Category Archives: Reviews

“Screwups” gets its first review – 5 stars!

My new novel Screwups will be coming out on March 7th, and it’s already received a great 5-star review from Brandilyn at Prism Book Alliance!

Is that enough bolds and highlights?  Maybe I should add a couple more….

“The characters in the dorm are very real. I felt like I was back in college, myself. I was not in an “artistic” dorm, but I was in the “honors” dorm. Many of the characters were taken right from my own past. I had a Paul. I had a Danny and Jake. I wasn’t nearly as cool as Eva, but we can’t have everything. Even though I am not a gay male, I can certainly relate to some of the issues Jake is holding on to from high school. Everyone will find something to which to relate in Screwups, from the weekly D&D game to the Police Box to the characters surrounding the main couple.

. . .

These people aren’t perfect. There are no pretty ribbons and bows. There is no fairytale romance. What there is is slow and real, hurting, misunderstanding, over reacting, groveling, holding, kissing, loving, and hoping.”

Blurb:

In 1996, Jake Stewart is starting his third year at the University of New Hampshire. Even as a successful business major, he is absolutely miserable. Not only is Jake pursuing a field he hates when he’d rather study art, he is utterly terrified of what will happen if his father finds out he’s gay. When he finally gets up the courage to move into the creative arts dorm on campus, his new roommate, Danny, is openly gay—and there’s no denying the attraction between them. 

Danny Sullivan has been out since high school, and he appears comfortable with his sexuality. But something happened in Danny’s past—something that gives him nightmares he refuses to talk about. Unknown to Jake, the way he mistreated his friend, Tom Langois, when Tom came out to him in high school, is mild compared to the way someone very much like Jake treated Danny. 

It may be too late to fix the mess Jake made with Tom, but if Jake wants to be with Danny, he’s going to have to fix the mess made by another closeted jock he’s never even met.

Buy link:  http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=4756

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Filed under College, Contemporary, Drama, gay, New Release, Reviews, Romance

“Billy’s Bones” is touching a lot of readers

BillysBones_FessendenI almost titled this post, “Billy’s Bones could be my breakout novel,” because it very well may be.  A breakout novel is a novel that finally draws enough attention to put an author’s name on the radar.  Generally, subsequent novels sell much better as a result, because now readers have heard of the author.

That may be what Billy’s Bones is for me.  It spent over a week in the top ten of the Gay Romance list on Amazon, peaking at #7, and remained in the top 20 for almost two weeks.  The reader reviews and professional reviews have been amazing!  Sales have been astronomical, in comparison to any of my previous novels (and sales picked up for them over the past weeks, too).  And I’m still on the Dreamspinner bestsellers list!

What this will mean in the future, I don’t know.  If I’m lucky, my next novel will be successful as well.  Though it will be a little while before I attempt to tackle anything this dark again.  My next novel is a romance between two roommates in college.

But really, what’s more important than sales (yes, really) is that I’ve received numerous reviews and emails in which people have told me how much the book touched them.  Many have survived abuse themselves and the novel helped them — or at least didn’t disturb them — by dealing with the issue sensitively.  I couldn’t ask for greater praise.  My fear as I worked on the novel and all the way up until the day of its release was that it would be traumatic for some readers and come across as insensitive and  wildly inaccurate in its depiction of PTSD.

There have been, in fact, some readers who marked the book as something they know they can’t read.  After reading other reviews, they’ve concluded that the subject matter is too unpleasant for them to deal with in the context of their own pasts.  I understand that and sympathize.  I would never want somebody to be further traumatized by something I’ve written.

There have been a number of comments in reviews about the level of research that went into the novel.  Certainly I did read up on the subject of PTSD and watch videos of survivors discussing flashbacks and other experiences, but I was also lucky enough to know a number of therapists, including my mother, who specialized in treating clients with PTSD.  She and others read over the therapy scenes in the novel to make sure I wasn’t doing anything too horrendous.  She did point out that pushing someone to recall repressed memories wasn’t always a good idea.  In some cases, it’s better to leave it alone.  But of course, in the novel, it becomes necessary for Kevin to remember what happened, since he is the only witness.

As a final note, I would like to point out that, although I did have some experiences in my childhood which came into play while writing this novel, no one in my family was ever abusive to me or my brother.

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Filed under Drama, gay, Life, Mystery, Pets, Psychological Drama, Reviews, Romance, Writing

“Billy’s Bones” has taken off!

BillysBones_FessendenSince its release on Monday, Billy’s Bones has taken off like a rocket!

It didn’t exactly hit #1 on Amazon, but it did get up to #25 in the Gay Romance category, which is the highest any of my novels has climbed before.  It fluctuates constantly, and that may end up being as high as it goes, but I know for a fact that it went that high—I have screenshots!

It’s also listed on the Dreamspinner Bestsellers page!  That’s been a goal of mine since I was first published with them.

Already, I’ve had a host of terrific reviews.  Cindi at On Top Down Under Book Reviews said about the book, “Overall, I have to say that this is an outstanding book.  I told someone today that it is definitely one of my favorites of 2013. Thinking back I now have to say that it’s one of my favorites of all-time. There are no words to express my total love for this story and the author’s writing. This was an easy 5 stars for me.”

This week has definitely been one of the high points of my writing career so far!

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Filed under Drama, gay, Mystery, New Release, Psychological Drama, Reviews, Romance, Writing

“Billy’s Bones” has been released!

BillysBones_FessendenMy psychological drama, Billy’s Bones, has been released today!

It can be found at Dreamspinner Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, All Romance eBooks, and other resellers.

It also received a 5-star review from Live Your Life, Buy The Book, calling it “Brilliant.. Gripping.. Suspenseful.. Emotional.. Page turner..”

I’m so excited about this release!

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Filed under Drama, gay, Occult/Paranormal, Pets, Psychological Drama, Reviews, Romance, Writing

The first book that ever made me cry

I remember crying because of films, when I was young—Old Yeller, The Boy Who Talked to Badgers, The Yearling (I was a sucker for movies about animals).  I was upset about Ben dying in Star Wars.  But I don’t recall any novels that had any great emotional impact on me until A Separate Peace.  And that one devastated me.

I think it was 1982, when I was a junior in high school.  I was sitting in first period Latin class, bored and not particularly following the lesson (I flunked the class), so I started flipping through my English Literature textbook.  I feel bad for kids who are forced to read A Separate Peace as an English assignment, because few novels survive that stigma.  Who falls in love with something that they’ve been forced to read and write essays about?  (Okay, I still love Lord of the Flies, despite this, but that’s the exception—not the rule.)  I started reading and was immediately hooked.

And when I say hooked, I mean hooked.  I couldn’t put it down.  I kept reading through every single class I had that day.  In art class, my teacher had to order me to close the book and concentrate on the assignment.  Most teachers either didn’t notice me reading under the desk, or chose to ignore it.  I continued reading on the bus ride home and then immediately ran up to my bedroom and finished the book.  I’ve never read a novel of that length that quickly, before or since.

I was bawling by the end of the book.  The ending destroyed me.  I couldn’t fathom how Gene could still go on.  What was wrong with him?  I didn’t even want to leave my room to eat dinner.  I just wanted to lay there in the dark and cry.

So I did the only thing I could think of to do:  I picked the book up and began reading again from the beginning, where everything was peaceful and idyllic once more.

Why did A Separate Peace affect me so deeply?  I’m still trying to figure that out.  It’s definitely a good book.  I re-read it again this week and still loved it, though the ending is merely sad now.  I’ve read it too many times in the intervening years to be affected by it the same way I was thirty years ago.  Now, I see it through the eyes of not only an adult, but also a writer.  I can see that the prose is very good, if not particularly poetic.  The story structure holds together well.  And there is symbolism that flew over my head as a teenager.  My biggest criticism would be that Leper’s descent into madness doesn’t feel at all realistic to me now.  I’ve learned a bit more about mental illness in my adult life, and the way John Knowles portrayed it just didn’t feel right.  But that’s a minor criticism.  The characters are just as vividly painted as I remember them.  I still fell in love with Finny.

And that’s a big part of it, of course.  I fell in love with Finny.  To me, even a couple years before I’d come to terms with my own homosexuality, A Separate Peace felt like a gay novel.  I know the author, John Knowles, never intended that.  It’s a novel about two teenage boys who have such an intense, close bond between them that they feel like extensions of each other.  Gene’s struggle is, in a way, a battle with his own personal demons, manifested in Phineas.  When Finny is absent, there is a scene in which Gene dresses in Finny’s clothes and in his mind transforms into Phineas for a short time, and this bond between them is referred to several times in the novel. But to me, that bond felt like the bond between two boys who were in love with each other, even if they never acted on it.  Several times, the narrator (Gene) describes Finny’s handsome features and physical perfection in terms that might make a teenager uncomfortable these days, now that everyone suspects homo-eroticism in same-sex relationships.  Things were different in the 1940s, of course.  But even in the 1980s, I recall a friend’s father referring to the film Brian’s Song derogatorily as a “romance between a black guy and a white guy.”  (This totally killed my friend’s interest in a film that he’d previously enjoyed watching several times.)

The day Gene and Finny spend together on the beach, sleeping side by side on the dunes, with Finny doting on Gene the whole time… that felt really romantic.

This is perhaps a common problem for gay teens—seeing homo-erotic overtones in books and films, where straight teens see just friendship.  But then, of course, this disconnect often happens in their real lives.  Why should fiction be any different?

So the book that made me cry was, in the final analysis, not really the book I was reading, but the book that was taking place in my heart and mind.  And some of that passion now seems lacking, when I go back to re-read it.  But it’s still a great book.  And perhaps even a straight guy might cry reading it.

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Filed under Drama, gay, Life, Reviews, Writing, Young Adult

Release Day for “Murderous Requiem”!

MurderousRequieum_ORIGMurderous Requiem has been released!

It is now available for purchase at Dreamspinner, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other retailers.

Over at MM Good Book Reviews, it’s received 4 out of 5 stars!  “The mystery and suspense are good and leaves a thread of tension throughout the book. There’s death and betrayal, love and hope and occult dealings. I actually think this is an intriguing story that shows a ‘whiter’ or good side to the occult. It has informative information and you can see that the author has done a lot of research.  I will recommend this to those who love mystery and suspense, occult dealings, twists, betrayal, underhand dealings, murder and manipulation and a happy for them ending.”

Here’s the Blurb:

Jeremy Spencer never imagined the occult order he and his boyfriend, Bowyn, started as a joke in college would become an international organization with hundreds of followers. Now a professor with expertise in Renaissance music, Jeremy finds himself drawn back into the world of free love and ceremonial magick he’d left behind, and the old jealousies and hurt that separated him from Bowyn eight years ago seem almost insignificant. 

Then Jeremy begins to wonder if the centuries-old score he’s been asked to transcribe hides something sinister. With each stanza, local birds flock to the old mansion, a mysterious fog descends upon the grounds, and bats swarm the temple dome. During a séance, the group receives a cryptic warning from the spirit realm. And as the music’s performance draws nearer, Jeremy realizes it may hold the key to incredible power—power somebody is willing to kill for.

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A Day in the Life of a Writer

So let’s say you’ve decided to make a go of writing full-time.  You might imagine that your work day would consist of sitting at your computer for long stretches of time, busily writing.  After all, you’re a writer!  Isn’t that what writers do?

Well, I’ve had a busy day doing pretty much all writing-related stuff and it occurred to me that it might be of interest to someone contemplating the life of non-stop excitement and adventure that I’ve embarked upon.  Keep in mind that I still work full-time in the tech support industry, so this is all in my “free” time, at the moment.  This was how I spent my Saturday.  Not that I’m complaining.  I love it.  The temptation to play computer games is always hovering at the edge of my consciousness, taunting me (and occasionally seducing me), but the writing and editing is in fact fun.

But it’s also a lot of work.

  • Last night, I finished going over the final galley proof of my YA novel and emailed that off to my editor.  That doesn’t count for what I did today, of course, but this morning I remembered a couple things I’d forgotten, so I sent a couple emails to straighten that out.  That novel will come out March 1st!
  • I also received an email from a reviewer who’d been nice enough to host a giveaway of another one of my YA novels.  She’d picked a winner and was forwarding the email address to me, so I could send the eBook to that person.  I sent the email, of course.  And I was charming as all get-out.  
  • Murderous Requiem has gone into the editing phase.  Yay!  I received the first wave of edits from Dreamspinner and now I have to go through the manuscript and accept or reject the changes… and explain why I rejected them, if I do that.  I have a lot of respect for my editors and I think they’ve really improved my writing over time, by pointing out passive sentences and suggesting ways to make them more dynamic, as well as forcing me to review awkward phrasings and strange word choices.  But sometimes we disagree.  I may prefer the way I wrote the sentence originally, or I might have a reason for using a particular phrasing.  One of the big battles in By That Sin Fell the Angels was over capitalization of pronouns referencing God and Jesus.  The Chicago Manual of Style says they shouldn’t be capitalized.  After all, the King James Bible doesn’t capitalize them.  However, I based the church in that book on the Assembly of God churches I attended as a teenager in New Mexico and Texas.  They capitalize.  A lot.  Just listen to an Assembly of God pastor talking about Jesus and you can hear the capitalization.   Their website is covered with capital letters.  So I fought for that one.  But I digress….  Anyway, the edits have to be done by this coming Wednesday.
  • I was contacted by a fellow author who had read The Dogs of Cyberwar and wanted to let me know that she’d reviewed it, and also wanted to chew me out for the cliff-hanger ending.  I assured her that I would get back to Dogs as soon as this current novel I’m writing was done.  She’ll have to get in line behind all the other people who want to strangle me for the ending on Dogs.  Does this count as work?  It was a pleasant email chat with a friend.  But still, writing-related.  And yay!  A review!  (Thanks, Angel!)
  • Speaking of my current novel—or as we sophisticated writer-types like to call it, WIP (Work In Progress)—it’s lagging behind.  I’d promised my publisher I’d have it done by the beginning of March.  Now I’m certain that isn’t going to happen, so I had to hang my head in shame and ask for an extension, until the end of March.  Fortunately, she was gracious.  
  • Then I wrote a scene and realized I was going in the wrong direction.  It wasn’t bad, but it meant I had to change the direction I’d wanted to go in for that character, which really didn’t make sense.  So I spent some time brainstorming with my husband to see how I might get things back on track.  Fortunately, it didn’t involve throwing out what I’d written, but I now have to go back and write some stuff leading up to it and change what’s coming after it.
  • Then I played Morrowind.  (Scratch that!  It never happened!)
  • I updated the list I’m keeping of things that need to be done.  It includes interviews I’m doing, bloghops, submitting published novels for consideration in various awards, miscellaneous promotional stuff, etc.  I currently have about fifteen open items to keep track of.  
  • I did some brainstorming about my next YA novel, a somewhat surreal sci-fi adventure.
  • I submitted two novels to the Rainbow Awards.  (Last year, one of my YA novels got two honorable mentions.)
  • So how much writing did I actually get done today?  It actually wasn’t a banner day for writing.  Let’s say about 1,000 words.  A good day for me is about 2,000 words.  But if I can manage 1,000 a day for the next few weeks, I’ll make my deadline, at least.  

So that was my day.  I’m sure other writers are much busier than I am.  I certainly know writers who have more output, but I’m not too unhappy with the amount of actual writing I do.  I have slow days and fast days, but as I mentioned in an earlier post, I managed about 150,000 words of new material last year, not counting editing.  If I calculate that out for 52 five-day weeks, then that means I wrote about 600 words a day.  I can easily increase that, if I were doing this full-time.  We’ll just see how things go.

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Filed under Reviews, SciFi, Writing, Young Adult