At the end of 2014, I resolved that I would finally get off my bum and try – really try – to get my work published. Three years ago, when I got a tablet, I created a Kindle account and entered into the wonderful world of ebooks. More specifically, free ebooks. Raising three kids, I just didn’t have the discretionary income I once had, and books had become a luxury that only came around at birthdays and the like.

I found a lot of crap, but I also learned to recognize the hidden gems. And I kept seeing these references to something called Goodreads in the acknowledgements of some of the better free books I found. They spoke of a group, the Goodreads M/M Romance group. So I looked it up, discovered that I could join for free, and I could join the group for free, too. So I did. Once they accepted me (though Goodreads accepts new accounts without delay, the group’s membership requests are reviewed because they want their members to be safe from the kind of abuse I know is all too familiar to many of you), I began exploring.

Oh, the treasures I found! It turned out that every year, the group hosted an event called Don’t Read in the Closet (DRitC, for short). It’s an anthology of M/M romance stories of all sizes and genres. And they’re all free! Hundreds of free stories, from new and established writers… I was in paradise.

So when I finally decided to get serious about writing, I knew that was where I wanted to start – with the next DRitC event. I waited, haunting the M/M Romance group’s forums until March, when things got rolling.

The way it worked was, a member sent in a story prompt – a picture that inspired them in some way, accompanied by a Dear Author letter in which the prompter described the kind of story they wanted. Would-be authors had an opportunity to read the prompts, and then they were opened for claiming.

I meant to take it easy. I’m unpublished, and I’ve never been able to leave a story alone. I mean, I nitpick everything I write to death, until there’s nothing left that’s worth reading, at which point I just chuck it. Most of my work has never been seen by anyone other than myself. So to make it easy on myself, I resolved to choose something simple, something familiar. I’ve been a dancer, I’ve done theatre, I’ve managed a store, I’ve done costume construction for the Renaissance Festival, I’ve been a mother for almost thirty years, I’ve owned cats and birds. In short, there are many subjects I know well enough to write about with a fair degree of authority. I intended to find something that fit my life experience.

And then I saw an image of a dragon, and read the prompt, which asked for a story about a dragon shifter, and fell in love. My husband told me not to bite off more than I could chew. I requested a simpler prompt. Someone else got it. I said I’d wait and see how long it took the dragon prompt to be claimed. I waited.

No one claimed it. Meanwhile, I’d been hearing the dragon’s voice in my ear, telling me things about his story. I looked again. It still wasn’t claimed. So I claimed it. I was terrified. What had I agreed to do? I’ve read fantasy my whole life, especially when it was about dragons. I  fell in love with Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series when I was in high school. I knew dragons. But still… I kept hearing that voice, so I just followed it. I think I got the best prompt in the entire bunch.

Then my life sort of exploded around me. I got sick. For like, a month, when we had two months to write the entire thing. But my moderator was an angel, and gave me extensions, and on my birthday, just this last weekend, I finished The Sacrificial Knight. It’s just under 34,000 words, but I just turned it in, and I haven’t heard the feedback from my editor yet. We’ll see how much I end up revising.

The biggest news here is that, for the first time in my life, I like what I’ve written. I had three proofreaders to help me catch typos and inconsistencies, so I’m fairly certain the only problems left for the editor to find will be stylistic ones. I’ve been holding myself back for decades, not allowing myself the chance to succeed. Now, at least, I’ve gotten out of my own way.

This year’s anthology will be called Love is an Open Road. Some of the stories are up now. They’re being posted two or three a day, from June through September, here: LOR Stories by Date

If you aren’t a member of the GR M/M Romance group, you won’t be able to see the pictures that inspired the stories. They’re posted on the story threads on the Goodreads site because they’re images gathered online from hundreds of sources, and no one involved with the anthologies owns the rights to them. Personally, joining the group was one of the best things I’ve ever done, both as a reader and as a writer. I’ve met some amazing people through the group. It’s little wonder that it’s one of the most popular groups on Goodreads.

As I said, my story isn’t posted yet. When it is, I’ll be creating my Goodreads author page (yay!), and I’ll be posting a link to the story here on this blog. The story will be free, always. I love my guys so much, I have another adventure brewing in my head, and I’m giving serious thought to writing that next. I already have third story planned for the world I built for this story, so it could become a series. Whether I’ll try to find a publisher for these stories, or just try out the world of self publishing, I haven’t yet decided. There are pros and cons either way.

Lots of people helped me with advice and pep talks, but I’d like to single out a few here. Alexsandr Voinov sent me an invitation to a writer’s chat room last October, especially for writers of M/M romance. I got to chat with some of the top names in the field as they and I prepared for the beginning of NaNoWriMo, and several of them asked to be my writing partner for the event so we could act as cheerleaders for each other. I’ve chatted with Aleks on may other occasions, but that was an incredibly generous thing to do for an unknown writer, and I will never forget his kindness.

Eric Alan Westfall wrote the prompt that inspired The Sacrificial Knight. He was patient and the epitome of a gentleman, responding to emails asking him all sorts of questions about his prompt and his story preferences. I wanted to write something he would love, and if I missed the mark, it isn’t because he was stingy with the details. He’s become a beloved mentor over the course of this event, and I will always be grateful that I claimed his prompt. I cannot imagine loving any characters more than I love “our” boys.

Kaje Harper, K-Lee Klein, Gabbo De La Parra, and several others offered support, humor, and advice to a complete nobody in the publishing world. This community is my home, and I am so proud to be part of it and part of this anthology.

I’ll be posting information here as things progress. Meanwhile, here is the picture that inspired the story. Keep in mind, I don’t own the copyright. If anyone out there knows who painted this, please let me know. I haven’t been able to find out the artist’s name.

My guys