I'm so excited to announce that my new novella, Buyout - A Love Story, will come out from Dreamspinner on Feb 8th. Catt Ford created this amazing cover. The story is available for preorder on Dreamspinner now.
As we come into the new year - and it could be a very challenging new year at that - I thought I'd share my favorite serious chocolate, all grown-up, brownie recipe. The only sugar comes from the bittersweet chocolate and the semi-sweet chocolate. If you like your brownies sweeter, feel free to add some extra sugar. I like mine to have the tart taste of extra dark chocolate, but that's just me. With or without extra sugar, these are rich, bittersweet and perfect for serious chocoholics.
Survive Anything Double-Chocolate brownies
9 ounces bittersweet chocolate
7 Tbs unsalted butter
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbs left over coffee
1/2 cup milk
1 cup sour cream
1.5 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 bag (or more if you like) semi-sweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Melt bittersweet chocolate and butter in the microwave (about 2 minutes). When it’s completely soupy set aside to cool.
Beat three eggs in a large bowl at medium-high speed until thick and pale. Add vanilla extract, coffee, milk and sour cream. Beat until fully mixed (just seconds). Reduce speed to low, add chocolate mixture.
Whisk flour, baking powder and salt (and sugar if you must) together then fold the flour mixture in with the rest and add the chocolate chips.
Grease the sides of a 9 x 12 inch cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. Cover with batter and smooth the surface with a spatula. Bake until cooked through, about a half hour (test with a toothpick to make sure). Allow brownies to cool before cutting.
Eat, share and repeat until everything’s okay.
Just wishing everyone a happy, healthy and joyful new year.
Happy Hanukkah, Joyous Solstice and Merry Christmas to you all.
May you feel surrounded by love and warmth and good cheer throughout this holiday season.
Today Love is a Light Press released all four novellas in the Tarnished Souls series in a single bundle on Amazon so folks could save a little money and read the whole series at once. The books center around a group of friends finding romance by the light of four Jewish holidays, Passover, Rosh Hashanna, Hanukkah and Purim. Enjoy!
Each month I send out a newsletter (Dev's News Flash) that has some news about upcoming books and such, but is mostly an original, exclusive piece of flash fiction. You can sign up for it on my webpage or Facebook page.
I usually reserve the fiction for newsletter subscribers, but I thought I'd share the December piece because it's a holiday story and also because it reflects what I'm feeling these days. So here's a holiday flash with Avi and Pete from Fields of Gold.
This Little Light of Mine
Outside, a new snowfall made the farm glisten. I set my menorah on the window sill. It looked tiny and a little ridiculous in the same room with the cluttered Christmas tree. Especially on the first night, when we’d light two little candles, one of which didn’t count since its only purpose was to light the other. This year, first night fell on Christmas Eve. So the little candelabra on the window had to compete with the tree behind it, brightly lit, with gifts piled beneath. Maybe it wasn’t worth lighting.
The truth was, I wasn’t just in the mood. It was hard to feel festive this year.
Pete came up behind me and wrapped his arms around me, pulling me close.
He whispered, “Hey my gorgeous Avi. It’s almost sundown. Do you want me to get Brynne and Logan to help light the candles?”
“In a sec.” I leaned against him. His warmth, his solidness, soothed me. I knew he was scared, too. We all were. But he never let fear stop him.
Gold and then red streaked the horizon as the sun drifted below the tree line. I couldn’t hold off any longer. No matter how far I drifted from the religious training of my youth, there were some things I couldn’t let go of, like lighting candles on time.
And so, we gathered, my funny little family that consisted of my amazing, goyish lover, his sister and her child. My father didn’t approve and my mother rarely visited, but this was the safest place I’d ever been.
Because it was the first night, I followed the candle blessing with the Shehecheyanu, thanking God for blessing, sustaining and bringing us to this time. This time. The familiar ache was back in my chest. I’d woken every morning for more than a month in the new reality. The beautiful lights, the little candles, the familiar rituals and the crackling fire couldn’t take away the pain, the anger and the fear.
Once I was done reciting the prayers, Brynne gave me a big hug before heading back to the kitchen to finish her baking. Logan fled upstairs to his videogames.
Pete took ahold of my hand. “You’re thinking about the election again, aren’t you?”
I tried to smile. “Sorry. Still obsessed. I can’t help it. I’d still be analyzing the results, even if this election didn’t feel like a personal attack. I’m a historian after all, and I used to work for a politician.”
“Work?” Pete raised an eyebrow. “Is that what they call what you did for him?”
“I did plenty of actual work…” I stopped. I didn’t need to get defensive with Pete. He knew the whole story.
“Come on.” Still holding my hand, he tugged me toward the back door.
“But the candles.” I waved at the little flickering lights.
“It’ll be okay. You’ll see. Now get your boots on.”
I shrugged. Whither thou goest… The mudroom smelled of damp wool, mixed with bite of cinnamon from the cookies Brynne was baking. And behind that the aroma of roast chicken. My stomach grumbled. But food would have to wait. I slid on my boots and shrugged into my coat and followed Pete out the door. Maybe we’d be moving livestock or building a fence. In the dark. It didn’t matter. In the past month, between winding down the semester and trying to make sense of the election, I’d been grateful for the farm and the possibility of good, hard, muscle-straining labor.
Outside, the air was crisp and cold. I blinked snowflakes from my eyelashes. Pete led me away from the house, through squeaking snow, until we were in front of the window.
“Look.” He pointed. From this angle, the Christmas tree was a small background element and the Hanukkah lights shone clearly.
“It’s beautiful.” My breath clouded the air and my cheeks stung from the cold, but the candles were heartwarming and I didn’t want to go in. Again Pete stood behind me, with his arms around my chest. He quietly held me, while we watched the candles burn.
After a moment, he said, “We have to be like those candles. Even though the world feels very dark, we can be two small lights that burn brightly.”
I twined my fingers with his and shoved both our hands into my pockets to keep them warm. His hands were calloused from hard work. All around us the farm hummed with life. As long as we had each other, we’d be okay.
I leaned back against him. “When I was a kid, I used to imagine all the candles burning in all the windows across the world. People lighting at sunset in a rolling blanket that revolved with the earth.” I squeezed Pete’s fingers. “It’s true, you know. Across the world, candles are burning, or will soon. It’s the same with kindness, with love—even in the darkest times, they shine out of windows across the world. It’s a hell of a metaphor.”
“You’re welcome.” Pete buried his chin in my shoulder.
We stood in the snow, in the dark, until the candles began to sputter. Then we went back inside to dinner and the warmth of our family. Because, in the end, love is the best antidote.
Winter is finally here in the northwoods. Soon we'll be skiing and snowshoeing and dreaming of spring. Weather is a wonderful thing. Except when it isn't. Stay safe everyone and enjoy.
I've been so busy with rereleases lately, that I haven't had much time to talk about what's coming up. I do have a few things in the works. The one I can talk about today is Buyout, A Love Story, a novella set in Lisbon, Portugal, which should come out from Dreamspinner Press sometime in the first couple of months of 2017.
It's still in edits, but here's a taste from Chapter One:
I closed my eyes. I was thirty-six, relatively attractive, financially stable, healthy—with the exception of an occasional migraine—and alone. Again. It always hurt when my delusions got shattered. Until the next pretty man came along to make me want to believe. What would be next? An actor? A dancer? Whoever he was, he’d be delightful when I met him but not when he left.
I knew that paying their rent for a few months after they left was a defense mechanism. And an atonement. I was always making up for Martim, the man I’d abandoned years before. The one that got away. Except that he haunted my dreams, and his face always filled my mind when it was time to let the pretty boys go. Martim, who had been the best thing that ever happened to me, perfect until it all went wrong and I’d kicked him out on a cold night with no place to go. If I could take that back, I would. But all I could do was to pay off a stream of new, young, bad boys, even when they didn’t deserve it. None of them were Martim. And never would be.
Nothing like lost love, eh?
I'm very excited to share Sean and Martim's story with you, not to mention spending a little virtual quality time in the beautiful city of Lisbon.
Nobody's Home will be rereleased next week, on 11/15, so this post is supposed to be all promo. My hearts just not in it. It's been a tough and very scary week. Still don't have my feet under me. And nothing I can say about the U.S. election is any more edifying, reassuring, radicalizing or depressing than what's already out there. I know, I've been gorging on the stuff.
Ah crap, who am I kidding? The only thing I know anything about is fiction. It's what I'm hoping will get me through the dark times. The "new" book, Nobody's Home, was first released from Amber Allure in 2013. When AA closed up shop, I listened to what readers had said about the story and responded with a few revisions. I'd intended to rerelease this earlier, but the schedule got mixed up behind scenes it got delayed. You'll find the except I posted earlier here.
This is a poignant story about two guys who are trying to find their way from heartbreak to joy. It's not an easy road. But in the end, it's worth the effort. And there are dogs to help them find their way.
You can find the book for preorder here
Have you seen the gorgeous new cover the amazingly talented Jordan Castillo Price made for Nobody's Home? It's hot! The book's available for preorder here and will come out 11/15.
Second chances can appear where you least expect them.
An artist: You can’t go home again—that was Nick’s motto for the past twenty years. He was a teenager when he left his abusive, mentally ill father back in Lacland, a small town in the northwoods of Wisconsin.
Nick’s made a successful life for himself in New York. Then comes the call—his estranged father has killed himself. Nick flies home to a house crumbling from years of neglect, and one very fat bulldog.
And a veterinarian: Jonas doesn’t love his job enforcing university research protocol. His passion is working with dogs, especially volunteering for his boyfriend’s behavioral studies projects. But when he discovers his so-called "life partner" is messing around, he leaps at a job offer in a small town miles away.
In spite of the grief swirling around Nick and Jonas, their first meeting is electric. But Nick will be in town for only a short time and Jonas is still stinging from the betrayal. The men try to keep their distance, but that’s easier said than done, especially in a small town where misery and hope share the same address.
This poignant story about two mature gay men will warm the hearts of readers who believe happy endings are within anyone's grasp.
This is a lightly edited author's version of the novel published by Amber Allure in 2013.
If you're looking for other opportunities to gaze lovingly at the cover, or more probably, you're interested in the rafflecopter for a copy of the Tarnished Souls series, you can find both at any of the following stops.
I love November. For the past several years I've participated in the writers' marathon known as Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month). For those of you who've somehow missed this spectacular event, tens of thousands of people sign up every year determined to write 50,000 words in 30 days. The idea is to get people out of their perfectionism, into a writing routine and push them to get out a rough draft.
I'm pretty good at getting words on paper. At this point I have ten published books to my name and a couple more in the pipeline. Some are longer and some are shorter than 50,000 words. The rough drafts took me anywhere from one to three months to complete (the editing...now that takes time). All of which is to say that I know how to finish a story. I even know how to get 50K down during the month of November because I've done it seven times already. I also know how to fail the Nano, because I've done that too.
So what do I have to prove by doing the Nano again this year? Nothing. But I'm going to do it anyway, because there's nothing like the rush of getting all those words out in one big splat. If I do it right, I'll have plenty of raw material to bang away at over the next few months until the mass of goo produced in November turns into something readable.
I'm going to start with a novella for a new contemporary romance series I'm developing and run right from that to a second murder mystery in my Tanzania series (the first one is one of those "in the pipeline" stories). Hope I don't get whiplash with the change.
If you're doing the nano too, I'd love to buddy up. You can find me there as DevB.
Oh, and my newsletter comes out next week with a nano oriented short. If you're interested in that, the sign up sheet is on the right.
See you in a few days.
Race ya. On your mark, get set, go!
This morning someone reminded me to take time to appreciate the little things. Lately I've gotten wound up or depressed by all sorts of stuff and it hasn't been a comfortable roller coaster ride for me. Not when my sleep and my work suffer. My friend was right, the way out of this morass is through gratitude.
And I have so much to be grateful for. I have a roof over my head, plenty to eat, good clean water, not to mention that I live out in the country where I'm surrounded by beauty. We may not have much cultural sophistication out here, but it sure is pretty. I also have a supportive spouse and a day job that allows me time to create, and live inside for a while, as many other lives and loves as I want. What could be better?
I'll still try to change the world. But maybe I don't need to fret about it so much. And maybe neither do you. Time to take a deep breath, relax and remember the good stuff.
Speaking of which, I have a brand new flash/short story for my newsletter. It'll come out Friday, November 4th ONLY in the newsletter. Sign up for Dev's News Flash if you're interested. I'm sending out a little news and a story every month. Ironically, it's not a flashy newsletter but it is a lot of fun.
A couple of things happened this week to get me thinking about the preciousness of life. First, Wednesday was Yom Kippur, an opportunity to step away from the business of life and reflect on the important things. What it meant for me this year was that I went 25 hours without food, drink or election talk and I emerged the other side feeling renewed.
The other event was the passing of my good friend's husband. He'd been sick a long time and was in home hospice, so it wasn't unexpected. And not tragic. He had lived a long, full life and died peacefully, holding hands with the woman he loved. Really, other than the illness that proceeded it, that's the death I'd wish for any of us.
I'm so grateful for all the twists and turns in my life. I've certainly made more than my share of mistakes and things haven't always gone smoothly. But I've had great work, amazing friends and, although my relationship road has been a bit bumpy, I've been loved by some wonderful men and women (okay, there are a few I still struggle to forgive). To top it all off, I get to spend at least some of my days writing love stories - who could ask for a better life?
Not checking out yet, just counting my blessings. How about you? Anyone want to share their gratitude list with me today?
It's taken years to get to this point, but the inaugural issue of Dev's Monthly News Flash comes out tomorrow! I'm excited, and a little nervous, about this new venture, but I'm feeling the new year, Rosh Hashanna, vibe so I'm inspired to finally jump in with a newsletter.
The News Flash will be just that - a little news and a little flash fiction. I'm promising to get one out every month for at least six months and I hope for much, much longer.
It's a new day in Dev land. If you're interested in getting the News Flash, I'd love to have you sign up (check the sidebar here on my website or on my Facebook author page).
Wish me luck!
The Gay Romance Northwest Conference was a little shorter this year and it took me a lot longer to get there, but I had a spectacular time and I can't wait for next year. I really love how inclusive and sex-positive this event is. I came away seriously inspired.
My journey had a bit of a rocky start when my flight out of Chicago was cancelled and I had to drive four hours to catch a plane out of Minneapolis. I arrived in Seattle at 2 in the morning. Fortunately, my incredibly patient friend stayed awake and picked me up. Even better yet, we got to sleep in the next morning. For the next few days I managed to ignore that my rerouting meant I'd need to be back at the airport for a 5 am flight on Monday. Ah, the joys of travel.
GRNW kicked off on Friday night with a suite of readings, first TransFics and then Love Bites. I was blown away by the readings, which were universally really good. I was thrilled that I got to join such a talented group and excited to read from Perfection, my short story which just came out in the One Pulse charity anthology from Dreamspinner (proceeds to help central Florida LGBT communities recover from the Pulse tragedy). Since the main character in Perfection is a bi guy, it was also a great plug for our Bi Erasure No More panel the next day.
On Saturday the great group of keynote speakers kicked off the conference by discussing their queer romance dreams. That was followed by some wonderful panels. I would have liked to be everywhere at once, but since that wasn't possible, I settled for grilling other people on the things I missed. I ended up with some tips on crafting a series, a great Trans fiction reading list and some spicy nuggets about writing sex (from the wonderfully named Queer swords and Odd Flowers panel).
I had a blast at our bi panel. If you're interested, a recording of the panel is up on YouTube. Check us out.
Things got racy with the readings at the after party. I hope they do it again next year so I can come prepared to get down and dirty, too. The whole thing was great fun.
Next year GRNW gets a new name, one more appropriate to the all-letter inclusiveness of the event. And it'll be in November. Fourteen months is a long wait, but it'll definitely be worth it. If you're in the Pacific Northwest come next November, be sure to stop by and say hi.
I also promised several people that my First Friday Flash Newsletter would start in October. So make sure you're signed up to get a bit of flash fiction from me every month. The sign up form is just below, as well as up there on the left of this page and on my FB author page. I'm excited to finally get this going!
It's GRNW weekend and I'm loving being back here in Seattle. Although I live in the Midwest now, this feels like coming home. I spent my formative years in Idaho but I moved to Seattle right after college. Over the next decade or so I moved away, came back, moved away again and then returned. I've now lived away from Seattle for longer than I lived here, but the truth is that I never intended to be gone this long.
This is where I had my first real job. And my second. And my third - okay, I've never been a model of employment stability. Same with relationships, but that's another story. I wrote my first novel here, the really horrible one that'll never see the light of day. While I was here I had short stories and poems published in national magazines and I did movie and theater reviews for Seattle Gay News for a bit. It was a fertile place for me to grow into myself.
Come find me at GRNW, at the Seattle Library all afternoon on Saturday 9/24/16. I'll be the nostalgic looking one in the corner holding a cup of coffee and dreaming about rainy days.
I thought I'd talk a little about what I'm working on now because even though if everything goes perfectly it'll be maybe a year before it sees the light of day, I'm pretty excited about this new direction and I just can't keep my mouth shut.
For years, even though I write contemporary romance, I've been a closet mystery reader. I've always wanted to dip my toe into the mystery/romantic suspense world, but it's daunting.
I'm finally ready to give it a shot. I've just finished a draft of the first in a series of mysteries set in Tanzania. There are lots of tricky things for me to navigate - from just how the hell do you write one of these things, to the worry that as much as I intend to be culturally sensitive, in setting my stories half a world away, I'm bound to get a bunch of stuff wrong. But I really like my guys and the setting couldn't be more gorgeous and exotic. I'll be sending it off to a publisher soon. We'll see how it goes. If you never hear about this again, well, I'm still happy writing contemporary. In fact, my next project is a new contemporary romance novella series - but talking about that can wait.
In the meantime, here's a photo that inspired one of the scenes in my story. Isn't she gorgeous?
The final story in the Tarnished Souls series, this was originally published by Loose Id in 2013. On 9/13 I'm re-releasing it with a shiny new, gorgeous cover by Jordan Castillo Price. It's available for pre-order at Amazon now.
I hope you enjoy this excerpt.
The band was too loud, the bride looked like a skeleton, and I had a raging headache. What a way to spend Friday night. I kept trying to remember why working for a prestigious LA restaurant had seemed like a better deal than my comfortable line job at a respectable place in New York. Especially since this particular gig had required supervising the creation of hundreds of puffy cheese minisoufflés, artichoke and bacon rolls, and duck liver wraps, all of which had to be carted from the L’Ouest kitchens to this golf-course-sized Beverley Hills backyard, where a chubby record company executive was marrying Madam Skeletor in lavish style.
It wasn’t the menu I would have suggested for this fat-conscious crowd, but until I could convince my boss to offer less pretentious and difficult-to-serve food, I’d be stuck with whatever he arranged. And unpretentious wasn’t of particular value to Stephan—that’s pronounced “Stefaaan”—Becker.
Any sane chef would design a separate menu for catering, featuring finger food, fresh fruits, and meals that could be plated with grace. I looked at the tiny bites of rich food starting to congeal in the warming trays and considered whether it was time to bring a new batch from the van.
A silver platter appeared at my left elbow, and a voice suggested, “I can start offering those to the guests so you can freshen up this station.”
I turned, and there he was. A few inches shorter than me, with spiky blond hair and a big smile, he wore the standard waiter’s uniform of black pants and a black button-down shirt. He managed to look like he’d just stepped off the runway during New York’s fashion week.
He held out the tray. “You’re Mr. Zajac, the new catering chef, right? I’m Kenny Marks, waiter extraordinaire.” He had an exuberant lilt to his voice. “And I’d love to help you get rid of that food.”
I could use a friend on staff. “Call me George. You seem to know your way around. Have you worked for L’Ouest long?”
He held the platter while I arranged the food. “I was with the company for the first event, a horrid little birthday party.” He shuddered dramatically. “The wife had decorated the whole house in black for the poor man’s fortieth. It was brutal.”
“This is my first job catering.” I nodded toward the crowd. “Any advice you have for me would be appreciated.”
Kenny looked out at the gathering. “You see that guy in the maroon bow tie? He’s the groom’s financial manager. Make sure he’s happy. That’s where your check and your tip are coming from. And over there’s the bride’s mother. Rumor is that back home in Dallas she hosts soirees on a regular basis. She and the daughter are supposed to be close. You might give the mama some personal attention—people like to meet the chef, makes them feel special. The new couple is bound to entertain, and I doubt our blushing bride cooks. She’ll ask mummy for advice on catering. Tips are always bigger from repeat customers.”
I stared at him. “How do you know all this?”
He hefted the now full platter to his shoulder. “I keep my eyes and ears open. Here comes Libby Spencer. She’s the most sought-after wedding planner in the city. Be very, very nice to her.”
With that he strolled off, walking with shoulders back and a slight sway to his hips, his pants pleasingly tight across a very nice ass. What would it be like to feel that comfortable with one’s sexuality? The question made me break into a sweat.
Some people seem to be able to move seamlessly from one project to the next. While I can certainly do that if the projects in question are straightforward and short term, like doing the dishes or ordering swag (which I just did for GRNW later this month!). But I definitely need to take time between stories.
Right now the betas have my very first ever murder mystery (okay, okay, romantic suspense, because you KNOW there's a love story in there). And soon I'm hoping to start drafting the first in a new contemporary romance novella series. But in the meantime, I'm puttering around getting other things done. I managed to put the rerelease of Bread, Salt and Wine up on Amazon for pre-order (it comes out 9/13) and I've the bones of Nobody's Home are in place for the rerelease later this fall. Now I'm facing the most daunting chore of all - cleaning the office. I don't know how it gets so out of control, but it's outrageous. See?
Wish me luck. What do you do in the inbetween times?
And if you'll be in the Seattle area on September 24th, I hope to see you at GRNW!
Here I go...
I'm excited to announce the re-release of Bread, Salt and Wine on Sept 13th from Love is a Light Press. This is the final story in my Tarnished Souls Jewish Holiday Series. It came out from Loose Id in 2013. It's one of my very favorites, so I'm pleased it will be available again. It's available from Amazon now for pre-order.
And I'm thrilled to show you the new cover, by the amazingly talented Jordan Castillo Price. Isn't it gorgeous?
Some wounds never heal. George Zajac grew up in a religious family with a father who beat “the swish” out of him. At thirty-eight he's a troubled man. Escaping his miserable life as a banker in New York, he moves across the country to start again in Los Angeles as the catering chef for a prestigious French Restaurant. Kenny Marks, a writer who’s currently waiting tables, is everything George cannot be—flamboyant, proud and sexually confident. Enthralled by Kenny, and against his own better judgment, George agrees to a date. Sparks fly. The sex is amazing. But even after the two get close, George is crippled by humiliating sexual hang-ups. Still haunted by his childhood, he lingers in the closet and can’t commit to a relationship with Kenny. Love is the great healer, but is it enough? George’s emotional scars could drive Kenny away, and with him, George’s last chance at happiness.