T.J. Masters
Passionately Writing Passion

Writing

Bear Among the Books – Available 2nd September!

My latest novel, Bear Among the Books, will be published by Dreamspinner Press on Friday 2nd September! Here’s the blurb as well as an excerpt. You’ll find a pre-order link at the bottom of this post.

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Forty-eight-year-old Ben Thompson is a librarian, a passionate book lover, and a man who embodies the definition of a bear. He’s also lonely after the loss of his long-term partner. Young ex-gymnast Jason Barnes piques his interest, but Ben quickly realizes there’s more to Jason than his good looks. While Jason visits the library almost every day, he never checks out a book.

With gentle persistence, Ben befriends Jason and learns the nineteen-year-old’s tragic secrets. After years of abuse at his father’s hands, Jason was kicked out of his family home for being gay. And despite his apparent love of books, Jason never learned to read. Ben offers to teach him, and the two men bond over their lessons. Ben can’t deny his attraction to Jason, but he wonders if Jason is too young and too handsome to return his interest. With the help of the close-knit library team and Jason’s growing self-confidence, they move beyond the books and into the bedroom, where their own story is just beginning.

 

Why do so many teenagers leave school unable to read?

In the early planning stages of this novel I decided that one of my main characters was going to be an illiterate teenager who had been failed by the adults throughout his troubled young life. When I first mentioned this to people I got a very bemused response from most. After all, why would Jason spend all his time hanging around in a library if he couldn’t read?

For most of my working life I was a primary school teacher with a passionate belief in the effective teaching of reading. I believe that only reading can open up the widest possible range of opportunities for success in learning. I feel that it is a failure of my profession that so many young people manage to leave school lacking the most basic literacy skills and ill equipped to make their way in the modern world.

There are many reasons why children might fail to learn how to read. Unfortunately our education system assumes that our young people will have learned to read before they get to secondary (high) school. Once there, they face a subject curriculum which has no time for the teaching of reading. In the book, Jason is a bright guy who has had a difficult home and school life. This is a young man who is intelligent enough to understand what he is missing and he aches for the knowledge which he sees as hidden in books and lost to him. Like many illiterate adults Jason feels great shame at his predicament and he has developed a whole range of clever coping mechanisms to survive in a world full of words.

It should be a matter of shame to all of us that that recent studies have ranked English teenagers as among the least literate in the developed world (OECD 2015). One more recent study by Sheffield University has found that as many as 17% of UK teenagers are leaving school as functionally illiterate. More specifically they say that one fifth of teens between the ages of 16 and 19 have a reading age of 11 or below!

This may sound depressing but in real life as in the novel, there are people like librarian Ben who are willing and able to make a difference. We just need many more of them.

 

EXCERPT:

Daisy joined me behind the front desk. “I’ll take over here. You’d better go and get on with something important, but keep your eye on him, that’s all.”

Clearly I was not responding as I was supposed to, and I was now being dismissed. “Thanks, Daisy. Actually I feel like doing something a bit more mundane, so I’ll take the returns trolley and stack some books.”

Indeed this might appear like a mundane task, but it gave me an excuse to tour the stacks and check that all was well. Any time spent among the books was also a welcome distraction from admin jobs. I also liked to greet our regulars when I saw them around the place, and I knew a good many of them by name.

As I rounded the stack into the second bay of the fiction section, there was our young hoodlum Jason, sitting cross-legged on the floor, with an open book in his lap. He didn’t appear to be reading, unless he was a speed reader. He was methodically turning the pages over, one after another. Jason looked up and almost seemed on the verge of tears.

“Hello.” I wasn’t sure how to interact with him yet. “It’s Jason, isn’t it?” I tried not to sound too familiar.

“Yes, that’s right.” He closed the book and started to get up.

“I didn’t mean to disturb you. No need to move on my account.”

“That’s okay. This book is boring anyway.” Jason was now standing there looking down at the cover of the book, as if unsure what he was doing.

“What kind of thing do you like to read?”

Jason looked up, and once again his fresh face and beautiful bright eyes stilled me. He seemed to be thinking about how to respond.

“I just like good stories, but I like reading information too, like science or nature.”

“Well that gives you plenty to choose from, then.”

Again he glanced at the book in his hands. “I guess so.”

Jason turned to the shelves, and as he moved to replace the book, I saw there was one on the shelf resting over on its spine, apparently marking its position. As if to confirm this, Jason slid his book in beside the marker book, and then he lifted it back into its correct position.

“If you ever need any help or want suggestions for things to read, just ask. I’m always happy to help.”

“Okay, thanks.” Jason flashed his amazing smile and looked at his watch. “I need to get going. See you later.” Jason looked at me as if he was trying to remember something.

“It’s Ben.” I saw him smile at his own memory lapse. “Don’t forget to collect your library card from Daisy at the front desk.”

“Thanks Ben. Bye for now.”

I watched as our handsome hoodlum strode across the room to leave, and with a sigh of great satisfaction, I went back to replacing books on shelves.

Pre-order from Dreamspinner Press.

New Release: Diary Dates

 

DiaryDatesFSThis Saturday saw the release of my latest story Diary Dates by Dreamspinner Press as part of their Christmas in July promotion. The story centres upon postgraduate student Andrew Chin who arrives in London not only to study, but to explore life away from his traditional family in Singapore. His adventure begins at the airport, where he finds the diary of a wealthy British businessman and endeavors to return it.

James Howard is twice Andrew’s age, and he’s not used to selfless youngsters. Despite a rocky first meeting, the two develop an unlikely friendship as James introduces Andrew to the city. James is looking forward to the festivities leading up to Christmas in London and maybe a celebration with Andrew. But will a nasty bout of the flu ruin their romantic holiday?

Not if Andrew has anything to say about it.

Excerpt

Andrew remembered the diary. Eager to get it back to its owner, he called the number he’d found in the book, but it went to voice mail.

A well-spoken masculine voice confirmed that it was the phone of James Howard. Suddenly feeling self-conscious, Andrew hung up while he decided what he was going to say. In the end he left a simple message telling Mr. Howard that he had found his diary at the airport and wanted to return it as soon as possible.

Jenny suggested they go out, so they left everything and ventured out into the busy London streets. After walking around, taking in the sights, they grabbed a sandwich for lunch from a coffee shop. Just as they were trying to decide where to try next, Andrew’s phone rang and he recognized the number on the screen as the same one that he had dialed earlier. Feeling a little nervous, Andrew answered. “Hello?”

“Hello, yes. You left a message earlier about my diary.” The man sounded business-like.

“Oh, yes, I think you left it at the airport. How can I bring it to you?”

“Thank you for calling me. My whole life is in that book. I will pay you a finder’s fee, of course. Can you bring it to me at my office?”

“I’m sorry, what is a finder’s fee?” Andrew had never heard the term before.

“I will pay you a reward for bringing the diary to me.” The man sounded a little impatient.

“Ah, no, Mr. Howard, I do not want any reward. Just to give your book back to you.” Such a thing had never occurred to Andrew, and it was certainly not what he intended. “I have only come to London today, but if you can tell me where to come so I will bring the diary to you.”

“My office is near Euston Station. Can you come there?”

Andrew remembered the name from the journey earlier. “Yes, I think that is not far. When can I come there?” He hoped that the man would not say now, because Andrew needed to go back to the flat to collect the diary first.

“I’ve got meetings this afternoon. Can you come at five o’clock?”

“Yes, sure.”

“I’ll text you the address. When you come to reception tell them who you are. They’ll be expecting you.”

“Okay, Mr. Howard. I’ll go there at five o’clock.”

For a moment Andrew thought the man was going to hang up without saying anything more, but then he suddenly asked, “Can you tell me your name?”

“Oh, sorry, sir. My name is Andrew, Andrew Chin.”

“Chinese name?”

“Yes sir, I arrived from Singapore today.”

“Okay, Andrew, I must go. Thanks for contacting me.”

“No problem, Mr. Howard.”

The man at the other end had already hung up. Andrew, in his usual kind way, assumed that the man’s abrupt manner on the phone was just because he was a busy, important person.

Andrew told Jenny what was going on, but she said she couldn’t go with him because she was having a tryout for a waitressing job later. A text from Mr. Howard provided Andrew the address of his office. After looking it up, he decided that he could make his way there on his own.

They wandered the streets for another couple of hours and then went back to the flat so that Jenny could get ready for work. While he was waiting, Andrew looked up James Howard’s company on the Internet. It was a world leader in technical ceramics and Mr. Howard was the company’s CEO.

Jenny had warned him that he would arrive at his destination far too early if he left just after four, but he was nervous about being late. So it was that just half an hour later he arrived at the address and found himself in front of a modern office building.

He still had another twenty minutes to wait for the appointed time. Not wanting to be seen yet, he carried on walking until he reached the end of the road, where a low wall marked the boundary of another building set back a little from the road. Sitting himself down on the wall, Andrew took off his rucksack and removed Mr. Howard’s diary in its protective plastic bag.

Beyond the initial search for the owner’s details, Andrew had left the book unopened. Once he had realized that the book was a diary, it became a private thing. Now, however, the thought that the diary was about to pass out of his hands again nudged Andrew to take a look at it. If nothing else, he wanted to see whether the diary would give him any clues about the man he was about to meet.

The thick band holding the book closed was essential, since it held so many loose bits of paper and business cards between its pages. Removing this carefully, Andrew ran his slender fingers over the spine and cover. The black surface felt almost like fine leather, although it was too thin to be real. All the entries in the diary were neatly written, probably with an ink pen. This idea seemed a bit old-fashioned, but at the same time quite stylish. The multiple appointments on almost every page showed that this James Howard was indeed a busy man.

One of the most telling things was the odd pages, which were full of doodles. These were either geometric patterns or tiny drawings, but all quite neat. Maybe some of those meetings were not so interesting.

Another curious observation was that there was little difference between some of the weekend pages and those for the weekdays. Did this man never take a day off?

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Dreamspinner buy link:

https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/diary-dates-by-tj-masters-7305-b

Also available on Amazon and ARE

Writing Goals 2015

During 2014, there was a lot I wanted to write. Unfortunately, life interfered in some unexpected ways and my plans withered. This year I’m determined to start off with a different head and set firm but attainable goals to further my writing career.

I could of course set some goals and keep them to myself, but that gives me too much wiggle room to make excuses to myself for not getting anything done. If I publish my intentions publicly, then I can be held to account over them – and, hopefully, I can also be encouraged and supported along the way.

As a Life Coach I have a strong feeling for meaningful goal setting. We often overuse the term ‘journey’, but it’s a meaningless word unless we have a destination to aim for. Once the destination is chosen, we can plan an effective journey to get us there. All my goals are meant to be challenging, achievable and measurable.

People often talk about ‘SMART’ goals, which are supposed to be:

  • Specific – A positive, inspiring statement of intent.
  • Measurable – Both the end goal and the steps along the way.
  • Agreed – Congruent with your personal values and believes, and also written down or published in some way. (The ‘A’ can also mean ‘Action-oriented’)
  • Realistic – Use evidence-based planning when setting your goals.
  • Timed – Have a start date, an end date and step goal dates along the way.

I need to treat writing as my full-time job. To that end, and based on my past efforts, I’ve decided to set the following goals for the coming year.

1) I will write a minimum of 500,000 words during 2015

Sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? But I know it’s achievable, and I’m breaking it down into the following steps:

  • Four planned novels of 80k words minimum each, which gives me 320k words in 12 months.
  • Two planned novellas of 50k words each, bringing my total to 420k words.
  • The remainder will be composed of short stories of 10-15k words each and blog posts, on which more below. 

2) Maintain and develop blogging habits

  • Post 1-3 blog posts per week across various sites, both my own and as a guest blogger on other sites.
  • Investigate podcasting and then build this into my blogging schedule, with an initial podcast to be uploaded by 1/4/2015.
  • Produce promotional videos and upload them to YouTube.

3) Develop more effective use of integrated social media streams

  • Refine my current use of Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, LinkedIn, Gaydar and Recon to promote the T.J. Masters ‘brand’.
  • Add Instagram and integrate into my existing streams.
  • Update and promote my author profile on the Dreamspinner Press website. This is a great tool, which I haven’t made the best use of yet. I’d also like to interact more with other Dreamspinner authors via the publisher’s Yahoo group by contributing to discussions there, rather than just watching from the sidelines.

4) Solidify the core ‘brand’

  • Monitor, update and refresh my websites
  • Monitor indie sales via Amazon and All Romance E-Books.
  • Add Smashwords as a sales/promotional point.

5) Finally, the following aims aren’t defined in terms of solid goals, but they are all things I’d like to explore over the course of the year:

  • Audio book offerings
  • Foreign market translations
  • Contributing to the UK Meet and EuroCon
  • Non-fiction writing (Social media guides and a blog-to-book project)
  • Print on Demand offerings
  • Cross-fertilisation with other author blogs and social media.
  • Making better use of writing technologies and software – e.g. Dragon, Livescribe, a digital voice recorder and Scrivener.

I’ll be setting myself definite steps along the way to mark progress. For anyone interested in seeing how it goes, I’ll be updating regularly on here, possibility with a monthly review of my progress.

For anyone who still thinks that a target of half a million words in one year is crazy, just do the maths! That works out to less than 42k words per month, less than 10k per week, and just under 1400 words a day. On a good day, I can quite easily write 5-7k words, so I do believe that it’s achievable. This is my job, after all, and I need to work at it.

For now, I can express all of these goals as three simple New Year’s resolutions:

  1. Write every day
  2. Read every day
  3. Engage every day

Happy New Year! 

Working Hard, Loving Harder: Pool Boy Dives In

I’m pleased to announce the seventh entry in the Working Hard, Loving Harder series!

Sexy young pool maintenance man Alistair arrives at a client’s home. There to sort out a problem with the swimming pool, Alistair is surprised to find Jake, the university student son of the family, laid out sunning himself naked at the poolside. The distraction proves to be too much and soon their mutual attraction leads to cold drinks and sun screen application. Next it is the short journey from the sunbed to the bedroom but along the way passion and the beginnings of real affection appear in equal measure.

Available now from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.

Working Hard, Loving Harder: The Carpenter Needs Wood

The series continues with book six: The Carpenter Needs Wood!

Carpenter Andy arrives at a new client’s flat to build some fitted wardrobes and bookshelves. The client, Tony, goes off to his job, leaving Andy to work in peace, but before he gets much done he meets Tony’s gay flatmate Chris on his sleepy way to the bathroom – naked. This unexpected introduction certainly breaks the ice and before long the two lusty young men are getting to know each other more intimately.

As the week progresses Andy does a fine woodworking job and enjoys the company of Chris too. This is more than just a physical attraction, and by the time the work is done the carpenter is ready to sweep his new lover off is feet. This he does by arranging a date in a novel but truly romantic way.

Available now from Amazon, Amazon UK and All Romance E-Books.

The Martian by Andy Weir

I just finished this book, and it was a gift of a read to a confirmed Science Fiction addict and space nerd like me. It’s not just that is was a great nail-biting story but it grabbed my attention as a self-publishing author and it should serve as an inspiration to all my self-pubbing friends.

NASA astronaut Mark Watney has been left stranded, presumed dead on the Martian surface, when the crew of the Aries 3 mission has to abandon its base during a sandstorm and launch themselves back towards Earth. Satellite imagery later reveals Watney’s activities around the base and news that he is still alive is soon a global sensation.

While Mars makes repeated attempts to kill its only inhabitant, NASA puts together an audacious rescue plan to bring him home.

The book became, for its author, that Holy Grail among novels: a debut mainstream best-seller. American Andy Weir was a computer scientist who began writing The Martian back in 2009. His aim was to make it as technically accurate and realistic as possible and so he studied astronomy, orbital mechanics and the history of manned spaceflight. The level of technical detail is quite staggering and it should be included as the emergency manual on all future missions to the Red Planet.

After being persuaded by literary agents that the book was unpublishable, Weir uploaded it to his website in 2011 and made it free to anyone who wanted it. Fans begged him for a Kindle compatible version and so in 2012 it was listed on Amazon for 99cents per copy. The book then sold thirty-five thousand copies in three months and rose to the top of the eBook, science fiction best seller list. Now the publishers were interested.

In January 2013 the audio book rights were purchased by Podium. Two months later Crown Publishing Group paid six figures for the print rights and in the same month Twentieth Century Fox bought the film option. In May 2014 it was reported that Ridley Scott was negotiating to film it with Matt Damon as Mark Watney.

I rarely write book reviews where the publication story gets more lines than the fictional one but to us indie authors the tale is an inspirational one. The story itself is phenomenal. Yes, it may be a little geeky in places and I would like to have seen some stronger secondary characters in it, but otherwise it is one of the best pieces of ‘pure’ science fiction that I’ve read for many years.

Working, Loving Harder: Carpets Get Laid

I’m pleased to announce the fifth story in my ‘Working Hard, Loving Harder’ series: Carpets Get Laid.

When Josh Spencer arrives to fit new carpets in the home of Ian Jacobs, he is immediately attracted to his handsome client. Ian seems keen to help the sexy carpet fitter and so the two men start to discover more about each other. It soon becomes clear that by the end of this job, it will be more than just carpets that get laid.

The book is available now from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk and All Romance E-Books.

Musings on the UK GLBTQ Fiction Meet 2014 (Or: Losing my Writer’s Meet Virginity!)

 

Just a week ago I was still a ‘Meet’ virgin, but no more. I’m just glad that if I had to lose my cherry that it was at the UK Meet in Bristol last weekend.

It was a weekend of many firsts for me. I went along with my own set of objectives in mind, but I couldn’t have known just how transformational such an event could be. All I’d wanted to do was:

  1. Increase my knowledge of the business.
  2. Get myself better known among my peers.
  3. Increase my social network.
  4. Sell some of my books.

It’s fair to say that those objectives were reached by the time we stopped for the first coffee break on day one.

During that mid-morning break I had my first epiphany of the weekend. A large number of the delegates attending the meet were readers. It was one of these who came up to me and told me how much she loved my books and how reading ‘Dear Santa, Dear Dad’ had resonated with her because of her relationship with her own father. Now, I’ve grown use to online reviews and comments both good and bad, but nothing can prepare you for the first time that a real person praises your writing face to face. By the time this lovely lady had finished I was trying to hold back my own tears and I’m not ashamed to admit it.

Every word I write matters to me, but surely the greatest joy for an author is to find that your words also matter to those who read them. That one encounter made the whole weekend worthwhile for me and yet it was only the start of things to come.

Another expected benefit for me was the positive impact that the weekend hadon my lovely long-suffering partner, who I’d dragged along with me. First of all we were both blown away by the incredibly warm, friendly people who made us both feel part of the ‘gang’ right from the start. For him also came the realisation that it was not just me, all writers appear to be equally as mad! Best of all was seeing and hearing the reactions of my peers, both writers and readers towards me. In his mind this gave value to my work and somehow vindicated my efforts.

Apart from the personal benefits, the programme for the weekend delivered a wealth of useful, practical and valuable content. The panel lead sessions were all delivered by experts and generated lively discussions. Whether you were a seasoned author or an unpublished writer, a reader or a publisher, there were many things to be shared and learned.

We all know that writing can be the most solitary, even lonely of occupations.Possibly the most beneficial outcome of the UK Meet was the feeling that we really are not alone. We do not work in isolation. We are all part of an amazing collective. In any other business we would be strident competitors and yet there is a shared love which truly embraces the most disparate of characters in mutual support and understanding.

The whole weekend was well organised and full of awesome content. There was a lot of fun to be had and plenty of networking opportunities too. All this and yet it was organised and managed by a small team of hard working fellow authors. I have been to professionally run business conventions where valuable lessons could have been learned from the amazing UK Meet team. There we no low points in the event at all, not even the usual post lunch slump, because there was just too much to be awake for. I’m sure that just like any smooth running operation there was a lot going on beneath the surface (writers can be Divas too) but they kept the swan gliding gracefully throughout.

All good things do end but even on the last afternoon I had yet another epiphany experience while listening to the outstanding final key-note speaker Aleksandr Voinov. His words served to pull together all the threads of the weekend and reminded us why we write. I have come to this game in the second half of my life and there are stories to be told, passions to be directed and causes to be fought for. Yes I achieved my objectives, had a lot of fun and made some very real friends. I can’t wait for UK Meet 2015 to come around.

I have come home with a goal blazing before me. Writing about passion, with passion.

I want to write

I need to write

I will write.

Taught to Love – A Romance of Unlikely Parts

Today, 4th June,sees the release of Taught to Love by Dreamspinner Press!

 Taught to Love is about the developing friendship and subsequent romance between Ken, a handsome widowed father and Rob, his son’s young gay teacher. Father and son are living with overwhelming grief following the death of the wife/mother in their lives, and teacher Rob awakens the father to his son’s difficulties at school and then agrees to deliver some private tuition for Sam. For Rob, of course, this has the added benefit of more time spent with Sam’s sexy dad!

Both Father and son benefit from Rob’s genuine support of them both and Ken begins to appreciate the difference this selfless young man is making in their lives. With the surprising encouragement of Sam who is concerned about his dad’s loneliness, the young teacher allows himself to be drawn ever closer to the object of his desire. The relationship then quickly develops from appreciation to affection and ultimately to sex.

Get it now:

DreamspinnerAmazon.com – Amazon.co.ukAll Romance E-Books

Working Hard, Loving Harder: Window Cleaner’s View

I’m pleased to announce the fourth story in my Working Hard, Loving Harder series: Window Cleaner’s View!

Young James Cooper is cleaning windows to cover for the regular guy who is in hospital. James has also been receiving therapy following his troubled early retirement from the Army. Whilst cleaning a customer’s windows James spies a sexy young guy indulging in some solo fun watching a gay porn movie in his bedroom. Soon the two guys get together and horny student Steve no longer needs porn to stimulate him. The attraction is purely physical at first but as the two men learn more about each other it appears that the connection is more than skin deep.

Window Cleaner’s View is now available on Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk and All-Romance E-Books.