Newsletter #10—December 12, 2023

In this issue:
- A look back at 2023
- I’m getting published (no joke)!
- Update on the novel
- MORE Christmas and Holiday-themed books I read when I’m not writing
- Looking ahead to 2024….

Okay, should we start with just catching our breath? I mean, it feels like 2023 was a year on steroids, or rocket fuel, or something, because it has just FLOWN by. Twelve months ago, the idea that you and I would be talking about a nearly-completed first draft of a first novel seemed about as ludicrous as someone saying there would be a new Beatles song in the top ten. Yet, here we are—Phoenix Rising Book 1 is rushing towards the finish line (there’s that rocket fuel again) and “Now and Then” by the Beatles is currently somewhere in the top ten songs worldwide, only 53 years after the group broke up.

As a long-time Beatle fan, I love the song. As a music lover in general, I adore the song. As a techie, I am amazed by the song. Bottom line—if you haven’t heard it, find it online and check it out.

I am now on Mastodon. Look for me as @AuthorJamesWeems If you’re on Mastodon, look me up and say hi! I’m still checking the site out, but it’s a book-lover-centric platform and they don’t allow hate speech or any of the garbage you’ll find on some or most social networks these days.

Back to the review of 2023, though. After a slow start—Phoenix Rising really wasn’t meant to be a contemporary romance, try as I might to make it one—once I re-started as a romantic comedy, the rocket fuel kicked in and we were off to the races. [Am I spewing enough mixed metaphors here, or should I try for a dozen more?] During the year, I wrote the prequel, released it to the world, and launched this newsletter. For good measure, I followed all that with a Christmas short story. All while writing scenes for the novel—originally I thought nearly 150 scenes, then cut it to 125 or so, then finally to 74. As the novel currently stands, there will be 74 scenes (eventually turned into chapters), plus an epilogue.

But, James,” you say, “if you’re still talking about the novel getting worked on, what’s that got to do with the comment I’m getting published (no joke)! above?” I’m glad you ask! In October, I was online doing some research for the scenes in Rome when I discovered a call for submissions from a publishing company for an anthology they were producing about ROME. Hmmm… I checked it out. They encouraged any submission of poetry, photography, or short stories (fiction or non-fiction) pertaining to Rome. I had visited Rome as a high school senior back in 1968-1969, so I decided to write a recollection of my visit. The result was a short story (and I do mean short—just over 1200 words!) which I titled “An American Schoolboy in the Eternal City.” I was notified of my acceptance after the last newsletter was sent. The book will be available through Red Penguin Books and you will get an UNSCHEDULED email from me when the book releases (just warning you now!). For those of you who want to add it to your collection or TBR list, here’s a current image of the cover:

On to the novel… or should I say “back to the novel” since I have already talked a lot about it. Of 74 scenes plus the Epilogue, as I write this, all have been written; of those, 51 are waiting to be compiled into chapters. 19 are being edited and rewritten and reworked to make them as good as possible… and the remaining five are about to get their first viewing by my book coach and mentor. I know the ending of the book.

For a final (for this year, at least) batch of Christmas and holiday-themed books, I am offering you a diverse collection of anthologies. Some may be difficult to find—in many cases, anthologies are available for a specified period before being pulled off the market so the individual authors can take their stories and use them as they desire. If you can’t locate a particular anthology, that’s likely the reason. First up is Queer Cheer, the Bay Area Queer Writers Association Third Anthology. Print versions at independent booksellers, ebooks at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, audiobooks on Audible and iTunes. This has a mix of stories and poems. Then there’s There Goes the Turkey!, a romantic comedy anthology (darn, I missed it!). This was published in 2022 by Fluffy Fox Publishing. It’s a Thanksgiving-themed anthology, with 6 stories. At the time of writing, the paperback is available (on the ‘zon, of course!). For a new twist on the holidays, there’s O Come All Ye Kinky from Riptide Publishing. This charity anthology donates 20% to the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom. It features virtually every human sexual combination. The paperback is available from Barnes & Noble or (amazingly) Walmart. Then there’s another charity anthology, this one giving support to two AIDS charities—one in the United Kingdom and one in the United States. Having lost dozens of friends due to the undeclared AIDS pandemic in the 1980s, the cause is dear to me. This anthology is titled, appropriately, Kind Hearts at Christmas. The book was published in 2022, and it’s available in paperback on the ‘zon. There are 13 stories in the book, well worth looking into. Please understand, I’m not getting a cent for recommending any of these books—I enjoyed reading them, so if you want to find out what I read, here you are. If you do read any of them, drop me a note and let me know your thoughts—or, better yet, let the author know, by leaving a brief review at Goodreads or Amazon. Independent authors sink or swim based on reviews because so many people base their purchase decisions on those reviews! (Please be kind to my fellow authors!)

Looking ahead to 2024… it feels so odd saying that! January will be here before you know it. I hope your holidays are happy and filled with all the joy you could possibly want, plus a cup extra. Don’t ever turn down extra joy—you never know when it will come in handy! Anyway, the next newsletter will pop into your inbox, slightly hungover from New Year’s revelry likely, on January 2, 2024. We’ll see what’s happening with the novel then! And, just to remind you, once I know when the ROME Anthology will be published, I’ll send you an extra email just to let you know. I promise I won’t overdo it!

If at any time you decide you don’t want me popping into your inbox, you can hit the Unsubscribe link below. Please don’t send the email to spam—it will cause these emails to be canceled by my email provider. See you in three weeks!


Newsletter #09—November 21, 2023

Happy Thanksgiving Week….

In this issue:
- November, already?
- The novel!
- Christmas and Holiday-themed books I read when I’m not writing
- Catching up with—or being caught by—the editor-in-chief
- Looking ahead….

Here it is, the last half of November already. Sheesh, weren’t we celebrating the beginning of 2023 like two weeks ago? It sure seems that way! Okay, maybe I exaggerate a bit. But this year has flown by. But we have accomplished a few things this year, and the biggest and best is just about within reach.

So here’s the scoop (I know, most authors save the “big news” for the end, to keep you reading, but I can’t wait): the novel is now sitting just four scenes from being a completed first draft. And that’s as I write this newsletter. By the time you get this, I might be writing those magical words, “Where’s the beef?” err, “The End.” It’s been a fun journey, from the moment Ravynn St. John stepped out of my head and demanded I tell his story, through writing half a contemporary romance and backtracking to rewrite it all as a romantic comedy, all while Benji found his voice and the guys showed me their individual personalities.

Along the way, a prequel was hatched, followed by my first-ever Christmas story. All focusing on a group of characters that I hope you love as much as I do, and a place as magical and mystical as it claims to be—New Orleans and the bayou country of Louisiana.

You might be thinking that I’m focused on New Orleans a lot. Well, the prequel and the Christmas story would give you that impression, but I promise you, the novel is going to expand Phoenix Rising’s universe considerably! The novel covers the group’s first World Tour, which covers ten cities in the United States, Canada, and Europe. During the tour, the guys and their support, manager Greg and assistant manager DC along with Davey Rhodes and his road crew warriors, will travel from the west coast of the US to Canada, cross the Atlantic to tour stops in France, Italy, and England, then back to the east coast and finally home to Atlanta, with some new friends and new relationships along the way. Remember, this is a romantic comedy, so there will be laughs and love along the way!

I’ve already given you a pretty hefty view of the novel’s story, so we’ll shift gears here. After all, it’s the unofficial start of the holiday season, so let’s talk turkey, okay? (Sorry, I couldn’t resist tossing that in.) This time of year, with the weather getting colder (which I am not a fan of), it’s a great time to curl up under a blanket with a warm beverage (hot toddy, anyone?) and a book.

If you haven’t read it already, grab a copy of Christmas Bonfires: a Phoenix Rising Holiday short story. It’s a quick, free read. You can click the link below to get a copy of the regular edition—no email or anything required. If you’d prefer the illustrated edition, reply to this email with your preference (epub, mobi, or pdf) and I’ll shoot you a copy. Just as a caution—the file sizes for the Illustrated edition are much larger than the regular edition (epub: regular 2.44Mb, illustrated 97.8Mb; mobi: regular 520Kb, illustrated 7.11Mb; pdf: regular 2.01Mb, illustrated 10.5Mb). Other Christmas and holiday-themed gay romances I have read include three from Alexa Land—Hitman’s Holiday, Comfort and Joy, and Making Merry. The first two are part of her Firsts and Forever series. The third is a crossover between the Firsts and Forever series and the Castaways series. You can probably enjoy them as stand-alone books, but they’ll be even better if you read the full series. If you’d prefer a fun Christmas romance without worrying about a series of books, Christmas Bubble by Ana Ashley should have you bubbling over with joy. (Excuse the pun!) It’s a fun read with great characters. My last Christmas-themed book is a heavy hitter. Heavy, because it pretty much hits every emotion. I think that’s why I like it so much that I have an ebook copy and an autographed print copy of the book. I highly recommend R. J. Scott’s The Christmas Throwaway. It’s a helluva read – you’ll cry (at least, I did), you’ll smile, you’ll swoon, and by the end, you’ll hopefully love the book as much as I do. Please understand, I’m not getting a cent for recommending any of these books—I enjoyed reading them, so if you want to find out what I read, here you are. If you do read any of them, drop me a note and let me know your thoughts—or, better yet, let the author know, by leaving a brief review at Goodreads or Amazon. Independent authors sink or swim based on reviews because so many people base their purchase decisions on those reviews! (Please be kind to my fellow authors!)

Since Benji took over the last newsletter, the editor-in-chief hasn’t made an appearance in a while! She’s been very busy chasing the other cats here at the house, or sleeping, or making herself comfortable in my lap just when I was about to try to write a stretch of the story. I have been able to capture a shot of her in her favorite, or second-favorite, spot….

As you can see, she’s gotten to be quite a big girl! I would weigh her and measure her to give you her vital statistics, but my scales have died (again… so much for technology!), and waving a tape measure around a cat like Angel is a good way of watching it get eaten or at least shredded. For the record, she weighs at least 10 pounds and is about a foot and a half long, from nose to her hind legs (with her tail extended, she’s close to two and a half feet)! She will turn twenty months old December 1, 2023. That’s 1 year, 8 months, which means her birthday is April 1. Don’t even call her an “April Fool” or she’ll show you just who the fool is!

Looking ahead, with the novel nearing “complete first draft” status, here’s what’s ahead: first, the scenes will be compiled into chapters; 74 scenes will turn into somewhere around 20 to 30 chapters, probably. We’ll see how it works out. After that, it’ll get thinned out—the book right now is over 100,000 words, which would be an awesome science fiction fantasy novel, but this is a romantic comedy. So, it needs to be closer to 50,000 to 70,000 words or maybe less…. Some of my words will get cut. It’s a given. (Though, they might stick around for an “outtakes” or “bloopers” collection.) Once all the cutting and re-editing is done, there’s going to be a chance for early readers—“beta” readers who will be reading the book to catch all or most of the bad bits, like a guy walks through a door that doesn’t exist or something; and then once all those bad bits are fixed, ARC readers—advanced readers who will get the book before its “official” release, in exchange for giving an honest review of the book. Pretty sweet, huh? The advanced reader gets a free novel to read and just has to post a review. I’ve done it myself; it’s pretty cool. I encourage you to consider being an ARC reader if you enjoy reading, don’t mind giving an honest review, and don’t want to spend any money on a book. There are limited numbers of ARC reader spots available, so don’t assume you can delay about it, if you get the opportunity.

The next newsletter will arrive in your inbox on December 12, 2023, and will be the final newsletter for this year. The year has flown by, and I hope to have an update on the novel with MAYBE some projections of its future then. See you in three weeks!


Newsletter #08—October 31, 2023

It’s Benji’s Birthday!

Hey, who dat! Benji here, celebratin’ my birthday by takin’ over this newsletter!

Yeah, James stepped away from his writing desk jes’ long enough for me to sneak in and let y’all know I’m still kickin’ and havin’ a great life. Me an’ Ravynn aren’t recording music anymore, but we had a grand time of it for a while!

While I was getting’ set to write, I noticed that the book about our first tour is getting’ real close to done. I mean, like, less than a dozen scenes to go. Man, he’s been workin’ hard getting’ the words on the page, including some rough scenes for me and Rave. I’m not gonna tell y’all how it goes, but pretty soon you might be asked if you want to be an ARC reader. I’ve heard him talkin’ ‘bout that—it’s like someone who reads the book and posts a review so it generates buzz for the book, an’ gets more sales that way. Course, before that, he’ll be lookin’ to get readers to check the book for errors and plot holes and bad stuff, what he calls a beta reader. I always thought that was someone who read one of those fancy tropical fish somehow!

So anyways, if you read the prequel, you know that was all about my seventeenth birthday. So that means I’m “celebrating” my seventy-second birthday today. Celebrating? At this age, it’s celebrating when you can still get out of bed in the morning! Though, I gotta say, Ravynn and me still are in real good shape to be as old as we are. We’ve been talking to James about a book to tell our story after Phoenix Rising’s glory days, so you might get a chance to see what we did after the group was done.

But all that’s a bunch of stuff for another day. Today’s a party! As we said in New Orleans all the time, “Laissez les bontemps rouler!” Yeah, let the good times roll.

Speakin’ of books, me an’ Rave were talkin’ about the Christmas we spent, right after my birthday, with Pearl and Hank back in the house outside New Orleans. And, danged if James didn’t turn it into a short story! He says it’s his first ever Christmas story, but I kinda doubt that. He’s as old as me, ‘pert near. So anyway, you get first dibs at the regular edition of it, just by clickin’ on the link here:

Don’t worry, ya don’t need to sign up for anything. Just pick your file type—epub, mobi, or pdf. If you aren’t sure which one, the folks at StoryOrigin can prob’ly help, or you can email James at and he’ll be glad to help, I’m sure. If you want the SPECIAL Illustrated Edition in any of those file types, you’ll have to email him. That’s the only way for now!

By the way, I keep hearin’ all this talk ‘bout somethin’ called NaNo WriMo, I think that’s it…. Supposed to be about writing a novel during November, I guess. James tried it last year and he’s sworn it off this year. Course, he doesn’t need to write a whole book, he jes’ needs to finish ours!

I’m thinkin’ it’s about time Ravynn and me have some cake, and maybe some cafe au lait. Would I be a hog if I asked for beignets, too? Oh, guess I should tell y’all that the next newsletter will be November 21, three weeks from today, and two days before Turkey Day—Thanksgiving! By then, there should be some serious news on the book! Y’all come back now, y’hear?

Oh, and if you’re tired of hearing from James, or me, or us, just punch that Unsubscribe link down at the bottom, okay? Don’t label us as spam!


Newsletter #07—October 10, 2023

Is this newsletter just a ghost of itself, or am I being ghosted?

In this issue:
- why the pride logo has returned to the newsletter
- can you materialize all the ghostly and paranormal terms that snuck into this newsletter?
- October is the start of fall, and the fall of temperatures, boo hiss! (But baseball is finishing with the Fall Classic—that’s the World Series, you guys!)
- A few words about the Christmas story I’ve mentioned and another story
- Update on “The Character Bible” and the free handout from a few months ago
- An easy quiz with at least 3 winners….

Hello again, my friend! Welcome to a—no, I’m not going to say “spook-tacular” because that one’s been done to death—ghostly good newsletter, full of chills and shrieks (mostly from me, when Angel nips at my toes of fingers—I think she’s trying out to replace Nick Frost). We should have some laughs and some good times—just no pumpkin spice for me, thanks; everyone else can have all they want of that particular flavor.

So, the PRIDE logo is back, because this month of October sees Pride Celebrations in Las Vegas, Nevada (going on through October 17), Knoxville, Tennessee (just celebrated Pride on October 7), my home—Atlanta, Georgia, October 14 and 15, followed by Orlando, Florida, October 21, and Phoenix, Arizona, October 21 and 22. Pride then swings southerly to Buenos Aires, Argentina (southern hemisphere spring, anyone?), October 27 through November 4. Hmmmm…. Wonder if I can get a passport, a laptop, and a decent Zoom connection so I can get away from the specter of cold weather here and join the guys in South America…… [Angel took one look at me and shook her head as if to say, “Not in any of my nine lives, bud.”] Oh, well, a guy can dream.

Yes, this newsletter is just screaming full of goblins and ghouls and whatnot—at least in words. (Pictures are easy to spot!) Since I AM a writer, I’m using my craft to sneak in Halloween-themed words (or horror-movie-themed words) so you can have a little “scavenger hunt” this time around. See, there’s an easy little quiz at the end, and there will be three winners (at least) picked. So, as you read through the newsletter, note any eerie or potentially macabre words. I’ll even give you credit for adding “eerie” and “macabre” to your list! Does that give you any ideas what to pluck from this newsletter? Word of warning: you won’t win an all-expenses-paid round-trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina, so don’t get too excited. I’m an author, not the guy who created Amazon!

We’re in October, y’all! I don’t like cold weather. I may have slid that idea in a few times in the past, but let me just make the point bone-chilling (or bone-breaking?) clear. I prefer summer breezes to autumn sneezes! Anyway, October brings Coming Out Day, tomorrow, October 11, so if you know anyone who’s just realizing their sexuality—whatever it may be—give them a kind word, offer them your support, and be a good ally. October also brings more college football and Major League Baseball playoffs, which is more my style. Go Braves! (Yes, Morticia, I am a native Atlantan, you know!) But also, congratulations to the Baltimore Orioles, Los Angeles Dodgers, Milwaukee Brewers, Houston Astros, and Minnesota Twins – the Division winners, and the Philadelphia Phillies, Florida Marlins, Arizona Diamondbacks, Tampa Bay Rays, Texas Rangers, and Toronto Blue Jays—the Wild Card teams. By the end of the month, it will be a battle between one National League team and one American League team for the World Series championship. I’m cheering for my Braves to go all the way to November 3 or 4!

Alright, before you break out the chainsaws on me, let’s move on to something more enjoyable for all. I had started a Christmas story which I hoped to have ready for this Christmas, featuring Ravynn and Benji returning to New Orleans. I ran into a bit of a “writer’s block” so I paused the story…. It was more important to get the novel scenes going. I didn’t butcher the Christmas story, I just paused it. So, shortening this tale a bit, the novel scenes picked up, and I feel better about that, so I am going to look into working on the Christmas story again. It might still get delayed until next Christmas, because ultimately, I want to get the novel ready for you as soon as I can—and we’re close. Really close. Like, only about twenty scenes to go until I write “The End” on the final scene! I know, it seems sudden—a few weeks ago I was saying we had hit the halfway mark. Well…. Here’s what happened: magically, looking at the scenes I had planned for the rest of the novel, there were a TON of scenes that didn’t do much except take up space. Kinda like bad zombies in a grade C horror film, they were there, but unnecessary. So I killed them off, compacted the remaining scenes, and my book coach and mentor agreed that it made perfect sense. So not the novel is actually at about 70 to 75% complete, just by those scenes biting the dust. (And don’t cry for them, Argentina—they never existed except as ideas, anyway.) And, just to show my brain has slammed its way through that writer’s block, I got a message about an Anthology of stories about Rome (Italy, not Georgia); so I will be submitting a short story for consideration. Keep your fingers crossed for me! I’ll let you know once I know…..

You have, by now, noticed that when I promise “a few words” it can easily become a dozen sentences, right? If you ever feel like I’m chattering on too much, you can always hit the unsubscribe link below. I won’t hold it against you, but you’ll miss out on all the fun of these newsletters and whatever comes next! (And speaking of newsletters and what comes next, I’ve added a page to my website with all the newsletters, most recent one first. This one will be at the top soon.)

The Character Bible—and the handout I created from it, which you may have gotten the first version of—is still a work in progress. It’s as close to finished as the novel is, though, so I hope to have it ready—completely—by the end of the year. From my lips to the AI art app’s “ears” hopefully! (Do apps have ear? And does AI really listen? Inquiring minds—worried minds—want to know.)

The next newsletter will arrive in your inbox in three weeks, October 31, 2023…. Benji Travers’ birthday.

Here’s the quiz: Hit the email button (or send an email to and list all the words you found in this newsletter that relate to horror movies or scary things. If I’ve used a word more than once, you can list it more than once! (If yo