16 March 2015

#Beyond: AF Henley

My Beta Reader (or, I don't know why this guy puts up with me, but I sure am glad he does)

When I agreed to do this event for Crystal's Many Reviewers I was torn between doing the interview and writing a guest post. Then I realised that getting interviewed would mean having to talk to an actual person, and I hastily clicked the little button for the guest post. A long sigh of relief followed, and I went about my day content in the knowledge that I'd once again avoided a taxing challenge. Until I got the list of prompts.

They were good questions, but they were hard as all hell. (Hard, hard, everything's hard in gay romance, or so my friend Kelly has been known to say.) The problem is, with certain questions I tend to either wax poetic, see: how much of yourself ends up in the story, or I get so damn vague that nobody knows what I'm talking about, see: story inspiration. Seriously, before you know it I'll be going off on the concept of creating reality from fiction just by writing it, and I have no doubt you'll think I should be committed. Although, if you know me, you probably already think I should.

I digress, though. My sanity isn't the subject matter I decided to tackle. Not here, anyway.

So after I spent several minutes stroking off—Questions! Stroking questions off the list! What is wrong with you people?!—I landed on this prompt:

"Beta readers, do you use them? How do you pick? Do you change up each book? How much weight do they carry in actually structuring the story?"

And it all clicked, and here we are.

There really is only one way to answer that first question: Hell yes, and not nearly as much as I'd like to use him. Don't tell his life partner that I said that, though.

I can't say that I ever really picked my Beta reader, and I don't think there was ever a conscious moment within our friendship where he slipped from being someone that I could bounce ideas off of, into someone that actually took my words and came back with criticism on them. It just happened.

I've tried to recall which short story it was that he beta'd on my behalf first, but for the life of me, I can't. I know the first one that I wrote and posted was for him, and it was based on our mutual love of co… uh… coffee shops. I know that he's read every single word that I've written, before I would ever think of publishing it, since 2012, and that includes everything from novels to blog posts.

So, no, I wouldn't ever consider changing up my Beta. Not for anything, to be honest. For one thing, I think he's actually arrived at the point where he doesn't sweat buckets over telling me that I've accidentally typed feet instead of teeth. And besides, he knows when to duck and/or weave at the right moment to avoid the balls of papers (staplers, mobile phones, bottles of lotion) that get launched at him.

Figuratively, of course… that's the other thing my Beta has going for him – there are miles and miles of both land and ocean between us, which renders him safe from my initial reactions of rage and hostility. (For now, my friend. For now. I'll get you and that demon to Canada yet. ;))

I'll answer the last part of that question in all seriousness, however. How much weight does his opinion hold to the structure of the story? A lot. A ton. A fuck-ton. It has to. He respects my work, he loves my characters, and he's taken the time before reading to understand what it is I'm trying to say, how I think it should be said, and why I need to say it. He's a reader, a supporter, and wants what's best for the story. He wants me to succeed. I wouldn't give him the story or ask for his opinion if he didn't, and he wouldn't take the time to do it otherwise.

A Beta is the first step on the path between creation and publication. If I'm not going to give his words credence, how in the hell am I going to manage with a publisher, an editor, or a reviewer? Maybe it helps that he's a friend of mine. Maybe it makes a difference that I know he holds no ulterior motives or misconceptions on my own motives. All I know for sure is that the kind of feedback you can get from someone who truly cares about your words is priceless. I know he bleeds when he has to tell me something should be corrected. And I know it damn near kills him to have to say that he doesn't think I'm headed in the right direction with a scene. But he still says it, because he cares about the end result. That is what a writer needs from a Beta. That's the whole point.

See, the right Beta makes sure the first few steps you take on that slippery, god-forsaken trek of ground between the Writing World and That Which Comes Beyond are solid and strong ones. They're like physiotherapy after an accident – this might hurt, but trust me, the pain you're going to feel without it will be threefold. Tenfold. A thousandfold. They're like that buddy that looks down at your sorry, hung-over ass and tells you to get out of bed and drink some damn water, even though they know they're about to get a pillow launched at their head, because the day is only going to start getting better once you do. It's a tough job, and it's a hard job, but it is by no means a thankless one. Not from me, anyway. I have few things I can pass on in return, but my thanks are always one of them. Even if I'm having to sop up the blood from my dripping pride while I'm doing it.

In all actuality, he does get rewarded for his efforts. In exchange for all of this work, he gets a signed, inscribed copy of my print novel. That's totally fair for hours of work, a ton of stress, and the unbearable agony of having to tell a friend they've done something wrong, right?

Actually, he "insists" this is something he "enjoys" and that he's "thrilled" to do it.

Yes, don't worry, his partner and I are considering getting him some therapy.

When they get to Canada. ;)

AF Henley <3
Henley was born with a full-blown passion for run-on sentences, a zealous indulgence in all words descriptive, and the endearing tendency to overuse punctuation. Since the early years Henley has been an enthusiastic writer, from the first few I-love-my-dog stories to the current leap into erotica. A self-professed Google genius, Henley lives for the hours spent digging through the Internet for ‘research purposes’ which, more often than not, lead seven thousand miles away from first intentions but bring Henley to new discoveries and ideas that, once seeded, tend to flourish.

Henley has been proudly publishing with Less Than Three Press since 2012, and has been writing like mad ever since—an indentured servant to the belief that romance and true love can mend the most broken soul. Even when presented in prose.
Road Trip
For as long as Boyd can remember, he's been pushing pins into a map. Carson City, Las Vegas, Albuquerque—all places he wants to see, for a dozen different reasons that wouldn't mean a thing to anyone else. When he finally gets a chance to purchase the '69 Road Runner of his dreams, at a price that even he can manage, Boyd jumps at the opportunity.

Oliver seems like just another kid with a broken dream when their paths cross in Vegas. Against Boyd's better judgment, he offers to let Oliver hitch along for the ride when Oliver confides the need to get out and get gone.

But it's not long before Boyd realizes Oliver's reasons for running are more complicated—and more dangerous—than Oliver let on. Boyd doesn't like people who play hardball, and he definitely doesn't like people messing with a man who's managed to light a fuse that Boyd forgot he had.

Published February 11, 2015
Contemporary Gay Romance
The Chase and The Catch
After one of his fans committed suicide, John lost everything: lover, confidence, drive. When he is given a chance to get back on his feet, he is happy to take it—even if it's just writing an actor's biography. It might not be romance, or even fiction, but it's something, and there are worse people to work for than the charming, successful Parker Chase.

That doesn't mean working for Parker is easy, however. A staunch supporter of living for the moment, Parker goes against everything John believes in. He feels out of place in every moment of Parker's Hollywood life, stuck in a game of wits that at times seems almost contrived...

Published November 19, 2014
Gay Contemporary Romance
Forty-two Stairs
Owen has been struggling with addiction since he was a teenager, but it takes a DUI involving another vehicle for him to finally face his issues. The road to recovery is a rough one, and for Owen it's a journey made harder by bankruptcy, loneliness, and repressed memories.

His new apartment doesn't help either. It's small, worn, and hot as hell. The only way to reach it is a tedious stretch of stairs that seems like the final insult on top of a whole pile of misery. Thankfully, the mess comes with one bright spot: intense, pretty Sebastian, who seems to have a knack for keeping his head up and finding the beauty in everything.

Published June, 2014
Contemporary Gay Romance
Second Star to the Right
Be it unrequited fascination with his straight best friend or impossible fantasies of rekindled interest with his heartbreaking ex, Mason has no clue why the perfect connection seems to keep slipping through his fingers. When another lonely holiday seems like too much weight to shoulder, Mason gives up on romance and seeks out the next best thing—rented company. Jack is everything a person could want in an escort: willing, hot, and built like an angel.

Mason can't resist. After all, who wouldn't be interested in a guy who loves kid's movies, is a self-professed Peter Pan, and has no problem throwing caution to the wind at a moment's notice. But then interest quickly blooms into a whole new emotion—an emotion that Mason knows far too well, especially when Jack has no interest in returning it, preferring to keep his heart safely tucked away in Neverland.

Published February, 2014
Contemporary Gay Romance
Vision Quest
When Arik Beltrán checks into a hotel on business, he expects the tedium of unfamiliar beds and boring meetings. He expects to meet a financial client and be home before the solitude of being a stranger in a mundane land becomes too much to bear.

Instead Arik finds Blaze: a mysterious man with an inner fire that lives up to the name. Nothing in Arik's life, not his deranged father nor even his faint brushes with the magic only Arik can see in the woven web of life could have prepared Arik for the man in the hotel lobby who casually invites Arik to room 1109 for late night ... well, anything at all.

Blaze Zaituc, on the other hand, knows exactly who Arik is and what Arik needs: Blaze. He has crossed land and sea to find the man who has appeared in Blaze's Visions as the next target in the Quest that comprises Blaze's life. Arik is someone for whom the Universe has plans, and Blaze must make sure Arik complies. Or else.

Unaware of the lives and risks hanging in the balance, Arik untangles himself from the sheets in the silent hours of the morning. He wonders if he will find the door to 1109 open and waiting. He's not a risk taker, but this one time, just this once, maybe he'll take a chance...

And seal both his and Blaze's destinies forever.

Published April, 2014
Fantasy Gay Romance – Free Read
the Gift
Doren was born with a powerful gift—a gift he's managed to use to put him well on his way to becoming a star. But there is more to that gift than just musical talent, and as careful as Doren is to hide that fact, there are some who know of the power behind the sound, and all the ways they could abuse it.

August's goal in life is simple: make an impact in the music industry. An opportunity to work as the personal assistant to Doren seems to be exactly the kind of break he needs to accomplish that goal.

But all too often in life, simple becomes just another complication, especially when there are people whose goal is even simpler: destroy and dominate.

Published December, 2013
Paranormal Gay Romance
Thicker Than Water
Ladomer's first experience with vampires instilled a deep hatred—an emotion he gladly uses to bring destruction to the beasts that can't be purged from his memory. Hunting alongside the compelling man who saved his village, Ladomer and Zor are ruthless in their quest to stop the growing threat.

When a new call pulls them deep into Eastern Europe, Ladomer learns anew just how cruel vampires can be—and how much deeper love can go.

Published October, 2013
Fantasy Gay Romance (Novella)

At thirty-six Ian feels done with the world. When a night at a bar goes as poorly as expected, he wants only to return home to be miserable in peace. Instead, he encounters Jordan. Hot, young and interested, Jordan is everything Ian's ever wanted and nothing he believes himself capable of actually obtaining.

Jordan has enough going on in his life trying to scrape together a living for himself and his autistic son. When he meets Ian, all he wants is a brief, erotic moment and nothing else.

But fate throws them together again and again, and Ian finds himself determined to do whatever it takes to give their story a happy ending—no matter what secrets Jordan's past has waiting for him.

Published July, 2013
Contemporary Gay Romance
Recently docked after a voyage abroad, Emmett wants only to find a warm bed and good food, for himself and the cabin boy he's taken into his care. Those plans are impeded, however, by an altercation in the streets—with a man he realizes too late is England's heir to the throne, Prince Andrewe.

When the encounter unexpectedly leads to a position in the royal household attending the prince, Emmett is not certain what to think. On one hand, it's a reliable income and ensures the safety of his charge. On the other, it's neither the life Emmett knows, nor an environment that he's comfortable in. Left to learn his lessons the hard way, Emmett spends his days contending with a spoiled, infuriating prince who leaves him in a constant tangle of emotions.

Then he begins to hear whispers of treason and must make a choice: defend Prince Andrewe, or betray him.

Published March, 2013
Historical Gay Romance
Dustin gave up on being worthy of anyone's affections a long time ago, drowning his problems in substance abuse and meaningless encounters. He has learned it's better to avoid love altogether than risk the inevitable moment when it all comes crashing down.

Nicolæ has neither eyesight nor excess, but he does have a wealth of family and intuition. He is nothing that Dustin would have anticipated in a potential lover, but the more Dustin discovers, the more he finds himself willing to accept the risk—even if his conscience and the people in his life keep warning him away.

Published October, 2012
Contemporary Gay Romance
I'd be happy to do a comment giveaway. I'll give away an eBook, in the format of the winner's choice, for any one of my backlisted novels, excluding anthologies. Backlist can be found here:


  1. I've been trying to explain the concept of what a good beta is and does for ages...and how incredibly valuable that trust truly is. Well said, sir! Hope you don't mind if I quote you from now on! :D <3

    1. You may quote at will, Vin! Thank you very much for the kind words. :D

      I seriously couldn't do half of what I do without his feedback and his support.

  2. VINVALEN!!! *glomp huggles*

    A-hem. Sorry.

    Beginning of this year, I'd put up something about proofreading and editing, and I had to be very specific that I'm not trying to be a Beta Reader. I was one for another author for one book, and it's a nerve-wracking experience. Can you imagine telling a bestselling author "Nope, this part didn't work for me."

    Beta Readers are of the utmost special status to writers. I'm married to mine now, but he'd been my Beta for years. He can tell me the hard stuff, and he knows that. He also knows he's the only person in my life who can and not get something sharp and pointy thrown in his general direction.

    A relationship is needed, and the understanding that the Beta isn't there to put one down as a writer. If it didn't make sense to a Beta, it may not make sense to the other readers. So...

    *raises glass*

    Here's to all the Beta Readers in the world, because the gods know, we may not have gotten anywhere without their undying, unwavering, and believe-in-everything-good-about-us support, some of us may not ever have made it to the publishing stage.

    And honestly, while I might not want to be a general Beta Reader, I've got a very tiny list of writers/authors I would love to be a Beta Reader to. Honestly. It is fun when it's not between strangers. =)


    1. *clinks glass with you* Amen, I say. Amen.

  3. *hugs you very, very tight* My friend. One day, I hope any human language will know the words fitting enough to let you know just how happy you made me and how grateful I am. For knowing you and for having the honour and privilege to know your awesome work. <3

    *whispers* It was Fault Lines and it will always be special to me, my friend. <3

    1. Omg yes! Fault Lines! How could I forget?! Thank YOU my friend. <3

  4. This was such an amazing post. Of course beta readers are important to the life of a writer, but you can tell that you've become so much closer than just writer and beta. I hope there are many more years and millions of words for the two of you. :)

    1. Thank you! He's become an amazing friend and even if he got sick to death of reading for me, he still would be. XD

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment! <3

    2. Please allow me to thank you as well for your kind words. :) His friendship is amazing and a blessing! And it is not a cliché when I say that I feel honoured to be his beta reader. :) I always have a great time! :D

    3. *hugs you* My friend, even eternities after the Universe has come to an end I will never get tired of reading your awesome work. <3