Thee books, Three Happy Ever Afters

My This Time Forever series is currently free to read for Kindle Unlimited subscribers!

Each of these books features a different couple and can be read alone, but the characters all know each other, and I check in with everyone in each book, building a small community around family–the ones we’re born to and the ones we find, friends–old and new, and the communities that bind everyone together.

(Also, if you start at the beginning, you’ll get Brian’s complete story and everyone tells me they like Brian’s book, Chasing Forever, best. Me? I like ’em all.) Continue reading “Thee books, Three Happy Ever Afters”

New Release: Chasing Forever

It’s difficult for an author to read reviews. You want everyone to love your books as much as you do, but know, realistically, that they won’t. We all have tropes we love and plot lines we don’t really care for. Sometimes we just don’t connect, other times we find a book that really clicks at first, but fails to deliver. We’re looking for books as individual as we are. Books that work for us. And every now and then we find one we love without reason, and it stays with us for a long, long time.

I love all of my books, but I never really know what readers will think of them until the first reviews come trickling in. A good review is always a pleasant surprise (we authors will never get over thinking our books just don’t work). Not so good or critical reviews aren’t always terrible. Sometimes they zero right in on the one thing you were worried about. Sometimes they pick up something you missed entirely. That always sucks a bit, but I make a note to try harder next time and move on.

What I always hope for are reviews that show in some way that I’ve connected with a reader. When they have read the story I think I’ve written (you’d be surprised at the number of reviews I read where I wonder if they actually read my book, lol). These reviews are always my favourite–and they’re not always the five-star reviews, just so you know. But I put so much of myself into my characters and stories. I live them as I write them. I experience all the highs and lows and the ebb and flow of the plot. When I feel my reader has too, then I consider it a job well done. ❤

I didn’t expect Brian’s book to be the one that got these sort of reviews. I actually thought this would be the book most people had issues with. I can’t pinpoint why, except to say that I challenged myself with this one. I took several chances with the characters and the plot. I pushed harder, reached farther. Brian’s book was always going to be special, because I knew his backstory and I wanted to do it justice. But also because Mal is a character I’ve wanted to write for some time. My warrior, my gentle heart, the man who never gives up. I’ve written around him, up to him, but this is the first time I’ve written him, and I love him.

So, I give to you the final book in my This Time Forever series, Chasing Forever, and hope you love it as much as I do!

About the Book

ChasingForever_500x750Malcolm Montgomery was a history teacher and track coach until an accident left him with two broken legs. He’ll recover, but life has knocked his feet out twice now. He’s not sure if he’s ready to try again, especially when it comes to love—and slick guys like Brian Kenway. Still, he needs help mentoring the school’s LGBTQ society, so he asks Brian to take some responsibility.

Brian has been hiding behind his reputation as a liar and a cheat for so long that he actually believes he’s that guy—until his nephew, Josh, turns up on his couch, tossed out for being gay. Brian has never considered being a father, but he knows all about being rejected by loved ones. Now Brian wants to be more: a partner for Mal and a role model for Josh.

But when Mal’s recovery is set back and the sad truth of Brian’s past is revealed, the forever they’ve been chasing seems even further from their grasps. It’ll take a rescue effort to revive their sense of worth and make Brian, Mal, and Josh into a family of their own.

Available now at all retailers!

ebook:
Riptide | Amazon | B&N | Kobo | iBooks | Smashwords

paperback:
Riptide | Amazon |B&N

..

What reviewers are saying:

quote

“Intimate, sensuous, and timely!” —Zoe, Goodreads review

“This book was a gift.” —Jennifer, Goodreads review

Overall, Chasing Forever is a well written, provocative, emotional story by Jensen that does an excellent job of highlighting the challenges, prejudices, and ignorance faced by those in the LGBTQIA community and reminds us just how much guidance and support all teens require when discovering and embracing their sexual identity.” —Zoe W., Reviewer

““I thought book 1, Building Forever was my favourite book in this series, but Chasing Forever just took that spot!” —Amy Aislin, Goodreads review

 

Tour and Giveaway Details!

I’m doing another Instagram Tour! Follow along for a chance to win one of my previously published books!

#ChasingForeverTour Graphic

The giveaway for my Riptide Tour is $25 to spend at the publisher’s store and a swag pack of bookmarks, postcards and stickers.
(All my giveaways are open internationally. Comment on any post to enter!)

Monday 12/10
Boy Meets Boy Reviews
My Fiction Nook
OMG Reads
Fangirl Moments and My Two Cents

Tuesday 12/11
Book Reviews and More by Kathy
Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words
That’s What I’m Talking About
Love Bytes Reviews

Wednesday 12/12
Erotica for All
Wicked Faerie’s Tales and Reviews
Jessie G Book Reviews
TTC Books and More

Thursday 12/13
MM Good Book Reviews
Bayou Book Junkie
Creative Deeds
Novel Approach

Friday 12/14
Joyfully Jay
La Crimson Femme
Dog-Eared Daydreams
The Day Before You Came

Win a Copy of Chasing Forever!

Look for giveaways in the following groups this week:

Annabeth’s Angels
Jenn’s Epic Adventurers
A.M.’s Pot O Gold
Felice’s Fun House

Brian’s Story

Brian’s story began two and a half years ago when I realized I’d been naming all the cheating exes of my characters “Brian.”

Poor Brian

I didn’t know then that Building Forever would become a series. I simply wanted to tell Charlie’s story. But Simon came equipped with a best friend and a dastardly ex, so when one of my first round readers asked for Frank’s story, I began to wonder if Brian might have a story too.

Obviously, he did. Everyone has a story tucked back there somewhere. I wasn’t sure I could do Brian justice, though. Redemption stories are difficult to do well and I wanted not only to give Brian a good story but for my readers to fall in love with him—or at least forgive him. That meant figuring out why. Why he couldn’t commit. Why he was having so much trouble settling down.

One of the most interesting things you can do as a writer is to take a secondary character from one book and give them a book of their own. I put a lot of effort into making my secondary characters feel real and I get a lot of lovely compliments about them! Turning them into a lead requires a fair amount of work, though. You have to retain the personality traits that make them such a good support character in the first book and meld them with who this person turns out to be.

In Frank’s case, this meant that the party boy persona he presents in Building Forever turns out to be something of a cover. I actually loved this, because it gave Frank as a man a much deeper texture. I don’t really talk about his sexual identity in Renewing Forever, other than confirm the fact he is gay. But when I sketched out his life, his love-life in particular, no relationships popped up. And he’d only had a very small number of “affairs,” Simon being the most significant. Surely having his heart broken at nineteen didn’t ruin his life?

It did and it didn’t. Frank never quite got over Tom, but not because Tom is his one and only (even though he is). Frank is demisexual. He loves to flirt and he loves to make others feel good but has to really care for someone before he wants to go there. When you consider his story with this information, a whole lot more about him makes sense.

So when I considered Brian as a lead character, I knew I had to come up with a good reason for his serial non-monogamy. My readers would need to know why he couldn’t commit. I sketched out and rejected a lot of reasons before eventually deciding that like Frank, Brian’s “course” had been diverted at a very young age. But again, I don’t outright state that what happened to Brian when he was fourteen is the root cause of his inability to commit. I hint at it, and his secret is definitely a source of angst and pain for him. It’s also something he’s never shared, which is one good reason why his relationship with Simon failed.

But I also hold Simon up to a little more scrutiny and suggest that maybe he wasn’t able to give Brian what Brian was looking for. This is partly Brian’s fault. He is unable to be “wholly Brian” with Simon—for reasons that may never be clear. But it’s also Simon’s fault for holding on to something that wasn’t a good fit—because it was comfortable enough. For not realizing that he also needed more.

Relationships are hard work, even when they’re good, and one of the themes of this series has been second chances. These stories are about men who have loved and lost and think that’s it, they’re done. So when they do fall for someone else, they have half a lifetime’s worth of experience—and hurt, and joy—to offer, which changes the stakes. Brian’s story is at once the most dramatic of the three in this series, but also in a way the easiest. His happy ever after is mostly a matter of finally finding the right guy—but to keep that guy, he needs to make the right moves. He also needs to finally, at long last, be himself.

I loved writing this book. I loved getting to know Brian and seeing him happy at last. I also enjoyed introducing him to Mal, who gives perhaps the greatest speech I’ve ever written in the epilogue of any book. Mal talks about living out loud, and his message is one that resonates through Chasing Forever, the entire series, and perhaps all of my contemporary novels.

So it’s my hope that readers will not only forgive Brian but rejoice in his happiness—and the happy ever afters I’ve given to all of the characters in this series. ❤

 

Chasing Forever

ChasingForever_500x750Malcolm Montgomery was a history teacher and track coach until an accident left him with two broken legs. He’ll recover, but life has knocked his feet out twice now. He’s not sure if he’s ready to try again, especially when it comes to love—and slick guys like Brian Kenway. Still, he needs help mentoring the school’s LGBTQ society, so he asks Brian to take some responsibility.

Brian has been hiding behind his reputation as a liar and a cheat for so long that he actually believes he’s that guy—until his nephew, Josh, turns up on his couch, tossed out for being gay. Brian has never considered being a father, but he knows all about being rejected by loved ones. Now Brian wants to be more: a partner for Mal and a role model for Josh.

But when Mal’s recovery is set back and the sad truth of Brian’s past is revealed, the forever they’ve been chasing seems even further from their grasps. It’ll take a rescue effort to revive their sense of worth and make Brian, Mal, and Josh into a family of their own.

Coming December 10, 2018
Preorder at Riptide Publishing

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Zipping It Closed

I love writing—which is lucky for me as I’ve written (and co-written) eleven novels, eight novellas, and too many short stories to count over the past five years. I’ve also had to revise and then edit all of those books, and that’s the part I don’t love.

Over time, I’ve incorporated revision into my process. Rather than try to get it right first time, I’m now much more likely to write a book to the end and fix it later. I revise and self-edit every manuscript several times before submitting it—and that’s when the real fun starts. (Not.)

Developmental edit letters always seem to land in my inbox with an echoing thump heard across three counties, and I can never read one without feeling ill. It’s a totally physical sensation, too. My blood pounds at my temples, my skin burns, and my stomach clenches. Checking my inbox while I wait for one of these letters feels about the same as a visit to Goodreads—a horrible seesaw of doubt, elation, and horror. If I ever give up writing (and I consider it more often than is probably sane), it will probably be to save myself the stress I attach to editing.

I respect the editing process. It’s an absolutely necessary part of writing, and I appreciate the skills of my editors. I couldn’t do what I do without them. The rub, for me, is that I take edit suggestions as evidence of failure on my part to produce a perfect product. Ridiculous, I know. But I’m the kid who unraveled an entire craft project in sixth grade because it didn’t look good enough. Who would rather not submit a term paper in college and take the fail than hand in something I felt didn’t work. (Yep.)

So, obviously, publishing is probably not my ideal gig. But I do love writing—so much. I can’t imagine not telling my stories. I live and breathe them, even when I’m not actively working on them.

I just finished working on the developmental edits for Chasing Forever, the third in my upcoming series, and a curious thing happened. The issue with Brian’s book, which my editor said was already very strong (phew), was that Brian’s character arc was a little fractured. I had him focused on one thing in the first half of the book and another thing in the second half. The fix was deceptively simple. I had to combine these two episodes so that the book felt more cohesive, all while strengthening Mal’s arc so that Brian didn’t overshadow him. Basically, I had to add stuff. Rework a few scenes. Tie a few episodes together in a more purposeful manner. So I loaded the book onto my Kindle and read it, noting places along the way where I could implement these proposed changes.

Then I opened the document and actioned the notes I’d made.

But first, let me tell you about my physical reaction to the developmental edit letter for Chasing Forever. I was on vacation when it landed in my inbox (the thump echoing across three counties) and so I decided to ignore it. Who wants to feel ill while on vacation?

I read the letter the day I got home, expecting to start feeling sick at any moment, and was surprised by the contents. Yes, the book needed work, but not as much as I had feared. The manuscript wasn’t the complete mess I’d thought it was. In fact, it was apparently “already very strong.” How about that? Then I read the book, and… it was strong. I could see the problems, but the stuff surrounding them? Really good.

If you’re not a writer, trust me when I say that reading your own work and thinking it’s pretty good is… weird. I don’t think all my books are terrible. I sort of go through phases with them. I love them, I hate them, I love them, I hate them, I love them, and then I let go and pretty much never want to see them again. A year or so later I develop a sort of pleasant nostalgia for most of them. ❤

So, anyway, I’ve spent the past four days adding and subtracting, working my notes into the manuscript, and yesterday the curious thing happened. There’s a pivotal scene in the middle of the book and it’s this scene I needed to make work. I couldn’t cut it, it needs to be there. So I had to edit the book around it… and that’s what I did. I added more support for the scene throughout the first half, tying together elements that already existed but weren’t leaning on each other in the way they could and should have been. Then I got to the BIG SCENE and made a couple of changes to reflect the edits, and I physically felt the book zip together. I heard the sound. It was as though, in my mind, I could see the two halves stand up, align their interlocking tabs, and close.

It was pretty cool. I immediately went to report the sensation to my husband who nodded, made affirmative sounds, and then ruined it all by saying, “Told you! This is going to be the book!” He thought I was talking about the other book, the one that’s already all but published. The one I keep getting very flattering advance reviews for. Sigh. He does make all the right sounds, though.

So I decided to write this post because this is a huge thing for me. I enjoyed editing this book. Not at the beginning, when all I could picture was the work that needed doing and the hours I’d have to spend bent over the laptop, moving words this way and that. But in that zipping moment, a joy I’ve not experienced before swished through me and carried me toward the end of the book. I finished the rest of my edits, confident that I was doing the right thing.

I have enjoyed seeing a book come together before. A part of my respect for the editing process comes from seeing my books strengthen and shine. But I do have a theory as to why everything finally clicked with Chasing Forever. Why it felt more complete this time.

Last year, I wrote five books. This year, I had to edit four of them. I do not recommend working this way, but I think that despite the mental fatigue that has me wondering if I’ll ever write again (threat of incoming developmental edit letters aside), having edited four books in a row (I’ve been in edits since March this year)—from developmental changes, all the way through extensive line edits, copy edits, and proofreading—I’ve had enough practice to be able to approach my edits with a healthier mindset. Or maybe I’m just exhausted.

But I did notice the same thing when it came time to write that fifth book. This book, Chasing Forever. I was exhausted. But I followed my process. I built my world, worked up my character arcs, and plotted an outline. Then I started writing and didn’t stop until I typed “The End.”

Writing is an extremely emotional experience for me. I laugh and cry with my characters. I live their stories while I’m writing them. Editing has always been harder. I don’t know if it’s because it’s more of a mental than emotional exercise, or simply me laboring under the impression that I somehow failed the first time around. But now that I’ve heard the zip and felt it close, I’m hoping that it will be easier next time around. I know that it’s next to impossible to write a perfect book. Editing will always be necessary. Approaching that phase with joy rather than fear would be a nice change, though.

(Wondering about the image at the top of this post? Me too! I found it on Canva while looking for zips and became beguiled.)