Newsletter #13—February 13, 2024

Laissez les bontemps Rouler!

Hey y’all, it’s Mardi Gras! Yep, Fat Tuesday – the day in New Orleans when all the good Catholic boys, girls, men, and women feast and fatten up for the fasting of Lent, which starts tomorrow, Ash Wednesday.

Oh, yeah – y’all were expectin’ James, weren’t ya? He’s away on some shindig, so I decided to take over. Case ya hadn’t guessed, it’s me, Benji, though I’ll also answer to “Cajun firecracker” and Ravynn gets to call me a few other things, but that’s between him and me for now!

So, anyway, how y’all like that snazzy header for this newsletter? I got James to set it up for me before he left on his trip – he’s the writer and techie guy. Wil could do it, prob’ly, but he’s got a new keyboard he’s tinkerin’ with, tells me it even will figure out the melody and beat on its own. Sounds like he won’t need any of the rest of us, ‘cause it’ll even create a human voice and sing a song. He calls it “A Eye” or something. Sounds like voodoo or black magic to me!

I hope y’all won’t be too disappointed with gettin’ this from me and not from James. He prob’ly could tell ya a lot about how the writing is going, or what’s goin’ on – all I can tell is that he went to visit some friends for a Mardi Gras party before the day, and is traveling home today. Since he’s partied already, me an’ Ravynn, Sean and Clay, and a few friends are gonna watch the last parades in New Orleans online as we eat a King Cake or two. And Rave promised me cafe au lait and beignets after! So ‘scuse me if I cut this short. James will be back with you on March 5 with the next newsletter… but if ya don’t wanna hang around any more, just hit the unsubscribe link below, okay? (I hope ya hang around, the novel is getting close, shay!) Ooh, beignet time…. Catch ya later!!



Newsletter #12—January 23, 2024

Well, THAT was pretty quick!

In this edition:

More information about the ROME anthology
Update on the novel’s progress
Future ideas and plans for the rest of the year
Question!

Before we jump into the meat of this newsletter, can we just agree that SOMEONE put this year on super-fast-forward? Come on, it was like two days ago we were talking about Christmas 2023, now here we are almost done with January 2024! Sheesh! I know the old saying is “Time flies when you’re having fun,” but my goodness, we haven’t even had the final words on the final version of the first draft of the novel yet, so it’s not like we’re just going bonkers here! **Taking a deep breath here!** Okay, that helped. Now, back to our regular news and stuff!

You should have received a special newsletter from me about the anthology. It has been published! Yay! (Cue the champagne, confetti, beignets, and so on) If you haven’t gotten a copy yet, it’s available at Amazon in both ebook and paperback; Barnes & Noble in both ebook and paperback; and in paperback format at Bookshop.org or Walmart.com (click the appropriate links to be taken to an external page). Just so you know, if you purchase a copy, I might make a few cents off your purchase.

The novel is so close to a full, final first draft—i.e., ready to be whittled down to book size for submission for publishing—that I’m like a proud papa in the delivery room, ready to start stuffing cigars into everyone’s hands or mouths…. Okay, maybe not quite that delirious, yet, but close. My fantastic book coach—Heather Davis (have I ever told you she’s my book coach? If not, my bad!)—has helped me take a story that tried (and failed miserably) at being a contemporary romance, and from that we’ve carved out a romantic comedy that’s long on story and interactions (and food), and hopefully full of characters you’ll love (or love to hate in a few cases) as much as I do. It’s got comedy ranging from light humor to (hopefully) laughing-out-loud for real. I’m really proud of the words I’ve written on this epic journey and I can’t wait for you to have a chance to read them! [Keep watching—I’m hoping to be asking for “advance readers” before too long!]

The editor-in-chief, Angel, has been busy. She’s trying to rearrange my bedroom with only moderate success—so far all she has managed is to claw my left index finger through the quilt, blanket, and top sheet the other night… fortunately not “painting” my bed (or me) red in the process. She’s been entirely too concerned with finding things to attack (see “finger” above) or items to rearrange (several neatly stacked items offended her view, I guess, so they were toppled and scattered, and had to be relocated), so no new pictures to share—though I am thinking of giving her a second name. How does “Desdemona” strike you? (Because if you remove the “Desa” you have her alter-ego….)

I have several projects that are ongoing or that I have just started. Topmost is the Character Bible. It’s been sort of in limbo due to the rush to get the final scenes ready for Heather’s viewing (plus the holidays, and the Rome anthology). I am planning to get it as close to finished as possible by the end of March, if not sooner. There are actually very few characters left to add to it, but getting the image from my head into the software and then into the Character Bible is the trick. Next up is a companion book to the prequel, novel, and Christmas story. It will be a combination “cookbook” (but not in a traditional sense), travelogue, “diary” or journal of sorts, and a compendium of outtakes and extras from the novel and the two free books. By "cookbook" (not in a traditional sense) I mean there will be some recipes with fully developed cooking guidelines, but others may be less complete or less involved. The recipes involved will all tie in with foods mentioned in the books, and there will be commentary from Benji or Ravynn and possibly from other characters as well. The travelogue aspects will give perhaps deeper information on traveling to and from New Orleans by train (from the prequel), as well as more information about the tour itinerary from the novel.

Another future project I have done a little work on is a potential Phoenix Rising Book 2: All in the Family?—which I will tell more about later. For now, I’m still trying to get Phoenix Rising Book 1: The (Un)Official Carica-Tour (current “working” title) launched. If the title doesn’t make sense to you, re-read the prequel, then play with the last word of the novel’s title…. Or, get the novel when it is available, and, like my grandmother used to say, “Everything will come out in the wash.”

On that note… I’m pretty much talked out for now. (Yeah, yeah, don’t get too happy about it!) I do, however, have a question for you. PLEASE answer by clicking one of the options under the question, okay? (Your answer will be counted, but your name will be kept private.)

The question: After the current novel is written, what would you rather see me write next?

[Phoenix Rising 2] [Cat Shifters]

[Bisexual (M/F) Erotica] [Other: _______]

The next newsletter will arrive on February 13, 2024. Yes, Mardi Gras! Who knows what kind of magic and fun might occur then…. Other than the fact that I will be traveling that day, so hopefully all the proper switches are set and everything. If you don’t hear from me on February 13, I’ll make it up to you on Valentine’s Day. (No, I am not sending you a box of chocolates, or a dozen roses. Neither of those work well in electronic delivery systems, you know?) And, as always, if you decide you don’t want to hear from me anymore, just click the unsubscribe link below, okay? Otherwise, laissez les bontemps rouler—Let the good times roll—and see you February 13!


Special Author Newsletter #01—January 3, 2024

Grab Your Togas, Sandals, and Pizza Pans!
ROME: Centuries of Stories of the Eternal City
has been released!

It’s me again! Sorry I am popping into your inbox so soon after the regular newsletter, but I literally was just told that RELEASE DAY is here. ROME: Centuries of Stories of the Eternal City has just been released by Red Penguin books. It includes my short story, An American Schoolboy in the Eternal City. My story is a memoir of my visit more than 50 years ago to Rome. It’s a short 1200-word read, my first “officially published” work in over thirty years.

Just so you’re not surprised, my short story is not fiction. It’s a recollection of my visit to Rome back in 1968 as a schoolboy. It doesn’t tie in with my novel at all, other than the same author, same sense of humor, same Colosseum, same Rome…. but no Benji or Ravynn. I’ve seen the other stories and poems in the anthology, and I’m honored to be included.

Since the anthology has just been released, I’m jumping the gun—or is it the shark?—quite a bit. I don’t have all the deets yet on where the book will be available and all the other fine print, but by the next regularly scheduled newsletter, I hope to have all that remedied. So, for now, I’ll return you to your regularly scheduled inboxes!

——James



Newsletter #11—January 2, 2024

THE END. (Well, sort of….)

Before I dig into that title, let me apologize! I failed to sufficiently wish you Happy Holidays in my last newsletter - waaay back in the dark days of mid-December of last year. Sorry!

Now, on to this year’s first newsletter!

It is, in fact, THE END. The first draft, in its roughest form, is complete. But don’t go looking for the book to be published yet! Oh, no…. We’re still early days on that. Right now we’re “polishing” the hidden jewel. Smoothing the rough edges. Trying to fill all the plot holes. Once that’s done, Phoenix Rising Book 1 will move into the next phase of its existence, where it will morph from the second coming of War and Peace (if you don’t recognize the title, just understand it’s a very, very, very, v-e-r-y loooonnngg book) into a decent-sized romantic comedy. Kind of like a caterpillar crawls into a chrysalis and emerges later as a beautiful butterfly—while shedding one skin for another—the book will lose probably half or more of its words, but emerge ready for one more flight of editing, then proofreading. After all that, advance readers get first looks at the book in exchange for an honest review (authors love to have reviews of their books, especially good, honest ones), and shortly after that, it’s publication day. [You can wake up now, this lesson on the history of book publishing has concluded!]

So, other than getting the book scenes ready for the next big step, what have I been up to? I’m still working on the Character Workbook I first mentioned several months ago. My software has been determined to make all the guys look so much alike that I have to stop after two or three to be able to freely create the images of the characters. I’m getting close to having them all finished, though. You might get the full booklet by Easter, if my software agrees! Another project I have started examining is putting together a sort of cookbook or recipe booklet based on the foods mentioned in all the stories about the group so far. It would be more than just a cookbook, with little vignettes of the guys—or other characters from the pertinent story or stories—to “spice up” the recipe. I’ve also got some ideas for future books in the Phoenix Rising universe—there’s a potential love interest for DC and another for Todd introduced during book 1. Beyond that, there are a few other stories from Ravynn and Benji lingering in my mind….

 You probably also remember the mention of the ROME anthology I have a short story in. I’m still waiting to be told it has been released, so it’s out there, but I’m not sure what the timeline is right now. I will warn you again, you’ll get a special newsletter to announce its release as soon as I know “It’s Alive!”

Speaking of
alive, here’s a couple of other “live” things: one, I have a NEW “Cover” image for my Facebook page….

And the second item, more importantly, is that I am currently running a fundraiser for the Trevor Project as my “birthday” present to myself.
 

Please help me help young LGBTQ+ kids have a resource that might save their lives. Any amount you donate will be tremendous, and I’ll appreciate it so much (all funds go to the Trevor Project, through a Facebook/PayPal collaboration). Angel says you should do it so she won’t have to come “persuade” you!!

Last but not least, this email might look a bit different from its previous versions. If you track these things, my email provider, Mailerlite, has upgraded their system, and I’m creating this newsletter using the new system…. So I may goof or glitch here and there. Hopefully by the NEXT email I’ll figure it all out! The next “regularly scheduled” email is January 23, 2024, so between now and then, happy birthday to Ravynn St. John, Sean Alexander, Rod Stewart, and myself, all January 10; Elvis Presley, January 8. Then there was a President who resigned in disgrace whose birthday sandwiched between Elvis and me…. And Happy birthday January 15 to Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and on January 17 to Muhammad Ali, born Cassius Clay. I’m not even going to try to cover all the birthdays, or this newsletter will become the size of the old Sears Christmas catalog. (If I’m saying things you don’t remember, write me back, and I’ll tell you!)

As always, if you decide you don’t want to hang around with me any longer, please hit the UNSUBSCRIBE link below!