The Story of the Dueling Muses

Where There's Smoke - BL Morticia

Muse:  A person or personified force who is the source of inspiration for a creative artist.

Hello Readers!

I usually blog on the 7th of each month, or thereabouts, but I decided to wait because of my –

*BLMorticia clears her throat*

Oh, I’m sorry BLMorticia’s new release Where There’s Smoke. For those who know Sharita well, she writes under several pennames and she chooses the penname for the story based on the characters, subgenres, and or tones, of the story. At times, this complicated process hasn’t exactly worked. For the N’awlins Exotica series, it was a mix of all three at that time. Me, starting out, then BL, doing the next three, before Rawiya took book six and I closed it out with book seven. The series was a success, but it had Shar thinking, never EVER do that again, because why? It’s easy for readers to be confused as to who is writing what.

So after that pleasant debacle, Sharita decided to affirm the muse or penname in the beginning. She also figured out what each muse liked to write. I, for one, am complicated and write characters who are already out the closet. I rarely write questioning characters. Also, the more drama the better which is why Nola Exotica as well as the paranormal and Immortals were made for me.

BLMorticia is the snarky muse, writing characters who are or were military or musicians, hence Under the Gun and Hirah Blaze. Some of the comedy in BL’s stories is legendary too which is why many books by BL are considered comedy.

Then there’s Rawiya who writes mostly sweet romance with very little drama, but she also writes damaged characters. Something About Jayden and Mocha Kisses are examples. We all write gay romance, but our characters, the subgenres, and or tones of the story define us.

By looking at Nola, you can see how that could be complicated, especially since BL and Rawiya wrote the het and trans romances in the collection.

Don’t look at me. It was her fault for coming up with such a complex plot.


What a mess, but things seemed to right itself until Where There’s Smoke came along.

Where There’s Smoke was on the bloody to-be-written list for years, until Shar decided to give it a whirl in 2016. Where There’s Smoke is an MMM with gay characters who are comfortable with their sexuality. (me) It has a character who is proper and slightly overdramatic in Myles Greyson. (me) It also has a snarky military man who is tattooed and very handsome in Jonas Sandbauck. (BL) And the last character is for the most part very sweet, but he has some issues. (Rawiya) Add that all together along with the very angst-ridden, drama filled plot and…


We have yet another dilemma.

*BLMorticia chuckles*

Hush, BL!

It really was a conundrum that Shar fought with for weeks. Another story that crosses through all three muses, but in the end, with all the complication, angst, and sexiness, Shar decided to award it to BLMorticia, because the book fits her subgenres or tones better. There are complications, drama, a former military man, lots of sex, and most importantly, a lot of comedic one-liners that I usually don’t do. So for that reason, Where There’s Smoke is a BL story. And, because BL usually writes shorts, this will be her longest book to date.

In the end, it doesn’t really matter does it? It’s still Sharita Lira’s work, but Shar is crazy and neurotic. What can I say?


Better to exhibit the crazy on the page instead of in public, right?

Anyway, I’m very happy to share the storyline with BLMortcia. I believe she did the story justice and I surely hope you’ll give it a read. As for us, the dueling muses, we’ll promise, not to make Sharita choose between us again.

*BLMorticia smirks*


*Michael crosses fingers behind his back*

* * * *

Now you see what I have to deal with on a daily basis?

*pulls hair out*

Thanks Michael for making me look crazier than people think I am. I hope you all enjoyed this blog and will check out Where There’s Smoke from BLMorticia, one of my many pennames.

Thanks for listening!



Santiago Mendoza

Chicago nearly destroyed me, but moving to Cobalt, I found everything I needed to put my life back together. Or…almost everything. I have an amazing man, a job I love, and a budding career as an author. Why does it feel like something is missing?

Jonas Sandbauck

Being a gay firefighter in a small town like Cobalt is tough, but the day I met Santiago in a coffee shop, all the struggles in the world wouldn’t keep me from his side. I’m ready to give him everything, including a white picket fence home filled with all the strange antiques he could ever want. But first I have to clear the path to our future, by digging through the wreckage of his past.

Myles Greyson

I’m no stranger to heartbreak, but I’m a man who knows how to get what he wants. Chaos in my life stole the man I love. Between my Fortune 500 company, my mother’s failing health, and my sister abandoning her daughter for drugs, I barely have time to breathe. But I rise above it all to give my niece the family she deserves. Which means getting my man back, no matter what—or who—tries to stand in my way.

Three men. Three different lives. And a chance at love just out of reach.

TRIGGER WARNING: Flashbacks and mentions of rape. On page violence.



This one is a good exchange between Myles Greyson and his partner at the firm, Garrett Barnes.

 After an hour or so of watching and recording Macy’s baby acrobatics, I drove to my financial firm I co-ran and owned with Garrett in the west loop. With the help of his parents, we bought this building three years ago, free and clear. Then Garrett’s dad brought in his team of hardhat professionals to rehab the structure for free and turn it into a modern, functional office. The success of Greyson, Barnes, and Associates had quickly risen, making us one of the top ten minority owned financial firms in the United States. Apparently when talking about money, few saw the colors of our skin as a detriment. They only cared about sound advice on how they could protect their financial futures.

“Good morning, Diana.”  I greeted our executive secretary the minute I stepped off the elevator.

“Morning, Myles. Remember, meeting at eleven and then a lunch with Gleason Jarvis.”

I recalled the meeting, but not the lunch with one of the biggest homophobes this side of the United States. He was one of our top clients though and to his credit, he barely flinched when he moved his fortune to us, from a bigger firm downtown. However, that didn’t stop him from barraging me with insults about my “choice” of orientation. I had to grin and bear it for him because the advice we offered was very profitable.

Attempting to hide my oversight, I smiled at her and nodded. “Right. I believe we have reservations at his favorite restaurant, Toureg Café?”

“Yes, at one p.m. Do you want me to call and…”

Diana seemed to detect my apprehension about this meeting. “Oh, no, that won’t be necessary. Little of what Jarvis said would make me unhappy.”

I changed the subject. “Did you know Macy started rolling?” I leaned over her desk, still in disbelief.

Diane gasped. “Really? Congrats on that. She’s such a doll. When are you bringing her back so we could swoon over her more?”

“Soon. No worries there. I love bringing her in and making Garrett do most of the work,” I chuckled. “I’ll show you the video before we leave for the day, because it is truly precious.” I slapped her desk and walked towards my office just down the hall.

Turning the knob, I waltzed in to my office, taking in the amazing view of the downtown area. Someday we would expand and move closer in the loop to take one of those high rises, but I was in no rush because I truly loved this building.

“Hey, Myles.”

I looked up from my desk and nodded at my business partner. “Hey. Did you sleep well after that meal for two?”

Garrett walked in with a huge grin. “Sure did. You missed a good one. And the wine tasting was great too.”

“Sorry. I wasn’t in the mood for socializing last night. I’m better today, but I’d much rather go home to my little niece than be around a bunch of stuffy people.”

“Listen to you being all fatherly and stuff. One thing I will say, little Macy has grounded you a lot. You’re less of an arrogant prick and more caring. No offense.”

I cocked an eyebrow. “None taken. Tell me how you really feel, Garrett. Don’t hold back. It’s only your best friend you’re talking about.”

“Aw, Myles, you know I’m right. When you lost Pierre, you were pretty miserable. Then Santiago made you somewhat happy again. When he left, you went back to becoming Jekyll and Hyde. At least now, with Macy, you keep your bipolar tendencies in check a little more. When she’s not around though, ooh boy. I’m just glad I’m not your man.”

I turned up my lips and leaned back in my chair, crossing both arms over my chest. “And you claim to be my bestie.”

“Man, I am. If I didn’t love you like a brother, we wouldn’t be running this firm together. Remember what you always tell me. Your best friends are honest with you no matter how bad it hurts.”

“That’s true. While we’re at it, let me get a list together to tell you about yourself.”

“Haha. That’s okay. I can be hard to live with. Sherri tells me that all the time. You both love me regardless, so…”

“Yeah. I suppose that’s true too. Anyway, did you need something or just to tell me what an insufferable bastard I am.”

“There is that, and I wanted to invite you out on Saturday.”

“Where to this time? Another wine tasting with queer professionals?” I asked with a cocked brow.

Garrett sighed and shook his head. “For the record, it wasn’t that. It was for professionals to mix and mingle and it said all people were welcome. We took it to mean for gays and straights to network and drink.”

“Uh, huh. Anyway, what is it you’re talking about Saturday? I’m pretty sure this will be nothing I’m interested in.”

“See? Look at you acting like a douche.”

“Well, according to you that isn’t hard for me,” I answered with a smirk.

“Nope it isn’t. Again, before I was so rudely interrupted, this is a gathering for financial professionals. Lewis Dempsey is the speaker and I know how fond you are of him.”

“I’m about as fond of him as I am of cancer.”

“Yeah, but you gotta admit he knows his stuff. And since he’s gay too, I thought it good for you to meet other gay professionals and find a new partner.”

“Mhmm. And I suppose you’re sending me to this place alone.”

“No, no. I’m going too for moral support, but the minute you make a connection, I’ll make myself scarce. I’ll hang out by the punch bowl or something. Shoot the shit, make golf games. Hey, I got no problem with making myself fit in with any crowd.”

Garrett was right. He didn’t have all those hang-ups about queer people some other straight men of color seemed to have. He was one of a kind, which was why we’ve been friends for ten out of my thirty-eight years.

“So…” Garrett stood in one spot, regarding me and awaiting my response.

I supposed I could humor him and have a night out on the town with my best friend.

“Yeah, I guess. I’m really not interested in hooking up with anyone. However, it would be good for networking. And even though he’s a blowhard, Lewis knows financial strategies.”

“Now you’re talking.” Garrett clapped his hands then rubbed them together. “So, it’s a night then. I’m picking you up at seven, just in case you go home with anybody. And Sherri said she’ll watch Macy to give Sarah a night off.”

“I’m sure Sarah would like that. Still, I don’t intend to go home with anyone. I will allow you to be my designated driver though in case I overdo it.” I told him, then looked at my phone that pinged with a message.

That was so great. You must come down here so I can play with her very soon!

Noticing Santiago’s reaction, I smiled to myself, knowing I would be making that trip, a lot sooner than later.


Bio: BLMorticia entertains her readers with hot and smexy sex, humor, and lots of swear words. She attempts to incorporate metal music or the military in most of her works. Nothin’ sexier than metalheads or military servicemen and women!


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* * * *

Bio: Sharita Lira

Romance and erotica author Sharita Lira believes that love conquers all. Writing sexy stories of people who might be complete opposites, but somehow make a lasting connection that often leads to a happily ever after.

Happily married and mother of two, Sharita never allows complex plots to deter her from writing the story. Inspired by heavy music, attractive people she’s seen in person and on the internet, Sharita always has a tale on her brain.

In addition to being a computer geek and a metalhead, Sharita loves live music, reading, and spending time with family and friends. She’s also a founding member and contributor to the heavy metal ezine FourteenG.

For more information, please visit and if you’re a fan who would like exclusive updates on her writings and chances to win prizes, sign up for the newsletter!

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WORDS: Resolution

It’s January. Most of New England is a frozen wasteland, slammed by a blizzard that was followed up immediately by a deep freeze. I live near Boston, where we got to see the consequences of climate change in the form of catastrophic flooding that froze over. The streets of Revere are an ice rink.

Why is that relevant?

The turning of the New Year is a time when many people choose to make resolutions. Many of us make resolutions we know we’re not going to keep. They’re unrealistic. Like so many other people, I make these resolutions, and then I get mad at myself when I don’t keep them.

There’s something about the time of year that inspires the desire to improve, the sensation of a clean slate. A lot of that is seasonal. Those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, particularly in northern climates, are looking at a harsh and unforgiving but above all clean environment. When I look out at the backyard, I don’t see mud or broken fences or goose crap. I see blank canvas, waiting for a new season.

It’s a powerful feeling, when I look at it that way.

And, of course, there’s the flip side. It’s freezing out there. I had an asthma attack walking from the hockey rink to the car last night, just from the cold. The best thing we can all do is sit indoors in the warm (assuming, of course, we have a warm indoor place to do so) and contemplate all of the good things we’re going to do going forward.

You know, before the thaw allows us back out into the world and forces us to contemplate the reality of actually doing any of this.

As a reader, I have a few resolutions. My first resolution, and my biggest, is to read more. It’s something most people (or at least most people I know) say they want to do, but as I’ve gotten older it’s gotten more difficult to carve out the time to actually read.

It feels sinful, selfish, indulgent. Something I have to earn.

Here’s the thing, though. Reading teaches us. Sure, reading nonfiction teaches us whatever our nonfiction book teaches us about. It might teach us about a poisoning ring in sixteenth century Paris or about murder in twentieth century South Carolina, or it might teach us about knitting or about the history of Typhus. (All excellent books, for the record.)

Fiction teaches us, too. Fiction teaches us how to be better people. Most of us will never climb a mountain, survive a genocide, exact revenge on the people who harmed us, rescue orphaned sea creatures, defeat literal demons, et cetera. We can live vicariously through these characters and thus move outside our own narrow eat, sleep, work, argue on Facebook lives.

So it’s not really “selfish” to sit down and carve out time to read fiction. The book I’m reading right now may feel like fluffy indulgence, and it might seem frivolous in comparison to the real-life news stories I see every day. Reading fiction, and learning to see through someone else’s eyes, has taught me to empathize. Empathy has taught me to solve problems better than any ten classes on Organizational Behavior. So maybe my resolution should be “I will not feel guilty about reading eighteen books this year,” instead of “I will read eighteen books this year.”

Another resolution I’m making, as a reader, is to feel less shame about what I’m reading. Last year was kind of a big year for me, in terms of standing up and being myself. I personally feel like I should try to feel a little bit less shame about what I’m consuming, and what I’m not consuming. Within certain reasonable boundaries, there are no guilty pleasures.

I watch terrible ghostie television. It’s my go-to programming, when I’m too tired to think but too keyed up to sleep. It’s fun, it’s entertaining, and it does the trick. As a reader, it’s a little bit harder to point to something I enjoy and call it a “guilty” pleasure, unless its historical romances I know aren’t accurate but love anyway.

(As an aside, I’d love to see more historical queer romances. I just would.)

I like reading the same history books, over and over. I like reading supernatural romances, even though sometimes I roll my eyes. Yes, big scary vampire, it’s only been done eighty-seven times, yes, that’s me hitting one click, well I did say it’s been done eighty-seven times how did you think I knew that?

So as of now, there are no more guilty pleasures, especially as far as reading is concerned.

In the same vein, I resolve to be at peace with the things that don’t interest me.

As a writer, I have a few resolutions too.

I resolve to have something to submit at least every quarter of this year, under my own name. It’s easy to get sidetracked and to let The Day Job eat all of my energy. If I don’t want to let that happen, I need to make a conscious commitment to my own voice, and my own work.

I resolve to seek out the things that inspire me, even when they take time away from writing. Sometimes this means going outside of my comfort zone, to a concert or a party or even just sitting by a fire on a beach. It’s good to focus, and to have my butt in front of the computer, but the computer isn’t very inspirational.

And finally, I resolve to forgive myself. I think this is one of the most important resolutions people can make. Let’s face it, many of us make resolutions we know are ambitious at best. We need to be gentle with ourselves. We can’t keep all of them. We might be able to get part way on some of them. And at the end of the day, as long as we’ve been good to one another and true to ourselves, I think we’ll have done okay.

Happy 2018. May it bring us more justice, more peace, and more joy.


XENIA’S RANT: Thoughts on Gifts

book gift - pixabay

book gift - pixabay

Hello, it’s me again. Originally, I had planned to write about romance writers this time and how they’re ‘real’ writers, and not just mass producers of cheap stories. (Yes, there’s people out there who accuse us of that). I was so ready to do a long rant about it and then send us all off into the final weeks of the holiday season with a friendly pat on the shoulder and a cookie in hand. Maybe two.

But then something happened. Something that has me writing about an entirely different topic and I would very much love to hear your thoughts about it.

I know a midwife who looks after a pregnant, homeless woman who is due in January. The midwife helped organize a home for her and was asking around who could donate furniture, baby clothes, and all the things a young mother needs. Since my younger daughter is out of the stroller by now, I decided to give it to her.

Now, that stroller is not new. It’s not pretty, either. The cloth is a washed – out military green and it has some scratches on the frame. But it’s fully functional, with all the additional equipment like rain gear and a mosquito net and an umbrella. If I had a third child, I would have kept using it. It’s from a good company and originally cost over 800 Euro. (I bought it second-hand, though.) I was glad that the stroller was once again being used and that I had one item less in my cellar. A very Christmassy story so far, isn’t it?

Then, two days after the midwife took the stroller, she called me and said the woman didn’t want it because it was ugly. Bam. My first reaction was to get angry. How dare she refuse my gift? Something I had given freely to help somebody out I didn’t even know. I felt insulted that somebody who couldn’t afford being choosy still was.

After I had cooled my head for a few days, I started thinking. It wasn’t pleasant, because some of those thoughts didn’t paint me in a very nice light, but here it goes.

First of all, I gave the stroller away because I no longer have a need for it. My attachment and the value I place on it are directly linked to the fact that both my children sat in it. It was that woman’s right to say she doesn’t like it because it’s ugly (which it is, I admit that freely; ugly, but very, very sturdy and functional). It may not have been smart on her part, because strollers don’t fall from the skies, but it was her right. So why was I angry?

Because I did charity and wasn’t properly rewarded.

Because I made a gift and it wasn’t appreciated.

And now is the season where we shower gifts on our beloved ones, where we do charity for the warm fuzzy feeling inside and we expect to get something in return.


The knowledge that our gift pleased the recipient.

Perhaps even a certain smugness when our gift is the best.

Well, that’s not giving gifts, that’s doing business, even if one end of the business is ‘just’ emotions. In all the glitter and jolliness, in our rush to buy and get whatever our hearts desire, especially now, when all the ads tell us how important it is to give something away, preferably the product they’re endorsing, gifts are no longer gifts. To loosely quote Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory, a gift is an obligation. When you receive one, you have to give one back that is roughly of the same value and you keep giving each other gifts until one of you dies and leaves the other (insert amount of money here) richer.

When I first saw that episode, I couldn’t stop laughing. It’s still one of my favorite. But when I think about it now, I have to say, he’s right. When did we stop seeing gifts as something we give to make somebody else happy, and started viewing them as a contest?

Who gives the best one?

Which is the most expensive?

Which was received with the most excitement?

Did I get something equal in return?

Is the receiver appropriately awed and grateful?

The longer I think about it, the more depressed I become.

I don’t want to be somebody who gives just because it’s an obligation. Or because it’s the season for it. Gifts should be magical, spontaneous, or well-though out. They should be a reason for joy, not a source of stress. One of the reasons Christmas has lost its appeal to me is the hunt for presents. We considerably shortened the list by agreeing with our family and most of our friends not to buy presents for each other, but still.

And I can’t deny I love getting presents. Who doesn’t?

I also don’t want this rant to sound bitter (which it does, I know), or disillusioned, because there are good things about presents as well.

They can make other people happy.

They can help make lives better.

They make children smile.

And still, I can’t shake the feeling that we’re somehow lost in a maelstrom of compulsion when it comes to presents. If pressed to put my dilemma in one sentence, I’d say we lost focus. It’s no longer about giving, but about the present itself and I think that’s the crux here. We’ve lost focus and in all honesty, I have no clue how to gain it back…

Nevertheless, I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

NEW FROM QRI: Beloved Local Author Merch

Beloved Local Author

Know any struggling author friends? QRI has the perfect gift for them this Christmas – our new “Beloved Local Author” merchandise. Get them a shirt or a mug or even a writing journal. It’s a great way for us normally shy authors to let the world know what we do without saying a word. Available in rainbow and purple versions. 🙂

See them here:

Beloved Local Author Rainbow

Queer in Color

Queer in Color

“We need more diverse books!”

Books with queer characters have become more popular these days. People are fascinated with the stories about queer people’s lives because, perhaps they finally realized the world isn’t completely hetero. More importantly, they wanted something different than the hero and the heroine or the assumed “straight” characters that dominate fiction. They wanted different, which means more diversity.

However, diversity doesn’t just cover queer versus hetero, it also means race, age, culture differences, religion, and able-bodied. That cry should mean we want more stories that represent all kinds of people, not just the majority.

As an author of color, I also wanted to see that change. I write books with queer characters of color, so why not showcase others as well? Several months ago, I posed the idea in the group I coordinated and found others who wished to do the same. In that time period, we started a website along with a newsletter, a Twitter page, and Facebook called Queer in Color.

Queer in Color’s main objective is to highlight books with queer characters of color. We feature the books for free on the website and if authors choose to be featured on the social media as well as our newsletter, we charge a small fee.

So, if you write books with queer characters of color, please fill out the form on the website. And no, it’s not just for romance. We’ll feature all fiction with queer PoC. Right now, we need more books with lesbian, trans, asexual, and bisexual characters because the site has many gay books, but not enough of anything else. We could also use more books featuring Latino and Asian characters as well because, again, we’re trying to cover all cultural bases.

Though more could be done, this is a start. It’s a way we can pay homage to those books that break the mold.

Thanks for taking the time to listen to me today. If you have any questions about the website, or being featured, please don’t hesitate to contact me at


Queer in Color Website

Queer in Color on Facebook

Queer in Color on Twitter

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The First Time I Witnessed True Romantic Love

Sarah Hadley Brook blog

Love is amazing. It’s powerful and all-encompassing. As a child, your understanding of love is formed by the relationships of those around you. Your parents, your siblings, your grandparents. You learn there are different types of love—familial, romantic, universal.

I never once doubted my mom’s unconditional love for my brother or me. My father? I’ll skip on by him. As for romantic love? I will never forget the first time I witnessed it—in all its beauty, and then again, even among the ugliness life can bring.

My mom’s older brother was the coolest uncle on the planet. I adored him. He was always interested in what was going on in my life, no matter that I was still in elementary school and probably bored him to tears. I cringe now at the number of times I discussed my Strawberry Shortcake dolls. Somehow he put up with me without making me feel like I was annoying him. Yes, I loved Uncle Damon with all my heart.

In third grade I found a picture of him with another man, their arms around each other, smiling. Even at my young age, I could tell they were more than friends. I placed the picture back in my mom’s nightstand drawer and never told her I found it.

Uncle Damon lived in New York City, but flew back often to see us, although my father refused to spend time with him. My dad hated most people, so that wasn’t anything surprising. We were used to it. But it still hurt my heart that he didn’t like my uncle. When my parents finally divorced, the tension in the house when Uncle Damon visited completely disappeared.

On one visit to town he showed up with the man I’d seen in the picture and introduced him to the family. Mark was enamored with my uncle, and the feeling was clearly mutual. For the first time in my life I witnessed true love. It was in everything they did—the way they looked at each other, their small touches and private words, and how each made sure the other was near. I realize now, that in my young mind I was probably idealizing their relationship, but I had never truly seen that kind of love before and it had a profound impact on me. The idea that someone could love you for yourself—and not because they were related to you—was beautiful to me.

Damon and Mark purchased a house together and we were set to fly out to visit when we got the call. This was in the early 1980s and the AIDS crisis was gaining momentum. He’d been diagnosed with it. We were devastated. Back then, there was still so much not known about AIDS and people around the country…well, they said some horrible things about gay men. It hurt to hear people say these things about the kindest man I knew.

He lost his job and was interviewed on NBC News. They asked him if he “regretted it or if it made him rethink that lifestyle” and I remember thinking what a stupid question that was. Recently I was doing some family research and came across a YouTube video of clips about gay rights from the 1980s and was stunned to find parts of that interview included.

Through it all—the sickness, the loss of a job, the hatred from so many—Mark was there for him. Not once did he leave his side. In all the beauty of love, there is also darkness. I am sure they had many dark days, struggling with the knowledge that Damon was going to die, yet hoping for a cure. They were shunned by so many people, too.

But in that darkness there was even more beauty. Their love stayed strong and they were together until the end. That Mark gave of himself freely, when so many others ran, is beautiful. He was tested immediately after Damon’s diagnosis and thankfully he escaped the virus.

Damon didn’t survive long after the diagnosis. He passed away October 11, 1985. But I still feel a strong connection to him. Through his life, no matter how short, I learned more about love and strength and bravery than from anyone else. He shaped my life in more ways than I can count.

When I was pregnant with my first child, a son, my due date was in November. But the baby came early and he was born on October 11. I like to think Damon was smiling that day.

Make a Plan Part 2:Tips for Managing Multiple Writing Projects

It is not uncommon for me to have four or five writing projects in progress. The gift of ADHD means that I always have projects. Some are large, long term projects such as developing my editorial calendar, manuscript drafts and edits, others are short such as website content and blog posts, and some fall in between, think short stories and journal articles.

Although I love the reminder feature on my Google calendar, as a visual person I have difficulty conceptualizing time when it is represented by little boxes on a computer screen.
I need to see it all, the whole year all at once.  My solution is a twelve month wall calendar. I like a Write on/ Wipe off type, ever so helpful if deadlines, or project details change.

I also make notes in each file, listing the next steps to complete the project. For example, word count goals, scenes left to write or rewrite, necessary research, lists of photographs/ images needed, connect with a co-author, conduct an interview, follow up on an email, etc. I make these notes at the end of the manuscript and/or on the outline.

I started keeping my Next Steps List when I was working on my master’s thesis. It kept me on track so I could finish my thesis on time, using every second of time I had to work effectively.

A Next Steps List helps in three ways:

  1. You know what you need to do next to move toward completing your project and can get right back to work after a break in writing, invaluable with limited writing time.
  2. A Next Steps List clears your brain so you can move on and work on other projects without the distraction and worry that you are forgetting something.
  3. Crossing out tasks as you finish them is a visual reminder that you are making progress. A visual reminder of your progress helps maintain motivation on long projects.

If you are a blogger, or are attempting to run one in addition to writing novels,  the best thing you can do for yourself is to create an editorial calendar. An editorial calendar is simply a calendar that you use to plan posts that you want to write, give them publishing dates and plan your posts. Keep it loose, give yourself permission to change what your post is about if you don’t want to write about that topic that week. Your editorial calendar allows you to plan in advance, gives you a place to park all your ideas for posts, and keeps you focused on your goals for the blog.

Most writers deal with deadlines, family obligations, work, holidays, and travel. Having a long term plan will help you stick to your writing schedule, turn projects in on time, and increase your productivity.  Make a plan. Hatch your dreams. Keep writing.

Brenda Murphy writes short stories and novels. She is a member of Romance Writers of America. Her nonfiction and short fiction have been published in various collections. Her most recent novel, One, published by NineStar Press, releases  November 6, 2017. When she is not swilling gallons of hot tea and writing, she wrangles two dogs, twins, and an unrepentant parrot. She writes about life, books, and writing on her blog, Writing While Distracted

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Thorns & Ink: Romance and Attraction

Thorns and Ink

I bet some of you know me, and some of you don’t. I read A LOT. I will read anything. But I think in most circles I am known for my love of kink, erotica, BDSM, shifters, and science fiction.

Today, I want to talk about the romance and attraction. I love when authors get under my skin. Good or bad. It lets me know I am still human. Authors create such beautiful characters, I run out of space on my love list. In books we can be attracted to anyone we please. The beauty of it, we can keep it a secret if we want.

The interesting thing about romance, is that it starts with attraction. Appearance, intellect, station in life, etc. With romantic fiction, the world opens up in a way we can only dream of. (After all, that is why we read.) We can be attracted to those outside of our real life without repercussion or explanation. We don’t have to justify why we are attracted to a character. We can revel in it. Lately, I have been asking myself what happens when you read something so mind blowing that you discover you?

That recently happened to me. It all started with the book Nervous by SM Johnson. This book blew my mind. I was opened. I was floating. Not in subspace, a kind of euphoria that I so rarely get when I am reading. (Becoming Sir by Ella Dominguez was the last one.) The romance was there, but it’s the character Avery. Watching him so effortlessly seduce Julian. Oh my. I was smitten instantly. The more I read, the more I was attracted. I do love a slow burn and this book offered that and more.

Everything else fell away. Conventions, society, all of it. And that my dears, reminded me of my crush.

I am not prone to crushes, but I have one. It was surprising when I realized what was going on. I didn’t discuss it, but I did isolate myself from the person. The person is an author. (Those of you who know me very well know who it is. I had the crush well before I read Nervous.) I reviewed one of their books, but I discovered that I could not continue to do so because I could no longer trust myself to be objective when it came to their work.

So back to this mind blowing book. It is a Dominance and Submission tale. There is courtship, but not the traditional kind. Of course because it is fantasy, things are not as real as we would like. Then again, this is why I read. It was sweet, loving, and warm. The thing about this book though. For some reason, it gave me the OK on my crush. I can revel in it and be happy.

That is the beautiful about the romance genre, something lovely will sneak up on you and there you are, attracted to a character (and perhaps someone in real life), and you have no idea what happened. I find that absolutely amazing. Inspiring even.

I collect book husbands, wives, girlfriends, and boyfriends all the time. I am attracted to them for a variety of reasons. Personality being the number one. I even have a list. When it comes to real life though, that is where it gets tricky. All those fantasy attractions get side-barred when a real person shows up. Inspiring romantic writing can do that. The tricky part is that I have found myself in uncharted waters. I know I am not alone, but I also don’t know how to express it. I find myself rereading the romances that comfort me in my attractions. They may not comfort others, and that is OK. I know it is.

All of this leads me back to Nervous. I do firmly believe that romance starts with attraction. I also believe that personality plays a huge part in it. I may not be The Dragon, but I have no problems with The Dragon in all of his beauty, charm, and grace.


Bio: I am just book dragon. You can find my reviews on You can find various articles, excerpts, and musing on The Official Thorns & Ink Blog

Writing Outside My Spectrum

Anasa's Awakening - Michael Mandrake - Immortals

I apologize for being late with this month’s post. *sighs* I was ill earlier in the week, and then Nano and day job and… *sighs* Well, here it is!

I’ve wanted to write this blog for a while, and I finally decided why not? You see, other than my Facebook personality, along with the muses, I’m really a shy person. I hide behind the computer screen and most of the time my social media profiles don’t feature a personal picture. It’s not because I don’t think I’m beautiful. *smiles and twists black locks of hair around my fingers* it’s because my writing shows so many different sides of myself. I mean, why would I want to write about a woman in her forties with an evil day job? Ugh. Sometimes those would make for great stories, but in my mind they’re kinda BORING. No, I don’t want to go so far as saying I’m boring.

Once I get to talking and, maybe with some help from the liquor variety, I’ll tell you my life story. Or maybe not.


But really, I’d rather tell you about my writing and the personas I take on when I sit down at the computer. Yep, besides the 4 muses, I have a variety of people I decided to be for every book.

For Michael Mandrake, I write gay male characters. I learn things from reading other books, articles, and things on the internet.

Like, porn. SURPRISE!

I’m sad to say, I have no close gay male friends, but when it comes to sex, I rely on what I read as my guide. While I edited Mocha Kisses, I was fortunate enough to have what I assume was a gay male editor. One thing I’ve hardly been questioned on is my sex scenes, but this time, he asked me about some of the things I wrote. I’m glad he did, because there were things I thought were true because of what I read or seen in porn. It’s good to have someone to advise you when you’re a cis-gendered, mostly het female and didn’t have the resources readily available.

As I’m rambling, I should get back to my post. I, as a cis het, female, want to write outside of what I know. I know customer service, worked in it fifteen years plus. I was a banker, I’m a mother of two kids, I’m married to a wonderful man, and I’m a black female who loves rock music. Even with all the things I claim to know, I will not go so far as to say I’m an expert. I still ask others for opinions or thoughts on things I include in my stories because I want to make an accurate portrayal. Despite all of this, I still might screw up on something because people will say, oh that’s not real or that doesn’t really happen, but that’s a topic for another day. Bottom line, I love writing outside of what I know to challenge myself and learn new things. I like to explore different worlds, cultures, etc, and I get hyped about putting that new knowledge into a book.

This kind of ties in with two recent kerfuffles in the gay romance genre about writing GLBTQIA  and/or people of color. You can ask questions, do research, just like you could about a doctor, police officer, EMT, etc. There is a lot of important information about these professions and people of different races, religions, gender identities, sexualities, and ages are no different. However, I do add this. Write them as individuals first because no matter the differences they are still people.

To get back to my writing outside spectrum post, I’m saying don’t let any of this stop you from writing the story you want to write. In all seriousness, Michael Mandrake scares the shit out of me with his complicated plots. Serial killers, CSI’s, homicide detectives, double agents, and that’s only the tip of the iceberg. I’m intimidated at the lengths in which I have to research these things, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

In my opinion, writing people shouldn’t be that much different. Do your due diligence and become that character you’re writing about. Do it with empathy and passion, and not because you feel you have to in order to sell books. Do it because you have a genuine interest in the person you’re including in your story because while you’re writing, you should put yourself in that character’s shoes and become that individual.

So why do I write outside again? To gain knowledge and become a different person. Besides, how many exciting stories are there about women in their forties unless they’re falling in love with a hot musician?

*looks at the idea on my long list of WIPs*

* * * *

Today’s promo is for Anasa’s Awakening, Book Three in the Immortals Series!

Blurb: Downtrodden and beaten by his Master, Anasa departs Nouvelle Terre for the solitude he can only find on earth. He must decide if serving a demon lord that has no love for him is worth eternal suffering. But the very thought of leaving his Master’s side chills him to the bone.

Shifter, Neil Arcenaux lives on the Mississippi River, content with his life as a loner. His ravenous sexual appetite often overrides his need for substance in his lovers. Relationships don’t agree with this gator. Why start now when life in the Big Easy is just that… easy?

When Neil spots Anasa wading in his territory, his natural instincts kick in, but not the ones he expects. Instead, Neil develops an overwhelming desire to mate with Anasa, even if only for a short while.

Surrendering to lust and passion gives Anasa a taste of what he’s always craved, but for how long?

And at what cost?

WARNING: Dark Romance! Flashbacks of torture and rough sex as well as on the page violence.

Books should be read in order.

All books in Immortals are FREE on Kindle Unlimited

Amazon Link to Anasa

To read a sample of Anasa’s Awakening, click here

Bio: Romance and erotica author Sharita Lira believes that love conquers all. Writing sexy stories of people who might be complete opposites, but somehow make a lasting connection that often leads to a happily ever after.

Happily married and mother of two, Sharita never allows complex plots to deter her from writing the story. Inspired by heavy music, attractive people she’s seen in person and on the internet, Sharita always has a tale on her brain.

In addition to being a computer geek and a metalhead, Sharita loves live music, reading, and spending time with family and friends. She’s also a founding member and contributor to the heavy metal ezine FourteenG.

For more information, please visit and if you’re a fan who would like exclusive updates on her writings and chances to win prizes, sign up for the newsletter!

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Women and Gay Fiction

Note: the views in this post are those of the author, and do not reflect the official views of the QRI site or its owners. We strive to provide a safe place where various opinions can be expressed, and ask that all posts and comments be kept civil and on-point.

As of late the discussion about heterosexual women writing gay fiction has gathered some heat – again – and even though I tried to avoid the topic until now, I feel like I should throw in my two pennies…

One of the main – if not THE main – objection some people have is that a heterosexual woman is not able to write about something she doesn’t know, e.g. homosexual relationships. This argument seems to have some validity at first glance, but if you think about it, it’s actually not true. When I read the Dexter series, it didn’t occur to me that the author should have some experience in serial murder himself. Or when I read a thriller about black ops, I don’t expect the author to having been on such missions him- or herself. Fiction is just that – fiction. An exercise in ‘what ifs’ and ‘what would I do’.

Apart from that, who reads romance, even if it’s contemporary and not paranormal or historical or…, and expects it to be realistic? The whole reason I read romance is to escape reality for some blissfully happy hours during which things go right. To all those male authors who think I, as a heterosexual woman, shouldn’t be writing about gay relationships, I dare you: Take a hundred heterosexual romance novels and show me ONE where everything is depicted realistically. You won’t find one, I can assure you. And it’s not because those books weren’t written by heterosexual women. It’s because women like romance. It’s because women like to dream.

Yes, we know the sex scenes in those books aren’t that close to reality. Me and my husband have spent many funny hours trying to re-enact some of the more adventurous positions described in the romance books I read. I have killer abs now, from laughing so hard. The same goes for homosexual sex scenes. Of course I don’t know exactly what’s going on between two men in the sac (it’s none of my business either), but that doesn’t mean I can’t let my mind wander and imagine what it could be like or deduce from my own experiences with sex. (Basically, this is something romance and porn have in common: a more desirable, yet unreachable version of reality. Nobody has as many orgasms as the men and women in romance books, but who cares? It’s nice to think that at least somebody is having them.)

How did I get caught in porn? Ah, yes, I remember. I’m a heterosexual woman and I write about gay relationships. I don’t say what I write is true. I create a new world, in which I hope my readers can relax and have fun. I am willing to adopt the argument about me not writing gay fiction when it comes to topics that are more autobiographical and require personal experience. But even then, I’m convinced an empathic person can tell such a story without having lived it.

That much said, there’s also another, more important point I wish to make. Dear male authors of gay fiction, I hope you’re aware that more than half of your readers are heterosexual women. In my opinion, this whole discussion weakens the community when it should stand together. The LGBTQ movement needs allies. Allies with a strong voice. Heterosexual women have a strong voice. They are valuable allies. So shunning them for taking an interest, for trying to get a feel for the community, to integrate into it, to open it to others, and help it by donating part of their sales to LGBTQ charities (which many of them do) is, mildly put, dumb.

We’re not here to tell you how gay men should be. We’re not here to steal your customers/readers. We’re here because we have either children, or brothers and sisters, or friends, who identify as LGBTQ. Sometimes we’re just here because we’re liberal and truly think everybody should have the right to live their lives the way they want.

We’re not the enemy. If you feel a female writer has somehow wrongly portrayed homosexual reality, if you feel personally insulted, you can always contact her privately, telling her how you feel about it. Don’t lash out at female writers in general. As I said, we’re your friends, you’re allies. Please treat us with the respect you demand for yourself.

PS: Because I just read another post. To those of you who think a heterosexual woman can’t relate to the trauma and violence homosexual people, especially men, have gone through, hello! I’m a woman. Our gender has CENTURIES of experience with being suppressed, sold like cattle, married off to men we don’t know, of being dependent on our fathers, brothers, husbands, not being allowed to vote, being killed because the way we acted brought shame upon the family (‘shame’ being defined by the male members of society), not getting the job we want because of something we can’t change – our gender, having to be careful when we are alone after dark, or just alone. Many women carry pepper spray with them when going out, because assaults on women happen that often.

We should stick together, not tear each other apart.