resonate with anyone who has had to work Christmas Eve and Christmas Day–the author does a really good job of capturing the mixed feelings of working that particular holiday evokes. Jason’s looking forward to a dull evening, and is reflecting on his dissatisfaction with where he is in life, when a striking guest checks in, sharing the news that there is a bus of disgruntled travellers on their way, and Jason must pull out all the stops to save Christmas.

There’s no conflict, but I don’t think there needs to be–the circumstances act as one, and enough happens that the happy ending feels earned. I was thinking that this is almost like a Cinderella story, which might be why it is so satisfying. Stylistically, the writing reminded me a lot of Holiday Hotel Hookup by Jeff Adams which I read last year.

Room at the Inn at Ninestar | Amazon | Smashwords

Holiday-WinterSeason-OfPrintersandPresents-f500

Of Printers and Presents by Asta Idonea is a sweet, uncomplicated office romance. Any other time of the year, I might complain that the story lacked conflict, or that there was too much explaining, but this story was so exactly what I needed to read today, that I just enjoyed it. Sometimes you just need an uncomplicated romance! Especially at Christmas, when things have a knack of becoming exponentially more complicated than they need to be.

Vaughan is shy and crushing on Ford. Ford has anxiety issues, and doesn’t want to compromise his work position by acting on his crush on Vaughan. They’ve been dancing around each other for two years. Can an office secret Santa be the force that finally brings their feelings out in the open?

Of Printers and Presents at Ninestar | Amazon | Smashwords