A Deeper Analysis of My 2016 Writing/Publishing Year by Leta Blake

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Looking back, did you write more than you thought you would this year, less, or about what you’d predicted?

I always overestimate what I’m going to get done, so I’d go with less. I always think I’m a super-human machine who will be endlessly inspired and motivated to crank out word after word after word. Then it turns out I’m human and have down periods and times when four pages just won’t “lay flat” and I spend a week on them.

What did you write that you would never have predicted in January?

I published Angel Undone. That was never in my plan for the year. It hit me in June that I was essentially done with the story. That it was finished in my heart and that it was either going to languish on my hard drive forever or I was going to send it out into the world. So I quickly polished it up and published it. I also never would have guessed that I’d be working on my current WIP. It was never, ever in the plan for 2016/2017, but events transpired with the fall releases that made me have to take a step back from my goals in October. This WIP hopped into that space overflowing with words and begging to be written. In my need for something to feel good/right/moving, I took it on, despite reservations about it. And now I’m nearly 50% finished with the book. I hope to have it out in early spring.

What’s your own favorite story of the year? Not the most popular, but the one that makes you happiest?

The unfinished book that makes me the happiest is the one I’m working on right now. It’s a bit top secret until I’m closer to the release date, but let’s just say that it involves, um, male pregnancy. The book I published this year that makes me the happiest is You Are Not Me. You have to suffer through Pictures of You to get to it, but everything about You Are Not Me fills me with joy. Maybe I’m weird, but, unf, I love these characters so damn much.

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Did you take any writing risks this year? What did you learn from them?

I did! Everything I did this year was a risk, from doing the Will & Patrick Wake Up Married serial to releasing ’90’s Coming of Age books, to Angel Undone. The real question is which risks paid off? And what does it mean for something to “pay off”?

Will & Patrick turned out to be a brilliant choice. It was crazy fun to write and has turned into a consistent little money maker, which, let’s get frank, is important.

Angel Undone didn’t really pay off in terms of critical reviews or sales, but it did get the hell off my hard drive and that, believe it or not, is a pay off that is priceless in some ways. No more agonizing over what to do with this little story. It’s out and done.

And then ’90’s Coming of Age (Pictures of You & You Are Not Me)… Well, guys, I don’t know. I have a lot of mixed emotions about this risk because it did exactly what I expected it to do: it was a financial and sales flop, but a critical darling, and, dammit, I lived off those reviews like it was ambrosia of the gods. But reviews don’t pay bills and they don’t put food on the table. For the first time ever, books I self-published didn’t pay for themselves or even come close. I’ll be releasing something in the new year regarding the plans for ’90’s Coming of Age, but I will state here that I can’t afford to put out more in the series until I produce something that refills the coffers.

So, the risk of publishing the ’90s Coming of Age series paid off in a few ways: wonderful reviews, dedicated fans, and starting the process of getting a 14 year old project put to bed. But now I’m looking at knowing that I have to invest another large hunk of money into two more books in order to finish it off, and I have quite clear evidence that those two books won’t be able to pay for themselves. So I have to be careful and very wise with my next publishing choices. Something my muses don’t understand–as evidenced by the male pregnancy WIP!

So, I guess, as you’ve seen, I’m diving into bigger risks this year, too. But more on that later.

My most popular story of this year:

The Wake Up Married serial for sure!

Story of mine most under-appreciated by the universe, in my opinion:

Ha! Well, I think it’s pretty clear from my rambling above that Pictures of You & You Are Not Me didn’t get massive sales numbers (or even decent sales numbers) so that’s what I’d have to go with, though I will say the people who did read it, mainly reviewers and those who got ARCs, seemed to love the books so much that I felt they were quite appreciated by those who took the plunge.

Most fun story to write: 

I have adored working on this current story! It’s just been delicious and fun and everything I’ve needed right now.

Story with the single sexiest moment:

Hmm, I think that You Are Not Me has a really sexy moment, but it’s not as graphic as some I’ve written.

Most “Holy crap, that’s wrong, even for you” story:

Probably this male pregnancy story? Or maybe the dark erotica I’m working on under a different pen name?

Story that shifted my own perceptions of the characters:

You Are Not Me. Once I understood Daniel, everything fell into place.

Hardest story to write:

We Can Be Good. The third book in the ’90’s Coming of Age series. I wrote 90,000 words of it several years ago and in reviewing those words recently I was sort of horrified to realize that most of it has to go. (And most of it is sex. Apparently, I was really into showing ALL THE SEX and that just doesn’t fit the vibe of the books anymore.) So now, between realizing that I’m basically going to start Book 3 from scratch, and knowing that I haven’t even come close to paying for Books 1 & 2, I sort of quail in fear every time I open the document. I’ll move past it, though. Eventually. It will be released in 2017. I WILL MAKE IT HAPPEN.

Biggest Disappointment:

*smiles softly* I think that’s pretty clear by now.

Biggest Surprise: 

How well the Wake Up Married serial was received. I had been told that serials were a mistake and a disaster and don’t do it, but while they weren’t the rousing success of Smoky Mountain Dreams, they have proved consistent and worth the time and effort.

Most Unintentionally Telling Story:

Definitely the male pregnancy WIP I’ve got going. All my societal issues are getting dumped into it. Yay.

Do you have any goals for the New Year?

I do! I wrote a whole blog post about that a few weeks ago. Check out the second half of THIS POST for my 2017 goals.

I’ll update more on my plans for ’90s Coming of Age books in a week or so. Until then, let me leave you with the best New Year’s Wish in the world, penned by Neil Gaiman:

 

I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.
Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.
So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.
Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it.
Make your mistakes, next year and forever.

My Favorite Reads of 2016! A Hodge-Podge of Excellence and Entertainment! #bookrecs

The rules for this list were simple: books I read in 2016, loved like whoa or found edifying in an important way, and (most importantly) didn’t beta read or edit.

Click on the book cover to purchase!

Seraphina & Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman

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61gxyvytrolThese fantasy books featuring dragons and a wonderful, diverse cast of characters, including trans and gay characters, as well as a polyamorous end-game were simply wonderful. Highly recommended. I’d love to see more in this fascinating and well-drawn universe. My top reads of the year.

 

For Darkness Shows the Stars & Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund

51rhgxrrfgl 51oskrptajl These fantasy books featured post-apocalyptic reimagining of Jane Austen’s Persuasion and Baroness Orczy and Otto Penzler’s The Scarlet Pimpernel respectively. Unique world-building with descriptions that “roll film” before your eyes, these stories were addictive, new, and yet familiar all at once. Highly recommended. I’d love to see more in this universe, especially since a few threads are left dangling at the end of the second book. 

Backwards to Oregon by Jae

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I both loved this book and found it frustrating, yet it’s making my Favorites of 2016 list. How’s that possible? I bought it expecting a lesbian Western and quickly realized that it was a trans Western more than anything else. Luke Hamilton is clearly a transman and I loved the aspect of the book that dealt with how stunted Luke’s life had to be to keep his secret. But, again, it’s advertised as a lesbian Western, and it consistently calls Luke “she” when written from Luke’s own point of view. Which, well, really made me uncomfortable. I started to replace the ‘she’ with ‘he’ in my mind just to ease the cognitive dissonance. I wish that the author would edit this book to reflect Luke as a transman, removing the female pronouns, because it was, otherwise, an excellent, well-researched, very engaging read that’d I’d highly recommend. It’s a shame that it’s so good and yet this issue makes it deeply uncomfortable at times. Or maybe that’s a good thing, too. It certainly made me think.

Rorschach Blots by RoughDraftHero

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This book is short and you can pay whatever you like for it (including nothing at all) over at Smashwords. I can’t recall what made me pick it up. It’d been in my TBR for a long time, but this year I finally got around to it. I will say that this book is pretty problematic in that it covers a teacher and student getting involved in deeply inappropriate ways. It wasn’t even wildly well-written, but, dude, it’s free-ish, so let’s get our priorities in order here. It smacked of repurposed fan fiction, but I’m down with that, and maybe it wasn’t even and it just had that feel. BUT it’s on my Favorites of 2016 list for a reason and that is the really fascinating psychological stuff going on when you’ve got a young, uneducated, fledgling dom trying to assert himself over an older, not entirely educated sub who is resisting every step of the way because, duh, he’s the dom’s teacher. I’d probably sell a kidney to see a sequel to this book, to be honest. Okay, not a kidney. But I’d make statements like, “I’d sell a kidney” and hope the author would just simply deliver for me despite no kidneys being sold. Recommended if you enjoy twisted set ups with odd pay-offs and lots of spanking.

Blue on Black by Carole Cummings

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Fantasy-Western with angry men who are desperately attracted to each other? Yes, please. Fascinating world-building with several unexpected twists that I didn’t see coming? Double heck-yeah! I’m always excited when a book surprises me, because, to be honest, it doesn’t happen a lot. So I was pleased as punch when I got to say, “Now, what? Didn’t see that coming!” while reading this book. I’m a sucker for fantasy books and this one was my cuppa all the way. Broody men with high-stakes and a mystery that kept me curious until the end. Recommended!

The Mystery of Nevermore by C.S. Poe

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I adored this mystery by C.S. Poe. It had hints of Adrien English without all the almost unbearable angst. If you enjoy acerbic characters who are sexy while solving mysteries and who just can’t keep themselves out of trouble, then you’ll enjoy this one, too. This book felt like an old friend. It has the vibe of a cozy mystery despite being set in bustling New York City. Maybe it’s because of the heaps of snow? Regardless, this is a lovely read and I recommend it.

 

Merry Christmas, Mr. Miggles by Eli Easton

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I’ll just admit up front that I have a certain weakness for a younger/older book where the older character is the more flamboyant, over-the-top, dramatic one, and the younger character is steady and steadfast. This absorbing read hit that button hard and fast, and I loved it. Easily one of my all-time favorite Christmas reads, I lost track of time while reading this one and ended up staying up until 3:30 am. Not even on purpose! I was so absorbed, I didn’t even know what time it was! Highly recommended. Very cute. Loved it. Would read again.

“Be prepared to get sucked in.” Smoky Mountain Dreams #gay #amreading

“Great book and I totally recommend this to anyone wanting to read a story that will make you laugh cry and get angry and cry some more tissues are required to read this book because this book has it all and it is not a fast read so be prepared to get sucked in cuz this will make you want to read till the end!”

via Goodreads | Mary Irving, TX’s review of Smoky Mountain Dreams.

Sometimes holding on means letting go Christopher Ryder and Jesse Birch are two men hanging on to the past. While Christopher has let go of his failure as a country singer in Nashville, he's still trying to please his narrow-minded, non-accepting family. His beloved Gran loves him the way he is, but Christopher feels painfully invisible to everyone else. He’s happy enough performing at the Smoky Mountain Dreams theme park in Tennessee, but even when Christopher is center stage he aches for someone to see the real him. There's more than meets the eye when it comes to bisexual Jesse. He's raising two kids and fighting with family after a tragic accident took his children’s mother. There's no room in his life for dating, his kids are his priority, and he doesn't want more than an occasional hook-up. He sure as hell doesn't want to fall hard for his favorite local singer, but when Christopher walks into his jewelry studio, Jesse hears a new song in his heart.
Sometimes holding on means letting go
Christopher Ryder and Jesse Birch are two men hanging on to the past. While Christopher has let go of his failure as a country singer in Nashville, he’s still trying to please his narrow-minded, non-accepting family. His beloved Gran loves him the way he is, but Christopher feels painfully invisible to everyone else. He’s happy enough performing at the Smoky Mountain Dreams theme park in Tennessee, but even when Christopher is center stage he aches for someone to see the real him.
There’s more than meets the eye when it comes to bisexual Jesse. He’s raising two kids and fighting with family after a tragic accident took his children’s mother. There’s no room in his life for dating, his kids are his priority, and he doesn’t want more than an occasional hook-up. He sure as hell doesn’t want to fall hard for his favorite local singer, but when Christopher walks into his jewelry studio, Jesse hears a new song in his heart.

Smoky Mountain Dreams is available now at:

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Taking Stock of My Year: 2016 Accomplishments & 2017 Goals

It’s time to take stock of what I’ve accomplished in the last year and what I’d like to do in the next one. I live in a perpetual state of feeling like I’ve never accomplished enough. So sometimes it’s healthy for me to take a minute to say, “Look, you did these things. There’s actual proof!”

In 2016, I published the following books:

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Will & Patrick Fight Their Feelings
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Will & Patrick Meet the Mob
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Will & Patrick’s Happy Ending

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Angel Undone

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Pictures of You
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You Are Not Me

In 2016, I had the following books released as translations:

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Vespéral
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Saison d’entrainement: Entrainement tome 1
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Centre d’entrainement: Entrainement Tome 2
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Überraschend … verheiratet!
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Training Season: La stagione dell’allenamento
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Un fiume in piena

The year has had its blessings and its troubles. I think the most surprising thing I’ve discovered is that I need to create two new pen names in order to work on non-Leta Blake brand ideas. In the end, I think it will serve me well to have three brands to allow my creativity to flow, but in the meantime it will bring on some lean times.

Which brings me to my 2017 Goals…

1) AUDIO: I’d like to explore audio and after much thought I’ve decided that Will & Patrick Wake Up Married is probably the way to go. The length of each installment is less than my usual book and so, hopefully, it would be more affordable to produce. I haven’t even begun to look into it, but intend to do so starting in January.

2) 90s COMING OF AGE BOOKS 3 & 4: I intend to finish the 90’s Coming of Age series in 2017. They are tentatively called We Can Be Good and We Make It Real.

3) M/F SERIAL: I want to start putting out the M/F serial I mentioned above. I have planned out twenty installments, but I’d like to get that down to ten, and put out three to five of them next year.

4) DARK EROTICA PEN NAME: Books published under this name won’t be “Leta Blake brand”. I intend to put out two (or possibly four) books under this name next year, depending on how things go.

5) A CHRISTMAS BOOK: I have three ideas and whichever one jumps me hardest will get my attention.

6) A LETA BLAKE BRAND BOOK: I’m waffling here. I’m torn between a Will & Patrick sequel, a heist book I’ve wanted to do forever, the Gareth/Lowell book from Smoky Mountain Dreams universe, and a book about Varun from Will & Patrick’s universe. But I’m already pushing the limits of my abilities with these goals, so I will just say that I’ve got to make a choice on this rather soon. It’s important to me that I get a stand alone Leta Blake brand book out this year.

It’s my belief that 2017 will be a building year for me. It will be a lot of work and expense with potentially little profit. It will probably feel a lot like the uphill part of the roller coaster, and I hope it only takes one year to get to the top of it. It’d be nice to experience a fun ride down before I start building again. Because that’s life, isn’t it? You go up that hill and then whoosh, it’s over in a flash, and you do more work to get up the next hill, and whoosh. There’s always hard work to earn the rush. I can promise there will be books to show for the work. I truly hope readers will enjoy them.

Let me take this opportunity to thank all the readers out there, all across the world, who’ve made my writing career thus far so wonderful. You’ve allowed me to write books that move me and I’ve loved hearing that they also moved you. Thank you for your trust. I know you invest money and time whenever you read one of my books. It’s an honor to be granted those precious hours of your life.

Thank you and blessings.

A Caryn Review: You Are Not Me (’90s Coming of Age #2) by Leta Blake

“I can’t remember the last time I was this emotionally connected to a book. I read this through in one sitting, and I kept wanting to reach in and shake Peter, or warn him, or give him a hug, or something!! And I’m now so invested I can’t wait for the last installment!”

Read more at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words!

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

you-are-not-me-by-leta-blakeI can’t remember the last time I was this emotionally connected to a book.  I read this through in one sitting, and I kept wanting to reach in and shake Peter, or warn him, or give him a hug, or something!!  And I’m now so invested I can’t wait for the last installment!

The book picks up immediately after Pictures of You ends – the summer between high school and college.  Peter’s boyfriend and first love, Adam, is in Italy to stay with his parents until college starts in the fall, while Peter remains at home, working to save money to go to University of Tennessee.  He’s still feeling that uncomfortable mix of guilt and want that was with him all through senior year, missing Adam, and wondering what really will happen when Adam gets back.

But the summer turns…

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NOW AVAILABLE! You Are Not Me (90’s Coming of Age, Bk 2) by Leta Blake

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Follow Peter into the summer following his senior year to face new beginnings, new friends, and old baggage.

After a tumultuous final year of high school, Peter Mandel needs a break. It’s the summer of 1991, and his secret relationship with his ‘best friend’ Adam Algedi is put on hold as Adam goes away to Italy for the summer. On the cusp of adulthood, Peter has a couple of months to explore who he is without Adam at his side.

Enter Daniel McPeak, a slightly older, out, responsible college guy with a posse of gay friends and an attraction for Peter. Drawn into the brave new world of the local gay club, Peter embarks on a whirlwind of experiences—good and bad—which culminate in a hotel room where he has to make the ultimate choice.

But Adam will come back eventually, and there are promises that have to be kept. As autumn draws near and college awaits, can Peter break free of the binds of twisted first love? And what exactly is Daniel’s role in his life – a brief temptation, or something more?

Join Peter in the second book of this four-part coming of age series as he struggles to love and be loved, and grow into a gay man worthy of his own respect.

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This new series by Leta Blake is gay fiction with romantic elements.

Book 2 of 4.
Length: 100,000 words, 328 pages

These books contain aspects of: New Adult fiction, ‘90s gay life, small city homosexual experiences, Southern biases, sexual exploration, romance, homophobia, bisexuality, and twisted-up young love. Oh, and a guaranteed happy ending for the main character by the end of Book 4.

*5 stars* Wake Up Married by Leta Blake & Alice Griffiths – “They actually made me cry, dammit.”

“*5 stars*

Each one is better than the last. And for a series that describes itself as a “romantic comedy” there have been some very complicated and meaningful issues immersed within the romance and the comedy. They actually made me cry, dammit.

Oh and if you haven’t figured it out yet … I totally recommend.”

 

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A Caryn Review: Pictures of You (’90s Coming of Age #1) by Leta Blake

I’m grateful for this wonderful review of Pictures of You. It’s beautiful.

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

pictures-of-you-by-leta-blakeFirst, a disclaimer:  as the blurb says, this book is the first in a series.  The beginning of the story of Peter is completed, as he goes through his senior year in high school, falls in love for the first time, and learns painful truths about himself and about the world around him.  The book ends, not quite on a cliffhanger, but Peter’s future is unclear and the reader is left wanting to know more.

Peter is an only child, son of parents who are kind, but distant, oblivious, and mostly uninvolved.  He was bullied in public school, so for his senior year transfers to a local private school, determined to keep his head down and avoid notice.  At orientation he meets Adam and his twin sister Sarah.  They are truly parentless, shipped off to live with their…

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Smoky Mountain Dreams by Leta Blake on Kindle Unlimited! NOW AVAILABLE! #KU

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Sometimes holding on means letting go 

After giving up on his career as a country singer in Nashville, Christopher Ryder is happy enough performing at the Smoky Mountain Dreams theme park in Tennessee. But while his beloved Gran loves him the way he is, Christopher feels painfully invisible to everyone else. Even when he’s center stage he aches for someone to see the real him.

Bisexual Jesse Birch has no room in his life for dating. Raising two kids and fighting with family after a tragic accident took his children’s mother, he doesn’t want more than an occasional hook-up. He sure as hell doesn’t want to fall hard for his favorite local singer, but when Christopher walks into his jewelry studio, Jesse hears a new song in his heart.

AVAILABLE NOW ON KINDLE UNLIMITED FOR 90 DAYS!