The Music of the Desert

March 19, 2015


An easy way to get into the mood of Something To Die For is to load up everything Queens of the Stone Age and toad the wet sprocket ever did. If you want to get specific, listen to the entirety of QotSA’s Like Clockwork and toad’s High on A Riverbed (from Pale), Hope (From In Light Syrup) and Reincarnation Song (from Dulcinea) and you pretty much have my obsessive playlist that fueled the writing of this story. Throw in a little Civil Twilight’s Letters From the Sky, some One Eskimo’s Amazing*, and a few other random alternative rock and you’ve got a soundtrack of sorts.

*secret time: this song makes me tear up like WHOA. It was one of those “first songs I heard after a tragedy” type thing and it was a poignant song to hear at that moment and three years later I still have to lie and say there’s something in my eye. Damn it.


It’s no secret that I need music to be able to write. Playing Hard To Forget was a crazy combination of folk tales and 80s Dark Wave and Something To Die For was no different in its development.


Josh Tucker, named so for the Joshua Tree that only grows in the Mojave Desert, seems like he has the perfect life when we first meet him. He has a gorgeous husband and two amazing children. He has a great job and a nice home and he’s close with his mother and siblings, all of whom have a similarly great life.


But when is that ever anything like reality, right?


Cracks start to show very early on that things aren’t what they seem. The chaos that Josh descends into is very much the intense cacophony of a Queens of the Stone Age song. The flashes that come through the cracks are loud and confusing and makes him wonder just what is real and what isn’t. Queens’ songs are driving and percussion heavy. They’re fast and come at you from every direction. And in that chaos, in those cracks, there’s truth, and it may be shitty truth, but it’s there and it’s real.

My accomplishment of the YEAR was crawling down there to get this pic while I was wearing TIGHTS and a DRESS and I didn’t get a run.

Adam Davis is a mystery and one that is at the center of all the confusion. Is he telling the truth or is he a product of Josh’s decreasing sanity? That Josh (and by extension, us) doesn’t know if Adam is really there lends him an impish, supernatural quality. He appears and disappears at random and there’s no real way to prove what he’s saying is true. But he’s earnest and seems desperate for Josh to believe what he’s saying and there’s a sincerity in Adam’s tone that makes Josh think twice.

It’s weird to say I modelled these characters after bands’ styles, but, yeah, the impish earnest (for lack of a better term) of a toad the wet sprocket song is pretty much Adam (in the way that toad can be singing about the most depressing subject ever but still do it in a way that sounds almost upbeat and hopeful).


If you do YouTube any of the songs up there, and you like them, throw the artists some cash and buy their stuff.

Listen to the soundtrack here:

Something To Die For

Josh Tucker lives a blessed life—great job, great family, perfect husband, and two wonderful children—but a mysterious man named Adam who haunts his dreams and soon his waking life threatens everything when he stirs doubt as to whether any of it is real. Adam makes Josh question the world he’s taken for granted—as well as the origins of Adam himself.

Even if Adam’s claims are true, Josh has nothing to live for beyond his fabricated life—except the possibility of a real man out there somewhere who can love him. Josh is left with an impossible choice: stay in his delusion where he’s assured some happiness or take a great leap of faith for a chance to make a life with Adam.

Two updates:

1) Just got a great review for Something To Die For:

The characters were very likable, the storyline kept me turning the pages till it was over, and it was something new and fresh to read. I really enjoyed it. 

It’s About The Book reviews–4.5 Stars

and 2) I now have my youngest kid doing the cookies because he’s bored and needs something to do. He took a year of culinary last year in 6th grade, so I think he can do them justice?

About Piper Doone: A Primer

March 19, 2015

Piper Doone only does biographies of herself in third person. She works in professional sports during the day and before that she worked for Disney.

She is a treasure trove of recessive genes. She’s red headed, hazel-eyed, left handed, she can’t roll her tongue into that little hot dog bun shape that everyone else can make, her second toe is longer than all her other toes, she has hitchhiker’s thumb (look it up), and when she clasps her hands together, it’s right thumb over left.

She like The Monkees over The Beatles and The Rolling Stones over both of them. She doesn’t think The Clash is any good and doesn’t know why people look at her funny when she says that. She’s way too into Canadian indie music for her own good

She has a  pretentious screenwriting degree but her favorite movies are The Mummy and The Parent Trap (the original, not that remake that doesn’t actually exist, damn it), and she can quote every line from The Fifth Element instead of, like, whatever people with screenwriting degrees are supposed to like (probably foreign? Something French?).

Her preferred gym entertainment is reruns of Law and Order: SVU.  And new episodes of SVU. And, if I may take the opportunity here in public, that new detective, Carisi, is a-ok in my book. And by a-ok, I mean he’s really cute.  I hope this gets indexed by Google. Hey, here’s my blog…stop by. Wink wink. Also, here’s my Twitter. And I’m on Facebook….

She loves Cuban food. Like, a lot. A lot a lot.

She has a costume closet and never goes out in public without being in some kind of character, complete with name and backstory— Serena, the alcoholic trophy wife who had to give up her career as a ballerina when she married a rich investment banker, but never gave up the dream; Mallory, the poor art student who dropped out of school to run away to Coober Pedy to marry an opal mine owner; Mitzy, the Palm Beach wannabe heiress who dresses from head to toe in Lilly Pulitzer because that’s how she thinks all Palm Beachers dress; Christy-Sue, the southern university football coach’s wife who’s as sweet as pie in the streets and trash in the streets…. Because she lives in Miami and Miami, believe it or not, can be so boooorrriinnngg and why not have a little fun, right?

She is an archer and named her bow Janosz Bow-ha, after Peter McNichol’s character from Ghostbusters 2,  Janosz Poha.

She raises and breeds hedgehogs so she can give them stupid names like HedgeHäagen-Dazs, Quilliam Shakespeare, Quilliam Shatner, Peter Quill, Se-Quill (the second quilling),  and Josh Hedge-homme.

She is a photographer and is never without her camera. She uses a Pentax ME Super SLR  and a Pentax k-30 because her mom’s old lenses from the 70s fit both and HAVE YOU PRICED LENSES LATELY OH MY GOD.

Yucca of some sort…I’m a photographer not a gardener


She has run out of things to say now….

Something To Die For

Josh Tucker lives a blessed life—great job, great family, perfect husband, and two wonderful children—but a mysterious man named Adam who haunts his dreams and soon his waking life threatens everything when he stirs doubt as to whether any of it is real. Adam makes Josh question the world he’s taken for granted—as well as the origins of Adam himself.

Even if Adam’s claims are true, Josh has nothing to live for beyond his fabricated life—except the possibility of a real man out there somewhere who can love him. Josh is left with an impossible choice: stay in his delusion where he’s assured some happiness or take a great leap of faith for a chance to make a life with Adam.

The Living Desert

March 19, 2015

When I was promoting my last book, Playing Hard To Forget, I talked a bit about my weird experiences in the desert. Something To Die For was born out of some of those experiences.

I, being of red hair and see-through skin, really don’t belong in hot, sunny climates, but I keep finding myself in them. My skin keeps saying, “Move to Seattle. Save on sunscreen. Buy a pine tree farm,” but fate keeps flicking me off and throwing me to the hottest places on the whole of Earth.

It takes a special type of person to survive in extreme climates. My stupid body is stupidly efficient in temperatures above 90 and even more so when there’s the oppressive humidity of a tropical rainforest climate added to it, like where I live now.  I have the horrible feeling that even if I managed to outrun my destiny and move to a place unlike the desert or the tropics, where everything tries to kill you all at once, I would probably be dead of hypothermia within six minutes of any temperature under 50.

So, maybe there’s a reason I keep finding myself living amongst the palm trees, yucca, and agave I’ve developed a love/hate relationship with. I mean, it’s not all bad, I guess. Extreme climates tend to harbour extremely weird subcultures of people and I guess I have to count myself among their numbers. Beach bums, desert rats, island bums, we can’t do things the way the rest of the world does things and that’s okay.

And our stories are amazing.


Something To Die For takes place in the Mojave Desert. Things exist there that don’t exist anywhere else, like Joshua Trees and Palm Springs’ obsession with midcentury modern architecture.

But beyond that, the desert is alive. It’s its own character with a personality and motivations. As a child I used to frequently dream about being there at night. The desert protected me. The plants hid me from danger and the coyotes (and, unrealistically for modern times, the gray wolf, which is no longer roaming the deserts and hasn’t since well before I was born) stood guard.

Today I will be talking about some of the experiences and stories that led to Something To Die For, as well as other inspirations from music and pictures and I will be doing a giveaway as well.




I like painting the desert. I also like torturing myself with those 50 cent bottles of acrylic paint from the craft store instead of oils or whatever I’m supposed to use that probably costs a lot more.

I hope you’ll join me for the story behind the story.


Something To Die For

(a brief update on the Southern Living Best Chocolate Chip Cookies EVER recipe experiment mentioned in my first post: it’s 3/4 butter and 1/4 shortening. Is that the secret to making it the best? Stay tuned)

Something To Die For Release Party!

March 19, 2015

Okay, boys and girls! Sit down and strap yourselves in ‘cuz we gon’ have a release party!

The Dreamspinner Press people were so kind to let me, Piper Doone, steal the blog today to talk about Something To Die For, out March 18.

I mean, sure, I had to sneak past three security guards, four locked doors, and barricade the door behind me, but the point is that they haven’t broken that door down yet, so until that happens, this baby is all mine!


Stay tuned for behind the scenes insights, music, inspirations, a giveaway, and possibly even an honest review of the new cookie recipe I’m trying out in between posts (I picked up an old Southern Living cookbook that promises they are the best cookies ever. We’ll see).

Something To Die For

Josh Tucker lives a blessed life—great job, great family, perfect husband, and two wonderful children—but a mysterious man named Adam who haunts his dreams and soon his waking life threatens everything when he stirs doubt as to whether any of it is real. Adam makes Josh question the world he’s taken for granted—as well as the origins of Adam himself.

Even if Adam’s claims are true, Josh has nothing to live for beyond his fabricated life—except the possibility of a real man out there somewhere who can love him. Josh is left with an impossible choice: stay in his delusion where he’s assured some happiness or take a great leap of faith for a chance to make a life with Adam.

Release Party MOMENT OF TRUTH – Part Four

March 5, 2015

It’s Karen Stivali here for one last time this evening. I’d hoped to post this earlier but my internet went out. I know, it happens to everyone and it’s not a big deal. Oh, wait…that’s not internet. ;)

Since it’s later than I intended I’ll just post a few quick teasers from MOMENT OF TRUTH. Please remember, if you haven’t read this series yet, it’s best to start with Book One, MOMENT OF IMPACT, as Collin and Tanner’s journey through young love is told as three separate stories that take place at different phases of their lives. You can grab Book One for only 99 cents until March 7 (sale price available at Amazon, B&N, ARe or right here on Dreamspinner).

And for those of you who’ve read both books, don’t worry, there’s not too long to wait for Book Three. MOMENT OF CLARITY will release the first week in May (and the same day a paperback collection of all three books will also be available)! If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook you’ll be the first to see my cover reveal in a few weeks (and since I got a peek at it this week I can tell you if you like the first two covers, you’re gonna like this one!). :)

Without further delay, here are a few snippets….

MOT teaser 3

And here are a few lines from one of my favorite scenes in the book…what can I say, I love the really steamy scenes. I’m happy when my characters are having fun! (you can click it to enlarge if it’s too small to read—I won’t make the dirty joke that’s in my mind right now)


If you didn’t win a prize today (or even if you did) please consider stopping by to chat with me on Saturday (March 7) when I takeover the Dreamspinner Facebook account from noon-2pm EST. There will be more giveaways and maybe an excerpt or two!

And please consider attending a multi-author event I’m hosting on Facebook on March 18 with a group of my m/m author friends! Lots of giveaways and other fun to be had! (If Facebook won’t let you join, sent me a PM and I’ll invite you!) Click HERE for link.

newest FB banner

Thanks again for joining me for my release party! Don’t forget to check the comment section of the previous posts to see if you had a winning comment! Looking forward to the next release so I can come chat with all of you again. In the meantime maybe I’ll see you on Facebook or Twitter!


Moment Of Truth Release Party – Part Two

March 5, 2015



Hello everyone, Karen Stivali, back again. I think the harshness of this winter has finally gotten to me (looking out my window in New Hampshire I see about five feet of snow on everything, and that’s after two days of thawing) so I’m going to talk about the location where MOMENT OF TRUTH takes place: Fire Island.

For those of you not familiar with the northeastern US, Fire Island runs parallel to New York’s Long Island and it’s a beautiful beachy paradise. There’s not much there other than tons of beaches, a few shops, some cool restaurants and night clubs, and miles of trails to walk or bike. No cars are allowed on the island so when you’re there you really feel like you’re away from it all. Like a summer vacation should make you feel!

For Collin and Tanner, spending the summer living on Fire Island not only means an escape from their conservative college town to a much more liberal environment where it safe for them to be “out” as a couple, it also means that Collin is free from the prying eyes of family. It’s like a fresh start for them as a couple. But, as with any summer, the time is limited, so the future—back at school—is always looming in the background.

That’s not to say Collin and Tanner don’t make the most of their summer. They do! From time on the beach to enjoying some of the local clubs and restaurants they definitely get the full vacation experience even though they’re both busy working (Collin as a waiter and Tanner as a bartender).

I’ve been to Fire Island a few times but the beach I visited most recently was Nantucket (pictured in the lovely sunset above and again here).


I love the beach but I’m not a typical beach person. Too much sunlight makes me jittery and gives me a headache. My favorite time on the beach is sunset or later. I love strolling along the water or sitting on the sand and watching the waves roll in and out in the moonlight. It’s so peaceful and relaxing and beautiful.

My favorite beach is probably Ocean City, New Jersey because it’s the perfect old-fashioned (homemade fudge and donut shops, fresh salt water taffy, miles of boardwalk to bike or stroll) beach town but it’s close enough to Atlantic City that if you want something more lively it’s only a twenty minute drive away. I also love Narragansett, Rhode Island  and Nantucket because their beaches are covered in gorgeous polished stones that look more like river rocks than something you’d find on a beach. I can never leave without a heavy collection of them weighing down my beach bag!


Are you a beach person? Do you have a favorite beach to visit? Would you rather live at the beach full time if you could, or do you prefer it as a special vacation getaway? Tell me in the comments below and again one random winner will be selected to win an ebook at the end of the day today!

Release Party MOMENT OF TRUTH (Book 2 of the Moments In Time series) – part one

March 5, 2015



Hi everyone! I’m Karen Stivali and I’ll be here for the next few hours to talk about my brand new release MOMENT OF TRUTH!


I’m super excited about this release because MOMENT OF TRUTH is the second book in my Moments In Time series. I have absolutely loved every minute that I spent writing about Collin and Tanner, the two college students who experience all the ups and downs of first love together over the course of the three books in this series.  The first book in this series, MOMENT OF IMPACT (on sale this week for 99 cents!), is a coming of age/coming out story that shows how Tanner and Collin, college roommates, discover that they think of each other as a lot more than friends. Here’s the blurb:


Outside Collin Fitzpatrick’s dorm room is a dangerous place. Beyond his door the students of his small, conservative college think he’s straight, as does his Catholic family who’d disown him if they learned the truth. Inside, he’s safe with his incredibly sexy roommate Tanner D’Amico. Their room makes a perfect place to hide away and fall in love. The moment they cross the line from roommates to lovers, Collin becomes caught between their heavenly passionate encounters and the hellish reality that someone might find out and destroy everything. Tanner’s not used to being so confined, and wants to show the world how much he loves Collin. But Collin’s not sure he’s ready for the impact stepping outside will make.



MOMENT OF TRUTH takes place a few months later, when Collin and Tanner decide to spend the summer together in the much more liberal and accepting environment of Fire Island.


Collin expected to spend another summer fixing cars and working at the college pizzeria. Instead, he’s living in a beach house on Fire Island, waiting tables at a hip seaside restaurant and, for the first time since he and Tanner got together, they can publicly be known as boyfriends. Being “out” takes some getting used to, but with the help of new and old friends, Collin is happier than he ever imagined. And more in love. But newfound freedom brings unexpected challenges, and when friends get flirty, old insecurities arise. Moments of doubt and jealousy threaten their happiness, and Collin and Tanner must confront the truth or risk losing it all.



This is definitely a series that’s best read in order because each book is a complete story that takes place at very different times in their relationship. There are no cliffhanger endings (I can’t stand them as a reader, so I’d never write one—I promise!), just an opportunity to watch their relationship evolve as these two young men are confronted by a variety of life’s trials.

I don’t usually title my books until I’m well into writing the story. At some point while I’m writing I’ll think of something that just “fits” and that’s never been more the case than in the series. While writing the first book it occured to me how many specific moments there were in the story where Collin, the point-of-view character, had his life completely change. You know the kind of moments I mean. The ones where you look back on a memory and you realize that there was a specific second where something happened that altered everything that happened after it. Collin has several moments like that in book one, several experiences where the IMPACT of that one MOMENT changes everything. Hence the title MOMENT OF IMPACT.

When I decided to write more of Collin and Tanner’s story, I focused on what the defining moments would be in each phase of their relationship and that’s how the other titles were born. I loved finding the different pieces of their lives that would be so life-altering and would change them as individuals and as a couple. There are several MOMENTS OF TRUTH in book two as this couple grows and matures.

So now it’s time for my question to you. What were some of the most defining moments in time in your life? The realization you were in love with someone? The decision of where to go to college? A mean thing you said and couldn’t take back? A good choice? A bad one? A freak accident? Tell me one of your most memorable moments in the comments below and I’ll choose a random winner (at the end of the day) to win an e-copy of MOMENT OF IMPACT (and if you already have that, then it’ll be your choice of my other titles).

The importance of fathers — (A Wounded Promise)

March 4, 2015


Hope you aren’t sick of me yet! This is Ashavan Doyon coming to you from the Dreamspinner Press Blog. I know, that last post is a bit of a downer. An important one for the story, but still hard to talk about.

I wanted to touch on one last theme before I pick the winners and let you all off to read the story yourselves! One of my favorite characters in the Sam’s Café Romance stories is Justin’s dad, Sam. We see a lot of Sam in The King’s Mate, but in A Wounded Promise we get only glimpses. But the glimpses we get are critical ones.

One of the things I wanted with the character of Sam was a parent who had struggled with his son coming out, but one who came quickly to acceptance. I’ve tried to reach that in a few stories, but I think it’s the Sam’s Café Romances where I succeed the most. This is a parent in whom Justin confides. While we don’t know really what kind of relationship Justin had with his mom, it’s clear his relationship with his dad is one of trust.

In an early scene, Sam and Justin are talking about Justin being frightened. It’s an important scene, because you really get that Sam loves and trusts his son.

“But what do I do now? I ran away.”

Sam slid off the ledge and held out a hand.

“Let’s get you home.”

“I need to get back to Russ,” Justin said. “But I’m still scared.”

“Justin.” Sam was looking at him with a sad sort of smile.

“What is it, Dad?”

“I meant your home, not mine.”

I love you, Dad.

Justin hugged Sam fiercely.

“Don’t think this means I like it.”

Justin grinned. “I didn’t expect it’d be fighting with my lover that got you to admit that I’m living there now.”

“Hard to miss. House is too damn quiet without you.”

 There’s a closeness between the two of them I think I envy a little bit. It’s a relationship I saw sometimes with my brother and my dad, but I never had. Maybe it’s because I didn’t have it that when I write an accepting parent it tends to be the father?

So, this is the last chance to win a copy of the ebook for A Wounded Promise. Tell me about your favorite father figure in a male/male romance. I’ll also be here watching the comments, so feel free to just chat too.

And importantly, that buy link again, in case you don’t win!


Broken — (A Wounded Promise)

March 4, 2015



This is Ashavan Doyon, back again to talk about A Wounded Promise.

So I wanted to talk a little about trauma, and Justin’s particular feelings. Specifically, the difficulties he has as a survivor of sexual assault.

This is something Justin talks to Russ about relatively early in the fledgling moments of their relationship in The King’s Mate. It’s also at the root of much of Justin’s fear. We see this almost immediately. Sam’s reaction to Justin fleeing the home he’s been working to build with Russ. Sam says as much: (one more edit… block quote is not showing up, so I put the excerpt in italics instead)

“I haven’t seen you like this in a long time.”

“Since Peter.” Justin closed his eyes. It was hard to see, but Sam noticed. After Peter, Sam had learned to notice a lot of things.

“You need to know, Justin, I’ll always believe you. I don’t care if he’s—”

“It wasn’t that.” Justin looked up, and Sam’s heart splintered again. The steel-blue eyes that were the mirror of Sam’s own seemed to almost drown in the red that surrounded them.

“You cried all night?” Sam asked softly.

Justin’s answer was a shy nod and a look away.

“I mean it. I’ll believe you.”

“I know you will. It wasn’t that. I promise it wasn’t.” Justin pulled at the blankets with his toes. After a moment he let out a very long sigh. “We had a fight.”

Sam nodded. “I guessed. He hit you?” Sam braced himself for a yes.

An ongoing theme in the story is Justin’s struggle not to see himself as broken. I didn’t want the idea of Justin being a survivor to just disappear. He absolutely remains affected by his experience, and it’s the unexpected interaction between those triggers and Russ’s drunken anger that leads to Russ waking up alone at the start of the story. It’s important to me that a character being sexually assaulted isn’t some minor plot point. When I included that detail in The King’s Mate, I knew I had to bring it back to the forefront in the sequel. I hope I’ve done that some justice.

What are your favorite stories that deal with some element of survivorship? Comments for my remaining posts tonight count as entries to win a copy of A Wounded Promise in ebook format.


Forgot that pesky buy link again. You know you want to… just click buy now when you get to the page!

All about covers — (A Wounded Promise)

March 4, 2015



And I’m back… sorry about that, travel time between the day job and home got in the way. For those just joining the party (we’re serving mocktails, people, as no one here seems to be the drinking sort!), this is Ashavan Doyon talking about my new release, A Wounded Promise.

I wanted to spend a few minutes talking about the cover. For The King’s Mate, because it’s a novella in an anthology, I didn’t have any say over the cover. It wasn’t quite long enough to get it’s own, so it has the standard anthology cover of a hot shirtless guy at a baseball field with my title and name below it. That was good (there was no need for trying to maintain consistency) and bad (consistency helps hold a series together). So for A Wounded Promise I was entering with a clean slate. It was exciting to finally try to put a little more imagery to the story.

For covers you fill out a cover request with some details… title, author, subtitle. Preferred styles. What covers did you particularly like. That gets you paired with an artist, who is given a brief synopsis, some physical descriptions of the characters. I try to include pictures, if I can, to give an idea of what I’m looking for.

I have to say, cover artists have a hard job. Unless I started with a picture or model in mind, I can spend hours trying to find something remotely close. For Russ I wanted to get the silver/gray. He’s young for that coloring, so the only pics I could find were older. This is the one I finally sent, with a note that Russ, of course, would be in a suit:


Justin was easier and harder at the same time. While drunken anger instigates the drama, a lot of the conflict, most of it, really, is Justin. While Russ has angst, and the drinking is an expression of that, he’s had time and experience — and friends — that helped him cope. Justin has kept his angst bottled in, and I hoped that the artist could find a model that conveyed innocence and vulnerability. Of course searching the internet doesn’t find models the artists can actually use, which means trying to convey an idea, and that can be a struggle. Here was my model for Justin:


I think the artist did a great job coming up with images that fit those molds, and I’m especially happy with the model for Russ, because there is an age difference in the characters, and having a younger graying model here is important, because Russ isn’t so much older that the relationship should squick people, but the gray can make it seem so.

What really impressed me though was that the artist really took those vague images and managed to convey the angsty conflict that is in the novella. I’m really happy with it.

This is the last post to comment for a chance at a copy of The King’s Mate, so I hope you’re still up for some discussion! Do cover images influence how you imagine the characters? Do you prefer the sort of faceless bodies on covers, or do you like to see the whole character? Let me know!

And, of course, don’t forget to buy the book!