Chrismukkah – A Colin and Josh Christmas Story.


Part of the Rainbow Advent Calendar Event


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CHRISMAKKUAH

It was the day after Thanksgiving, and Joshua Abrams was frustrated. He knew how much Christmas meant to Colin; it was his favorite time of the year. But in spite of Colin’s deep love for the holiday season, he had never once decorated for Christmas. In fact, though Joshua searched high and low, he couldn’t find so much as one strand of tinsel.

“No Christmas decorations?” Joshua asked him.

“Why would I have decorations, Josh?” Colin replied. “I lived in a tiny apartment. Hell, I didn’t even have room for a Christmas tree. And I usually spent Christmas in Scituate with mom.”

Joshua huffed out a sigh and looked around. Their large living room with its many windows and high oak-beamed ceiling, was the perfect setting for Christmas decor. This gorgeous room would look even lovelier with a Christmas tree in the corner, garland and candles on the mantle, and twinkling lights around every window. “Well, we’re having a tree this year!” he said, flopping onto the couch next to Colin.

“Uh, Josh?” Colin said, leaning toward him. “I hesitate to remind you of this, bud, but you’re Jewish! What the hell do you care about Christmas decorations? You don’t do Christmas!”

“But you do!” Joshua said. “And there are Hanukkah decorations, you know.”

“So, we’re doing Chrismukkah, huh,” Colin teased, stretching out with his feet in Joshua’s lap. “Well, that’s fine by me, baby. Decorate to your heart’s content.”

Joshua nodded, still gazing around the room. He could buy decorations, certainly. But somehow that wasn’t good enough. He yearned to do something more for the man he loved, something that would make their first Christmas together the most memorable of his life. He shot a sideways glance at Colin and bit down on his lower lip. He needed help.

The moment he reached his office the following day, Joshua placed a call to Scituate, Massachusetts. “Hi, Brianna,” he said to Colin’s mother, “Have you got a minute? I need a favor. A big one.”

“Anything, Joshua,” Colin’s mother replied. “What do you need?”

“I want to do something special for Colin this Christmas, and I wondered if you had any Christmas decorations from his childhood that you’d be willing to give me. Just a few items that he’d remember from the past, keepsakes that would mean something to him.”

Brianna laughed softly. “Josh, I have about five boxes full of Christmas decorations from Colin’s childhood lying upstairs in the attic. I don’t decorate anymore. It just got to be too much for me. I’d be happy to give you as many of them as you want.”

“Oh wow, Brianna,” Joshua said, smiling. “That’s great! But you have to keep this to yourself. I don’t want Colin to know. I want to surprise him.”

“Honey, how do you plan to get them home? You can’t do it in a day, Josh. There’s too much of it.”

“Hmmm,” Joshua said. “Don’t know yet. I’ll have to figure that part out. I’ll call you back once I have a plan.”

Joshua spent the better part of the day plotting out his elaborate Christmas caper. First, he’d have to tell Colin a white lie: he’d convince his fiancé that he’d be gone overnight to speak at a psychology conference. But instead, Joshua would fly to Scituate, rent a U-Haul, pack up the decorations, spend the night with Colin’s mother, and drive back to Charlottesville the following day.

When he reached Charlottesville, he’d drop the U-Haul off at the home of their best friends, David and Nate, since he wouldn’t have time to decorate before Colin got home from work. He’d retrieve the decorations the next morning and hopefully have them up before Colin arrived.

“Oh my god,” Joshua muttered aloud. “I have got to make this work!” His first step was to inform David and Nate of his plan so that they’d be able to back him up if Colin got inquisitive. “For god’s sake, don’t breathe a word to him,” Joshua told them. “I want him to walk into the house and see it filled with decorations from his childhood.”

Once his friends were sworn to secrecy, Joshua took the first important step in implementing his Christmas escapade: he told his fiancé a bold-faced lie.

“You have to be gone overnight?” Colin complained when Joshua explained the totally fictitious conference he was being forced to attend. “You know I hate it when you’re gone all night.”

“Sorry, babe, but yeah, I do. It’s not just the conference. There are meetings I have to attend for the clinic that’ll run late. It’ll just be one night. I’ll be back the next day.” He kissed Colin’s cheek and winced internally. He didn’t like lying to his fiancé even in a good cause, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

Colin dropped him off at the airport a few days later, and Joshua breathed a huge sigh of relief as he boarded the plane headed for Logan International Airport in Boston. Stage one of his Christmas caper was complete. He grabbed a cab at the airport for the forty-five-minute drive to Scituate and Colin’s childhood home.

Brianna greeted him at the door with a hug. “Honey, I still say I could have picked you up.”

“No, Brianna. I was good to take the cab. Have you heard from him?”

“Nope,” Colin’s mother said flashing the same cocky, Irish grin that was Colin’s trademark. “Not a word. Where does he think you are?”

“Philadelphia,” Joshua said. “There actually is a psychology conference going on there so if he gets nosy, I may have some cover.” He breathed out a long sigh. “I just hope this works. I want so much to surprise him.”

“It’ll work,” Brianna said, waving him forward. “Come on. I’ll take you up to the attic and show you what I’ve got. I’ve been going through it ever since you called me.”

Joshua started to follow her, then stopped and grabbed her arm. “No, wait, Brianna. Damn! I nearly forgot! We have to go pick up the U-Haul. Can you drive me?”

“Oh sure,” she said. “It’s just a mile or so down the road. Let me get my purse.”

Within a half-hour they had picked up the U-Haul and were back at Brianna’s. “You can sleep in Colin’s room,” she said as she led him up the stairs. “You’ve slept there before when you boys visited.” She waved Joshua forward. “Come on.”

They climbed another flight of stairs to the attic, and Brianna led Joshua to a corner of the room where several large boxes had been opened and obviously gone through. “I’ve been looking through these decorations,” she said, then sighed and seated herself on a nearby chair while Joshua sat cross-legged on the floor. “They sure bring back a lot of memories.” She picked up a small gift box and handed it to Joshua. “You’ll want these for sure.”

Joshua opened the box and found nearly three dozen handmade ornaments. Each plaster of paris decoration was formed in the shape of a holiday symbol: a Christmas tree, a star, a Santa Claus, a tiny infant wrapped in swaddling clothes, and many, many others. All were painted by hand. “Who made these?” he asked examining them one by one.

Brianna drew in a long breath. “Colin and Kathy made them when they were youngsters. Colin was around, oh, six or so and Kathy was probably eleven.” She smiled and reached to touch one of the decorations. “The ones with the sloppy painting are Colin’s,” she said with a smile. “They had so much fun making them.” She leaned back in the chair and sighed again. “Made quite the mess as I recall, though Colin usually made a mess no matter what he was doing.”

Joshua almost held his breath as he examined the ornaments made by Colin and the sister he loved who had passed away when he was fourteen. “Brianna, these are…sacred,” he said, his voice barely audible. “Are you sure you want to part with them?”

“Honey, they’ve laid in this attic for the past five Christmases. You two boys should have them.” She picked up another item from the large box. “This is the star that was always on the top of our tree. He’ll remember it. He sat on his daddy’s shoulders to put it there when he was little.” She looked away, staring into the distance. “Been a long time since…” her voice trailed off and Joshua felt stricken to the heart.

“Brianna, I’m so sorry if this is bringing back sad memories for you. I never even considered that part of it. I apologize.”

“Joshua, my dear boy, there is no need to apologize. I’m not sad.” She shrugged and laid her hand on his shoulder. “I feel a little nostalgic maybe, but there’s no need for sadness. I have every reason to be happy, especially now that I see you here, wanting to do something so wonderful for my boy. What a good heart you have, Josh! I’m so happy you and Colin are together.”

“Brianna, he’s my whole world.”

“You’d better get used to calling me ‘mom’,” she said as she drew out another small box. “Now these,” she said as she removed the lid, “are from Ireland. Some came across with Michael and I, and some are from Colin’s grandparents, so they go back quite a way.”

Joshua’s mouth fell open as he examined the delicately formed ornaments. “They’re so beautiful,” he breathed out. “My god, Brianna, how old are these?”

“Old,” she replied with a smile. “The ones from Colin’s grandparents must be almost one hundred years old. You can identify those by the sticker I put on the back.” She turned the ornament over and showed him a tiny yellow star. “Like that,” she said. “Those are from Colin’s grandparents.”

She lifted an even smaller box to her lap. “These,” she said, “are from my sister Aileen. She and Colin are close, and she always sent him and Kathy a special ornament at Christmas time.”

“She’s the one Colin calls ‘Ahn-tee’,” Joshua said. “He talks about her all the time.”

She handed the box to Joshua who opened it and lifted out each ornament one at a time. They were beautifully handcrafted and depicted religious scenes such as the nativity, an old-fashioned Santa wearing a long green robe, and several kinds of Celtic crosses. “They’re all lovely, Brianna,” Joshua whispered.

“Colin will remember them,” she said. “There’s no doubt about that.” She drew out another, similar box and handed it to Joshua. “These are from Aileen too,” she said. “This box holds the ornaments she sent to Kathy.”

“Oh god, Brianna,” Joshua half-moaned, bowing his head. “Should I take them? Will it upset you? Will it upset him?” He nearly held his breath as he slowly opened the box. The ornaments within were similar in nature to Colin’s and just as beautiful.

“Joshua, how could it upset me to see these beautiful ornaments in the hands of someone who’ll use and cherish them? It upsets me that they’re lying, unused, in a box.” She picked up a plaque, which was obviously quite old. “Now this,” she said, laying it in Joshua’s lap, “belonged to my mother and father.”

The plaque was brushed gold and embellished with the words: Nollaig Shona Duit. He looked up at Brianna who smiled and spoke the words with a strong Irish brogue. “It means ‘Happy Christmas’,” she said. “I know Colin will remember it because he’d run around yelling it at the top of his lungs when he was a little lad…so proud that he could speak Irish.” She smiled and shook her head. “He was a cocky little stinker even then.”

“These things, Brianna,” Joshua said, his voice filled with wonder as he sat, surrounded by the items Colin’s mother had handed him. “I came here looking for decorations…for a few ornaments and some garland or something. And instead I found this treasure trove of beloved memories. I didn’t anticipate how much these objects would mean. I feel stupid.”

“Joshua, there’s no need for that.”

“But I should have known. These decorations aren’t just ornamental. They have such deep meaning to your family…to Colin.”

“Which is exactly why you should have them.” She pulled a set of two wooden plaques from the box. Small round Christmas ornaments had been glued onto the glistening wood in the shape of a Christmas tree. Each had a lovely star or angel at the top. Brianna looked at the plaques and smiled. “These need to be cleaned up a bit.” She shrugged and handed them to Joshua. “But they’re still lovely.” She smiled as Joshua accepted the plaques from her hands. “Colin and his daddy made these together.”

Joshua looked up at her. “Oh god, Brianna.”

“You should have seen them, Josh,” Brianna said, her voice nearly a whisper, and Joshua saw her eyes fill with tears. “He was just a little one then, maybe seven or eight, but so careful as he glued his ornaments onto the wood. And Michael would say, ‘Yes, just there, son. Wonderful, my boy! That’s the perfect spot.'” She sighed and reached to caress the plaques. “It was such a beautiful thing to see, Josh, father and son together.” She looked up at Joshua and smiled. “He loved his daddy so much.”

“I can’t take these!” Joshua blurted, his own eyes filling with tears, his throat aching. “Brianna, I can’t! They mean too much!”

“That’s why you have to take them, Joshua. This is Colin’s legacy. All these moments. All these memories so filled with love and happiness. They’re his inheritance. They shouldn’t be sitting in an attic. They should be in the home he shares with the man he loves.”

Joshua clutched the plaques tight in his hands and bowed his head, his tears falling onto Christmas trees that Colin had made with his father so long ago. When he looked up, he saw Brianna wiping her eyes and reached to take her hand. “I can’t begin to tell you what this means to me. There’s no way to thank you for this. None. It means too much. I can’t imagine what Colin will feel when he sees all of these treasures decorating our home.”

“I wouldn’t be surprised if he shed a tear or two,” Brianna said with a laugh, ” big, tough, Irish cop that he is.”

“He’s not so tough,” Joshua said, wiping away his tears.

“Ay,” Brianna said with a smile, “he’s not. Fact is, he’s a pussy cat. But I won’t tell him if you don’t.” She turned to a box sitting next to her and drew out what seemed to be a large blanket. “This,” she said, spreading it out in her lap, “was made by yours truly.”

Joshua saw that it was a quilt, embroidered with many different symbols of the season. Stars and Christmas trees, Santa’s and ornaments, and many various religious symbols had each been meticulously stitched in thread which seemed to glisten in the muted light of the attic. It was breathtakingly beautiful. “Oh my god, Brianna,” Joshua breathed out, reaching to run his fingers carefully over the stitch work. “It’s unbelievable! How long did this take you?”

“It took over three years start to finish,” Brianna said, smoothing the cloth with her hands. “It always lay over the back of the couch at Christmas time. Though one year I believe we hung it on the living room wall.”

“I’m just…just bowled over by the treasures you’re sharing with us,” Joshua said, his voice shaky.

Brianna smiled and handed the quilt to Joshua. “They’re rightfully Colin’s anyway,” she said. “It’ll all come to him one day. Silly for him not to have them now.” She looked up at Joshua and smiled. “It’ll make me happy to think of them in the home you boys share. I love thinking of the two of you sitting in your living room, enjoying them together.”

Joshua lifted her hand to his lips and kissed it. “And we’ll think of you every time we look at them, believe me.”

***

They spent the rest of the day carefully packing the decorations into boxes which Joshua then carried down to the U-Haul. Afterward, Brianna cooked dinner for both of them. As they were sitting down at the table to eat, Joshua’s phone chimed out a familiar ringtone. He put his finger to his lips to signal Brianna to remain silent.

She nodded as Joshua thumbed the phone. “Hi, babe! How’s it going? You miss me?”

“Of course I miss you,” Colin said. “What time will you be home tomorrow?”

“It’ll probably be later in the day,” Joshua said. “You go to work. I’ll grab an Uber home.”

“How’s the conference?”

“Oh,” Joshua said, winking at Brianna, “it’s about what you’d expect. A bunch of boring psychologists spouting a bunch of boring psychobabble.”

“God, I miss you, Josh! You’re never allowed to be gone overnight again.”

“I miss you too, baby,” Joshua said. “You’ll never know how much. How was your day?”

“Same old same old,” Colin said. “After we talk, I’m headed over to David’s for dinner. He knew I was alone and took pity on me.”

Joshua laughed. “I’m glad. Give them my love.”

“You alone?” Colin asked with a snicker, and Joshua could almost hear his cocky, Irish grin. “We could have a round of phone sex, you know. I’ve never done it but I bet I’d be good at it.”

“Of that I have no doubt,” Joshua said laughing. “But, uh, no, baby. That wouldn’t work right now. I’m not exactly…” he glanced at Brianna and rolled his eyes, “…alone.”

Brianna covered her mouth with her hand and giggled aloud, causing Joshua to grin and hit the mute button. “Shhh!” he said laughing too. “He’ll hear you!” He unmuted the phone. “I gotta go, babe,” Joshua told him. “I still have meetings tonight. I’ll text you before I go to bed.”

“Well, don’t you dare have a good time!” Colin told him. “That’s not allowed unless I’m with you.”

“Trust me,” Joshua said. “I could never have a good time without you beside me.” He smiled. “I love you, Irish.”

“I love you too, Jewish,” Colin said, laughing softly. “Sleep tight, my love.”

“And you as well, my love,” Joshua replied, and hung up.

“What?” Brianna said, arching an eyebrow and grinning. “No phone sex?”

“Oh, good lord,” Joshua moaned. He blushed and bent over the kitchen table with his head in his hands. “God, Brianna, I hate lying to him.”

She shrugged and passed a bowl of potatoes to Joshua. “Eat,” she said, “you’ll feel better.” She rose and walked to the refrigerator, patting his shoulder in passing. “I’m betting he’ll be happy to forgive you.”

***

Early the following morning Joshua stood outside in the chill air as he said good-bye to Colin’s mother before beginning the long drive back to Charlottesville.

“Drive safely, my dear boy,” she said, embracing him. “And thank you, Josh.”

“Why on Earth are you thanking me?” Joshua said, returning her embrace. “There is simply no way for me to thank you for all you’ve done for me. You gave me a gift I can never, ever repay, Brianna. The treasures you were willing to share with me will mean everything to Colin. And that means everything to me. To be able to surprise him with all these wonderful mementos…” his voice trailed off. “Well, there are just no words.”

“And that’s why I’m thanking you, Joshua,” Brianna said. “I feared for years that Colin would never open his heart to love.” Her voice wavered and she bowed her head. “I believe a part of Colin’s heart died with his sister,” Brianna whispered, then she lifted her head and her eyes met Joshua’s. “But your love brought his heart back to life, Josh.” She smiled and touched Joshua’s cheek. “It’s just so good to see him smile again…to see him glowing with happiness.”

Joshua bowed his head and his tears fell onto her hand. “Brianna,” he said, his voice choked with tears, “I love your son with every fiber of my being. And believe me, if I have anything to say about it, he’ll be happy every day of his life for as long as he lives.”

Brianna laughed and patted his cheek. “Of that I have no doubt, Joshua. This is a wonderful, beautiful gift you’re giving my boy. Call me after he sees it and tell me how he reacts.”

“Come with me and see for yourself!” Joshua said, grabbing her hand. “Go pack a bag and come with me.”

Brianna laughed again and shook her head. “I have plans I can’t change, sweetie, but thank you for asking me. The phone call will be enough. She hesitated, then squeezed Joshua’s hand. “I think,” she said finally, “that this moment should be just for the two of you.” Then she grinned and nudged Joshua’s arm with her elbow. “If you get my drift.”

“Brianna!” Joshua admonished, laughing as he opened the door of the U-Haul.

“Enjoy the moment, Joshua,” she said, then stood back and watched as he climbed into the truck and drove away.

***

It took Joshua almost nine hours to make the drive to Charlottesville, and by the time he pulled into David’s driveway he was stumbling out of the truck with exhaustion. David and Nate were there to greet him. “We had your fiancé here for dinner last night,” David said with a huge grin, “and believe me, he suspects that something’s going on.”

“Why do you say that?”

“He told us you sounded weird every time you talked to him,” Nate said. “He’s a cop, Josh! He gets paid to be suspicious.”

“And to hunt for clues,” David added. “So be careful.”

“Oh god,” Joshua moaned. “Will one of you drive me home? I’ll be back in the morning to get the U-Haul.”

Colin wasn’t home when Joshua arrived at the house on the Rivanna River, and he quickly began pulling food from the refrigerator and cupboards. “I’ll feed him!” Joshua muttered aloud. “That’ll distract him…hopefully.”

He was putting the finishing touches on a chicken stir-fry when Colin burst in the back door and swept him off his feet, his mouth capturing Joshua’s in a wet, passionate kiss as he clutched him tight against his chest.

“You are never allowed to be away all night again!” Colin muttered against his ear. “Never! I fucking hate it when you’re not next to me in bed.”

Joshua laughed and cradled Colin’s handsome face between his palms. “I promise, my beautiful Irish love. Believe me, I hated not being there beside you.” He kissed Colin again as his fiancé slowly lowered him to his feet.

“Mmmm,” Colin hummed. “What do I smell?”

“You smell dinner!” Joshua said, leading Colin to the stove. “Made you a chicken stir-fry to make up for being gone last night.”

“Did you make a pie to go with it?” Colin asked.

“No, baby. I didn’t have time. But I’ll tell you what…we’ll take a drive to the store after dinner and grab a pie and ice cream for dessert.”

“Perfect!”

***

The following day Joshua saw Colin off to work after going through the pretense of getting ready himself, then drove to David’s to retrieve the U-Haul filled with Christmas memories.

“We’ve got a few free hours this morning,” Nate told him, “if you want some help getting everything into the house and put up.”

Joshua happily accepted their help, and the three men made short work of returning to Colin and Joshua’s home and carrying the boxes inside.

“OK,” Joshua said, looking around the living room. “First order of business is getting a Christmas tree. Then we decorate.”

They took David’s car to the mall and bought a tree, then returned to the house to begin putting up the decorations. Joshua carefully unpacked the treasured mementos, explaining to David and Nate what each one of them meant and how they fit into Colin’s life. “Jesus, Joshua,” David said, examining the ornaments which Colin and his sister had created when they were children. “He’s going be absolutely speechless when he sees all this.”

“No Hanukkah decorations?” Nate asked, looking around the living and dining area which were already decked out with holiday ornaments.

“Oh my god!” Joshua blurted. “They’re upstairs! I’ll get them.”

By the time David and Nate left, Colin and Joshua’s house glowed and twinkled with Christmas decorations and the symbols which represented their two faiths. A Jewish menorah stood at the center of the mantle and on either side of it were the Christmas tree plaques handmade by Colin and his father so long ago. Dreidel-shaped ornaments blended with the Catholic ornaments sent from Ireland. Beautiful Hanukkah candles stood side-by-side with equally beautiful Christmas candles. And on the top of their Christmas tree was the star which had always graced the top of the tree when Colin was a boy; the star he had placed there as he sat on his daddy’s shoulder.

Joshua stood in the center of the living room and stared around him, lost in the feeling of enchantment that felt almost magical. He bowed his head and drew in a deep breath, his hand moving to smooth the Christmas quilt handmade by Colin’s mother. “Oh god, please let him like all of it,” he breathed out. “Let him be happy with it. Please don’t let these memories make him sad.”

He startled when he heard Colin’s car pull into the driveaway and took a step back. Then the door opened and Colin entered the room.

For a moment he stood stock still, one hand resting on the doorknob. He gazed slowly around the room without saying a word until finally his honey-green eyes fell on Joshua. They were wide-open with amazement. “Josh…” he whispered. “Josh…what…how did…” He looked around him again. “Is that…” he moved to the couch and touched the Christmas quilt. “Is that…”

“It’s the quilt your mom made,” Joshua said, his voice a soft whisper.

Colin moved past him so gracefully and quietly that it seemed he was moving in slow motion. He stopped in front of the mantle and reached to touch the Christmas tree plaques he had made with his father. Joshua could hear his breathing growing erratic, as if he were struggling for every breath. He moved to the Christmas tree and stared up at the star before gently fingering several of the ornaments that hung there.

Then he turned to face Joshua. “How?” Colin breathed out, his voice unsteady. “How did you…do this?”

Joshua swallowed hard, his own throat aching. “I wasn’t in Philadelphia,” he said at last. “I was in Scituate with your mom. I asked her if she’d share some of the decorations you remembered from your childhood and she gave me …” Joshua’s hand swept the room and he could feel tears sliding onto his cheeks, “…she gave me these sacred treasures. These memories from your childhood.”

Colin stumbled to Joshua’s side and drew him into his arms, his face buried against Joshua’s neck. “Oh my god, Josh,” he whispered, and Joshua could feel him trembling all over. “Oh my god, I can’t believe you did this.” The big Irishman was nearly sobbing as he clutched Joshua to his chest. “Josh, Josh,” he whispered, struggling to compose himself. “How can I thank you for this? It’s all so beautiful…so perfect!”

“I love you,” Joshua murmured, stroking Colin’s hair. “And I so much wanted you to be happy this Christmas.”

“Happy!” Colin blurted, leaning back from their embrace. “Happy?” He shook his head, then drew Joshua to the couch and pulled him down beside him. He looked around once again at the decorations adorning every wall, window, and shelf, then turned to his fiancé. “I was happy already, Josh, just having you beside me this Christmas. But this? What the hell did I ever do to deserve this?”

“You’re Colin Campbell,” Joshua said, his voice thick with tears. “You’re the most wonderful man who ever lived. You’re the man I love.” He shook his head and his breath caught in his chest. “That’s all you had to do. That’s all you’ve ever had to do.”

Colin pulled Joshua across his lap and cradled him close, kissing his damp cheeks, stroking his hair. “I don’t deserve you, Josh. But as long as I’m Irish, I swear to God I will never let you go.” He tipped Joshua’s face up to his and kissed him with all the love and passion he possessed. “I love you so much,” Colin whispered. “Not for doing this. But for being the kind of man who would even think of doing this!”

Joshua caressed Colin’s handsome Irish face and kissed him tenderly. “Merry Chrismukkah, baby.”

Colin returned his kiss as they clung to each other on the couch, surrounded by twinkling lights and the many beautiful mementos from Colin’s childhood. “Nollaig Shona Duit, my beloved Jewish love,” Colin murmured, nuzzling against Joshua’s cheek. “And thank you for giving me the most priceless gift of all, your love.”

The End

 


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Love’s Trials available on Amazon!


Colin and Joshua’s Story – Love’s Trials

Tough Irish cop, Colin Campbell, doesn’t know who he is anymore. But as he desperately claws his way back to the life he once knew, has he forgotten that his partner, Jewish psychologist Joshua Abrams, still needs him? Some trials will break even the best of men. Can their love survive this devastating storm?

A story of love broken by circumstances which refuses to let go.

Love’s Trials – Charlottesville and the ‘Unite the Right’ riots.

August 12, 2017 was a momentous day in Charlottesville, Virginia. It was the day that the ‘Unite the Right’ protestors marched their way into history. It was also a day that left most of American feeling disgusted, repulsed and angry.

But for the characters in ‘Love’s Trials’ the ‘Unite the Right’ protest was more than a social or political event. They weren’t simply spectators to the terrible events of that day, they were participants. It was a moment in their lives when they were forced to face some of their most deeply felt prejudices, prejudices rooted in racial and personal memories too profoundly painful to ignore. It was a day when they feared for the safety of the ones they love most. And it was a day of responsibility, duty, and service.

Love’s Magic is set in Charlottesville. Much of the Love’s Magic storyline revolves around the University of Virginia and the politics which are a fundamental part any organization as large as a top tier college. Love’s Trials is set in the same locale and features many of the same characters. Consequently, when the ‘Unite the Right’ protests took place in Charlottesville it was simply impossible for me to ignore an incident which was so fundamentally important to our nation’s history and to the lives of the men who inhabit Love’s Trials’ world. It simply had to be part of the storyline.

Colin, as a Sergeant with the University of Virginia campus police force, would be involved in this conflict as a professional law enforcement officer whose duty was to keep the peace to the best of his ability. But at the same time, because he is deeply in love with a Jewish man, he could not remain indifferent to the vile anti-Semitic tone of the ‘Unite the Right’ protestors. Joshua would experience this incident on an intensely personal level, both because the involvement of the neo-Nazi’s awakened deeply-held historical and family memories and because the man he loves is involved in every aspect of this conflict, a conflict which places him in constant danger.

Knowing Colin as well as I do, I knew that he would not only take great offense at the anti-Semitic rhetoric the Nazi’s were spewing on that day, he would also be frothing at the mouth with anger. One of the things he loves most about Joshua is his Jewish heritage. He believes that the deep reservoir of inner strength which he has always loved and counted on within Joshua flows from that genetic, spiritual source. Hearing the Nazi’s hate-filled, anti-Semitic chants would have set his Irish heart on fire with rage.

At the same time, I knew Colin would be required to remain in control of his emotions. Certainly, he would have longed to batter the Nazis to a pulp. But it’s not Colin’s way to use physical force no matter how angry he might be. He is experienced enough at his job to know that such a reaction would solve nothing. Responding with undue force would certainly have provoked a response from the supremacists in which innocent people could have been hurt. He had to try to stay calm. He had to try to react in a professional manner. He didn’t always succeed.

In Love’s Trials you’ll hear Colin talk about the day of the “Unite the Right’ riots. He’ll discuss what he saw and heard. He’ll discuss about how he responded. He’ll discuss how he felt. And he’ll discuss his thoughts on how well he feels the police force, whose job it is to protect Charlottesville citizens, responded to the dramatic events of that momentous day. However, although he was at the center of every incident which took place in Charlottesville on August 12th, 2017, those events remained very much out of his control. His point of view with regard to this emotionally charged day in his professional life is both personal and deeply felt, but he would certainly never claim that they were unbiased. Colin is at heart a deeply honest man. And as such he would be the first to admit that no one who was present at the “Unite the Right” riots that day could have been less biased than he.

Joshua’s point of view regarding that terrible day was also deeply personal. As a Jewish man who lost family members in the Holocaust, he possessed a unique perspective regarding the ‘Unite the Right’ march in Charlottesville. He overwhelmed with disgust and anger that the neo-Nazis had been allowed to march in his city in the first place, and his first instinct was to join the counter protestors and face down the white-supremacists. At the same time, he knew that his presence at the event would make it impossible for Colin to concentrate on his job. Colin’s concern for Joshua’s safety would have been a distraction which could easily have gotten him injured or even killed.

It was a dangerous situation for everyone involved and Joshua had to make a hard decision. Would he join the counter protestors? Or would he stay home in safety? His desire to be part of what happened that day was fueled by his genetic revulsion for anything connected with the Nazis. The grandfather who nearly raised him had been imprisoned in the camps. Both great grandparents had been Holocaust victims along with many, many other family members. And yet his presence at that ugly event would have placed the man he loved in danger, and Colin had made it clear he was vehemently opposed to Joshua being anywhere near the gathering. Any decision Joshua made meant facing a trial that could possibly change their lives forever.

They both made decisions on that fateful day that altered their feelings about their relationship and about themselves. Colin had been a police officer for a decade but he had never before faced a situation where he was confronted with hatred and bigotry this vicious which also posed a very real threat to the one he loved. Joshua had never before faced a situation which forced him to appreciate and accept how deeply connected he was with his Jewish heritage.

In the end, they both made decisions that would affect they way the lived their lives from that point forward. I won’t share all the details either of that day or of what came afterward for Colin and Joshua. I don’t want to ‘spoil’ you for the dramatic events that take place in Love’s Trials. But I can say this: While this incident doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of what they’re go through in this book, it does lay a foundation of love and faith in each other that they will certainly need in the days ahead. And it is a profound chapter in what I hope you’ll feel is a profound story.

Love’s Trials will be released on October 12th, 2018 on Amazon. It is available for pre-order now so run and grab your copy. Colin and Joshua face many trials in the course of this book, the ‘Unite the Right’ protest being only one. And when the trial is deadly enough, love can lose its way.


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Love’s Magic Available now on Amazon for $1.99!

Love’s Trials Order now on Amazon!

Love’s Magic – Tragically, a book for our time.

Blurbs make me crazy at times. I mean it. And I’m sure I’m not the only author who feels that way. How in the hell do you convey the juicy, rich center of all that your book represents while at the same time NOT give away the plot to the extent that the reader sees no point in buying the book? I struggled with this question in Love’s Magic AND the struggle continues in Love’s Trials.

But let me say this. The struggle was greater in Love’s Magic because it’s a timely book, especially now when we have a nominee for the Supreme Count who is accused of numerous instances of sexual harassment if not outright assault. Now, when we have women who are stepping forward to speak their truth after years of living in shame and fear. Now, when we are at last telling these women that it is good and right that, at long last, their voices be heard!

Love’s Magic addresses all these issues. Colin’s is a police officer who works exclusively on assault cases. His biggest challenge, and the conflict that causes him the most personal anguish, is that of convincing assault victims to press charges, to speak up, to let their voices be heard. Sadly, women have been so brainwashed by the male dominated society we live in that they are left feeling that they somehow had to be to blame for what happened and that speaking out will smear their character.

Colin knew that nothing could be further from the truth. NO ONE is to blame for sexual assault other than the perpetrator. They are the sole, exclusive wrongdoer and the ONLY one who should be burdened with guilt and shame. And it doesn’t matter whether the victim is female or male. The only one who is responsible… the ONLY one who deserves punishment… is the low-life scum who perpetrated this heinous crime upon another human being.

But could I say that in a blurb? ‘This book talks about sexual and criminal assault and the kind of damage it does to every single person involved on every single level. This is supposed to be a gay romance novel and I was, frankly, worried about scaring people off with that kind of introduction.

I was fearful of triggering pain and extreme emotional reactions from victims of these crimes if I spoke too openly of the on-campus assault which is the central issue in Love’s Magic, though the book isn’t graphic, not in any way. What IS discussed are the many ways human beings respond when this kind of horrific situation suddenly becomes part of their life. And almost none of the principals in this novel are women. They’re all men who have been deeply affected by various forms of assault either as a victim or as one who is close to a victim and suffers from the subsequent guilt and emotional distress.

The two couples in Love’s Magic all are deeply involved in assaults which happen on the University of Virginia campus. Some are involved more directly than other, but ALL in ways that affect both their own ability to move forward in their lives and to believe in the relationship which they thought would sustain them.

A lot of one’s inner nature is revealed when facing a traumatic event like this one. Sometimes what’s revealed is an inner courage and determination that the person didn’t know they possessed. Sometimes what’s revealed is a fear so overwhelming that everything which one previously trusted is shattered beyond recall. Sometimes what’s revealed are the deeply buried secrets which have twisted inside us for decades, totally dominating our lives while never once being acknowledged, not even to yourself.

I wrote Love’s Magic to give a voice to all those people who have suffered this kind of trauma and who have had no voice or were afraid to use their voice. Love’s Magic talks about the life of two gay couples who live and work in Charlottesville, VA for the University of Virginia. It explores their reactions to an assault which takes place on the university campus.

A reader recently commented that writing a book which featured TWO unique gay couples seemed like dangerous territory for a first-time novelist. In fact, that one aspect of Love’s Magic has drawn more attention than any other from both readers and reviewers, which rather surprised me.

I can only say this. As someone who has been an assault victim I felt the subject needed discussion. And since I was attempting to offer as many viewpoints as possible on how victims and the persons close to them experience and deal with such a dreadful ordeal, I needed the perspective of both my couples in order to best explore the full range of possibilities. And I need the perspective of both my couples to adequately express my own feelings of anger and helplessness.

The four main characters in Love’s magic had to deal with assault and abuse, each in their own way. And no one of them handles it quite the way the others do. Each of these four men are stumbling toward their own healing and eventually share the best of what they’ve learned along the way with the other three. I needed every single one of these men in order to tell the story that needed to be told.

Each of them saw the issue from a different perspective as many of us do. But before they could find the healing they needed they each had to learn to see it through each other’s eyes. And their path to understanding was rife with misunderstandings… not to mention knock down drag out fights.

I wanted to talk a bit about each of the four main characters.

Colin is the cop. As the Sergeant in charge of the Special Assault Unit, he deals with assault on a daily basis, every kind of assault. As the man charged with finding and arresting the perpetrators of these crimes his is merciless in his pursuit of these wrong-doers. His tender concern for victims of assault is legendary, but his greatest frustration comes when he is unable to convince them to speak out and press charges against their attacker. He doesn’t ever press them once they’ve refused, but it tears at his soul because these assaults represent a deeply personal issue for him. An issue he has never discussed and never will. There is pain buried deep within Colin that no one sees, feelings he has suppressed for most of his life. And when Joshua cracks open his heart… everything comes pouring out, and not all of it is good.

Joshua was abused as a child. He was physically assaulted by a drunken father who broke Joshua’s arm when he was eight. He knows what it’s like to be locked in a dark closet and left alone for hours with no food, no light, no help. He became a Doctor of Psychology in order to help others who had suffered as he had, but also to find his own healing. He could see more easily into Colin’s heart than he could into his own. He sensed the pain which Colin kept buried, and felt the anguished frustration of being unable to reach him.  And, because his job as a Title IX consultant require strict impartiality, he was also unable to speak out forcefully on behalf of university students who were victims of these heinous crimes.

David was never physically abused. But he was assaulted emotionally and verbally by a cold and critical parent and grew up completely unable to believe in his own worth. These issues haunted him for most of his life and were the primary reason why his marriage failed. His father’s voice was still in his ears, directing his life through constant criticism of everything David did and became. The psychological damage David suffered kept him closeted for many, many years. His relationship with Nate led him to the therapy he needed and at least a partial healing.

Nate was never abused in any way. He had an almost ideal childhood. But he fell in love with a man whose self esteem had been badly damaged by a father’s coldness and constant criticism and had to learn how to cope with David’s resulting insecurities as their relationship grew.

When Nate went to the rescue of a student who was under attack on the Tog, a park on the university campus, he was badly, though not critically, injured. The trauma he suffered then was the catalyst which eventually drew all four men together.

Love’s Magic delves into all the issues suffered by these men and the people who interact with them. It is not a graphic book. A reviewer at Kimmer’s Erotic Book Banter said this:

“Sensitive readers will especially appreciate Love’s Magic. Despite its thoroughness and suspense, the novel is never gruesomeMs. Jarrell earns my respect and gratitude for her willingness to explore a very complex, critical topic in a detailed, yet entertaining fashion, to bring us decent, interesting men, who struggle to develop delightfully realistic relationships. As it is the first in her Revolutionary Hearts series, we can surely expect an intense follow-up!”

But it is a book which speaks to the heart of the issues which are currently transforming our society. And now, more than at any other time… I am so glad I wrote it.


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Love’s Magic Available now on Amazon for $1.99!

Love’s Trials Pre-Order now on Amazon!

Review of Love’s Magic by ‘Kimmers Erotic Book Banter’

There are some review which capture the heart and soul of a book much more so than any other. This review from Kimmer’s Erotic Book Banter did just that.  It didn’t simply talk about what I wrote… it saw beneath the surface to the true reasons why Love’s Magic exists.

Especially now, in an age when a man nominated to the Supreme Court is accused of sexual assault by more than one woman, Love’s Magic speaks with a resounding voice about these issues that affected so many of us… including me…. and that will CONTINUE to affect us, particularly in the age of Trump.

It is my privilege to share this review  with you.

REVIEW: 

Janice Jarrell’s Love’s Magic reads matter-of-factly, even as deep emotions whiz by. A similar paradox occurs as Jarrell pairs a double-romance with a dreadful theme, that of campus sexual assaults. However, her distance works, creating suspense in the context of charmingly thick-headed couples.

The first pair consists of David, an older, well-loved, tenured professor, and his lover, Nate, a newly-minted professor. In fact, to get Nate hired, David had to battle homophobic Professor Fox, Nate’s Department Chair. David is understandably overprotective of Nate. But this rankles Nate, who is trying to make his own reputation on campus.

One night, Nate successfully prevents an attempted rape, not knowing the target is Professor Fox’s niece. When Nate is stabbed in the rescue, Dr. Fox takes an about-face in their relationship. He asks Nate to stand with him in organizing a campus protest, requesting their university do more to prevent campus assaults.

This puts David in an awkward position, as his friend, the Chancellor, doesn’t want negative publicity for the university. Nate’s tenure could be on the line if he participates in the rally.

Will two relationships, one established, one just blooming, be swept aside by the violence and turmoil of sexual assault, with its sometimes deadly consequences?

The second couple includes Colin, who is campus police. He might be a boisterous, carefree, larger-than-life Irish bachelor in private, but he’s a methodical champion of his student victims. Normally, the university’s Title IX campus liaison has been a thorn in Colin’s side. That person’s job is to neutrally assess both sides of an episode, supposed victim and assailant. Then Collin meets the new liaison; quiet, compassionate, steady Joshua, who challenges Colin to acknowledge his own dark past, and the lack of intimacy it has generated.

Will two relationships, one established, one just blooming, be swept aside by the violence and turmoil of sexual assault, with its sometimes deadly consequences?

I certainly learned a great deal about the issue of campus assault from ‘Love’s Magic’. For example, since universities must treat every student equally, they may have a very nuanced view of accuser and accused. This means their Title IX liaison might perceive an assault differently than campus police, with their tendency to label crimes as perpetrator versus victim.

Likewise, those directly and indirectly affected by crimes can have conflicting needs. One may want justice and the other security.

And assault, which is especially prevalent for the LGBTQ community, often creates long-term difficulties for unprepared families and communities. Their recovery needs are each unique.

Rather than read about the effects of this very important topic in a theoretical manner, Jarrell shows readers, as we follow the lives of four men in these two matches. And she permits us a glimpse into the differences between personality types as well.

In so doing, Jarrell examines the core of love, itself. What are over-dependence, independence and interdependence? How can an individual perceive one behavior as kindness while another experiences it as rejection? Why do those undergoing similar traumas recover with very different reactions and styles? 

Rather than read about the effects of this very important topic in a theoretical manner, Jarrell shows readers, as we follow the lives of four men in these two matches. And she permits us a glimpse into the differences between personality types as well.

For all this, the book remains a romance whose couples are often surprised by the strengths and fragility of love. Jarrell creates great tension against which acts of sweetness are starkly satisfying. She takes care to follow her men past where some romances end, so we may understand the lasting implications of crimes and those affected.

Sensitive readers will especially appreciate Love’s Magic. Despite its thoroughness and suspense, the novel is never gruesome. Ms. Jarrell earns my respect and gratitude for her willingness to explore a very complex, critical topic in a detailed, yet entertaining fashion, to bring us decent, interesting men, who struggle to develop delightfully realistic relationships. As it is the first in her Revolutionary Hearts series, we can surely expect an intense follow-up!

Love’s Magic Available now on Amazon!


Want sneak peeks at new Janice Jarrell projects? How about deleted scenes, alternate endings, early drafts, book release details, and exclusive giveaways?
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Love’s Magic Available now on Amazon for $1.99!

Love’s Trials Pre-Order now on Amazon!

Love’s Trials – Charlottesville

As the video trailer for Love’s Trials suggests, the ‘Unite the Right’ protests in Charlottesville is an important part of Colin and Joshua’s unfolding story. 

August 12, 2017 was a momentous day in Charlottesville, Virginia. It was the day that the ‘Unite the Right’ protestors marched their way into history. It was also a day that left most of American feeling disgusted, repulsed and angry.

But for the characters in ‘Love’s Trials’ the ‘Unite the Right’ protest was even more. They weren’t spectators as the terrible events of that day unfolded, they were participants. It was a moment in their lives when they were forced to face some of their most deeply felt enmities. Enmities rooted in racial memories too profound to ignore. It was a day when they feared for the safety of the ones they love most. And it was also a day of responsibility, duty, and trial.

Love’s Magic is set in Charlottesville. Much of the storyline revolves around the University of Virginia and the politics which are a fundamental part any organization that large and unwieldy. Love’s Trials features the same characters and when the ‘Unite the Right’ protests happened in Charlottesville it was simply impossible for me to ignore an occurrence that fundamentally important to our nation’s history. It had to be part of the storyline.

Colin, as a Sergeant with the University of Virginia campus police force, would be involved in this conflict from start to finish. Joshua, the Jewish man who loved him, would experience this incident on an intensely personal level, both because the involvement of the neo-Nazi’s awakens deeply felt historical and family memories and because the man he loves is involved in every aspect of this conflict which places him in constant danger.

Knowing Colin as well as I do, I knew that he would not only take great offense at hearing the anti-Semitic rhetoric the Nazi’s were spewing on that day, he would also be frothing at the mouth with anger. One of the things he loves most about Joshua is his Jewish heritage. He believes that the deep reservoir of inner strength which he has always loved and counted on within Joshua flows from that genetic, spiritual source. Hearing the Nazi’s hate-filled, anti-Semitic chants would have set his Irish heart on fire with rage.

At the same time, I knew Colin would have to stay in control of his emotions. Certainly, he would have longed to batter the Nazi protestors to a pulp. But it’s not Colin’s way to use physical force no matter how angry he might be. He is experienced enough at his job to know that such a reaction would solve nothing. Further, responding with undue force could easily have provoked a response from the supremacists in which innocent citizens could be hurt. He had to try to stay calm. He had to try to react in a professional manner. He didn’t always succeed.

In Love’s Trials you’ll hear Colin talk about that day. He’ll discuss what he saw and heard. He’ll discuss about how he responded. He’ll discuss how he felt. And he’ll discuss his thoughts on how well he feels the police force, whose job it is to protect Charlottesville citizens, responded on that dramatic day. He was in the thick of every event that took place in Charlottesville on August 12th, 2017, but those events were also very much out of his control. His point of view with regard to this emotionally charged day in his professional life is both personal and deeply felt. He would certainly never claim that they were unbiased. Colin is at heart a deeply honest man. And as such he would be the first to admit that no one who was present at the “Unite the Right” riots that day could have been less biased than he.

Joshua’s point of view regarding that terrible day was also deeply personal. As a Jewish man who lost many family members in the Holocaust, he possessed a unique perspective regarding the ‘Unite the Right’ march in Charlottesville. He was filled with disgust and anger that the neo-Nazis had been allowed to march in his city in the first place, and his first instinct was to join the counter protestors and face down the white-supremacists. At the same time, he knew that his presence at the event would make it impossible for Colin to concentrate on his job. Colin’s concern for Joshua’s safety would have been a distraction which could easily have gotten him seriously injured or even killed.

It was a dangerous situation for everyone involved and Joshua had to make a hard decision. Would he join the counter protestors? Or would he stay home in safety? His desire to be part of what happened that day was fueled by his genetic revulsion for anything connected with the Nazis. The grandfather who nearly raised him had been imprisoned in the camps. Both great grandparents had been Holocaust victims along with many, many other family members. And yet his presence at the event would have placed the man he loved in danger, and Colin made it clear he was vehemently opposed to Joshua being anywhere near the protests. Any decision Joshua made meant facing a trial that could possibly change their lives forever.

They both made decisions on that fateful day that altered their feelings about their relationship and about themselves. Colin had been a police officer for a decade but he had never before faced a situation where he was confronted with hatred and bigotry this vicious which also posed a very real threat to the one he loved. Joshua had never before faced a situation which forced him to appreciate and accept how deeply connected he was with his Jewish heritage.

In the end, they both made decisions that would affect they way the lived their lives from that point forward. I won’t share all the details either of that day or of what came after for Colin and Joshua. I don’t want to ‘spoil’ you for the dramatic events that take place in Love’s Trials. But I can say this: This incident doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of what they’re forced to face in this book. But it does lay a foundation of love and faith in each other that they will certainly need in the days ahead. And it is a profound chapter in what I hope you’ll feel is a profound story.

Love’s Trials will be released on October 12th, 2018 on Amazon. It is available for pre-order now so run and grab your copy. Colin and Joshua face many trials in the course of this book, the ‘Unite the Right’ protest being only one. And when the trial is deadly enough, love can lose its way.

 


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Love’s Magic Available now on Amazon!

Love’s Trials Pre-Order now on Amazon!

LOVE’S TRIALS COVER REVEAL!


LOVE’S TRIALS COVER REVEAL!


COMING ON OCTOBER 12TH
PRE-ORDER NOW!


Want sneak peeks at new Janice Jarrell projects? How about deleted scenes, alternate endings, early drafts, book release details, and exclusive giveaways?
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Love’s Magic Available now on Amazon!

Love’s Trials Pre-Order now on Amazon!

Love’s Legacy – David and Nate – THREE CHAPTERS AVAILABLE!

One of the most consistent comments I’ve received about Love’s Magic is that David and Nate’s story needed to be expanded. People wanted to know how this dynamic couple came to be. I will now begin to answer those questions.

Truth is, David and Nate’s story was my first novel. But it remained unpublished, primarily because I didn’t feel the writing was up to par. But because so many of you wanted to hear about how David and Nate got together, I’ve been re-working it a bit and I now want to present it to you for FREE as an online novel.

You’ll get the full story of how they met and how their relationship developed up to the point where Love’s Magic begins. Their story is called Love’s Legacy and THREE chapters are up NOW! I’ll be adding new chapters once a week or so.

CLICK HERE TO READ LOVE’S LEGACY!

Interview with Author Dara Nelson!!

Joining us now is author Dara Nelson to talk about her upcoming release, Better Latte Than Never!
And here’s a blurb to whet your appetite!

Opposites attract. Yeah…we’ve all heard that saying.
But maybe the differences are just on the surface and if you take the time to dig deep enough, you’ll find kindred spirits buried beneath. On the surface Remy D’Angelo – shy, socially awkward, innocent, creative and sweet – and Jett Wilson – gorgeous, outgoing, a player, never had a relationship, never been in love – were complete opposites.

But when Remy gets a job as a barista and coffee artist at Jett’s café – the sparks don’t necessarily fly but flicker steadily until the grow into something that neither of them have ever experienced before.

Will their fears and anxieties drive them away?  Or will the flighty Jett finally find the one thing that will ground him?
Will the two of them realize that experiencing love is what they’ve both been looking for?  It’s always worth it to experience love – Better Latte than Never. 

_________________________________________________

Now let’s meet Dara!!

First off: Tell us about your books, both back catalog and what’s coming up!!

I have 2 series’ that I write under my pen name Kendel Duncan – Black Ops Heroes (the next book in that series is coming in December) & Doyle Global Securities (next book for that released July 25).  Under my name I have the Healing Hearts series right now and I’m currently writing six (Yes 6!) books.

What are common traps for aspiring writers?
First of all – don’t force it.  I always have 4 or 5 books started at once (currently it’s 6). If one stalls or isn’t flowing, I’ll work one of the others.  If one grabs onto me and flows like crazy, I’ll stick with that one until it’s done.  But I never get discouraged if one just isn’t working.  I can always come back to it later.  The second thing is – don’t be sucked into the ‘you have to spend xxxx amount of dollars on a good editor, cover designer, formatter, etc.’  Pardon my language but that’s bullshit.  If you’re good at spelling/language/grammar – edit your own damn book (I did and still do). Create an author group page on FB and ask for beta readers (they are the best).  Connect with other authors in the same genre and reach out to them to see if they have time to read/comment (I do this for several other authors now).  Third – don’t go into this for the money.  Write because it’s what your heart needs you to do, write because there’s a story in your soul that needs to come out.  

Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
When I first started writing, I never intended to write a series, let alone 4 or 5 of them.  But then I had secondary characters in the first story that ended up being so much more and I had to tell their story – so I did.  And then it happened again in the next book and so on and so on.  I’ve also had readers reach out to me to ask if I was going to write ‘so & so’s’ story, which told me how much that character resonated with them, so a standalone ended up becoming the first in a series.  Writing that character’s story had never occurred to me at the time.  I want people to be able to read any one of my books as a standalone, so they are written that way, but they all have references to other characters/circumstances so new readers might be inspired to read other book in the series.  If you’re going to do that, though, keep spreadsheets.  Detailed spreadsheets – with each character’s age, eye color, hair color, height, age, build, dick size (yep, really), piercings, tattoos, background, family history, etc.  If you don’t – readers WILL point that shit out if you get it wrong….LOL.

As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
My spirit animal is an otter – forever young and playful, curious, selfless and wanting to help others.  And can’t stay away from water – that would definitely be me.  I actually had one swim past me at the lake I was vacationing at a few weeks ago.

As a newbie author, this question interests me: What’s the best way to market your books?
Facebook, Twitter & Instagram.  There are hundreds of FB reader/book groups.  Join any/all that are within your genre or that are groups for all genres.  I belong to well over 200.  I keep notes on my phone with ‘ad’ verbiage and I copy/paste, add the book cover or a teaser and voila – marketing done.  It takes me about 15 minutes to post in all of them.

How much and how often do you use social media? And do you believe it has a valuable place in your marketing strategy?
Everyday and yes it’s very valuable but it can also be a distraction from my writing.  If I’m writing, I’m not logged into FB, that way I won’t get notifications of postings or anything. If I take a break from writing or get stuck on a story and need to take a breath, I’ll log in for five or ten minutes.  I never spend more than thirty minutes at a time on social media.  

Do you have a mental image of a particular person when you develop and write characters? For instance, my Colin is most definitely half Jamie Dornan and half Dean Winchester! What are yours?
Not necessarily a specific person but definitely a specific body type/look. I find names distracting, so I like to look at hot guys whose names I don’t know.  When I picture my characters in my head, their faces are mostly blurry (it’s like my brain knows that will distract me) but I can always see their hair, muscles, tattoos, sculpted abs, piercings, etc.  

Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
I don’t spend much time reading reviews.  Bad ones used to bother me but they don’t anymore.  Some people just aren’t going to like your work, it’s inevitable.  You can’t please everyone.  What I pay attention to a lot more is feedback – comments/emails from readers about how my work touched them, affected them.  And when another author let’s me know that they read my work and loved it?  That just blows me away and I love it.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Be patient.  I always wanted to be a writer.  I’ve been writing poetry since I was in the fifth grade but didn’t come up with the idea for my first novel until I was in my thirties.  By then I had pretty much given up the idea of writing novels and didn’t think it would ever happen, but then the story idea just came to me and I started writing….and writing….and writing.  8 months later I had 3 books written and it hasn’t stopped since.
And don’t be afraid.  
Write what’s in your heart.  Write what you want to write.

Where can people go to contact you and to find your work?
I do have a website (www.daranelson.com) and you can contact me there, but the best place is Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/kendelduncanauthor)
Or (https://www.facebook.com/DaraNelsonauthor)

What’s next? Is there already a WIP? Where will your next writing journey take you? 

What isn’t next….LOL.  I have 6 WIPs at the moment, 1 in each of my current series and 3 brand new books that may or may not be part of some new series’,  I also have my book review blog (http://loveunchainedreviews.com) and I’m also doing some cover designs and editing for other authors.  Life is busy, life is good and love is love.

A final thought:
Be kind to others. Good things can happen if you do.  Writing is my life, but I also love reading too.  And when I read, I take the time to leave a review.  I write those reviews the moment I finish a book, when my emotions are fresh and raw.  Do I love everything I read?  Absolutely not.  For those stories that don’t resonate with me, I only leave stars and I never write a review saying I didn’t like a book. 2 stars is enough for someone to know that their book didn’t resonate with me.  That happens.  My book review blog came about because – Those books that I loved, I took the time to write a review, a heartfelt review.  It didn’t take long, maybe only a minute or two for each one.  But those reviews got noticed.  I got comments from authors about how wonderful my reviews were.  That got me thinking, so I started a book review blog.  I didn’t really think much would happen with it, but low and behold, I have tons of followers and I’m at the point now where I have to pick and choose what books I want to read (for free) because my review calendar is too full to read them all.  Think about that.  I already read books all the time but because I took a few minutes to write reviews, I now get to read books many of my favorites for free.  I didn’t do it for that, I did it because I care.  I care about my fellow indie authors.  I care about this wonderful MM community.  And I care about love.