What do you like best about writing?

Someone asked me this recently and I thought it was an interesting question. The answer is different for everyone and for me, it changes all the time. My stock answer is that I love the moments when the story suddenly transforms. It always feels like magic when changing a few words makes a lifeless scene suddenly vibrant, or brings a character to life, or changes the tone of the whole story. And that happens during edits, so I usually think that editing is my favorite part.

On the other hand, there really is nothing like the feeling when the words are flowing and the story is writing itself. That's a rare event for me, but when it happens it's exhilarating. And that's a first draft thing. So maybe first drafts are my favorite part.

But then there's the moment when I type the end. That's sweet. And release day is exciting and so is holding a paperback copy of my book for the first time. And you know I love readings. 

What I liked about the question was that while there is no doubt that writing can be a lonely, frustrating and exhausting endeavor, focusing on what I like best about it makes me forget all that and feel grateful for all the parts I love. Which is true for everything, isn't it? If I think about the parts of my day job that I like, I don't get quite as irritated at the icky bits. Same with my relationships or the little town where I live.

If you've read my stories, you know that I spend a lot of time thinking about the hard stuff like grief, loss and anger. Mostly I love the promise of redemption at the end of those kinds of love stories. I'm not usually the "look on the sunny side of life" type. But I have to admit that focusing on the good parts is a way to love the work. And loving what I do makes life a lot easier.

I'd love to hear what you like about your work. We're all passionate about something, but sometimes the hard or frustrating or just plain boring parts get in the way. When that happens, what keeps you going?


The lake is still covered in ice and the temperature this morning was under 10 degrees F but it's March so I'm thinking about spring. Which means I'm obsessing over my vegetable garden.

Here in Northern Wisconsin, the growing season is a short, fragile and precious thing. I can't plant tomatoes until June and the first frost comes in early September. Since I start buying seeds and making sketches in February, it's almost true that I plan for longer than I grow. It's two months yet before I'll get lettuce and spinach seeds in the ground, but I'm already up to my elbows in seed catalogs.

This, of course, has nothing to do with my book writing. Except it does. Because there's only so much time and if I'm gardening, I'm not writing. On the other hand, I can't think of a more pleasant way to spend an afternoon than digging in the dirt and dreaming up terrible scenarios for my poor characters. 

If I bought all my summer vegetables and spent those hours here at the typewriter, I might get another book a year out. But then again, I wouldn't spend those pleasant hours getting filthy and seeing the fruits of my labor sprout up on their own. 

Still, I should probably stop mooning over ingenious plant supports and heirloom seeds. There'll be time enough for that when spring actually comes. Any other northern gardeners out there wishing for a nice warm day so they can get to work?

Researching Delis

There are few things I love more than corned beef with a heavy dollop of mustard and horseradish. Which is probably why I spent way too much time drooling over pictures of sandwiches yesterday. I'm editing a manuscript I wrote quickly a few months ago. There's a scene where the guys share a deli sandwich (I know, could I get more sexy?). One of the guys is from New York, so of course, in his head he compares the sandwich to the best New York deli. When I first wrote the line it went something like "it didn't compare to xxx". 

Yesterday I had to give xxx a real name. When I'm writing about places, I vacillate between using real venues and making something up. Often I go for the entirely fictional to make sure I don't get anything wrong. For example, the town of Lacland in Nobody's Home exists only in our minds. And a lovely place it is.

But this time I decided to user the real thing so I googled best deli in New York. There's some controversy about which deli is best, but after reading the reviews and looking at the luscious l photos, I went for Katz's. It has a nice Jewish name and has been around a while, so I figure they have to know how to do pastrami. Do let me know if I'm wrong.

I'm not sure there's a point to this, other than to share some gorgeous food pictures and to let you know what I'm researching. Food. It's for the book, really. And it's making me hungry....

I think of food as seductive, so it probably ends up in my stories far too much. How about you? What's your go to date food? Or maybe you don't think food and sex go together. Ah, but just look at these figs - almost orgasmic all by themselves, don't you think?

Finding balance

Anyone else out there feeling overwhelmed?

Between work, events in my personal life, some writing deadlines and the need to spill out onto the street in protest periodically, I've been feeling seriously time-short lately. During the best of times I tend to ride the line between doable and chaos pretty hard. Obviously, these aren't the best of times.



Here's what I think I should do when things get to be too much:

  • Take a deep breath
  • Assess what's really important and triage
  • Calmly and methodically go through my tasks one by one until they're all finished.

Here's what I actually do:

  • Panic
  • Whine
  • Run around getting nothing done but making a lot of noise.

Of course, the big problem is finding a way to carve out both time and head space for creative work, which really is the most important stuff I do, even if it's often the first to go.

Maybe I should quit sleeping. 

How about you? What do you do when you're overwhelmed?


Except from Buyout - A Love Story (coming 2/8)

Here's the first scene in Buyout. I hope you enjoy it. 

Chapter ONE

I stood in the doorway and stared at the bodies writhing beneath stark white sheets. I’d forgotten a file at home and had come back unexpectedly. The two men didn’t hear me at first, and I had time to wonder how long this had been going on and what kind of fucking STDs and other germs Aiden had been bringing home. And how much it would cost to make him go away. We’d been together six months. In the beginning there had been candlelight and champagne and plenty of sex, and I’d thought I loved him. But now, as I watched him, I realized he’d already faded into the severance package category—beautiful young men with perfect bodies, who weren’t right and never could be.

I should have turned around and left right then, before they saw me. But I stood for a moment too long, and Aiden glanced over his shoulder. Color drained from his face. For two beats he stared at me with his mouth open.

Then came a stream of predictable words, apologies, excuses. It hurt almost as much to hear how stupid he thought I was as it did to see his skin tinged red with excitement from another man’s touch. I raised my hand to make him stop talking.

The room fell silent. The other guy, a slender, handsome man with dark glistening skin, edged himself out of bed. He picked up a pair of blue briefs. As he slid them over his perfectly defined thigh muscles, I wondered if he worked at the same modeling agency as Aiden.

It didn’t matter.

I turned back to the man who had gone from my lover to my ex in a fraction of a second. “I’m going to Amsterdam tonight. I’ll be back by the weekend. Will that give you enough time to find a new place?”

“Look, Sean, I’m sorry. I couldn’t help it. I’m weak. And look at him.” His eyes slid to the black man. He leaned toward me, and his voice dropped as he said, “We could share.”

Caught in the middle of our domestic ugliness, the poor guy was dressing quickly. His expression was shut down, like he’d rather be anywhere other than where he was right at that moment. I didn’t blame him. I felt the same. The last thing I wanted was to play out a big scene. The truth was that our affair had been over for weeks. I just hadn’t been paying enough attention to realize it.

I focused on my lover’s lover, the only relatively innocent person in the room. “Don’t be embarrassed. This isn’t your fault.”

“Fucking right it isn’t his fault,” Aiden snapped at me. “He’s not the one always taking off for Amsterdam or Hong Kong or some other fucking place, leaving me to entertain myself.”

“Which you seem very capable of doing.” I moved past him to the closet. I pulled out the suitcase I’d packed the night before. “I’ll get out of your way and let you get back to it.”

“Sean, wait.” He grabbed my arm. “Where will I go?”

I stared first at Aiden’s hand on my arm and then I met his gaze. I looked for it. I did. But the panic in his eyes had nothing to do with love. He stood there, naked. And to top it all off, I didn’t see any condoms around the bed or on his fucking cock.

I shook my head, disgusted. It really was time to offer the severance package. “Stay through the end of the month. I’ll find somewhere else to live in the meantime. And if you’re desperate, I’ll send over a check to cover first, last, and deposit on a new place.”

He relaxed, his hand dropping away from my arm. “Thanks Sean. You’re a real gentleman.”

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.

It wasn’t until I was out in the hallway that I realized I’d left the damned file. Fuck it. It wasn’t worth going back in there. I’d just have to do without.

Buyout - A Love Story .... coming 2/8

Buyout - A Love Story, is a sweet little novella set in Lisbon. It's all about redemption and second chances. Sean and Martim loved each other a long time ago. Turns out the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Everyone deserves a second chance. Or do they? Sean and Martim fell in love at Harvard. Things broke apart when Martim fell into a downward spiral of addiction after his father died. Sean kicked him out but has regretted it ever since. He’s never gotten over losing Martim. But then, not many aspects of his life have lived up to his collegiate dreams.

When he’s sent to evaluate Martim’s family hotel for foreclosure, Sean is once again in the position to put Martim out on the street. In the time since they parted, Martim has pulled himself together, although both health and financial problems linger as a result of his years as an addict. Can the two men bridge the gap of distance and time to rekindle their relationship, or will they fall apart again under the burdens of guilt and disease? 

Set in Lisbon, Portugal, this is the story of lovers reunited after more than a decade apart, and their second chance at romance.

The story comes out February 8th and available NOW for preorder on DreamspinnerAmazonB&N and Kobo.

I love Catt Ford's cover.




Survive Anything Brownies

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
3 eggs
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
Sugar (optional)


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. 

A story

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.


The end

Early spring in Lisbon

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.

In other news...

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

Nobody's Home Cover Reveal

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!

Appreciation - the Bridge Back


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.

Talking a step back

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?