I’m thankful for gay romance novels

I’ve been reading a lot of gay romance lately, partially because of my three-novella contract with NineStar Press: an LGBTQ publisher who bought my Escape trilogy. As far as my trilogy goes, the words are flying, and I have to think all the smexy gay romance I’ve been reading has certainly aided in the process.

This isn’t a new thing, not really. It all started with BBC Sherlock and my sudden and surprising attraction to Johnlock fan fiction. (Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman would just make a really cute couple, okay?)

Introducing John Not Even Subtle Watson.

Maybe I just got really tired of the same old tropes in girl-meets-boy romance and wanted something fresh and new. I’ve seen all the permutations of Princess and Prince Charming, but I’ve stumbled upon something wholly new (to me) in LGBTQ romance: Prince Charming and Prince Not-So-Sure-of-Things-At-All.

My list of favorite authors feels endless, but I’m gonna try to narrow it down …

Dessa Lux/Dira Lewis
Same person, different names, same kind of books. My obsession with Dessa/Dira began with Gun to my Head: a twisted vampire romance that is gritty as hell but hotter than a sun-scorched beach. Dessa further enamored me with the entirety of her Protection of the Pack Series (some pretty graphic sex but heartfelt, loving stuff) and the oddity of Surrendered to the Sea in which a sea god falls in love with a werewolf. Ah-hem, yeah, if you want weird pairings with amazing writing, Dessa/Dira is your girl.

Jordan L. Hawk
Jordan’s characters are more down to earth … sort of? Her Whyborne & Griffin Series features two human men, at least, although they fight otherworldly menaces all the time. There are nine of these books. NINE! Do I care? Nope, I’m in the process of reading them all. Whyborne is of the brilliant, closeted nerd variety while Griffin is the super sexy bad ass Pinkerton who seduces our adorable nerd. Together (and with the help of a snarky female friend), they solve crimes, battle their own demons, and hide their illicit love from society.

KJ Charles
Speaking of hiding things, magician Stephen Day has to fight his feelings for his family nemesis in book one of KJ’s brilliant Charm of Magpies trilogy. Stephen might hate Lucian or he might not. I mean, Lucian is super hot and wild and brave and … mmmm, I really like Lucian. Spoilers: so does Stephen. I adore the chemistry between these two tough-as-nails characters and how love can make them ever so sweet and soft together. With humor and heat, KJ weaves more magic even than Stephen himself, and, as you’ll read, that little guy is one powerful dude.

CS Pacat
A friend of mine suggested I buy CS’s first book, Captive Prince. Halfway through book one, I bought books two and three of the trilogy, and I devoured them all. There is nothing better than two princes dueling for power while trying desperately not to fall in love with each other. I rarely see character development quite this good … or slow-burn sexual tension this hot. Once you meet Damen and Laurent, you’ll love them as much as I do … and get comfortable, because there’s no turning your back on this insanely exciting game of royal intrigue and lust.

Eleanor Kos
Sort of like Dessa/Dira, Eleanor weaves stories that some might find a little extreme, but I fell hard for her Wine & Song Series. What might make this hard to swallow for some? Well, the lead character falls utterly in lust with the romantic interest while he’s being mugged by said romantic interest, and their BDSM relationship develops from there. For five novellas, we follow David and Jazz as they navigate each other as well as try to move beyond the past. They’re both super stubborn and adorable, and I wish there were more in this series. (Can I get more in this series, please?)

I can’t forget the honorable mentions. The only reason these authors are only “honorable” is because, whereas I’ve read a million books by the above authors, I’m fairly new to these gals, but they’re brilliant so far!

Lyssa Dering proves guys who eat brains can be sexy in How to Love a Monster. Rose Maefair’s debut, Desert Ice, forces a mage and his soldier slave into a romantic relationship neither are ready for.  Nicky James broke my freaking heart and put it back together in the highly emotional Until the End of Time. Brianna Kienitz weaves soccer, music, cultural conflict, and lesbian love in Off Pitch. Selina Kray creates one of my favorite male leads of all time (Hiero) in the sexy and, at times, hilarious suspense novel The Fangs of Scavo. Finally, Claire Cray takes me back to my vampire roots with her two-book series Merrick.

If you’re a romance reader looking for something new, I would seriously suggest trying one of these authors. They are each fantastic in their own way! And, hey, keep an eye out for my Escape trilogy, book one coming in June 2018 from NineStar Press.

Author Lyssa Dering made me love monsters

I’ve been on a huge paranormal M/M romance kick. For those of you who don’t know, M/M refers to love stories between men. During my newfound reading frenzy, I stumbled upon Lyssa Dering, among many others. (Shout outs to Dessa Lux, KJ Charles, and Jordan Hawk).

Something about Lyssa’s work really stood out to me, though, especially her new release HOW TO LOVE A MONSTER. Her lead character, Fiend, is a monster, okay? He eats brains … and yet, I loved him. I rooted for the monster. Yes, I adored the romantic interest: innocent, beautiful Seraphim. But Fiend! How did she make me love a brain-eating murderer?

I had to pick her brain … Oh, that was a bad joke. Braaaaaaains. Seriously, I had to know more about my newest author crush, Lyssa Dering.

SDB: You’ve written love stories about vampires, demons, and now, brain-eating figments of imagination. What inspired your love for the paranormal? Any literary influences?

I first and foremost have a fascination with vampires. It all started with Amelia Atwater-Rhodes’ books when I was in middle school. I read In the Forests of the NightDemon in My ViewShattered Glass, etc. Most of those stories were also love stories. Plus, Atwater-Rhodes got published as a young teen, and that really inspired me to be a writer.

In high school, I became obsessed with the movie Underworld, which features vampires and werewolves. I think my love of other paranormal elements naturally evolved from there. When I was seventeen, I discovered internet roleplaying on Xanga with the help of my high school best friend, and the first group RP I joined featured characters with superpowers. RPing was a great way for me to escape up until my first year after college, and I explored all kinds of paranormal elements weaved into sex and romance that way.

SDB: Why do you write M/M romance? What’s your fave thing about two dudes in love?

I’ve been drawn to M/M pairings since I first discovered fanfiction. My first fandom was Harry Potter, and though I also shipped some M/F pairings, I was a huge Harry/Draco shipper. I’ve come to the conclusion recently, after trying to understand why I’m not as drawn to F/F pairings, that M/M allows me to escape in ways other pairings don’t.

I’m nonbinary, but I am also AFAB (assigned female at birth), so reading and writing about characters assigned male at birth allows me to escape my female body and all the societal pressures I’m under as a result of it. Of course, M/M can feature trans and nonbinary characters, as well, but though I’ve written a male-bodied genderqueer character, I’m not in a place currently where I want to explore female-to-male trans characters in my work.

SDB: Your newest book, HOW TO LOVE A MONSTER, features a very strange creature. Tell us a bit about Fiend and the idea behind his “world.”

The idea for How to Love a Monster started a few years ago while I was browsing through the Superpower Wiki, trying to get inspired. I came upon the power of Absolute Will and tried to come up with a character from there. So Wish, the creator of Fiend’s world, came first. He has the power to create or destroy anything, but I put limits on his power to make the story more interesting.

The world Wish created is called Wish City because he’s a bit of a narcissist, and it’s a city because he grew up in one, so it’s easiest for him to create what he knows, just like for most writers. As I brainstormed, I came up with Fiend, who is Wish’s childhood monster or bogeyman who slips into Wish City unbeknownst to Wish.

I originally planned an angsty love story between Wish and Fiend, but it didn’t quite work out that way. When I came back to the story after much writing practice and education about structure, I came up with Seraphim and gave Wish a different role.

SDB: Your romantic interest in MONSTER is Seraphim. He lessens the darkness with some comic asides. Do you think comedy (and/or snark) is an important part of literature? Why?

Absolutely, especially in stories of a darker nature with a lot of angst, which is what I tend to write. If the story is all angst/suffering with nothing light in it at all, it can make it not worth it for the reader. Comedy/snark makes the reading experience more pleasant and can keep the reader from discarding your book out of frustration.

SDB: Tips for writing great sex scenes?

Remember that character comes first. Everything in every story should filter through character, and sex scenes are no different. There’s nothing more boring or frustrating to me as a reader than when a sex scene could basically be taken out of one book and plopped into another and still make sense.

Also, at least for me and especially in a romance, sex scenes should strengthen the connection between the main characters (or do something else to that connection depending on the scene’s purpose and each individual story). This means it can’t just be physical but must have an emotional aspect.

SDB: What are you working on right now?

I’m in the planning stages for my next book. I don’t have anything concrete to share yet as I’m busy hunting for that special kind of inspiration that can carry a full-length novel.

SDB: If you had to create a fantasy movie cast for MONSTER, who would you cast as Fiend and Sera?

Anthony Carrigan was my inspiration for Fiend’s appearance. Carrigan plays Victor Zsasz in Gotham. He has spoken publicly about his alopecia, which contributes to his hair loss, and I was fascinated with how villainous he appears in Gotham but how adorable and lovable he looks in photos when he’s just being himself. So I’d definitely cast him as Fiend. For Sera, I’d go with Max Thieriot.

Buy your copy of HOW TO LOVE A MONSTER today by clicking HERE!

About: Lyssa Dering is an author of erotic M/M fiction. Her work is often romantic, always emotional, and features shifters, vampires, and regular old humans in whatever subgenres inspire her. She seeks to share the kind of fiction she loves to read: intense and addictive with engaging characters and situations.

Lyssa is nonbinary and demisexual and often draws upon her time in the BDSM community when writing intimate scenes. She resides in the Midwestern United States with an aggressively affectionate tabby cat. When not writing, she enjoys livetweeting about the books she’s reading and dicking around in Photoshop.

Follow Lyssa via her website or on Twitter.

Author Randi Perrin talks angels, hot dudes, and the end of an era

Author Randi Perrin and I have been through some stuff together. We have worked, played, and bashed our heads on desks together. It seems meaningful that her trilogy would come to a close so soon after my two-book Bite Somebody series. We’ve both given birth (metaphorically), but what do you do once you’ve sent your baby out into the world?

The Earthbound Angels trilogy follows a family with divine powers. Three different couples must fight three different battles while trying to live long enough to love each other. Randi might have had to deal with some emotional lashing from me as I made her promise not to kill off certain favorite characters of mine because that would be just MEAN. Now, with the release of Virtue and Honor, I’ve read all three, and I’m sad to see the angels go. These are must-read romantic adventure novels with super hot male and female leads that offer a little something for everyone.

Despite her insanely busy schedule, Randi agreed to do an interview with me. So read on and learn a bit about sex, angels, and the mysterious writers’ life.

SDB: With the release of Virtue and Honor, you’ve completed the Earthbound Angels trilogy. How do you feel? 

Relieved. A little empty. A whole lot nervous.

One, I’m relieved to have finally completed it. This final trilogy ender remained elusive for so long to me, that there were times I thought I was going to wind up leaving the angels as a duology.

Empty because, well, my angels have been my life, my blood, sweat, and tears since November 2015. This world and these characters are so real to me, that I almost feel as if I’ve lost a friend. A piece of me. You just ended your own duology. Didn’t you feel a little bit of sadness to leave Imogene behind? God knows I’ll miss Cheryl something fierce.

SDB: Imogene goes with me everywhere, as you well know …

Nervous because, well, I’m always nervous with a new release. But this one took me places I didn’t intend to go, and I’m scared as to how it will be received. Inevitably, here comes the question: where’d you end up? In left field. Virtue and Honor is darker than the other two, the stakes are higher, the villain more diabolical and determined.

In Virtue of Death, the conflict was between the two sides of Sera. Angel and human, which will win? In Promises of Virtue, the conflict was Cheryl struggling to find her place in the world, but also an external force trying to right wrongs from the past. In Virtue and Honor, essentially all of those come into play for poor Angela. She struggles with being an angel, legacy, love, and an external force that is hell-bent on taking her down. She’s got to figure out who she is, how to love, and comprehend the legacy she didn’t ask to be a part of, in order to take on that external force. It’s a lot to handle for anyone, but especially a young and naïve twenty-one-year-old.

SDB: Did you have the whole trilogy outlined when you started, or did you make things up as you went along?

God, no. I don’t outline anything. I tried to outline Virtue of Death and Sera and Cheryl gave me the middle finger (they can’t swear, but flipping the bird is all right, apparently) and took the story in their own direction. I ran out of steam at 37,000 words and began to think it would just be a novella, and I’d need a novella about Cheryl to make them publishable length.

Luckily, I regained momentum and that wasn’t necessary. Which was really good because the original novella idea involved Cheryl being a flight attendant because she missed flying so much. Let’s be honest, can you see that happening? I mean, dear Lord, she’d get fired after her first flight. “Yeah, okay, you know how a seat belt works, right? Just stick the pointed end into the hole, much like everything else in life. Oh, oxygen, it’ll be there if you need it, cover your mouth with the thing and inhale, exhale. Not that hard, right? Okay, good. Don’t mess with the smoke detectors, that’s illegal and it’s just bad form. Look for your closest exit, but it doesn’t matter because if we’re going down you’re not going to remember where it is anyway.”

SDB: She and Imogene should hang out. Within the bounds of your trilogy, you made three couples fall in love. Do you have a favorite couple? Was one couple easier to write than the others?

Sera and Destin gave me fits, but they were the victims… I mean subjects… of my first novel. We were bound to have hiccups. Cheryl and Luc, though, they were the easy ones. Their story flew together easier and faster than the other two, despite the fact I was about halfway through it when I decided to change Luke to Luc, thereby changing his nationality and backstory. I think, however, it all turned out for the best.

SDB: Fantasy cast!!! Who would play the romantic leads: Destin, Luc, and Mason?

Destin: I’ve cast him for you before, and I stand by my original casting of Derek Theler. I can totally see perfectly-timed snark coming out of his mouth, followed by a scorching kiss. Yeah, that can happen.

Luc: I can totally see Randy Wayne pulling him off, don’t you think?






SDB: Yes to this man. Yes.

Mason: He was based on Luke Bryan, so definitely him. He’s got the southern drawl and some hellacious dance moves already.

SDB: Sex scenes: easy to write or difficult? Tips for writing a good sex scene? Tips for writing a bad sex scene haha?

Sex scenes are the hardest things ever! (Pun not intended… or was it?) I am so nervous when it comes to sex scenes. Did I make it believable? Do body parts bend that way? Just where is that line between swoon-worthy and “this dude cannot be real.”

In Virtue and Honor, we’ve got two characters who come at sex from experience versus inexperience. Angela’s a virgin, so there’s going to be some awkwardness. But it’s also so damn hot to see how Mason guides her through it. He genuinely cares for her, and it shows in that moment.

SDB: Of all the men in the Earthbound Angels trilogy, who would YOU most likely end up with and why?

Me? Most likely Destin. Because of his smart-ass mouth. Takes one to know one, and to put up with one.

SDB: … Which is why we’re friends. Favorite Benedict Cumberbatch picture? Because I’m shameless and I like the pretty.

I do love slightly scruffy and floofy-haired Sherlock Ben, so I almost said this one… I mean, look at that eye crinkle. JUST LOOK AT IT!

SDB: He has a fantastic eye crinkle.

But then I ran across this one with glasses, dimples, and a mischievous little smile that just did me in. Geeky Ben, for the win. (See, and *that* is also why I’d end up with Destin.)

Buy your copies of the Earthbound Angels Trilogy by Randi Perrin!


Hot Tree Publishing | Amazon US | Amazon CAAmazon AU | Amazon UK | Nook | iTunes | Kobo


Hot Tree Publishing | Amazon US  |  Amazon CA  |  Amazon UK  |  Amazon AU  |  iTunes  |  Nook  |  Kobo


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Vampires, movie magic, and best books: 2016 in review

Every December, I do inventory of what the hell happened over the course of the previous twelve months. As you may have noticed, 2016 was (by far) the most chaotic and successful of my life … which might be why I refuse to get dressed today. In fact, you’re lucky I’m even sitting upright. In homage to a year of utter, beautiful insanity, I offer you a look back.



Dreams do come true. After years of angst, in June, my first published novel was released into the innocent, unsuspecting world. Bite Somebody–a ridiculous paranormal romantic comedy about an awkward vampire, her sexy human surfer boy, and a psychotic blood-sucking best friend–found fans the world over. I hosted two massively successful (and anxiety-inducing) launch parties and attended my first conventions as an author. If you haven’t picked up your copy yet, click HERE, because as you may have heard, the sequel, Bite Somebody Else, comes out in 2017. The rodeo is far from over, folks. With all the upcoming promo and additional events, let’s just hope I don’t start looking rode hard and put away wet.



Once upon a time, I was an actress, so when my high school buddy asked me to be in a movie, I agreed. I had an absolute blast making Decent People, but I had no idea how hard it is to make a full-length film. (You can read all about it HERE.) Despite the laughs and new friends made, I walked away from the experience with bronchitis, laryngitis, and a phobia of having to smoke on screen ever again. (The reality just isn’t as sexy as it looks.) The film should be released in spring or summer of 2017. Since I refused to watch the dailies, I’ll surely watch the film from between my fingers, but I’m so glad I got the opportunity to slip back into my acting shoes–and have a damn good time playing a bitch in the process.



Moving to Ohio from Phoenix (where I had a full, colorful cast of photographer friends), I wasn’t sure how much modeling I would do in my new state. Surprise! About a ton. Thanks to networking, I’ve gotten to shoot in a famous cemetery, in a creepy church basement, and yes, in my underwear. I even got to do a runway show in Cleveland. As always, I encourage everyone to do a photo shoot at least once. You won’t believe what you look like on camera, and when you’re old and crinkly, you’ll be amazed at how beautiful you are and always have been. (Above photos thanks to Bill Thornhill, Devon Adams, Steph Gentry, and Dennis Mong.)


Other than Bite Somebody, what else got thrown into the world this year?

Wolf Among Sheep (Hot Ink Press)
“I was not at all prepared for what I deduce you proposed yesterday,” he says. I just adore that strange accent, so much like my husband’s: a mismatch of places and times, trapped somewhere between New York and the low south—musical yet clipped and precise.
“What exactly do you deduce we proposed?” I ask.
“That I enter into a sexual relationship with a married couple.”
I laugh; people around us turn to stare. I take Timothy’s hand. “Well. Perhaps these Americans aren’t quite as close-minded as I thought.”

I Hate Myself for Loving You (Lunch Ticket Magazine)
Timmy shoves him over and joins him in the dirt. He thumps Jason in the side of the face. I think I should tell them to stop—scream it even. Instead, coward that I am, my boys keep going until they see blood. Then, they fall back. They yell about catching Jason’s “gay disease,” named by some mad scientists a couple years back in ‘82. My best friends drag me away.
Jason rolls onto his side in the dirt and wipes at the split skin below his right eye. He doesn’t look up at me, but I keep watching as we hurry from the scene of the crime. I keep watching Jason and think I’d like to wipe his blood all over me.

The Saguaro Apocalypse (Stoneslide Corrective “Striking Use of Wit” Winner)
I opened the door. At first I thought it was some really tall, skinny dude with short arms.
Then, I realized it was a saguaro cactus. Must have been a young one, since its limbs were only about two feet long and pin wheeling in my face. I had the momentary thought: What the hell was in that weed? The cactus kept brandishing its T-Rex arms at me.
“What now?” I heard the shuffling of his sock-clad feet.
By the time Thomas reached me, the cactus was banging its rounded top against the doorframe; guess it couldn’t figure how to duck.

You’re Glowing (Omnia Veritas Review)
I haven’t had sex in two years. This unfortunate situation could be ignored except men have started glowing. The doorman outside my apartment glows dark blue, like his nicely tailored suits. I shudder beneath his smile and barely acknowledge his mannerly door holding.
The cop on the corner near the elementary school, he glows green. I don’t know if he’s supposed to, but he always holds up his orange “Don’t Walk” sign when I pass his crosswalk. He winks at me every day, which makes my forehead sweat.
The guy who makes my morning coffee glows pink. I hate the color pink, but I don’t hold it against him. He’s always nice to me. He tells me I smell good. I’m probably old enough to be his mother.

Forget Me Do (Red Rose Review)
Her friends called her a witch. It was only a joke. Whenever one of the girls posted on Facebook that she felt a cold coming on, Debra was on the road with her herbal tea mixtures and tinctures. Then, miraculously, within days, her girlfriends would be completely healed and winning track meets. That was why they called her a witch. That and, well …
“You just made out with Stan in the back of his dad’s car.”
“I hate when you do that,” Rebecca said.
Debra couldn’t help knowing things.

If It Ain’t Broke (Marked by Scorn Anthology)
“This thing for Henry Oliver … You’ve got it under control, right?”
“Of course. I’d never do anything about it.”
“You are kind of touchy-feely with the kid.”
Nate slowly turned his mug on the sticky, wooden table. “God, am I?”
Ella shrugged one shoulder. “A little. I think it’s cute, but other people might not.”

Ghosts of Ice Cream (Bop Dead City)
My fingers rest like a sleeping spider against his collarbone. I breathe the scent of him: salty sweat with an undercurrent of men’s cologne, leftover from his day at the office. He take small inhales, exhales, and hums a little when my fingers touch his throat.
And then I hear it: the ice cream truck. I finally recognize the song: an off-key, off-tempo version of “Beyond the Sea” that comes to me like screams through water. It was our wedding song. I shiver and pull closer to Michael, who falls apart, a pile of ash in my hands.

Sick Like Me (Honeydew Erotic Review)
“What kind of help do you need exactly?”
Evan shrugged. He played with the strap on his motorcycle helmet. He had long, skeletal fingers with squeaky-clean nails. He chewed on his bottom lip. “You think I’m attractive.”
“I’m sure a lot of people think you’re attractive.”
Evan shook his head. “I’m not talking about them.”
Cam sighed. “You’re making this too easy.”

5. BOOKS READ: 58!!


Best of the best:
The Summer That Melted Everything by Tiffany McDaniel
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
Wreck You by Randi Perrin
The Train Derails in Boston by Jessica McHugh
Captive Prince Trilogy by CS Pacat

6. COMING IN 2017

Bite Somebody Else (Bite Somebody, #2). Read all about it HERE.
“Not Again” – LEGENDARY Anthology (January 13)
“They Lived in the House On Cherry Street” – Black Denim Lit
“The Emmett File” – Stoneslide Corrective
“Painted Red” – kINKED Anthology
Enchanted Series: Magic SparkPen and Kink Publishing

Frankly, I’m exhausted just reading all this. I guess I should go take a nap, duck and cover until 2017 officially rolls around. I do want to thank everyone who supported me this year, whether that involved a Tweet or a glass of whiskey. I have wonderful friends, family, and fans, and I could not have achieved all of this without YOU. So here comes my British boyfriend to blow you a kiss … Cheers!



New collection The Cut Worm encompasses the things you fear

“That night it is something of joke. On TV there is a reporter standing outside with a crowd of people. The news station turns one of their giant lights into the road. One person after the other stands in front of the light. Their shadows grow and stretch the width of the street, then vanish as they move back into the darkness, all except one boy’s, fourteen year-old Myles Veech. He dances and laughs, moving in and out of the light, it making no difference. The light never changes. His silhouette never comes to life, yet he laughs. He looks … free. Nothing about Myles, his laughter, his dancing, his glee, makes you have any reason to believe that three days later he will hang himself with a guitar string, a sun lamp in the corner of the room, shining right on him, no proof of his corpse in the light.”


Gulp. Yeah. Ready for more? Author Mitch James is a skilled writer with the capability to terrify you down to your toes. In his new collection, The Cut Worm, he’s not writing about vampires or werewolves. He writes about us–what would happen to us if we thought the world was ending, if we lost our shadows, if we embraced despair in the snow. Read on for a look into the talented mind of a master of pain in prose.

How’d you come up with the title?

When I was a sophomore in college, I took a literature course where we read William Blake’s “Proverbs of Hell,” and in that poem, one of his proverbs is, “The cut worm forgives the plow.” That line has stuck with me, partly because I grew up in the Midwest, and at that time in my life (and earlier) I did some work on farms, and partly because that line just really made me think in a lot of different ways.

cut-wormOne way to see the world is that there is beautiful growth, development, and life all around, meaning life is good. Another is that there is beautiful growth, development, and life all around, but, in nearly every case, something must be drastically altered, maimed, or destroyed in order for that growth, development, and life to occur, yet life is still good.

And yet another way of looking at the world is that because something must be altered, maimed, or destroyed for there to be good in life, life is actually just a really f***ed up jest.

Blake said the cut worm forgives the plow. I wonder, does it? Every time? This chapbook is full of people absorbing the damage of living, but the question remains in each case, is the sacrifice truly bearable? Do we have it in us to always forgive the plow?

Do you have a favorite story in the chapbook … or are you not allowed to say?

There’s not one story that I necessarily like more than another, but I like each for a particular reason and am satisfied with how certain approaches or techniques worked out. For example, “Snow Blind,” “What We Always Did But More,” and “Without a Shadow” are all written very differently, despite the heart of the content in each piece being quite similar. I’m happy with the brevity and power of “What We Always Did But More;” with the success of the generally scorned, second-person perspective in “Without a Shadow;” and ”Snow Blind”, while being its own story, is also in homage to Raymond Carver, and to have somebody say, “Yeah, I want to publish that,” is rewarding. In fact, the editor liked “Snow Blind” the best, which is why the chapbook cover is what it is.

What’s your daily writing routine look like?    

I’m a pretty firm believer that writing is a process that starts way before “ink” hits page, so my most important routine is to pay attention. Every person, movement, and change has a cause, and that cause is a story. At some point, though, one must put his or her ass in the chair and write, and that part of my writing routine is like clockwork.

mitchFor four to six weeks, I will write Monday through Friday, 3 AM to 5AM. Then, the next two to four weeks (it depends on how much material I have circulating), I will revise old work and send it out for publication. It’s not the amount of time I would like to spend writing and editing, but I learned early on that the people who want money from me don’t give a shit about my fiction or poetry.

Once, in lieu of a check for a water bill, I sent the water company a series of three poems. Three days later, when I flushed the toilet at 3 AM and it didn’t fill back up, I assumed they didn’t care very much for my writing. So it goes.

You’re a teacher, too. What’s harder: writing or teaching?

Teaching is more challenging. The writing part is up to me. I either do it or don’t, so writing is easy. When you’re teaching, you’re working with several people who, like everyone else, have lots of things going on in their lives, things that oftentimes overshadow your class. But I find teaching insanely rewarding and don’t see myself doing anything different for a while, unless, of course, a big publisher wants to write me fat checks for my work.

Who are your biggest literary influences and why?    

There are a few. I would say the writer whose work I’m most floored by, the writer who makes me feel it’s a waste of my time to write because my work will always pale in comparison, is Cormac McCarthy. He’s an absolute master. Period. But I also study writers, sometimes even those whose work I’m not overly fond of, so that I can understand the skills they have that make them so unique. I’ve learned the most from Raymond Carver. But sometimes as a writer it is stylistically better to tell than show, and for that I’ve been influenced pretty heavily by John Updike and especially John Cheever, neither of which are my favorite writers but are great when trying to locate and study long pieces of narration that effectively tell rather than show.

Does your wife ever get annoyed being married to a literary geek?  

I annoy her for many other reasons, but my love of books and writing is both welcomed and reciprocated by her. I think that having the right kind of partner does matter if you’re an artist. I have a wife who actually admires my drive and dedication to writing and thinking. It’s part of what she loves about me. She is by biggest supporter, hands down. She doesn’t feel like she’s playing second fiddle to my work or intellectual aspirations. But I also consider her too. For example, I write at 3 AM because she will never be awake from 3 AM to 5 AM. I try to do most of my work when we can’t be together, even if that means starting my day at an ungodly time. A little give and take on both sides goes a long way.

Why are books important?

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. There are two reasons.

Check out Mitch’s short story collection, The Cut Worm, on Amazon and get your copy today by clicking HERE. You will not be disappointed!

Captive Prince is the hottest thing I’ve ever read

My husband was an innocent bystander when he came home to find me more than halfway through CS Pacat’s Captive Prince trilogy. Granted, Jake did have on some spectacularly sexy black trousers and a slim cut button down, so he knew he looked good.

What he didn’t know, when I glanced up from my book, was that after hundreds of pages of sexual tension, Damen and Laurent were finally having sex — so that meant my husband had a frisky wife on his hands, and …

Wait. Let me back up. Once upon a time, a friend of mine, who knew I liked erotica, told me about this series called Captive Prince. I added it to my Amazon Wish List and forgot about it until, by chance, I saw something about the trilogy online and thought I’d buy the first book, just to give it a try.

The trilogy began as an original-fiction web serial, which attracted viral attention before being acquired by Penguin. Captive Prince went on to become a USA Today bestseller and for good reason.

It’s the story of Prince Damen who is betrayed by his brother and sent as a sex slave to their enemy country. There, his true identity secret, he is chosen to be personal slave to ice cold Prince Laurent. Damen recognizes the name, of course, since he murdered Laurent’s older brother on the battlefield years ago. But Laurent is all grown up now, and he does not play nice.


Gorgeous fan art by Cleo. See links below.

In the world created by Pacat, men sleep with men, and it’s the normal way of things, as are sex slaves. Damen is disgusted at the thought of being a slave, especially to Laurent, but luckily, it’s known far and wide that Laurent doesn’t spread his legs for anyone. However, they soon build a begrudging camaraderie, especially since Damen needs to play nice to get back to his home country and murder his conniving brother.

Halfway through book one, I ordered books two and three. The sexual tension was off the charts. I writhed on furniture every time Laurent looked at Damen funny, every time Damen remembered how gorgeous Laurent really was. Pacat strung me along … and along … and along … which was why, when things finally, blessedly, went down, my husband didn’t stand a chance. I pounced.

I’ve written articles previously about how good erotica can be for your sex life. Reading it can set the mood and give you fun ideas for your own boudoir. Yet, the Captive Prince trilogy transcended even my expectations, for a couple reasons …

One: It’s incredibly well written with beautiful descriptions and detailed battle scenes that even a Dungeons and Dragons nerd could get down on. The plot of the entire trilogy is so thrilling, you can’t stop. You have to know what happens next, especially since this sensual tale is rife with villains.

Two:  Laurent and Damen are such well-developed characters, filled with intrigues of their own. They fit so well together (no pun intended), and even when Laurent is being an evil bastard, you still want them to end up cuddling because he’s so sexually vulnerable.

Three: I already mentioned the sexual tension, but … The Sexual Tension. Every time anything happened — a flirty look, a touch of the hand, a brief kiss — I screamed at Jake, “THEY KISSED AHHHHH!” I was hysterical with my need to have Damen and Laurent just do it already.

Finally, four: The actual sex. This is not a spoiler. Sex does happen, okay? And it is good. It is hot and desperate and beautiful. It’s scalding and yet emotional. It’s animalistic and tender. It’s love, baby.

I guess the only speed bump for some people is that this is gay erotica. I’m talking about two dudes, no matter how pretty Laurent is, so if you can’t deal with two dudes in lust, Captive Prince isn’t for you.

It is for me. Pacat’s Captive Prince trilogy is something I will read and reread, with my husband’s obvious blessing. Because of people like me, there’s Captive Prince fan fiction. There’s fan art. There’s a whole community of us rooting for Damen and Laurent. My advice: just buy all three books at once. Otherwise, you’ll go mad with the wanting.

(For more about CS Pacat, visit her website: http://cspacat.com/.)
(AMAZING fan art provided by Cleo. Learn more about her on Tumblr or Deviant Art.)

Breath of Earth author Beth Cato talks historic San Fran earthquakes and … foxes?


Author Beth Cato creates steampunk worlds of mystery and excitement, starting with her Clockwork Dagger series and now with her new book, Breath of Earth, released yesterday.

Beth has created SUCH an amazingly beautiful (and terrifying) world of earthquakes and magic in Breath of Earth. Her heroine, Ingrid, is strong and vivacious with the occasional weaknesses and romantic reveries of all young women. Cy is a delicious, Southern dreamboat as her brave sidekick. The action never stops, nor does the mystery. This book is a real thriller for fans of steampunk, adventure, tough chicks, and gorgeous writing.

Let’s sit down for a quick chat with Beth and see what she has to say about her newest steampunk duology …

Earthquakes are magical (and deadly) in Breath of Earth. What’s your personal experience with them, and why did you choose to focus on earthquakes in this book?

I’m a native Californian, so I have plenty of personal experience with earthquakes. The first and most devastating one occurred when I was three years old, in the bathtub, with the epicenter of the 6.2 quake only about 40 miles away. It pretty much obliterated the nearby city of Coalinga. My mom and grandparents used to live there, so we drove to see the devastation. Buildings had their walls sheared off and resembled dollhouses. From then on, I was fascinated by earthquakes.

A few years ago, I mulled over ideas for a new steampunk series. I realized that no one had explored the 1906 San Francisco earthquake from that angle, so I resolved to take on the challenge!

beth-headshotOver the past few years, you’ve acquired award nominations and many accolades for your Clockwork Dagger series. What has been the most surprising thing about having a dream come true?

That strangers have read my works. I’m like, “Whoa, someone other than my mom and my husband has read this?” I don’t know how long it takes to work past that stage of disbelief, but I have been a published novelist for almost two years at this point and I am still baffled by it all.

I love that Breath of Earth is a bit sexier than your previous series. What made you decide to heat things up in your newest opus?

I wanted to write about a strong woman who was very different than Octavia in my Clockwork Dagger books. Octavia is very frank about the human body because of her experience doctoring, but she is also quite proper, too. I wanted to set Ingrid apart and make her a distinct person. Along those lines, she’s a very passionate person in most every way. She has a knack for surprising me even though I’m a heavy duty outliner!

What is your favorite thing you’ve EVER written?

I have a story called “The Souls of Horses” that is set against a more steampunk American Civil War. It had the most “almosts” of any of my stories at all the major magazines. It broke my heart. I loved this story, and it was rejected at about a dozen places until it was finally accepted for Clockwork Phoenix 5. The story is the only one of my works to be called out in a starred review on Publisher’s Weekly, and even Ellen Datlow recommended it on Twitter. Vindication! Here’s hoping it can get some nice attention in the upcoming award season.

Fantasy movie cast: Who’s playing brave, snarky Ingrid and sexy, sexy Cy?

I haven’t seen a good actress to play Ingrid! For that, I blame Hollywood and its lack of diversity. For Cy, I could envision a younger Viggo Mortenson. I should also add that his appearance was inspired by Daniel on Stargate (movie and series) who was a teenage crush of mine.

"Ms. Cato, I answer your call."

“Ms. Cato, I answer your call.”

What’s it really like being a published writer? Give us the honest truth, good and bad.

It’s exciting, humbling, and depressing all at once. I have actual FANS, and not just the kind attached to my ceiling. My publisher is fantastic and my publicist is magical. On the flip side: I have had signing events where all of one person shows up. I still get tons of rejections on my stories and poems. Writing and editing and waiting for feedback is the same as ever: utterly terrifying. My cat pees on the carpet.

Is Breath of Earth a duology? Trilogy? Do you know exactly where the series is headed and where it will end up? No spoilers haha …

It is a two book deal, but I think I’ll need three books to wrap up the arc. That means Breath of Earth needs to sell well so I can write another book! The second book is written and I’m awaiting edits; I have ideas about the major events for book three and where I want action to take place, but I am still reading through a lot of research material. As for an evil hint: foxes are excellent predators.



If you could hand Breath of Earth to anyone, alive or dead, and have them read it, who would it be?

Well, when it comes to selling books and expanding readership, there is really only one person who wields that god-like power: Oprah. So yep. I’m going with Oprah.

I gave Breath of Earth five big, shining stars on Goodreads, so pick up your copy today by heading HERE. Learn more about Beth (and get some amazing recipes) by visiting her website, http://www.bethcato.com/.

Randi Perrin’s Virtue of Death will make you fall in love with angels … and a man named Destin

virtueOut today is author Randi Perrin’s debut, Virtue of Death. Sera is an angel of death and owner/operator of a pastry shop. Destin is a bad boy food critic who just happens to trash Sera’s shop in his review … and then, make her fall desperately in love with him. Virtue of Death is filled with tension, laughter, and sex. Sera’s struggle to live her life as an angel while trying to accept her humanity and affection for Destin is a difficult battle, considering Destin is a freaking dreamboat.

I was impressed not only with Perrin’s plot but with her sense of humor and descriptions, whether they be beautiful or horrible (especially where demons were involved). This is such a brilliant take on angels among us that proves love is the ultimate equalizer, divine being or not. I decided to pick Randi’s brain about her new book, because I’m always fascinated by what makes other authors tick. Here’s what she had to say …

Sara: Of all the paranormal creatures out there, why’d you go with angels?

Randi: Angels were a complete accident. In fact, writing paranormal was a complete accident.

Virtue of Death was a NaNoWriMo project, and it was originally plotted to be a contemporary. About three days into NaNo, I was lying in bed awake, thinking about unique character attributes to give Sera and decided she would totally have a full-back angel wing tattoo. My husband climbed into bed and I sat straight up and went, “Hey, what if she actually was an angel?”

My husband, who has the amazing ability to fall asleep the second his head hits the pillow was only half-coherent, and, compounded by the fact he had no idea what I was talking about, said, “Okay, sure, whatever you want to do.” I’ve been eating, breathing, sleeping, and writing angels ever since.

But as far as the others creatures, I am friends with so many authors who have the other paranormals covered. I don’t dare want to step on their toes. Besides, let’s be honest, there’s no way I could do vampires as well as you do.

S: Yes, you could. You can do anything, my dear. But back to the interview … Destin is a dreamboat. What is it that makes him so dang sexy? Who would play him in the film?

R: Oh, Destin. One of my biggest turn-ons in life is a man who can, and will, use correct grammar. Destin sort of builds on that, and he has an amazing way with words. He is a walking thesaurus, and I love it. An early scene that I adore is when Sera calls him persistent and he corrects her.

I’ve had a hard time fan-casting him, actually. No one I ever found really spoke to me. There’s a guy on my Virtue of Death Pinterest board that is swoon-worthy and very Destin. BUT… I don’t know if that pretty boy could act his way out of a paper bag. So, I’ll give you two (and no, it’s not lost on me how much they look alike).

Pinterest dude:










Real actor: Derek Theler








S: Would you rather be an angel of death or angel of mercy? Why?

R: Death. (Does this really surprise you?) I don’t forget things. There are many people in my life that I would absolutely love to be the last thing they see, to get the last word in a way in which they have no recourse.

Plus, I’ve always had a morbid curiosity. When I was in seventh grade, my English teacher would start a story and then she’d go around the room and each of us would add one sentence to the story. She skipped me. She actually skipped me, and I was appalled. Surprise, surprise, I called her on it. She said, “No, because you’re just going to kill the main character.” I thought about the perfect sentence I had prepared and dropped my shoulders in defeat. She was right. I was. To be fair, though, in the same sentence I was going to bring him back as a ghost so the story could continue.

So, in true nah-nah, boo-boo fashion, twenty years later, I wrote a book about an angel of death. Mwahahaha. Old habits die hard, I guess.

S: That is so awesomely evil. I think I love you. No, I KNOW I love you. Virtue of Death is a trilogy, right? Can you give us any teasers about upcoming books?

R: Yep, that’s the plan, anyway. The second book is about Cheryl and picks up the day after Virtue of Death leaves off.

I’m not really too far into the third one right now, so I can’t really give you too much about it. I try to be a plotter, but, the fact is, I’ve haven’t had a character yet who looked at my plot and said, “Yeah, I’m good with that, make it so.” So I can’t tell you anything because I guarantee the final won’t be like anything I’ve got in my head right now. The character whose story gets told has changed three different times … but I think I’m finally set on that. And no, I’m not telling who it is.

S: If you had to choose ONE SONG to represent VOD, what song would it be?

R: This is going to make me sound like such a sap and a total girl, but “Because You Loved Me” by Celine Dion. Virtue of Death is, after all, a romance, so of course it’s a sappy song. Truthfully, if you look at the lyrics, there are just a few lines in that song that are so Sera and Destin.

S: What’s the best thing about being a writer? What’s the worst thing about being a writer?

R: When I’ve had a bad day at work, I can go home and write. It’s what I use to unwind. In that world, I get to create things. If there’s a person in my life who is ticking me off, you guessed it, they make it into my story and I find a way to torture them. Because. I. Can. It’s a total power trip and it’s awesome. (And now the whole angel of death answer above makes more sense, right?)

The worst? The debilitating self-doubt. Honestly, everyone is their own worst critic, but I take the whole thing to a whole new level. I have turned self-deprecating humor into an art form in and of itself. Just ask my friends who have dubbed themselves the Optimist Calvary, because I absolutely cannot think positively about anything I write. I’m convinced everything is horrible and threaten to toss it out the window. In fact, if it weren’t for one beta in particular, Virtue of Death never would have seen the light of day.

S: Who’s your biggest literary influence?

R: You are, duh.






R: I’ve always been a huge fan of Poe. I love the darkness with which he writes, it’s just so damn intriguing. I also love the fact that he can write the most amazing poetry, but then turn around and blow your mind with a short story. He was just so multi-faceted. I started out writing poetry, and then branched to fiction, so I kind of like to think that, in my own twisted way, I’m emulating that path. I’m nowhere near as good as he was, but, I’m also not an alcoholic and crazy either.

S: Who’s your biggest celebrity crush?

R: Oh, well, that’s really not hard. I’m such a huge Keith Urban fan, it’s not even funny. I think that man is sex on a stick and I even have a piece with a Keith-inspired character (that’s getting a massive overhaul, so you’ll just have to wait).

I’m also totally in love with Colin O’Donoghue, the guy who plays Hook on Once Upon a Time. I like them with accents, what can I say? (For more, with pictures:, click HERE.)

S: Hardest thing to write: comedy, tragedy, or sex? Why?

R: Hands down, it’s the sex. I still fear I didn’t do it right. There’s just such a stigma there. You want to avoid purple prose. You have to make sure you do things that are physically possible. Do you remove socks or not? I’m huge on not using bad euphemisms, so language is an issue. (You will never see me use the word “member.” If you read something of mine that uses that word, I’ve been kidnapped and am signaling for help). You have to make the sex is true to the character and advances the plot. It’s a lot to keep in mind. Plus, there’s a line to tread—too vanilla and you look like a complete wuss and it might as well have happened off-screen; too kinky and you wander into erotica territory (and there’s nothing wrong with writing erotica) but that may turn people off … so yeah, there’s so much more, I think, at play when you’re writing a sex scene.

I toyed with making Virtue of Death sweet and having the sex happen off-screen, but in the end, I decided it needed to be there. The symbolism of these characters opening up to each other despite what’s going on around them or in their heads is extremely important to their relationship. They faced their fears head on, so dammit, I did too. All in the name of literature.

R: You didn’t ask, but I’m going to throw this information out there anyway …

In September, I’ve actually got two more releases. The Unintentional—North American Edition friends-to-lovers anthology from Hot Tree Publishing will be out on September 10 and will include my short story “Just What I Need.”  Then on September 27, also from Hot Tree Publishing, I’ll be releasing a M/M contemporary romance novella, Wreck You.

What are you waiting for? BUY THE BOOK HERE.

Stalker links:
Publisher’s author page: http://www.hottreepublishing.com/#!randi-perrin/c1q6d

About Randi Perrin:


Randi has spent her entire life writing in one form or another. In fact, if she wasn’t writing, she’d likely go completely and utterly insane. Her husband has learned to recognize when the voices are talking in her head and she needs some quality time with an empty Word file (the key to a successful marriage with a writer). She lives with her husband, daughter, and four-legged children—all of which think they are people too. A pop-culture junkie, she has been known to have entire conversations in movie quotes and/or song lyrics.

The Tiffany McDaniel Interview: “I’m drawn to the crash, not the landing”

As you may have noticed in my book review Tuesday (read it HERE), I’m kind of obsessed with new book release, The Summer That Melted Everything. As soon as I finished the book, I online stalked the author, Tiffany McDaniel, because I HAD to speak with her. I would have searched the whole world to talk to Tiffany. Luckily, all it took was an email (although, since we both live in Ohio, we have agreed that one day we will meet up for whiskey). So. Meet Tiffany.

What inspired you to write this book?

The Summer that Melted Everything began its life as a title.  It was one of those Ohio summer evenings that I just felt like I was melting. When beginning a new novel, I do always start with the title, with no real plan for what the story is going to be.  Once I have the title, I write the first line always.  Together the title and the first line determine the entire course of the story for me.  In this case, not planning on writing about the devil, the first line really determined I would.  I never do an outline or synopsis so the story is always created that moment I’m sitting in front of the computer.  For me it’s not so much as being inspired by a particular thing outside of the story, but really just allowing the story to naturally flow without being forced into a specific direction. And once the foundation of the story is built, I’m inspired by the characters themselves. To do right by them and really let their voices be heard.

The story is really very sad. As a writer, did you ever want to stop and turn away from the world you created?

I’ve always said I’m drawn to the crash, not the landing. I want to explore the wreckage, the broken fragments, the things that were once whole and are now scattered upon the ground. I never have that urge to stop or turn away because to me these moments that test us emotionally are moments we’re closest to the truth of our own infinite selves. The novel does deal with heavy issues, as all my writing does.

tiffIt’s important to write about these heavy issues but usually when a female author does it, she’s often told she’s too dark and shouldn’t go there, as I have often been told during my writing journey. But when a man writes something that digs into the deep interior, he’s merely being brilliant or a daring risk-taker. The answer here has suddenly turned into a discussion of gender and where we fit in contemporary literary fiction as female authors. So I’ll conclude by saying yes, the novel is at times sad. But I truly believe it’s the hard things in life that define our souls in enormous and even magical ways, because sadness is not just tears on the face and tissues on the floor. It’s being reminded to be present in our lives, to be appreciative of what it means to value each day and those we love in it.

What’s your religious background? How do you think your background (religious or otherwise) affected SUMMER?

I think sometimes that discussion of the author’s religious background can lead readers in a direction the novel itself is better equipped to do. I tend to avoid personal questions, so I won’t go into all that but just say that I tried to find in the novel a balance between traditional religion and rogue religion. Furthermore, exploring singular belief but also that shared belief of who the devil is and who we are in relation to not just our own beliefs, but belief as a whole on that greater scale which pivots in the clouds with the stardust and all the things we cannot see by physical eye.

Is the devil really just other people?

I think this is a great question readers themselves will ask after reading the novel. And after having read the novel, readers will really be able to answer this. I don’t want to give any spoilers away at this point, so I’ll just redirect the answer by saying you learn very early on in the novel that the devil we’re dealing with in this story is not the stereotypical devil found in the biblical narrative. Gone is the beastly appearance of horns and serpent scales and all that we’ve grown accustomed to in thinking about the devil. As I say in the novel, “Sometimes it’s the flower’s turn to own the name.” And in this town of wildflowers, the fields are not left in want.

Who’s your favorite character in SUMMER?

I don’t know if I’d say my favorite character all around. But one of my favorite characters to write was Grand who is Fielding’s brother. Though Grand’s personal battle is specific to him, his struggle for true self and identity is universal. I think also because we see Grand through Fielding’s eyes, we fall in love with Grand just as Fielding has. Grand is the older brother we all want to have. That heroic, selfless human being, who in the end proves himself in more ways than one. If Grand is anything, he is a billion blurry lights become a galaxy of clear illumination, and how can a character like that not be someone to hold dear.

What do you hope people get out of your debut?

That family is more than a house structure and the people inside are more than the titles we give them like father, mother, son, brother.  We should always strive to know and understand each other and that goes for the community as a whole as well. Just because someone is called devil doesn’t mean they are the devil.  It’s up to us to figure it out for ourselves and to know peace and harmony never lie at the end of those paths paved with hate and paved with the type of red surface others have had to bleed to make.

summerWhat’s next for you? 

While The Summer that Melted Everything is my first published novel, it’s not the first novel I’ve written. I wrote my first novel when I was eighteen years old. I didn’t get a publishing deal until I was twenty-nine. Some authors publish much sooner than that, others take longer still. What’s true in most cases is that the road to publication is oftentimes a very long, difficult journey. It’s full of rejection, and even still with a novel coming out, you face rejection with subsequent novels and their publication. It’s never easy, but what’s next for me is to just continue writing. The novel I’m hoping to follow The Summer that Melted Everything up with is titled, When Lions Stood as Men. It’s a novel I really hold dear as the subject matter demands that. It’s about a brother and sister and their guilt of surviving the Holocaust. But more than that it’s a story about this brother and sister surviving each other and surviving a love that both defines and determines the course of their entire lives. Sometimes we think the lions in our lives are standing, but really that’s only because we are crawling at their feet, and this novel, while complex in its layers and emotions, is universal in its theme of what it means to stand after tragedy.

The Summer that Melted Everything is the novel to introduce my writing style to readers, but When Lions Stood as Men is the novel that’s going to solidify my style and genre as a writer. It’s a novel I’ve put a great deal of work and love into and I can’t wait for these characters and their stories to be heard. That’s what it all boils down to. Hoping readers hear and find me. Readers have all the power. They’re the ones who give writers like me a career because they buy the book and read it. And that’s all I hope. That folks read what I’ve written and in the end close the book and say, “Hey, that’s a pretty good story. I’m really glad I read it.”

(If you haven’t already ordered your copy of The Summer That Melted Everything, do it soon. It’ll change your life. Click HERE.)

The Summer That Melted Everything: A must-read gothic tragedy

During the summer of 1984 in Breathed, Ohio, Autopsy Bliss invites the devil to town—and the devil actually shows up in the guise of an African American boy named Sal. Sal is befriended by Fielding Bliss, Autopsy’s youngest son and narrator of Tiffany McDaniel’s debut novel, The Summer That Melted Everything.

When I picked up this innocent-looking book, I had no idea I was about to be emotionally destroyed and equally gobsmacked by the quality of writing. McDaniel’s prose is like warm maple syrup on a rainy day. Some sentences made me literally ache with their beauty.

summerSo why, oh why, did I one night wake my husband from a sound slumber by sobbing my face off? It’s been a long time since something so beautiful, so poetic, broke me into such little, scorched pieces, like torn paper in the wind. There is horror in the beauty, and although I now consider The Summer That Melted Everything one of my favorite books, I am cautious in my recommendation to others as it requires strength to accept this journey.

Summer is an important book in that it questions faith and how we perceive good versus evil. It’s important as an example of excellent literature. Summer is romantic in a strange, off-putting sort of way, and Sal’s monologues are worthy of a stage play.

And yet, there are scenes (two in particular) I can’t even think about without feeling my heart break all over again. If the writing were shit, these scenes would be simpler to overlook, but since McDaniel is a master of imagery, the emotional moments in Summer resonate with the painful toll of a funeral hymn.

We’re left asking: what power does the devil really have? What does God allow him, and how good is God anyway? Are all the catastrophes in Ohio (and the tragedy of Fielding’s life) really Sal’s fault? Is that what the devil does—his mere presence causes destruction—or is the devil in all of us, just waiting to stop by for a visit? Is Sal even the devil anyway?

I need you to understand: this book is worthy of awards. If this debut is any indication, Tiffany McDaniel’s work will one day be studied in colleges across the country. However, I suggest Summer to you at your own peril. I will keep the book forever on my crowded bookshelf as a sort of idol, but I will never read it again. I can’t go back to Breathed, Ohio, but maybe you can visit if you have the fortitude to realize that sometimes the devil is just other people.

(Buy your copy of The Summer That Melted Everything, out today, HERE. I will be featuring an interview with Tiffany on my blog Thursday!)