Flux Blog Tour

o-flux I have so many things going on right now it’s slightly dizzying. So please check here or my social media often to see what to expect next

Today is the beginning of a blog tour for Flux, which releases September 6. You can preorder it now. That gorgeous cover is by Reese Dante.

Blog stops include excerpts, exclusive content, and giveaways, so make sure to stop by.



(And you know what else? Now you can also preorder the final book, Equipoise, which will be available November 29.)

Cover reveal! Equipoise

Equipoise400x600 Look at this beautiful cover by the talented Reese Dante! You can click on it for the bigger version.

Equipoise is the final book in the Ennek trilogy. It releases November 29, but you can preorder now. Here’s the blurb:

Ennek, the son of the Chief, and Miner, a former slave, have escaped the totalitarian city-state of Praesidium and remain fugitives. Having defeated two mighty wizards, they begin to realize complete freedom can be as dangerous as absolute power. Now Ennek and Miner must face battles, corruption, and further journeys through lands both new and familiar.

As they grow more secure in their relationship, they learn the greatest challenges sometimes come from very close to the heart and everything of value has a price. With the help of a few allies, they seek equipoise—a balance for themselves and for their world.

If November 29 seems like forever from now, you’ll be happy to know that Flux, the second book, releases a week from tomorrow. You can preorder it as well. I’ll have a blog tour starting tomorrow–check back here in the morning for details.

And a reminder: all my royalties from this trilogy go to Doctors Without Borders.

Free writing advice–and worth every penny!

I’m a university professor. I don’t teach writing or English or anything of that ilk–I teach criminal justice, in fact. But now and then, when my students are groaning about having to write a term paper, I mention that I’m also a fiction author. “In the span of time I’m asking you to write a 10-page paper,” I tell them, “I will probably write a 200-page novel. While working more than full-time and dealing with my family. So no complaints!”

They sort of sigh. But I think some of them are impressed. They ask me about my writing later. And now and then, some will they tell me they’d love to write fiction too, and they ask for advice.

So here are some tips I shared recently with a student.

1. Read a lot. It doesn’t matter if you read slowly–nobody’s timing you! Nowadays, I do a lot of my “reading” listening to audiobooks while I do my daily walks. Pick some authors who are really good at their craft. Some of my favorites are Isabel Allende, Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, and Kurt Vonnegut, but you can choose anyone. Christopher Moore is one of my favorite funny authors [this student wants to write comedy]. And while you read, notice the nuts and bolts–the way they’ve used language, pace, etc to build the story effectively.
2. Write a lot. Don’t try to write the best thing ever on your first (or hundredth!) try. And remember, nothing is ever perfect at first. It’s better to get crummy words on paper and edit them later than to get nothing at all.
3. If it works for you, consider National Novel Writing Month (http://nanowrimo.org/). I do well with charts and goals and deadlines, so it worked well for me when I was starting out.
4. Find a writing style that works well for you. Some people plot out everything ahead of time; some people, like me, start out with a vague idea and make stuff up as they go. I like to write my story in order, but I know some people who write bits and pieces and stitch them together later. I also make myself finish the first draft before I allow myself to go back and edit or tinker. That keeps things moving.
5. If you’re having trouble getting started, consider some writing exercises or guides to writing. Stephen King has one. Anne Lamott has a good one called Bird by Bird. Chuck Wendig’s site is terrific and also funny (http://terribleminds.com/).
6. Find some people to critique your writing honestly. Some people like writing groups, but that doesn’t work well for me because of my schedule. But I have friends who are authors and editors, who I can trust to give me honest feedback. You want people who can really tell you the truth. And you have to be prepared to listen to it!
7. Revise. When I write a novel, I tinker with it myself until I’m pretty satisfied. Then I send it to my editor friend, who goes through 2 complete rounds of edits on it. After I submit it and it’s accepted, I usually have 2 or 3 rounds of edits with the publisher, plus 2 rounds of proofreading.
8. Write what you enjoy.


Gold Rush adventures, part 3

If you haven’t already, check out Amy Lane’s post, and my part 1 and part 2.

After Amy and her intrepid family went home, Q and I went to our hotel in Placerville.

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The Cary House was built in 1857. It originally had three floors, but then the owner found gold in the basement (how handy!) and used the money to add the fourth floor. The lobby is very pretty.

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Several ghosts are supposed to reside in this hotel. One of them is Stan, who was stabbed by a jealous husband on those stairs and now frequents the second floor. We didn’t see him. Personally, I was more scared of the dead-Indian-themed room art and the hotel’s elevator, which is the second-oldest operating elevator west of the Mississippi.


We survived all these hazards and had a lovely stay, actually. I recommend the Cary if you’re in the area.

After breakfast and a bit of shopping, Q and I headed south on Highway 49. We ended up in Columbia, which was a gold rush ghost town and now a state park. We’ve visited many times—including last month when we did a ghost tour—but this was our first overnight.


The City Hotel was also built in 1857. And for me, the big attraction of the Cary House and City Hotel is that they remind me of the Rattlesnake Inn. Which—in my mind, at least—is only a few miles from Columbia. But the City Hotel is also supposed to be haunted. In fact, when we did the ghost tour last month, they specifically mentioned rooms 1 and 4. We ended up in room 4.


It was a really comfortable room. I think the rooms at the Rattlesnake look a lot like this one. Did we see any ghosts? No. But! My iPad twice started playing music by itself, once while nobody (living) was even using it. Really. And it’s never done that before. I guess the ghost likes Rufus Wainwright. Also, right around midnight, Q ended up in my bed, claiming that she’d felt her mattress dip as if someone had sat on it. We’ll chalk that one up to an active imagination.

166164 It probably didn’t help that we’d visited the cemetery earlier, which is one of my favorites. Part of it was locked up, but we snuck into another section.

172 A nifty thing about spending the night in Columbia was that by evening, we almost had the place to ourselves.


And in the morning, having survived hauntings, we fortified ourselves with breakfast!


Gold Rush adventures, part 2

I had a couple of wonderful days of adventures. Before you read this post, make sure you check out Amy Lane’s blog and my part 1.

After leaving Foresthill, we caravanned to Coloma, which involved a drive down a lovely twisty road that was really fun in my Mini. You’ll have to ask Amy whether it was as fun to be the passenger. Coloma is the location of Sutter’s Mill where gold (of course) was discovered by the unfortunate James Marshall in 1848.

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Temps were in the mid 90s, and the kids really wanted to go into the river but had to comfort themselves with the old jail instead. We, um, sort of ignored the “unsafe structure–stay away” signs. Nobody was collapsed upon.

130 Then we drove up the state’s shortest highway, which is all kinds of cool, isn’t it? It’s a half mile long. And at the top is a monument to poor James Marshall, who started the gold rush but died penniless. At least he got an impressive statue with a great view.


You will have to use your imagination to find his ghost in that group photo. But anyway, who needs ghosts when you have such a fun group of living people? My Q (there in the front) had a fantastic time with Squish and Zoomboy. You’ve never seen such a trio of wonderfully quirky kids. Have I mentioned that Amy has a great family?

After Coloma, we went to Placerville for cell phone service and dinner.


Placerville was originally called Hangtown, and some memories of that time are still, well, hanging around. Yes, they really have a hanging dummy on Main Street. I can only imagine what visitors from other countries must think. Nowadays, though, life in Placerville is more nurturing.


We had pot pies for dinner with Amy’s gang. Then, unfortunately, they had to head home, while Q and I spent the first of two nights in haunted hotels. I’ve roadtripped with Amy before—once with the equally fun Christopher Koehler and now with Amy’s family—and every time has been such a joy!

Check back tomorrow for haunted hotels.



Gold Rush adventures, part 1

I was pulling out photos for this post and realized I had 27 I wanted to share. So we’ll do this across a few days instead, okay?

In the meantime, you should definitely check out Amy Lane’s wonderful post about our group adventures!

And the thing is, Amy is amazing and so is her family. I was feeling itchy-footed and claustrophobic, and on Facebook I threw out a road trip suggestion. Which may have been more of a plea than a suggestion, really. Amy took me up on it and then, as we discussed our mutual interest in ghosts in gold rush country, proposed a fantastic itinerary. And not only that! Her Mate and 2 younger kids were up for it, as was my younger kid, so we had a whole group.

They live a couple hours north of us, so we met at Denny’s because nobody should hunt ghosts on an empty stomach.

088 This is in Newcastle, and this place is supposed to be haunted. As we walked by, the owner popped out, told us a couple of ghost stories, and invited us all inside to see the photos of the town’s history, which he has posted on the wall. I can’t verify the ghost legends, but Mr. Antuzzi is a friendly guy.

Next stop was Foresthill, which some of you may know from Amy’s Little Goddess series. We went to the cemetery, which is really pretty, with a gorgeous view.

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A lot of the people in this cemetery were born elsewhere and dragged themselves—or were dragged by their parents—to California during the gold rush years.

095  I can’t even imagine how tough life must have been.

093 Although many of the graves are old, some are recent. Like this one. I never met this woman but I admire her.

We tromped around the cemetery happily until the kids spotted a used condom on the ground and started asking questions, at which point the grown-ups decided it was time to move on. Tomorrow I’ll post about our next stops.

But first I need to take a moment to appreciate Amy’s Mate. Not only did he get up early on a Sunday so we could drag him around in the mid-90s heat, but he took all the kids (including mine) in his car so Amy and I could be in mine. I say that qualifies him for sainthood.


Interview with narrator Joel Leslie Froomkin

I have a treat for you today! If you’ve listened to Treasure or The Festivus Miracle, you’ve heard Joel’s wonderful range of voices. And now he’s been kind enough to answer some questions. Please join me in welcoming Joel!

Could you tell us a little about yourself?

Welllll… I record all of my m/m stuff under my middle name (Joel Leslie). My given last name is Joel Froomkin.  The only reason I use two names is so that my m/m audience can always be sure what material they are getting when they see that name.  I grew up in Bermuda (yup, the triangle)… which is a British colony.  That kind explains why I’m a little bit of a dialect freak.  Bermuda is a British colony and I went to a British school where all my teachers were from all over the UK.  So I grew up absorbing all these different sounds without even being conscious of it.  My best friend was Scottish, my ‘adopted’ grandparents were English… so I was really lucky.   I did my undergrad in performance at USC, and then my MFA in directing – which is actually ideal for audiobooks because you are usually your own director.  Being able to listen with an objective ear and say to yourself ‘nope…that doesn’t sound truthful’ is a real help.  I’ve lived in London, NYC and now I’m based in Indiana – but my partner and I are hoping to move to Orlando in the next few months.

How did you start doing book narration?

Well, we moved to Indiana to start a theatre company. While we were building the main auditorium we would do smaller shows.  Because I loved dialects and character voices, I would once in a while do one-man versions of stories like A Christmas Carol, Treasure Island and other classics.  I found I really loved them and the audiences really responded well.  I have a female friend who is a very successful narrator and she encouraged me to start putting myself out there and auditioning.  I’ve been at it a little over a year, and It’s really been wonderful.  I would guess I’ve sold about 14,000 audiobooks at this point… and it’s amazing to get to tell people stories.

I’d love to learn a little more about your process for narrating. Do you begin by reading the entire book to yourself before you start narrating? How long does an average novel take you?

You do have to read the book first… otherwise you can really get yourself in trouble. When I first started narrating I did a book and reached chapter 10 when I suddenly read a sentence that made it clear a character was African American and I had go back and redo it all.   Sometimes an author doesn’t give you all the info up front…. Or on page 243 they will suddenly say “He said in his deep voice” or “with a light Norwegian lilt” – so you kind of have do that detective work ahead.  Also – if you don’t know the arc of a character it can be hard to give them a journey through the whole novel.

In terms of the amount of time it takes I usually record about six hours a day… and if it’s an average length book of about 8 hours it will take me about four full days.

How do you choose what kind of voice a particular character will have?

I work closely with my authors before I start… I send them a whole questionnaire about all the characters. I ask them who, if it was a movie, they would dream cast in each role.  I ask them to imagine what kind of animal each character would be (I guess their patronus LOL).  If an author thinks a character is a lizard vs a persian kitten it can really help you know what was in their mind vocally.

People also are really surprised to learn that I need the most info from authors about the minor characters. Authors always tell you a lot about the main characters… but if a character has a couple lines, they usually give you very little.  So I always ask them, in their head, how old are these people?  Where are they from? What is their class level?  For fantasy and British books that can be really imperative… especially if you have people from different clans and species.

In my mind I have a sort of repertory cast of actors now that I can draw on for minor characters etc. Treasure was really fun to voice the supporting cast… I knew it was supposed to be a rural and coastal area so rather than go Cockney, which is a city dialect, I went for Cornwall.  It’s a fun, earthy sound.

You’ve done a wide variety of accents and dialects, and I know that’s one of your areas of expertise. Do you use particular models for these? Are there some you especially enjoy doing—and are there some you dread?

Most of the time I love the challenge.  Narrating entire books in Scottish is exhausting… not because it’s hard to maintain the dialect, but because it’s really muscular and everything turns into a tongue twister.  I recently did an Australian book for an Australian author – and that was terrifying.  We worked so hard to get it right.  She wanted a real outback sound… not Hugh Jackman or Chris Helmsworth.  It’s the sound Americans only hear from Crocodile Dundee or Steve Irwin.  And then some Americans (her main readership) thought the accent was cartoony – which was heartbreaking because that’s just the way that particular dialect sounds.  So sometimes you can’t win lol.  As a dialect guy you have to learn that sometimes “it’s not what is right… it’s what your audience thinks is right”.  Most of the British dialects are really comfy for me now – I recently had to do Birmingham and that was madness lol.  I actually am working on learning American regionalisms to the degree I know British ones.

What are some of the biggest challenges to doing narration work?

It’s a lot of alone time… you don’t interact with anyone – just yourself alone in a closet for hours on end. Getting sick is awful – cuz you just can’t power through it like you would another job… If your voice goes you just have to wait till it comes back.  I actually was having real issues with vocal exhaustion… for a few months my recodings were sounding raspier.  Normally I have no trouble doing female voices, and that part of my range was suffering.  After a bunch of visits with an  ENT it turns out it was an acid reflux issue and I’ve had to go on this crazy diet for a couple months… no cafeeine, no alchohol, no citrus, no tomatoes, no onions, no garlic, no chocolate.  It’s been rough… but the difference has been really significant.

Recording audiobooks is kind of a marathon. You have to be able to talk for hours and hours a day and maintain quality and consistency.  If you think about how much an actor says in an entire movie… like Meryll Streep in one of her starring roles probably talks for maybe a total of 30 minutes max in a movie if you add up all her lines.  We have to maintain not just one character believably, but all of them, and over an eight-ten hour time span.  I once had a reviewer say that she didn’t  like a book because one of the voices I gave a secretary character in a book that had like TWO lines.  So if you hit one chord wrong you can really lose your reader.  The m/m reading community is amazing though – they follow and support narrators like no other genre in audiobooks.   I’m really grateful to have been embraced by them the way I have.

When you’re not narrating, you a theatre artistic director and you’ve directed many plays. Can you us a little about that? (Also, you’ve worked with Anthony Stewart Head and Alan Tudyk, which gives my fangirl self a little thrill!)

Ha! Yah – my MFA was in directing and I worked in London for three years and NY for a long time.  I directed the Tempest with Tony Head (from Buffy the Vampire Slayer) as Prospero.  He was such a warm, lovely man.  So down to earth and hilarious.  I also directed Charlie Shaughnessy from The Nanny who was a dream.  I also love teaching… Mellisa Fumero who stars on Brooklyn 999 is one of my former students.  I was lucky enough to be the assistant director on a show with Maggie Smith which was a life-changing experience.  Plus I do a really great Maggie Smith impression which has booked me a surprising number of jobs lol.  I worked with Alan Tudyk and Molly Ringwald on the development of an off-broadway show.

What do you like to read for fun? Do you listen to audiobooks for fun too?

I love doing audiobooks because I was addicted to them before I started it as a job. I think Patrick Stewart’s version of A Christmas Carol was what got me started… it’s brilliantly theatrical which is what I strive to do… not just read, but to really try and bring the characters to life.  I listen to audiobooks almost every night as I’m going to sleep and whenever I’m in the car.  Simon Vance, Jim Dale, Roy Dotrice and Davina Porter are my big audiobook idols.   I also feel really honored to be able to tell GLBT stories.  It means a lot to be able to put those stories of love and HEA out in the universe.  A book like Treasure moved me so much because I was recording it for the 16 year old version of me that I wished could hear this book.  Every time I record I think about the people that the stories can help them believe they can find acceptance and happiness and love.

Do you have a dream project?

You know as a theatre person – it’s really lovely to create something that is lasting. When you do theatre it’s gone as soon as the show closes… but this work just kind of keeps growing and finding an audience.  The worst part is that you get so much better as your career progresses that you wish you could go back and do  books over again.  The first book I ever did was the first in the Skyler Foxe series… and I’m proud of it, but my work has gotten so much stronger that I always wanna tell people “wait until book 3 – I know what I’m doing by then!!!”.

A dream project? I think JK Rowling is a dream for narrators – and you get to play with so many voices… so that would probably be the ultimate.  I think my best work is when the material has a sense of whimsy and fantasy to it… it suits my style.

What do you have in the works next?

I’m recording a Highland Romance right now. Then I’m working on the sequel to BlackBalled by Andrea Smith and Eva Lenoir.  The Skyler Foxe series keeps growing… so there’s always one of those to tackle.  I think I have about 20 books scheduled at the moment.  It’s really nice to be busy!

Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?

Just that the m/m listeners are the best. And that Treasure is honestly one my favorite books that I’ve ever done.  I was a really sickly kid… that may be why.  But it really touched me deeply – it’s like a warm cup of cocoa or a great hug… books like that make the world a happier place to exist and it’s really an honor to get to put the love out in the world.  Sometimes I think about the fact that total strangers listen to me and I make them laugh or smile… and that’s an incredible gift.


Read more about Joel on his website. And of course, listen to his books!

Thanks so much, Joel!