They say a picture’s worth a thousand words and we agreed! So, four years ago the Goodreads M/M Romance group decided that as part of their 2010 holiday celebration “25 Days of Christmas”, they would invite members to write a letter to Santa. These weren’t your typical “Dear Santa” letters. Oh no. These were very special letters that contained a sexy photo and a request that “Santa” fulfill their naughtiest Christmas wish by putting a steamy story in their stocking. Authors from the group were then encouraged to select a letter and write an original tale.
The result was an outpouring of creativity that shined a spotlight on the special bond between M/M romance writers and the people who love what they do. The 25 stories were posted in our group and then combined into a free anthology titled Stuff My Stocking: M/M Romance Stories that are Nice and… Naughty. This little anthology kicked off an annual story writing event that has grown in both size and scope every year since. While the exact details of each of these events may have changed a little, one thing has remained constant. Every story is provided free to the group members and then released as individual stories and anthologies to the general public. All for FREE!
You can download this free anthology at Goodreads.com here.
In 2011 we decided to brand our story writing event and our new slogan became Don’t Read In The Closet – Stories of coming out in love, being out in love and committing out in love. With no story limit in place this time, our picture prompt story writing event, Hot Summer Days produced 113 stories and was compiled into four volumes with a special fifth edition that contained the stories written by authors attending the very first GayRomLit retreat in New Orleans.
You can download all five volumes and the individual stories at Goodreads.com here.
Love Is Always Write , our 2012 Don’t Read In The Closet (DRITC) event, produced 147 stories which were compiled into 10 volumes with an 11th bonus volume containing three novel-length stories.
You can download all eleven volumes and the individual stories at Goodreads.com here.
Last year the DRITC event continued to grow and produce an amazing variety of M/M romance stories in every conceivable sub-genre. Love Has No Boundaries resulted in 190 stories published as a twelve volume set with two additional bonus volumes. The anthology volumes were downloaded over 19,500 times from our website and through AllRomanceeBooks.com, for a total of more than 100,000 downloads over all of the events. Individual stories from this event were downloaded more than 210,000 times and had an average word count of 16,571. Stories ranged from 2,367 to 103,775 words.
You can download all 14 volumes and the individual stories at Goodreads.com here.
As we get ready to launch our fifth DRITC writing event Love’s Landscapes , we wanted to take a minute to thank all of the volunteers who spend countless hours proof reading, editing and formatting all of these stories. It’s a tremendous amount of work and as the event has grown over the years, so too has the number of volunteers required to make it happen. Starting with the initial concept, the art work, the event planning and right on through to the resulting anthologies, these events have been a wonderful collaborative effort between the group moderators, the tireless army of volunteers and of course, the authors. We couldn’t do this without the generosity and talent of everyone who puts pen to paper and writes a story. Whether it’s a brand new writer or a well known author, the resulting stories celebrate M/M love in all its many forms and variations.
Here’s what just a few of the authors had to say about their experience writing a story for one of our events.
Tami Veldura – “Don’t Read In The Closet 2011 was my first public event in writing beyond my familiar haunts in fanfiction. At that point I’d had a short story accepted for publication, but I was still waiting on edits. I had no idea what the process was supposed to look like, so I devoured everything I could find on the internet, up to and including the extensive MM Romance group forums where I found the event.
The excitement surrounding two months of feverish writing of a story you know at least one person will adore is simply beyond description. I know my writing has improved since ’11 and it’s in no small part to the high-caliber stories I’ve read from the DRiTC event each year.
I honestly feel like it brings the whole community closer, there’s so much collaboration necessary to get the stories written, edited, formatted, and out as anthologies. I think my ’12 story has more reads and reviews than my traditionally published work. How’s that for a forum community?
There was such a huge rush for stories last year, I still feel lucky that I snagged one before submissions closed from overwhelming participation. All fingers crossed it remains stupidly popular.”
J.H. Knight – “My first story was posted in the 2012 DRITC event and it definitely gave me the courage to send in my first manuscript to a publisher. The experience was wonderful and, honestly, pretty educational. Everyone was very kind and supportive and I met a few new friends during the process. The most valuable lesson I came away with is there’s a reader for every story. If one person doesn’t like what you put out, there’s going to be another who adores it.”
Lia Black – “I participated last year for the first time (LHNB), and it was wonderful exposure. Worthy was BoM in several Goodread’s groups, and I have had many people reach out to me via pm/my website to let me know how much they liked the story and how they are looking forward to anything else I do in the future (and have done in the past). Being an indie author (who sucks at marketing), this one event did such an awesome job at getting my name out there! It’s also led me to plan (and begin writing) two more books set in that world.”
Kaje Harper – “When I did the Hot Summer Days event in 2011, I had one professional book published, along with two freebies. I was really fumbling my way into becoming a published author, unsure about promotion, looking for ways to get my name out that were also a win for readers and didn’t annoy anyone. HSD looked like it might be a good platform, but mainly it looked like fun. I’ve never been able to resist a story in response to a good prompt, and here were dozens of them.
Like the Taste of Summer received hundreds of page views, and dozens of lovely comments, in the first weeks of being posted on the group. In reviews, I saw several readers note, “This is the first story I’ve read by this author, but it won’t be the last.” I got more Goodreads fans and friend invitations in the week after it posted than in the month before. And once the story was out in other venues, it was downloaded thousands of times, and now has over 600 ratings on Goodreads.
I did the next two annual events mainly for the fun of it, and because the Goodreads M/M Romance group has been a great place to hang out and talk books. But they have also proven their worth in publicity – each story has received a bigger response than the last. Reviews have been enthusiastic, and after three years, and a dozen pro books, each story has still generated reviews saying, “This is the first Kaje Harper story I’ve read, and I’m going to look for more books by this author.”
Free writing is my favorite form of promotion. It’s something that makes me feel good, not worried or embarrassed about pushing my work. And it certainly seems to be a favorite of readers as well. With the huge membership in the group, all of them M/M fans, the writing event stories get far more readers and reviews than my other solo freebies do. Plus the whole event is a great way to hang out with a bunch of people who are enthusiastic about M/M romance and writing, and just have a good time.
No doubt I’ll be doing these events for as long as they are being run and I’m writing – may that be many years to come.”
Jaye McKenna – “When I participated in LHNB last year, I’d only been a member of the M/M Romance Group for a few months, and was in the process of polishing up some of my work to submit to a publisher. When the prompts went up for LHNB, one of them really grabbed me, so I took the plunge and claimed it. The result was the novella, Human Frailties. It was well received, and people kept asking about a sequel. I already had one that I had written right after I submitted the original story. The only problem was how to get it into the hands of the people who wanted to read it. I started looking into self-publishing and discovered that it wasn’t nearly as scary or difficult as I’d been led to believe. A few months later, I published the novel-length expansion of my LHNB story, Human Frailties, Human Strengths. That experience gave me the confidence (and the knowledge) to start self-publishing the rest of my stuff. I’ll always be thankful to the volunteers who put together LHNB and to the readers, who took the time to read my story and liked it enough to ask for a sequel, for giving me the push I needed to get started down this road.”
Nico Jaye – “I literally would not be a published author right now if it weren’t for the M/M Romance Group’s Don’t Read in the Closet writing event! The story I contributed to the Love is Always Write event in 2012 was the first story I’d ever written, and the supportive environment and super efficient and friendly team made it a wonderful way to dip my toes into the author pool. After participating in LiAW, my curiosity about writing was piqued, and I started to check submission calls. Before I knew it, my first submission was accepted for publication in an anthology, and the rest, so they say, is history.
I’m so grateful for the M/M Romance Group’s Don’t Read in the Closet writing events because, without them, I don’t know if I’d have had the confidence to write a story to completion and make it available for the public to read. I’ve participated in the event for two years now, and the freebies that I’ve written through Don’t Read in the Closet make it easy for readers who are new to my stories to try me out as an author. 🙂 The writing environment is so supportive and fun, and I’ve met a number of awesome people as an author through the events.”
CJ Anthony – “The “Don’t Read in the Closet” event is a great opportunity for new writers who either want to try writing for the first time, or maybe have just never been published before. The first story I ever wrote (Marking Time) was for this event and it was a perfect way to get a story “out into the world.” As an author you get an automatic readership for your story (the M/M Romance Group members) and you also get immediate feedback through comments, reviews and ratings. And Marking Time is still being discovered and read today because I periodically get PMs from readers about it. In fact it’s probably my most popular story so far.”
Chris Cox – “Early last year, I found the MMRomance group on Goodreads.com. As a big time lurker, I read all the old archives and listened in on a lot of threads–until one event pulled me into participating. When ‘Love Has No Boundaries’, the annual ‘Don’t Read in the Closet’ event was announced, I was curious. But then, members starting putting up photo prompts with author request letters and I HAD to play.
I had already planned to write MMRomance and was finishing up a contract in another genre. But this event had me too impatient to wait until that last contracted book was done. I grabbed a photo/letter and the words just happened. The editing process afterward was done with love and sincerity. The feedback was generous and professional. When I decided to expand that story idea into the Bayou Boys series, using Meant To Be (with a slight modification) as my cornerstone story, the series was given a very kind welcome by those who had read my original LHNB entry. (BTW, Meant To Be has often been in the top five free gay short stories on Amazon. I am VERY grateful for both the story prompts and for all the editing suggestions made by the Don’t Read in the Closet volunteers for that.)
I’m now finishing up on my 5th novella in the series and the ideas are still popping strong.”
Bran Mydwynter – “Well, the Don’t Read in the Closet event a few years ago was not only the first time I ever published anything, but also was the first story I ever wrote. Since then my writing life has blossomed. I have a short story published with Circlet Press, a Queer Shakespeare collection in the works, and am working on two novels—one contemporary romance, and one 1920’s urban fantasy story with a gay subplot. And it’s all down to the Goodreads event. Without it, I don’t know if I’d ever have known I could write a novella at all, never mind write something that people would actually want to read. And now it’s turning into my job. I’m incredibly grateful. :)”
Hennessee Andrews – “I participated in the Don’t Read in the Closet event and the book I wrote turned into a series with Siren Publishing. The original free read, Rough in the Saddle, was released a few days ago at Amazon as Macon’s Story. It is currently holding #1 in Erotica/Westerns, #1 in Erotica/LGBT/Gay, and #2 in Romance/Gay. The book is still free, but spurred a five book series that is currently releasing at Bookstrand.com. The event was not only fun to participate in, it also opened new doors for me as well.”
Sarah Madison – “Coming from a background in fanfic, I was accustomed to the notion of writing to a prompt, but never before “Don’t Write in the Closet” had I attempted to write to a photo prompt. It proved to be a seductive way at generating a story idea, let me tell you! As a new author, I have no idea if it helped sales or not, but I do know that I had so much fun doing the first one (Stuff My Stocking) that I signed up for the next one (Hot Summer Days). I suspect, much like having a story accepted for an anthology, participating in these fests (and having my story published for free in the anthologies generated by them) did much for putting my name out in front of a lot of potential readers. What is more important to me, however, is how much fun I had doing so, and how much I enjoyed the interactions with readers who liked the story as well. Not to mention, I fell in love with a set of characters created for the fest, so much so that I’ve written a spin-off story and am considering a sequel.”
Cherie Noel – “So, one of my favorite whip wielders asked me for a quote about the M/M Romance group’s yearly “Don’t Read in the Closet” event over on Goodreads. I scratched my head and replied with, “What sort of quote? A quote from a character, like Eli from Quality Control saying, ” “You could have been my insanely hot babysitter. The one that I’d have beat off to images of as soon as I got old enough to figure out that my dick was for something besides pissing. The one whose smoky tenor voice would have gotten me hard every time he spoke. The one I’d have tried to seduce every chance I got once I was old enough for that.”, or a quote about how inspiring the event is? I could just warn other authors about how the event sucks me in every year, even when I *swear* I’m too busy… there’s always that one prompt that drags me kicking and screaming into my writing cave… and those stories always end up creating the characters I love best.”
JP Barnaby – “I loved the challenge of finding a completely different kind of story for Don’t Read in the Closet. Taking the sweet, loving image they gave me and turning it into the apocalypse was one of the jewels unearthed in the toil of building my career.”
Angel Martinez – “I tend to dig my heels in when it comes to prompts – forcing your thoughts in a certain direction often feels…forced. But the sheer variety of the Don’t Read In The Closet prompts really allows the writer to wait for the one that hits him or her between the eyes. That’s what happened with Prisoner 374215 – the prompt and the picture stabbed me right through the heart and frightened the hell out of me. Even though it’s very different from my more light-hearted offerings, that story has probably gained me more new readers than the rest of my back catalog combined. I love the challenge, the opportunity to reach outside of our normal writing spaces, and the excitement of these events. It really recharged me at a time when I needed it most.”
Silvia Violet – I enjoyed being able to write something specifically requested by a reader and having a chance to participate in a project that could introduce more people to the m/m genre.
Kiernan Kelly – “I participated two years ago, and was sorry I missed the deadline last year. Although I’ve been around for a good while, writing for the anthology was beneficial for me in several ways. First and foremost, it exposed my writing to new readers. Second, it gave me the rare opportunity to write to satisfy a reader’s desire, not just what I think or hope that desire might be. Afterward, to hear from the reader who posted the prompt that I hit the nail on the head (so to speak) was deeply satisfying.”
Gabbo de la Parra – “‘Don’t Read In The Closet’ has not just opened its doors for my stories to reach our members but it has also offered me the opportunity to find incredible friends and awesome readers. The interaction we could accomplish with tons of avid readers of our spectacular genre thanks to these events is simply unbelievable. This effort of the Group keeps pushing our boundaries as members and writers and amplifying an experience that is not only beyond language barriers but intensely global! ”
Damon Suede – “I first jumped into DON’T READ IN THE CLOSET by accident when I ran across a crazy photo that accidentally unleashed two projects, a short story about sperm piracy for goodreads called “Seedy Business” and a companion novella about terraforming called Grown Men…which turned out to be the launching pad of the ongoing HardCell series! Really cool 🙂
At the time, Hot Head had just come out and I loved having the chance to cut loose and experiment with form and tone, especially knowing the diversity of the M/M group on Goodreads. Ironically enough, I still get thousands of clickthroughs every year on that original DRITC “Seedy Business” story and the HardCell series has its own passionate fanbase, very different from my contemporary fans.
Participating in the goodreads picture-prompt event was a rare grand slam: creatively challenging, professionally rewarding, and personally fulfilling.”
Laurie Peterson (writing as Laurie Terson) – “My first ever story put out there for public consumption was for last year’s Love Has No Boundaries event. And while it wasn’t the best story out there, it did get me over the hump of putting something out there. And it was a great learning experience for me. I then submitted a story to MLR Press late last year that was accepted and released in Feb of this year. So now I’m a published and paid author. Thank you, I wouldn’t have been so brave with out this event.”