Stoker & Bash: The Fangs of Scavo Out Now!

Stoker & Bash: The Fangs of Scavo, the first book in a planned Victorian M/M mystery romance series, is out now in print and ebook format. Here’s the blurb:

At Scotland Yard, DI Timothy Stoker is no better than a ghost. A master of arcane documents and niggling details who, unlike his celebrity-chasing colleagues, prefers hard work to headlines. But an invisible man is needed to unmask the city’s newest amateur detective, Hieronymus Bash. A bon vivant long on flash and style but short on personal history, Bash just may be a Cheapside rogue in Savile Row finery.

When the four fangs of the Demon Cats of Scavo—trophies that protect the hunters who killed the two vicious beasts—disappear one by one, Stoker’s forced to team with the very man he was sent to investigate to maintain his cover. He finds himself thrust into a world of wailing mediums, spiritualist societies, man-eating lions, and a consulting detective with more ambition than sense. Will this case be the end of his career, or the start of an unexpected liaison? Or will the mysterious forces at play be the death of them both?

And just who is Hieronymus Bash?

Buy links:

Amazon ebook

Amazon print

Kobo

Google Play Books

Barnes & Noble

Apple iBooks

And for any retailers or libraries interested in ordering the book, it is available through Ingram and Create Space.

Selina

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Housekeeping: Last Chance for Like Stars (For Now!)

Friends,

Just a quick post to let you know about two bits of literary housekeeping.

The first is that the rights to my first book, Like Stars, are reverting back to me on November 14th, 2017. Which is good news! The bad news is that it will be unavailable for a while. The ebook will likely not be on sale after the 14th, while the print editions will probably take a bit longer to disappear from retailers. So, if you’re interested in purchasing it, this will be your last chance for a while. I’ll be re-editing it and commissioning a new cover before I re-release it. But some more good news is the ebook will be more reasonably priced once I self-pub it. 😀

 

Second bit of business is that I learned this week that the platform that distributes my ebooks for Stoker & Bash, Pronoun, will be shutting down as of January 15th, 2018. I’ll be moving Stoker & Bash to another distributor, most likely in January so as not to interfere with Christmas, but I will let you know as soon as I know. This won’t affect the book’s availability on Amazon, Kobo, or Barnes & Noble, but I’m not 100% sure if it will still be available on Apple iBooks or Google Play once I remove it from Pronoun. So if you’re interested in buying it from those two platforms, keep this in mind.

I promise the next post will be about something more fun than what’s happening on the literary front. 😉 And expect a big announcement about a new book before the end of the year, including an excerpt!

Much love to you all, and thanks for your support!

Selina

Spotlight on #WOC in #LGBTQ+ #Romance: Kendall Morgan!

Welcome to my new monthly feature, a spotlight on the work of writers of color in LGBTQ+ romance. The lovely ladies at The Ripped Bodice did an amazing informal survey on the state of racial diversity in romance publishing, and the results were deeply depressing. Especially from LGBTQ+ romance publishers–which surprised me a lot. I find it very short-sighted to promote diversity in sexual orientation and not diversity in race.

With those staggering stats in mind, I’ve decided to open my blog to writers of color in the LGBTQ+ romance community with a monthly spotlight. So if you’re a #WOC in #LGBTQ+ #romance interested in being featured, send me an email! I would love to promote your work.

I’m thrilled to welcome Kendall Morgan to the blog for the inaugural spotlight. Kendall has been in the LGBTQ+ romance game since the ’90s, so she’s a firsthand witness to social change when it comes to both diversity and LGBTQ+ acceptance in the romance world. She writes hot as H-E-double-hockey-sticks contemporary romance, often involving a bear/twink dynamic. Her most recent release is Spooky Ginger Love (anything with the word ‘ginger’ in the title is an auto-buy for me), and she has two series going, the Pacific Palms Resort series and the Bearland Tales series. Details and Amazon buy links for three of her books are below!

Dark spooky forest with silhouette of a man walking

Spooky Ginger Love

Keith Norwood, a handsome African-American gay bear, came to Camp You-Mee’s Bears Haunted Halloween Boo-Nanza Extravaganza for some cheesy holiday thrills and a little ass. A fan of the one-night stand, he thought all he wanted was to get laid. The camp’s cute assistant manager with a fantastic butt was Keith’s first choice.

Instead, he loses his way in the haunted woods. He finds his way and himself with the help of Ronnie Gans, a big, friendly, hairy redhead, who is unlike any one-night stand Keith has ever had.

Buy it here!

Twinks in Bearland - Amazon

Twinks in Bearland

The friends of pretty blue-eyed Dustin Garber are about to find out that he has a secret. He loves bears, big hairy gay men. None of them know it, but he’s just booked them all into the annual Gay Bear Ski week.

Craig, beautiful, black and Jewish, is initially indifferent to the fact that he is spending a week with big hairy men. He already has a hook up planned of his own, although that man turns out to have a bizarre secret.

Patrick and Ethan, two bear-hating twinks who have been secretly in love with each other for years, take much longer to come around to the idea that bears can be good guys too. Dustin isn’t so sure his friendship with them will survive the trip.

And then Dustin meets Nate, a big blond bear who is forever single but ready for something a little different. Nate’s friends, Casey and Ryland, are fighting about Ryland’s porn career. Nate’s friend Gil is busy with a Canadian couple, but together Dustin and Nate get lost on a backcountry trail. Deep in the snow away from everyone they may just find the love they’ve been seeking and the understanding they didn’t know they needed.

Twinks in Bearland is the first book in the Bearland Tales series, but each book can stand alone. This gay contemporary love story includes graphic sex and is intended for adults only.

Buy it here!

Keeping Score Amazon

Keeping Score

Brandon Stephenson is a YouTube star and former fat kid looking to rest, relax, and get laid at Pacific Palms Resort, a very gay and very expensive tropical paradise.

A lazy blow job on the beach from one man leads to sex in the sand with a hunky Sri Lankan the next day. But, in order to get what he really wants and fall in love, he’s going to have to realize that he’s not a fat kid any more. He’s a hunky adult. Placing wagers on people’s lives is not a good idea.

And if he really wants Julian Bailey, the resort’s Jamaican director of fitness with rock hard abs, he’s going to have to go and get him.

Keeping Score is the first book in the Pacific Palms Resort series, but each book can stand alone. This gay contemporary erotic romance love story includes graphic sex and is intended for adults only.

Buy it here!

Kendall Morgan Bio

I started writing gay male erotic romance stories in the early ’90s, but only gay male porn magazines would publish them. I’m so glad things have gotten more respectable and the readership more broad. I am a lesbian in an interracial same-sex marriage, and I love writing interracial romance stories. I love flipping stereotypes and challenging myself to write characters that are ever further from who I am. I hope you enjoy my stories. I certainly love writing them.

If you would like more info about Kendall’s books, check out her Romance IO and her GoodReads pages.

Are you a writer of color who specializes in LGBTQ+ or het romance? Would you be interested in having your work featured in one of my spotlight posts? Contact me at selinakray@hotmail.ca. I would love to have you!

Buddy Read: Murder On The Orient Express

Mysteries, both literary and philosophical, have been an obsession of mine for as long as I can remember. Encyclopedia Brown was my introduction to the genre, but Dame Agatha Christie is the writer who lit the mystery-loving fire in me, the gold standard against which all other mysteries are judged.

By age 12, I’d glommed the entire Christie section in my local library and any book they could have transferred from another branch. Hers was the first name I looked for whenever I happened into a second-hand bookstore. That doesn’t include the plays, films, and TV adaptations I’ve seen. I remember staying up to watch the Peter Ustinov TV movies on school nights in the basement while my unsuspecting parents slept upstairs. (Yes, he’s still my favorite Poirot. @ me if you want, I’m ready to bring it.)

MOTOE3

I wish I’d kept better track, because, 30 years later, I don’t really remember which of her less-popular titles I’ve read and which I just recognize after having seen them so often. But her big three, her most popular and well-known books, are a mystery writer’s bible: And Then There Were None, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, and, of course, Murder on the Orient Express.

The solutions to those three books upended the mystery genre. (No spoilers here.) That is how good Dame Agatha is. If you have ever given any thought to one day writing a mystery, they are must-reads. And I’m hoping you’ll read one of them along with me.

The upcoming adaptations of Murder on the Orient Express and The Alienist inspired me to start an impromptu book club on my Facebook page, 23 Berkeley Square. Starting October 8th, 2017, I’ll be re-reading Murder on the Orient Express and hosting a discussion of the book. And you are cordially invited to attend!

The schedule will look something like this:

October 8th – Introductory remarks and sign in

October 15th – Discussion of Part 1: The Facts

October 22nd – Discussion of Part 2: The Evidence

October 29th – Discussion of Part 3: Hercule Poirot Sits Back and Thinks and the ending

November 12th (or thereabouts) – Follow up discussion of the new Kenneth Branagh film adaptation

I really hope all my fellow mystery buffs, especially those who haven’t ever read the book before, will join in the fun. The more, the merrier, after all. Next up will most likely be Caleb Carr’s The Alienist, but I’m open to suggestions.

So welcome, everyone! Tickets are free, so grab your seat in the Calais Coach. But watch your backs! You never know who might be lurking in the next compartment…

Five Historical Romances I’m Loving Right Now!!

If you’re like me, end of summer sloth is starting to take over. That time of year when the air is sweet, the sun golden but sets earlier every evening, and nothing beckons louder than your backyard/balcony lounge chair. Maybe you’re on holiday. Maybe holidays are done and you, like me, want to recapture that lazy feeling on your weekends. At this time of year, there’s no luxury like a good book, a fruity drink, and an afternoon to relax through.

In Romancelandia, the sunny season had seen published an unusual amount of LGBTQ+ historical romances, and I, for one, am not complaining. Five of the most talented authors around have put out incredible books, and so it’s time to give my fellow historical writers some love in one of my favorite features, Five Things I’m Loving Right Now (Historical Romance Edition).

So take advantage of the last days of summer to soak in a few rays and travel back to far more adventurous (and repressed, it must be said) times. After you’ve read Stoker & Bash: The Fangs of Scavo, of course. 😉

Aqua Follies by Liv Rancourt

AquaFollies

Sometimes you can judge a book by its cover. And this cover is not only gorgeous, but a perfect reflection of the story inside. I’d read paranormals by the wonderful Liv Rancourt, but her historicals were new to me. Boy, am I glad I dove into this one! A rare historical set in the 1950s, Mrs. Rancourt brings the era we think we know through movies and TV brilliantly to life. You will fall as hard for Russell and Skip as they do for each other, and be bedazzled by the dialogue and period detail. A must-read for any historical romance fans.

A Gathering Storm by Joanna Chambers

GatheringStorm

The author of the astounding Enlightenment series journeys to Porthkennack, a Cornish seaside town with a moody beauty and a stormy atmosphere. Especially when it comes to its newest and most inscrutable resident, Ward, a disgraced scientist chasing the ghost of his dead brother. Salt of the earth Nicholas is blackmailed into helping him with his experiments into weather and spirits, and gets more than he bargained for when sparks fly between them. Need I say more? A master of the genre at the top of her game.

Spectred Isle by KJ Charles

SpectredIsle

The shadow world encroaching on 1920s London was never so beguiling as in the hands of Mrs. Charles, who expands her world of occultists and invisible entities established in The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal, but a generation later. As always, the period detail and the level of research into folklore is gold-standard–you will learn ridiculous amounts of the most fun kind of information reading this book. But the deep emotion with which she imbues her characters, wounded Saul and sardonic Randolph, are what makes this so glommable.

The Ruin of a Rake by Cat Sebastian

RuinRake

Mrs. Sebastian is my favorite new discovery this year, earning one-click status with her first book A Soldier’s Scoundrel and my undying devotion with her second, The Lawrence Browne Affair. This gem concludes her trilogy, but is hopefully not the last historical we get from her golden pen (or, er, keyboard). Courtenay, who has the reputation of a Cassanova thanks to someone publishing a book of his exploits, is the titular rake. He finds his foil in Julian, an ultra-proper man with dark secrets. Together, they try, and fail, to resist their best instincts and the lust that burns between them. Much to the reader’s delight.

The Bones of our Fathers by Elin Gregory

BonesFAthers

Okay, so I’m cheating a bit with this one. It’s a contemporary, but it involves a museum curator and the discovery of an ancient burial cist, so I hope I’m forgiven. It’s also bloody fantastic. The lovely Mrs. Gregory doesn’t get enough love or attention, despite being an incredible author, so do yourself a favor and pick up this treasure about… well, the power struggles over some ancient treasure in the form of two intertwined male Bronze Age skeletons. Mal, the curator, and Rob, a local boy with an unfortunate nickname and hidden depths, also find their lives intertwined, in the best and sometimes most difficult ways possible. Wit, warmth, and welcome are the hallmarks of this book–don’t miss it.

Happy reading!

Selina

Whodunnit And How: Self-Publishing a Romance Novel

Around 10 years ago, I almost gave up writing. Whenever I’m celebrating a publishing milestone, my good friend M. likes to remind me of the snowy Montreal winter’s night when, walking back to her apartment, I moaned to her that I had no new ideas, no talent, no drive to break into the publishing industry. How I was seriously considering giving it all up. I had been writing fan fiction for years upon years, and I had given it everything I had. My particular fandom, LoTR, was winding down, and I felt hollowed out. Being the awesome friend that she is, M. encouraged me to work through it and try again.

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And I did.

(Imagine me doing the Rocky thing at the top of that staircase in Philadelphia.)

Stoker & Bash: The Fangs of Scavo, my second M/M historical mystery romance and my first self-published novel, has been out for a month now. My first book–a trial by fire if ever there was–was with a publisher. Before that, I had a short story published in a Canadian sci-fi YA anthology. But I first waded back into the writing world by joining and taking workshops at the Quebec Writer’s Federation. The first, back when I flirted with writing YA, was where I met my writing group, and some of us still get together to this day. (The others dropped away through a series of And Then There Were None-esque disagreements and life changes, a reminder that writing groups go through their own sorts of growing pains. If one’s not working for you, bow out graciously.)

To recap: eight years of fanfic, umpteen workshops, four years later a short story, three years later a novel, two-point-five years later a self-published novel, one eight-years-strong writing group… as you can see, I was an overnight success.

Moral of the story: You can do it. And it does take a village. More important than who to publish with or what platform to use, you’ll need friends, online or otherwise, to believe in you. Hone your craft by taking workshops, writing fanfic, joining a crit group, becoming part of the reader community in the genre you want to write in.

Once you’ve written, re-written, and revised a story or a novel or a something that you feel is ready for public consumption (and that you’re ready to be publicly consumed, because it will feel that way sometimes), explore your options. Self-pub is intimidating as hell. It can be expensive. It can be overwhelming. Learn as much as you can about it before you commit. Make sure it’s the right thing for you. Read every word of this incredible post by Heidi Cullinan before you make a final decision.

Mrs. Cullinan explains everything in minute detail and gives you lots of options. I’m just going to talk about the choices I made and why (a novella to her novel, you might say). So here’s how I did it:

-Hire an editor. Yes, you need one. Yes, even if you, like me, have over a decade of professional editing experience. If you need a lot of help, a developmental edit in the early stages is a great idea. If not, at minimum you need a content edit and a line edit, and that’s in addition to any betas. I used the incomparable Nancy-Anne Davies, who has over 10 years experience freelance editing for one of the most renowned romance publishers. And I forward every review that compliments the editing/grammar–of which there have been more than a few–to her.

-Hire a great cover artist. Do your research beforehand. I made a list of covers I loved and who designed them, and then had a think about whose style would work best with what I envisioned for my book. Not to mention what elements readers expect from a book in my genre. It’s no secret I’m not a big fan of models on covers. I also wrote a character who I knew would be next to impossible to find a model for. But in the romance genre, you’re dead in the water if you don’t have at least one character’s face or silhouette on the cover.

Enter the mad sorceress skills of the Lady Tiferet. Not only did she find a culturally appropriate model for my Hiero, she bibbity-bobbity-booed him into the proper period dress and facial stylings. *I* didn’t even really understand what she’d done until I saw this photo:

Hiero Magic Small

That is what an exceptional cover artist can do for you and your book. Because no matter what they say, some people still judge a book by its cover.

-Select an ebook publishing platform. After a recommendation from KJ Charles and exploring my options, I chose to use Pronoun. Not only do they offer the best rates and author agreement, but they have tools that do the formatting for you for free. They distribute the book to Amazon, Kobo, Apple, Google, Barnes & Noble, and to library services Bibliotheca and Overdrive. And they compile all your sales data, make recommendations about categories, let you list any published books you have, and give you a free author page. Their system is super easy to use. They answer any questions you have promptly and thoroughly. And they have a blog, The Verbs, that gives you writing and publishing tips. I can’t recommend them enough.

-To print or not to print? That is the next big question you need to ask yourself. I did a print release simultaneously. Some authors only self-pub in print format a couple of months later. Some don’t do it at all. This first self-pub experience was an experiment for me, so I decided to go for it. I personally didn’t find it a lot to take both on at once, but then I gave myself a good two months to get everything sorted (and I have a full-time job).

For print, you have two options: Create Space and Ingram Spark. This article and others like it are why I decided to use both CS and Ingram. As of right now, I don’t know if I would do both again, but I’m also reconsidering doing print at all because, as a new-to-so-many author, the sales just aren’t there they way they are for ebook. This could also be because I’m in the romance genre, or my publicity efforts so far. So do research into your genre to see if print is the right option for you.

If you do go the print route, you may need help formatting your book, like I did. Paul at BB Books is a wizard, and his web site has all sorts of information you’ll need to understand not only formatting, but the next steps in the process. His rates are competitive, and I found him an absolute pleasure to work with.

-Once your book is ready to go, go, go… you need to kick yourself for not doing any research about how to market it. I wouldn’t let this interfere with the writing process, but once you’re editing, start looking at what other authors are doing and reading up on trends in your genre. This is where joining author/genre Facebook groups and Twitter feeds is invaluable. If you have a community, interacting with people in it will help you learn what strategies might be right for you.

Also, all genres have their own go-to review web sites. Familiarise yourself with these: which are most popular? Which have the most traffic? Which do you see most referenced in your social media feeds? All of them likely accept submissions, so prepare a friendly cover letter and follow their instructions while submitting.

A media pack is a must when marketing a book. What should this include? Your blurb, an excerpt, your author bio, some kind of document with relevant social media and buy links, and your cover image. Make the process of setting up a blog post as easy as possible for the kind people willing to give you some free publicity by preparing this in advance. It will also save you time when responding to their emails.

Review sites have different kinds of posts that can help generate heat even a couple of months in advance: cover reveal, guest post, blog tour, review. If you want them to review your book, you need to give them at least a month’s notice–and if you’re new, possibly more. Read their submissions guidelines carefully.

You might also consider using a promotion company to do a lot of the legwork for you. They have long-established contacts and can get you access to blogs who might not otherwise answer your emails. The one I used is Signal Boost Promotions. Rachel, who runs it, is exceptional: organised, connected, gives amazing advice… a real champion for your book.

There are tons of other marketing tools/strategies out there–too many to mention. Remember that this is an essential part of self-publishing. I know authors are introverts by nature, but it’s the old “if a tree falls in the forest…”

As you can see by this blog post, if you put in the work and invest in your talent, self-publishing is not that complicated. We in the village have cleaned and readied a lovely little cottage, just waiting for you to move in.

So what are you waiting for?

 

Selina

Spotlight on… Female Directors!!

Otherwise known as “directors”. 😉

I’m interrupting my month-long Stoker & Bash promo extravaganza to speak about something very near and dear to my heart: gender equality in the film industry. Specifically, in the directing field.

Today, it was announced that for only the second time in its 70-year history, the Best Director prize at the Cannes Film Festival was awarded to a woman, Sofia Coppola, for a film I’m dying to see, The Beguiled. Lynn Ramsay, another fantastic female director, won Best Screenplay for You Were Never Really Here, which is now also on my must-see list. Later this week, the first female director to helm a studio superhero franchise film, and only the third female director *ever* to earn herself a budget of $100 million or more, Patty Jenkins, will release the long-awaited (at least by me) Wonder Woman.

The achievements of these women are inspiring; the statistics related to them sobering. As Nicole Kidman said in her speech at the Cannes awards ceremony, only 4% of major motion pictures are made by women. And festivals like Cannes can only react to the standards set by those who control the purse strings in the industry. Until the studios get the message that we want more diverse voices writing screenplays and directing films, nothing is going to change. The only way to get their attention is by putting our money and our voices where our mouths are as consumers. (That is my not-so-subtle plea for you to go see Wonder Woman this weekend, and to take the men in your life along with you. Studios want to see results in every demographic.)

Another staggering stat: women account for half of all graduates of film school, but only 5% end up getting jobs in the entertainment industry.

Recently, I was listening to a podcast that made this same argument, but then the commentators could not list any female directors other than Patty Jenkins and Ava DuVernay (who directed Selma, is the creator of the series Queen Sugar, and the first woman of color to helm a $100 million plus film). One of those commentators has been an entertainment reporter for over a decade, and the other is a professional screenwriter and former entertainment news magazine producer! And they couldn’t even name-check Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty), the only woman to ever win a Best Director Oscar.

So I am here, fellow pop culture feminists, to empower you with information. There are some brilliant female directors working today, doing expert, entertaining work across all genres. Here are some of my personal favorites (FYI, I don’t do horror films, but there have been some interesting female directors doing very good work lately).

Please seek out and squee about their work! Give them your money! Send the studio bosses the message that there should be gender parity in Hollywood! Let them hear you roar!

Andrea Arnold has mostly transitioned into directing television for Transparent and I Love Dick, but before that made the breath-stealingly claustrophobic Red Road and the engrossing Fish Tank, featuring one of Michael Fassbender’s best-ever performances. She also made an interracial Wuthering Heights.

Amma Assante made one of my favorite comfort watches, Belle, as well as the inspirational A United Kingdom. I’m very excited for her latest, Where Hands Touch. 

Not only is Mary Harron a badass director, she’s also Canadian! Her two classics are American Psycho (legit one of my favorite comedies of all time, which tells you everything about my sense of humor) and I Shot Andy Warhol. She now also directs mostly for television, where there are so many more opportunities for female directors, ahem, Hollywood studios.

I adored, adored, adored Marielle Heller’s debut, Diary of a Teenage Girl, and can’t wait to see what she does next.

Lone Sherfig’s An Education is a classic coming of age story. I haven’t loved everything she’s done, but I’ll always give her films a watch.

Mira Nair made the magnificent Monsoon Wedding and so many other brilliant, heartfelt films.

I can’t believe I’ve gone this long without mentioning Jane Campion, who did The Piano, Holy Smoke, Bright Star, and now writes and directs one of the best series on TV, Top of the Lake.

Also from Australia is Jocelyn Moorhouse, whose recent The Dressmaker was more than a little insane–in the best way–and who made Russell Crowe a star in Proof.

I don’t even know where to start with my love for Suzanne Bier, who has made heartbreaking films in both Scandinavia and the US. My faves are A Second Chance and In a Better World.

Sally Potter is responsible for Orlando and unleashing Tilda Swinton on the world, and for that I will forever be grateful.

Lisa Cholodenko has had success with The Kids are All Right and High Art, but my fave of hers is Laurel Canyon. 

Gillian Armstrong introduced us to Cate Blanchett in Oscar and Lucinda, made the best version of Little Women, and started it all with My Brilliant Career.

Karyn Kusama made the awesome Girlfight and the terrifying The Invitation, both not to be missed.

This list just scratches the surface, but it’s still not enough. There aren’t enough women of color directing (as you can see from this list). And so few of these fabulous women are being invited to direct the kinds of blockbusters that white men get after having just one independent film that gets a wee bit of critical acclaim. Or, you know, their umpteenth chance to redeem themselves after a series of flops. Men are allowed to fail in ways women cannot, in every industry.

So take the time, maybe this weekend, maybe on your next holiday, to see a film directed or written by any of the crazy talented women above. If none of those intrigue, here’s an even more exhaustive list: https://gowatchit.com/lists/52-films-by-women-284752

Namaste,

Selina