GRNW Report

I’m back from a whirlwind weekend in Seattle. It was my second GRNW (Gay Romance Northwest), and just like the first time, I had a blast.

The weekend began with a bunch of fantastic author readings. Then the main meet-up was on Saturday. I loved the panel I was on, which discussed characters over 40. We had a great talk. And I also really enjoyed attending the panel on writing BDSM.

One thing to love is that the meetup takes place in the Seattle Public Library, which is a really cool building.


There was a book signing. Take a look at the Dreamspinner spread:


I never take enough pics, and the ones I do take are crappy. But here are 3 of the attending authors, all such lovely people.


From left to right, L.C. Chase (who also made that gorgeous cover for Rattlesnake!), Charley Descoteaux, and Grace Duncan. Seeing old friends and meeting new ones is a major draw of GRNW for me.

In the evening, there was a banned books drag show. It was free, sponsored by the Seattle library, which has to be the coolest library anywhere. It was also packed and my spot had a crappy view. But here’s a photo I took:


That was a unique drag performance. (When my older daughter saw this photo, she said that it looked as if the performer got her entire costume from Hot Topic).

It was a wonderful weekend that went by way too fast. If you have the chance, I heartily recommend attending the next GRNW, which will be Sept. 24, 2016.

Off again

So you know how I returned from Europe a week ago? I’ve spent the past week desperately trying to catch up on work… and tomorrow I’m off again, this time to Seattle for GRNW. I’m hoping my Delta flight is more reliable than any of the Lufthansa flights I just took (every one of which was delayed or canceled. Every one.). And there’s an irony there, because I paid for this Delta flight with miles I acquired after Delta stranded me in the Midwest for an extra day and a half. And two weeks after I return from Seattle, it’ll be time for San Diego and GRL. My family husband and kids are telling me to stop going away–which I figure is good. Means they appreciate me.

I have a few other projects in the offing, too. I should soon have a couple of new audiobooks (Good Bones and The Festivus Miracle), plus the Italian translation of Venetian Masks. On October 19, the 4th book in the Gothika series, Spirit, comes out. You can preorder now.

I hope to see some of you in Seattle and/or San Diego! I have swag!

But now I have to go pack again. Ugh.



Blast from the Past: Winter Duet by Anne Barwell


WinterDuet400x600Thanks, Kim, for hosting me today.

Winter Duet is a blast from the past in a few ways. Firstly, it came out last year and I’ve had two releases since then. Secondly, it’s an historical, set during WWII, and the second of my Echoes—soon to be renamed Echoes Rising when it is republished with DSP Publications—series published with Dreamspinner Press.

Winter Duet is the middle book of a trilogy, and as such needed to advance the plot and grow the characters, but not tie up all the loose ends. After all, there’s still book 3 to come—Comes a Horseman—to finish the series. I’m writing that one next.

Being an historical, there was a lot of research involved in writing the story. Although I stress about getting all the details right and the research often seems daunting, it is a part of the process I enjoy. I always learn something new with each book, and one of the cool things about writing stories set in this time period is that it is well documented. Part of the action takes place during ‘The Big Week.’ This is when the Allies bombed parts of Germany night and day over the course of a week in 1944. I found detailed records, which not only gave the types of aircraft used, but the dates and times of their missions.

As well as discovering new things for this story, I was also able to pull on existing knowledge. When Kristopher and Michel needed a code phrase when contacting members of the Resistance, I used lyrics from a piece of music I’d studied at university a few years ago. It ties into the title of the story quite nicely, with its dual imagery of winter and music. This is reflected in the cover by Reese Dante. I love the way she’s used music and the outline of a violin against the isolation of winter and the lone Mosquito aircraft to capture the feel of the story.

In addition I have written a short story called Phoenix which features one of the characters from Winter Duet which one of my beta readers is still pining over. It does gives a bit of the plot away, but it is a nice teaser into my writing. You can read it here:

I hope you enjoy this story, and Winter Duet, as much as I did writing them.


Winter Duet

Echoes book 2 – Sequel to Shadowboxing

Germany 1944

With Kristopher finally fit enough to travel, he and Michel leave the security of their safe house and continue their journey across Germany toward Switzerland. Caught in a series of Allied bombings, they stop to help civilians and narrowly escape capture by German forces.

While investigating a downed aircraft in the Black Forest, the two men discover an injured RAF pilot. After they are separated, Kristopher and the pilot are discovered by a German officer who claims he is not who he appears to be. Determined to find Michel again, Kristopher has to trust the stranger and hope he is not connected to those searching for him and the information he carries. Meanwhile Michel is intercepted by one of the Allied soldiers he met in Berlin. His help is needed to save one of their own.

Time quickly runs out. Loyalties are tested and betrayed as the Gestapo closes in. Michel can only hope that they can reach safety before information is revealed that could compromise not only his and Kristopher’s lives, but those of the remaining members of their team—if it is not already too late.

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Kristopher dropped to his knees and examined the boy. His eyes were glazed over, and he flinched when Kristopher touched him. “He must have hit his head when he fell,” Kristopher said. He brought his hand away from the boy’s temple. It was covered in blood. “He needs help, but I can’t do much for him here, just try and stop the bleeding.” He quickly opened his satchel and pulled out a short length of bandage, bundled it into a wad, and held it against the wound. It probably wouldn’t be enough to stop it, but it was better than doing nothing. Head wounds tended to bleed, didn’t they? It didn’t mean it was something serious, but it could be.

He let out a quick breath. Damn it. He wished he’d paid more attention when he’d watched Clara at work. Why had he agreed to disguise himself a medic? In this situation when that was exactly what was needed, he was next to useless.

“We can’t stay here,” Michel said. “Can you tie something around the bandage so it keeps the pressure on it when we move him?”

“Keep pressure on the wound while I look.” Kristopher searched around in his bag, ripped some more of the bandaging material, and tied it quickly. His hands were shaking, but at least there didn’t seem to be any blood seeping through the original cloth he’d put over the wound. “I think that should hold it for now.”

Michel handed Kristopher the flashlight and then lifted the boy into his arms. “What’s your name?” he asked softly when the boy opened his eyes and looked up at him.

“Fritz,” the boy replied, his voice wavering. He put his arms around Michel’s neck and clung to him. Thankfully, he seemed more alert than he had a few moments before.

“Hello, Fritz. I’m Michel, and this is Paul,” Michel said. “We’re going to keep you safe, I promise.”

“You promise?” Fritz’s earlier confidence was gone. “I didn’t think it was so dark. I know this place. I shouldn’t have tripped.” He glared at the ground. “Stupid thing. Stupid stupid. Everything looks different.” He sniffled loudly and wiped one dirty hand over his face.

“Do you remember the way to the shelter, Fritz?” Kristopher asked. Michel was watching Fritz carefully, holding the boy close to him. His grip had tightened at the first sign of Fritz’s distress.

“I don’t need to put you down,” Michel reassured Fritz. “You can still guide us while I’m holding you.”

“I don’t want to walk.” Fritz bit his lip. He looked around and then pointed to a street to their left. “If we go down there it’s only about ten minutes away.”

They’d never reach the shelter in time before it closed.

“There isn’t one closer?” Michel asked.

“It’s the one I know about,” Fritz said, somewhat defensively. “Mutter told me if something happened I should go to it.”

“Where’s your mother now?” Kristopher asked. The light from the flashlight was dying quickly. They had to hurry.

“I don’t know. She went to get my baby sister, but she never came downstairs.” Fritz stuck his chin out. “I waited like she said, even when I heard the loud noises and people crying.”

“You live around here?” Kristopher hoped Fritz’s family had survived this. They’d have to try and reunite them or at least find someone who could look after him before they left Stuttgart.

Fritz nodded. Whatever his wound, it seemed as though it was definitely superficial or he wouldn’t be talking as much as he was. “I went looking for her, and I couldn’t find her.”

“You sound much better, Fritz. Do you think you could walk?” Michel asked.

“I don’t want to lose you and Paul too,” Fritz said. He let Michel put him down and then put one small hand into Michel’s.

“You won’t lose us,” Michel promised. “Keep holding my hand, and Paul will look after the flashlight. We can work together.”

“Michel’s very good at working together,” Kristopher told Fritz. He shone the flashlight around. The farther out into the street they got, the more rubble there was. It wasn’t safe to move too quickly, and at this speed they’d never reach the shelter before daylight. He glanced up at the sky. Most of the flashes of light now seemed to be focused toward the city center. “I’m wondering if it’s safer to stay here but get as far away from the buildings as we can and wait for daylight.”

“We don’t know how long this raid is going to last,” Michel said, “but we need to make a decision.” Something creaked and groaned to the side of them. “Move!” Michel yelled. He picked up Fritz and ran back the way they’d come. Kristopher didn’t stop to see what was going on behind him. He followed.

Moments later, more rubble hit the street where they’d just been standing. If they’d stayed there they would have been buried in it.

Kristopher shone the flashlight on it and shivered. “I think finding the shelter is the least of our problems,” he said. “We need to get out into the open. It’s not just more bombings that could kill us, but the buildings that are already damaged.”

“I know a place,” Fritz said after Michel put him down. “I’ll show you.” He took hold of Michel’s hand again. “You and Paul are soldiers.” He pointed to the Red Cross on Kristopher’s arm. “You’ll stay and help look after all the hurt people, won’t you? Vater is a soldier too. He’s fighting at the front. Mutter says he’s very brave.”

“Yes, we’ll stay and help,” Michel said before Kristopher could say anything. He squeezed Fritz’s hand. “We’ll also help you find your mother, or at least someone who can look after you.” He looked over at Kristopher and gave him a questioning look.

“Of course we will,” Kristopher said, wondering why Michel felt he’d even had to ask.


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.

Anne’s books have twice received honorable mentions and twice reached the finals in the Rainbow Awards.



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A few final European photos

Alas, tomorrow I have to return to California and real life. I’ve made sure to put in some quality time in Zagreb cafés, and I also visited two new little museums, the Museum of Illusions and the Torture Museum. Both of which were great fun.

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Zagreb has made some forward strides lately. Today in Zrinjevac Park, I saw three different lesbian couples cuddling, along with the straight couples, the families with kids, and the old people. A few years ago I wouldn’t have seen that. I also saw a food booth selling–if I understood the Croatian correctly–stir-fried crocodile.
047 And then I ate Korean food, which is new for Croatia, and drank Turkish coffee, which is old hat.

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We’ll see tomorrow if Lufthansa can manage to get me to my destination on time for the first time in this trip. They’ve given me two different 1-day delays. And I’ll have lots of work to do, plus some writing to catch up on. And GRNW and GRL are coming up soon!

One last photo of Zagreb at night. That building with the PBZ is where I’ve been staying.


More photos from Zagreb

Because nobody objected after my last post, here are some more photos from one of my favorite cities in the world, Zagreb.

There’s an upper town and a lower town. To travel from one to the other you can take a funicular or walk on various steep streets or stairways. Here’s one of the stairways–I love taking that stroll.

017 In Zagreb, I’m always setting out for a short walk and ending up wandering for hours.

016 At the edge of the upper town promenade, couples have set locks to commemorate their love.

012 Lots going on in this photo. That tall building in the background is Thieves Tower. You can climb to the top, and every day at noon they shoot a cannon from there. The lamp is a gaslight; lamplighters still light them every night.

008 The church atop the hill is St. Marks, famous for its beautiful tile roof.

007 The Museum of Broken Relationships is also in the upper town. Here’s one of the exhibits.

004 And back in the lower town, this is the main square. My apartment’s in that building on the left. This area is hopping–always something going on.


Blog update

I apologize for the recent silence–travel has been keeping me busy. I spent over a week in Portugal, which is beautiful, relaxed, and friendly. And now I’m in my beloved Zagreb, but only for a few more days.

023 155 064 See all that gorgeousness? That’s Porto. And Lisbon is hardly ugly either.

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And then there’s Croatia.

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So yeah, I’m hardly suffering despite several epic travel SNAFUS.

And while I’ve been gallivanting, you’ve been enjoying Rattlesnake, which makes me extremely happy. Here’s what’s coming up in the next few months:

  • Good Bones on audio
  • Rattlesnake will be on audio too
  • And so will A Festivus Miracle
  • The 4th Gothika anthology will come out in October. Spirit has novellas by Jamie Fessenden, Eli Easton, B.G. Thomas, and me. Mine is set mostly in Croatia. 🙂
  • Dreamspinner will release my Hanukkah short, “Grateful”
  • Venetian Masks will come out in Italian
  • I’ll publish an anthology that will include two brand-new fantasy shorts, and all proceeds will go to Doctors Without Borders

I’ll also be at Gay Romance Northwest in Seattle and GayRomLit in San Diego, and I hope to see some of you there.

Want more photos or is this Enough?


Liar, liar, pants on fire

When you were a kid, you were probably told that it was important to tell the truth. Calling someone a liar is a pretty big insult.

But lies have their value.

For instance, there are the little white lies that we all need for getting through life in a civilized manner. “Do you like my new haircut?” “Oh, yeah, you look great.”

If you think about it the right way, I lie for a living. After all, I write fiction–things that didn’t happen. And because I love fantasy so much, a whole lot of what I write couldn’t happen. Phoenixes? Wizards who can move oceans? Helpful imps? All lies, right? But where would any of us be without fiction?

Sometimes lies are motivational tools. Yeah, if I study really hard I totally won’t freak out over the exam.

Sometimes they help us survive the horrors of parenthood. When my older daughter was 5 and we were vacationing in Tahoe, she was sharing a room with her 2-year-old sister and would not settle down so the younger kid could sleep. We told her if she wasn’t quiet, she was going to have to sleep on the deck with the bears (she’d seen a piece of paper warning visitors about nearby bears). Hey, it worked. And we didn’t have an overtired toddler to contend with the next day.

Sometimes they help us survive the horrors of childhood. Um, my parents still don’t know the complete truth of my teenage years. Which is fine. I made it through.

But of course lies can also be nasty and destructive. I think the most dangerous lies are the ones we tell ourselves, like I can’t.

In Rattlesnake, Jimmy lies a lot. Mostly it’s harmless, entertaining even. He’s a storyteller–that’s pretty much how he gets by in life. But he’s been lying to himself, too. And some of those lies are going to cause him trouble….

When do you think it’s okay to lie?



I’m thinking today about scars.

Several of my characters have them, including Shane Little. If you look closely at this lovely drawing by Catherine Dair, you can see some of them on his face and arm:

Shane color

Shane is a little self-conscious about his scars, but Jimmy doesn’t mind them. If anything, Jimmy agrees with me that scars tell a story. They’re a little like tattoos, I guess, although less intentional. And hey! Less expensive.

For instance, a scar runs the width of my right index finger, just below the knuckle. I got that one during the summer after my freshman year of college, when I was working at a pizza place. My hand shifted a bit while I was cleaning under the blade of the meat slicer (which, thankfully, was turned off), and zap! Blood everywhere. I needed 8 stitches and, as the ER doctor said, there went my career as a hand model.

I have another scar from my fast food youth, actually. This one is a burn mark atop my left forearm. McDonald’s French fry basket, straight out of the fryer. Ow.

The long thin mark high on my right bicep is from when my Saint Bernard, Ruthie, was a puppy and hadn’t yet learned that jumping up to greet people is a no-no. I guess her nails needed clipping.

I have a couple of chicken pox scars on my face. Thirteen kids in my kindergarten came down with the chicken pox, but Morris Mills got the mumps. Wonder what ever happened to him.

The tiny scars on my right palm and wrist came from carpal tunnel surgery. Totally worth it. I also have a small surgery scar on my lower back from when I ruptured a disc. That surgery was even more worth it.

My husband has a very long, wide scar on his forearm, a souvenir of surgery (that was done at the right time with the help of the reputable accident lawyers at Bengal Law) after a bad car accident when he was 12. The same incident left a mark on his chin.

Large or small, I never find scars ugly. They’re the words on the pages of our body.

Oh, and what about the scars we can’t see–the ones on our psyches and in our souls? Poor Jimmy has plenty of those.

You can read about Shane’s obvious scars and Jimmy’s not-so-obvious ones in Rattlesnake, of course.

Do your scars tell your story?