Guest Author: Grace R Duncan – Chatting Choices and Reviews

ChoicesLGWhen I originally set out to write Choices, I honestly had no idea the monster it would become.  The idea started out as an AU fanfiction of the Naruto world.  It was to be the first alternate world (as opposed to alternate reality of Naruto) of my own making.

But as I was talking to the wonderful A.F. Henley about the concept behind Choices, he told me that it sounded like an amazing world and then he challenged me to write an original story, instead.  I don’t think he had any idea just what he unleashed.

Choices grew quickly.  From a short AU fanfic to a short story to a novel.  Then, as the novel progressed, I found myself fascinated not only with the main characters, but also with a number of the secondary characters.  They began to worm their way into my head and heart and demand their own stories.  I pushed it off, convinced for the longest time that this was going to be a single, standalone novel and that was that.

Well, Cyrus and Nadir wouldn’t stand for that.  Neither, apparently, would Darius and Salehi.  And before I knew what hit me, I was making notes on not one, but two more novels in this world.

I managed to make that be enough for the time being and put my effort into finishing Choices.  That novel took me a long time to write.  I started it before NaNoWriMo of 2011.  During NaNo, I managed another 55,000 words and then sometime between January and April, I finished it.  It ate up some 182,000 words, initially.  I stared at that number for a long time, shocked that I’d written so much in one story.

Mind you, novel-length stories aren’t anything new for me. I’ve been writing novel-length fanfiction for quite a long time.  The first story was put up on sometime in late 2008/early 2009.  Okay, four-ish years might not seem like a lot for most folks, but it is for me.  Before that, the most I’d written was bits and pieces of original fiction, short stories, poetry and the like, but not in a very long time— like, more than a decade, long.

But seeing myself finish a novel-length original story was an amazing accomplishment for me.  I owe a lot to my husband and my beta, who were both amazing cheerleaders for me and helped encourage me to finish.

Because I was terrified.  Of putting myself out there, of the rejection I was sure I’d get from the publishers I’d submit to.  I’d decided that even if it got turned down, I’d still put it out there on the web as original fiction, at least, for my friends to read.  And I was even scared to death of that – of the reviews I knew I’d get.

Reviews are both a bane and a balm to authors.  There isn’t a book out there that is unilaterally liked.  Every book ever published gets critical reviews as much as they get good ones.  The good ones help motivate us, keep us going, help us to get through that next book.

The bad ones… can stop us in our writing tracks.  Sometimes for days… weeks.  Even months.

I am not new to bad reviews.  I’ve had my share of them over the fanfiction I’ve written.  Something about the anonymity of the internet give a lot of folks insulation and the feeling that since it is the internet, they can say whatever they want.  But there are still real people on the other end of that screen, real people who put their hearts and souls into that story and when bad reviews come back, it is heartbreaking. I should be clear, here.  I’m not talking about reviews with good, constructive criticism here, ones that talk about character problems or plot holes.  I’m talking about reviews that shred the author for the sake of being nasty.  And we’ve all received them.

Despite the fact that I have received my share of bad reviews for fanfiction – and one such review once had me unable to write for over two months – despite having received them, I have found that reviews of my original work are even harder to take.  I can’t explain it; it doesn’t make sense.  But they hurt, much more than any of the mean-spirited reviews I’ve taken over my fanfiction.

As I sat down to work on Deception — my next book— I have found myself blocked on more than one occasion.  I’ve been told over and over again to not even read the reviews, much less let them bother me.  But it is easier said than done.

The most common thing I’ve heard so far is that Choices has too much sex.  It was intended to be a sexy erotica novel.  The sex is integral to the story and the plot is woven through it.  You can’t separate them.  And I was (and still am, if I let myself be) proud of that book.  In a lot of ways – not just because it was my first novel and the first original story like that that I finished.

See… I like sex. I like to read about it and I like to write about it.  I love BDSM and I love good stories about BDSM that handle it right.  So when I set out to write Choices, I wrote something that I would have wanted to read.

Well, I got warned that it might be too much, but I sent it off and Dreamspinner liked it.  They wanted to publish it.  The edits came back and my wonderfully patient content reviewer warned me about the sexual content (not the type of sex, the amount).  We cut and moved. We revised and rewrote and we both were happy with what was left. It was still a lot, but a lot less.

And still, the most common comment I hear is… too much sex.

The problem that comes with that is that Deception is the same type of book.  It, too, is erotica.  It follows Cyrus and Nadir of Choices, two other pleasure slaves.  This is, in fact, what they are.  And when I let those reviews get to me, I start to realize how hard it is to keep writing what Deception should be – and erotica novel with sex that is inseparable from the plot.

But thanks to some very wise words from a couple of close friends of mine, I realize that I still like Deception. I still like the type of book it is and others will, too.  There are quite a few people already looking forward to it.  And it is on these readers that I should be focusing – the ones that I know like Choices and want more.

Well, they’ll get more.  After I finish Deception, I have plans for not one, but possibly up to three more stories.   I mentioned before that this world didn’t want to let go of me.  The characters have become such a part of me, so many of them want my attention.  Two of Teman’s clansmen – Hamid and Isam – have insisted that they want their story told.  And then there is an even more minor character, a serving boy in Bathasar’s chambers by the name of Ghalib who may even get his own.

Will they all be the same level of erotica? I don’t know. That remains to be seen.  Those stories will tell themselves, like Deception is doing now.

It’s not up to me to fight it.  It’s not for me to question it, despite what the reviews say.

It’s just up to me to tell the story that needs to be told.


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Thank you so much to Charlie for hosting me today! It is an honor to spend time in the Teahouse!

Please be sure to leave a comment below! Do you write? Have you ever received reviews? How did they affect you?  Do you leave reviews? What is your philosophy on them?  Leave your opinion for a chance to win a bag of swag and be entered to win a signed paperback copy of Choices! Thanks for reading!

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Choices Blurb:

Born and raised a gypsy in the late eleventh century, Teman values freedom over everything. He and his best friend, Jasim, are thieves for hire—until one night they’re caught and their precious freedom is revoked. Given the choice between the dungeons or palace pleasure slavery, they become slaves, but Teman vows to escape someday.

Bathasar doesn’t want the throne. He supports his brother instead, which suits their sadistic father, Mukesh. When Teman, the handsome slave Bathasar has secretly been watching, saves his life, Bathasar requests a slave for the first time. Before long, Bathasar and Teman fall in love. But all is not well. One day Mukesh brutalizes Teman before the court, angering the empress of a neighboring nation. To appease her, he then offers her Jasim as a gift, and Teman decides to stay with Bathasar for now—despite the abuse he may suffer.

The peace doesn’t last. Mukesh plans to invade Jasim’s new country, and Bathasar must find a way to stop the destruction. But if he succeeds, he’ll ascend to the throne and have the power to grant Teman his liberty. Then Teman will surely leave him. What other choice could a gypsy make?

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Where to find Grace:



Guest Author: L.J. LaBarthe – The Body on The Beach

My latest release is called “The Body on The Beach” and is set in Adelaide, South Australia, in 1920. It is a m/m romance murder mystery, and is part of the Australian anthology I put together for Dreamspinner Press. The authors involved in this project are Isabelle Rowan, Meredith Shayne, RJ Astruc, myself and newcomer Robyn Walker.

My story covers not only the murder mystery, but the subjects of immigration, the need for absolute discretion by the gay community, fan-tan games run illegally and opium dens. In 1920, Adelaide was as diverse a city as anywhere in Australia. My research has shown that people came from all over the world to start a new life here in this country, and Australia is a huge multicultural nation.

In “The Body on The Beach,” the main protagonist is Billy Liang, son of Chinese immigrants. He was born and raised in Australia, went to university and was elected by his countrymen to be their liaison and spokesperson for the police and local government. This role was traditional in Adelaide at the time; in 1888 until the early 1900s, the spokesman was Chinese businessman Mr. Way Lee.

Billy’s love interest is an Australian man named Tom, who is also Billy’s family lawyer. The two of them live in Billy’s house, and hide their relationship from the outside world. The only people who know about it are Jian, Billy’s butler and assistant, Bessie, the maid and Hui Zhong, Billy’s wife. Many Chinese men married women in order to continue the family line while having lovers of both sexes, this was a tradition, which is shown in China’s history.

The murder itself is based loosely on an unsolved murder from the 1950s in Adelaide, one that has fascinated me for ages. It’s called the Taman Shud case or the Mystery of the Somerton Man. (More information for those interested is here:

The history of Adelaide in the twenties fascinates me, particularly as I’m the child of immigrants myself. It was not all doom and gloom—a newspaper article from 24th February, 1912 talks about a celebration for Chinese Day, when the Chinese businesses closed and there would be fireworks and in the evening, a banquet dinner with toasts being celebrated.

Chinese immigrants—and those from Italy, Greece, Romania, Russia, and all over the world—worked hard and contributed to society. The Adelaide Markets, once situated in the east part of the city center, are now on the south side, and still run as they did when they were established by market gardeners who sold their produce there. Those market gardeners were Chinese, Greek and Italian immigrants and the legacy of their market gardens continues today.

Despite the illegal fan-tan games, which ran for years, despite numerous arrests, and the sale of opium, which was illegal and also resulted in numerous arrests, the Chinese community prospered and became as vital a part of the Australian multicultural landscape as any citizen of the country. This is something I touch on in my story as well, the games and the opium were a constant thorn in the side of the police and the businessmen and the spokesperson for the Chinese.

Finally, I want to share some of the amazing photographs from the era, all are public domain and from the State Library of South Australia.


Brighton beach in 1920. This is how the beach where the murder and part of the investigations in “The Body on The Beach” looked during the story.


From 1907, a display of goods from Chinese market gardeners in the East End Markets.


 Group photograph of the members of the Kuo Min Tang in Adelaide, 1920.



L. J. LaBarthe can be found in the following places:

Twitter: @brbsiberia





“The Body on The Beach” is the latest release from L. J. LaBarthe. It’s a m/m romance and murder mystery, set in Adelaide in 1920. It is part of the “Under the Southern Cross” anthology put together by L. J., which features work from Isabelle Rowan, Meredith Shayne, RJ Astruc, L. J. LaBarthe and newcomer Robyn Walker. The anthology is five Australian m/m stories by five Australian authors and is out with Dreamspinner Press in March/April. Stay tuned to for more information.




A. Catherine Noon – Information Overload

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One of the largest problems of the internet culture is too much information.  We are bombarded with too many options.  Back in the day it used to be just television.  Now it’s television, email, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, smart phones, tablets, and more – distraction, distraction, distraction.  Then there are the real demands on our time:  kids, spouses, friends, work, chores, school, etc.

If we are an author, like to write, or even just hoped one day to set fingers to keyboard, what are we to do to get around these pitfalls?

I wish I had a magic button for us.  (It’s the X key on the keyboard.)  I wish a spell could do it for us.  (Get a black cat and let him sleep on your computer.)   But it’s like they say in the Nike ad – “Just do it.”

Great.  But how?

My advice?  Cheat.  Beg, borrow, or barter.  Play with it.  Experiment with any idea that you can get your hands on.  Lock yourself in the bathroom with your laptop.  Hide your notebook under your shirt and go for a walk in the park.  Take a bus ride and let the people around you distract your brain so you can concentrate.

Think I’m kidding?  I’ve done all of these things.  So have others I’ve known who write.  You don’t have to be perfect, you just have to write.  Which is all well and good, but about what does one write?

If we don’t already have an idea (and, let’s face it, if we did, we wouldn’t be asking this question, right?), there are lots of places to get them.

Here are a few ideas:

Beg – set a digital timer or the timer on your smart phone for twenty minutes and sit with a blank page in a notebook or on your computer.  Close off all other distractions – unplug your internet or turn off your wireless, don’t answer the phone, and ignore the doorbell (you might warn your family and close friends first so they don’t panic if you’re suddenly AWOL).  See what comes out of your mind without judgment.  Just write whatever’s there.

Borrow – enter “writing prompt” in Google to see all the options available to you.  Pick one at random and go for it.

Barter –  play with your memory.  Make a list of everything in your bedroom or your desk at work.  Then do it for your desk from ten years ago.  Then try ten years in the future.  Experiment with moving your imagination from place to place.

What works for you?  I’d love to hear in the comments.

Join me during the month of April for a free workshop on Coffee Time Romance, Using Prompts to Expand Your Repertoire.

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“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”

– E.E. Cummings


My links: Blog | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon | LinkedIn | Pandora
Knoontime Knitting:  Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Ravelry
Noon and Wilder links: Blog | Website | Facebook
The Writer Zen Garden:  The Writers Retreat Blog | Forum | Facebook | Twitter
Team Blogs: Nightlight | Nightlight FB Page |  Beyond the Veil | BtV FB Page | LGBT Fantasy Fans and Writers |LGBTFFW FB Page
Publishers: Samhain Publishing | Torquere Press


Check out BURNING BRIGHT, available from Samhain Publishing.
Check out EMERALD FIRE, available from Torquere Books.
Check out “Taking a Chance“, part of the Charity Sips 2012 to benefit NOH8, available from Torquere Books.

Watch for TIGER TIGER, coming July, 2013, from Samhain Publishing.