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  • R.L. Merrill

Scary horses, rainbows and authors that are freaking amazing...



I took this picture on Saturday at the IEA horse show where my daughter was riding. Some of you may have seen the live video I took just a short while before this picture was taken (if not, you can watch it here.) In the middle, a pretty scary accident happened. The second-to-last event was middle school equitation on the flat, which is where you put beginner riders in the arena on horses they aren't familiar with, and the riders must show their skills at the walk, the posting trot, and the canter. So these adorable young folks are trotting around looking spiffy in their show coats and breeches, including our rider (who ended up winning first place), when all of a sudden, one of the girls lost control of the horse she was riding. This horse was galloping around the arena while she pulled as hard as she possibly could on the reigns and her trainer tried to coach her from the sidelines. It was near the end of the day, everyone was tired and cold, and she was near exhaustion. The horse did probably twelve laps before she finally became unseated and she went over the side, narrowly missing being stepped on.

Now, I've seen similar incidents happen many times and it's absolutely terrifying to watch. The horse ran at the other horses in the arena who THANK GOODNESS listened to their riders, remained calm, and stood perfectly still. The tough little rider was dazed and stayed still for several agonizing moments before she got up with a smile for her dad and walked out of the arena. My daughter and I went over to her family a short time later (after I won a ginormous stuffed dog in a raffle), gave her the dog, and my daughter commiserated with her. My daughter had a horse who used to do the same thing with her, just take off on a tear and run until my daughter couldn't hold on any longer. The little girl and her trainer smiled broadly, thanked us, and we all watched the last class of the show. Then, as I was walking back from loading my car, I saw this gorgeous rainbow and my heart swelled with hope and joy.

What does this have to do with authors being freaking amazing? Last spring I entered the arena of traditional publishing, totally not knowing what I was doing. Sure I'd been writing and self-publishing for a few years, but I was getting on an unfamiliar horse and had to look my best, show off my skills, and pray that I'd be judged favorably. Okay, I didn't have to fear for my life or anything, but when you're putting your dreams on the line, it can feel that way. And yay, I wasn't bucked off. Elizabeth and Ariel from Dreamspinner Press heard my pitch and didn't take off running wildly through the conference room, threatening the safety of the other pitchees in the room.

The whole process was scary, but I met some of the most amazing people along the way. Since I've asked many of them to participate in my New Adventures gig tonight, I thought I'd explain the part they played in my New Adventures! So here, not in any order, I shall share with you their freaking awesomeness:

Jay Northcote I found through the Diverse Readers blog. After following him on Facebook and reading his candid, poignant and honest posts about his own new adventures, I read his book Starting From Scratch. It's a heartfelt story about a transgendered young man named Ben and his journey really affected me. I've worked with transgendered students for some time and this book answered a lot of questions for me, as does Jay in his posts. I admire his courage, and he writes some damn fine stories!

Aimee Nicole Walker I met recently, also through Diverse Readers (yeah, I'll get to how Meredith King has been a naughty influence on my Kindle purchases, in the best way possible, in just a minute), and I totally fell in love with her characters in her Curl Up and Dye mysteries. Whoa. So hot and so fun and so intense. What a ride. And she's hysterical. Like Jay, she's very open and honest about her author journey and when I messaged her about this event, she went out of her way to be supportive. Because she's freaking awesome.

Emjay Haze I met through an online writer's group. She posted that she'd like to do a blog swap with her upcoming release from Dreamspinner. I contacted her and said, "I, too, have a new release" and she said awesome and BOOM! New friend. That's how it works with most authors I've met, especially those I've come to know and love in the freaking awesome LGBTQ/Gay Romance community. I've got her book loaded on my kindle and shall be hitting it as soon as I put myself to bed tonight. She's also going to be guesting here for Friendy Friday on February 2nd!

I get super fangirly when I think about Annabeth Albert. I inhaled her Out Of Uniform series like a perfect bowl of movie theater popcorn, I read her Rainbow Cove books while chewing on my fingernails as she drew out the tension, and I awwwwww'd over her Portland Heat stories before going to visit the town I now think of as one of my hangouts. I got to meet Annabeth at RT where she gave good panel and was super awesome about signing books and answering questions, which she still does to this day. Because she's freaking awesome.


J. Scott Coatsworth has so many freaking awesome qualities I don't think I can list them all here. I joined his online author communities Queer Sci Fi and Queerromance Ink, hung out, met some cool folks, and then I started getting these little nudges in my messenger box. "Hey, how about you write some speculative flash fiction and enter our groovy contest." "But J. Scott, I've never written speculative fiction, nor flash fiction, what are you even saying?" "You should try it. Do it. It's awesome." "Okay, fine, because you're freaking awesome." BOOM I wrote a teeny tiny little short story, sent it off, AND IT WAS CHOSEN TO BE FEATURED IN AN ANTHOLOGY! For reals! I don't think I've ever been more proud of a couple hundred words in my life. And he continues to cheer me on, encourage me, telling me "you can do it." And he doesn't just do it for me, he does it for sooooo many authors. I can't thank him enough, and while I've not read his full-length books yet, I did make my husband (he's more into sci fi and fantasy than me) and he said it was, you guessed it, freaking awesome.


Laura Stone caught my attention at RT's Giant Book fair with a really awesome cover and chocolate. Yes, Chocolate. Little Chocolate Bibles! I squealed as I approached her table, we started talking, I read her Bible quotes, and we soon discovered a mutual fascination with Mormon History! Yeah, not what I'd expect in the middle of a romance lovers' convention, but that's the kind of stuff that happens with freaking awesome people like authors. So I read her book, And It Came To Pass, and I cried tears of pain, sorry, anger and joy. Several months later when I listened to audio of Under the Banner of Heaven, I messaged her and we geeked out together. She's awesome, she's someone I wished didn't live so far away so we could get together for coffee and shoot the breeze about Joseph Smith, blood atonement, and Mormon splinter groups. Fascinating stuff. Freaking awesome chick.

Belinda McBride... I can't even say for sure when I first found Belinda, but it probably had to do with dogs. Not only is she an amazing author, she's also a dog person. She shows them, she knows them, she posts adorably funny pictures of them and incredibly important information about their care. She advocates for people and dogs, she's a caregiver, and a damn nice lady. When I was down in the hallway waiting my turn to go pitch Hurricane Reese to Elizabeth and Ariel (see above), I heard my name called out and there she was. We hugged, I had only moments to spare, but I was grateful I got to meet her in the flesh. I hope someday to drive the relatively short distance to her house and cuddle those adorable dogs and spend some quality time with this freaking awesome lady.

Andi Van is hilarious. Their posts are hilarious. Their stories are hilarious. They also are incredibly open and honest about the challenges life brings us sometimes. I'd been following them for sometime on Facebook just because they were cool. Then I read Krampus Saves Christmas and I became a fan for life. For those of you who know me, read this story and you'll totally know why. I'm almost as obsessed with Krampus/Karl as I am with the freaking awesomeness that is Andi Van.

Vanessa North has freaking awesome hair, but that's not why she's included in this list. I read several of her books including Blueberry Boys and Roller Girl and loved the awkwardness, the honesty, the vulnerability she brings out of her characters. She challenges folks to bend those tropes and stereotypes and write strong characters that aren't assholes and I LOVE that about her! Vanessa, Annabeth, Tamsen Parker and Karen Stivali were on the "Bangin' Hot Betas" panel at RT together and I became a huge fan of their collective freaking awesomeness. You should become one too.

Brandon Witt... So I wrote Hurricane Reese in November-December 2016, finishing it in early 2017. At this point, other than Blay and Qhuinn of the BDB, I hadn't read anything M/M. For me, that book was a natural progression in the BDB lore. Writing Reese was another love story to me, it just so happened that Reese is pansexual and falls in love with Jude. I gave no thought to "whoa, you're entering a whole new genre... beware!" I talked to Renee George, a fabulous author of all kinds of freaking awesomeness, and she gave me the advice that I took to heart: "You're writing dudes. Make them dudes. Don't write a hetero story and just change the pronouns" kinda thing. Yeah, that was paraphrased, but you get the point. So I figured I should make sure I'd done a good representation and I figured I should, I don't know, read a love story about two men. So I found this little book called Then The Stars Fall. You might have heard me mention it. Mind. Blown. Incredible story. Unforgettable characters. Kick-ass conflict. Tremendous tension. Everything that could be right with a story. I loved it and I immediately began stalking Brandon, I'm not going to lie. I followed his adventures over the past year where he was also incredibly honest about his author journey and I appreciated his candid discussions. He also put up with my constant pestering and insanity, and for that I'm incredibly grateful. Oh, he's also "friends" with these freaking awesome chicks named Rosalind Abel and Mildred Abbot. Check out their books. You'll love them too.

Meredith King is a crack dealer. No, she's not. But what she peddles on her freaking awesome blog Diverse Readers is some of the best romance I've read. Period. I've found a ton of cool authors through her and I was SO EXCITED to read and review her debut novel Snow Falling, written as Davidson King. For someone who constantly supports authors around her, I'm thrilled to see her success. And I'm still thinking about Snow and wondering about his further adventures.

K-lee Klein wrote Unbreak My Heart and I'll forever be grateful. Talk about an ugly cry! But seriously, reading this book actually made me think so much about how authors worth their salt carefully craft tales that paint each nuance of grief, sorrow, mourning, and despair so vividly, you can't help but feel that loss right along with them. K-lee is also an incredibly brave person IRL and I've been honored to get to know her over the past few months. After reading her book, I told my readers that it reminded me of a Country version of my novel Haunted, which deals with similar themes. K-lee is freaking awesome, plain and simple.

Xio Axelrod... I'm giddy just knowing that our names are near each other's in the anthology Gone With The Dead. I got to chat with her quite a bit at RT and we shared stories about the new adventures we wanted to take with our writing and what that step into the unknown was like. She's a beautiful soul, an incredible author, a phenomenal singer, and pretty damn freaking awesome.

Kindle Alexander is one of those authors that lifts others up. Recently I participated in an event with her and she was absolutely encouraging about my new adventure. That kind of person is freaking awesome in my book. I'm damn happy I found her.

Ari McKay is also one of those unconditionally supportive folks. In fact, just today she shared some thoughts with me that made me feel validation and hope, rare commodities in this business sometimes. The Boyfriend Sweater Curse was such a great story, and I still think about it every time I pull out my crocheting (because I haven't learned to knit, okay?). I'm glad to know her and grateful she's so freaking awesome.

And last but never least, I want to thank Kelli Smith for helping me make today's event freaking awesome. She's been there for me over the past three years and helped me grow my brand and get my booky wooks out into the world.

There are maaaaaaany more important folks I have to thank for the little and giant things they've done for me on my new adventures, but this is a start. I'll share more of the behind-the-scenes awesomery on the blog leading up to Hurricane Reese's release on January 30th!!! But today is about celebrating, thanking, and enjoying the freaking awesomeness that is my New Adventures!

Stay Tuned for more Rock 'n' Romance!

#JayNorthcote #VanessaNorth #AnnabethAlbert #aimeenicolewalker #EmjayHaze #JScottCoatsworth #QueerSciFi #QueerromanceInk #LauraStone #BelindaMcBride #AndiVan #BrandonWitt #MildredAbbot #MeredithKing #DavidsonKing #KleeKlein #XioAxelrod #KindleAlexander #AriMcKay #DreamspinnerPress #HurricaneReese #Gayromance #LGBTQ #GayFiction #Amazon #RosalindAbel

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