It's pretty much been a lifetime since I last posted here. It's been a rough haul with many, many bumps along the way: a big earthquake that messed up my library, my divorce, health issues, my mother's death, a global pandemic...
Technically, some of those events happened before my most recent post, but they're all tangled up together for me. As you can imagine, all of those things sucked me dry of any creative impulses. I've barely written anything in three years. But that's all starting to change, one word at a time.
I have three different short stories in the works right now: a Christmas romance with forced proximity (my fave trope, especially if there's a snowstorm involved!), a Phillips Point series friends-to-lovers romance featuring a couple in their 50s who still know how to heat things up (also: a matchmaking Corgi!), and my first venture into PNR with an unemployed heroine living in her car as winter sets in and the djinn who makes ALL her wishes come true.
Now all I need to do is finish one (or all) of these stories, and let them loose in the world! One day, it will happen.
One word at a time.
.This isn't exactly timely--sorry for that, the holidays got away from me. But I wanted to share that I was a guest on the Heaving Bosoms podcast for their Christmas episode on December 23. Erin and I talked about Blitzen's Fated Mate, a holiday shifter novella by RE Butler, and the first of a series featuring Santa's reindeer. No kidding! Anyway, if you want to hear all about it, and some other fun stuff we talked about, check it out. If I can figure out how to add a link to it, I will. But don't hold your breath. Maybe I should learn more about this website stuff in the new year? Probably.
And if you have listened to this marvelous podcast before, it's likely you've heard stories about Erin's dogs, Rooster and Goat. I didn't get to meet Goat, who was at the dog park with David when we were recording, but I absolutely got to meet Rooster. And she's far sweeter than Erin would have us believe. :
Okay, maybe Rooster looks like she's going to eat my face off, but she was truly adorable.
I could talk about the spectacular implosion of RWA (Romance Writers of America) in the past couple weeks, what it means to the romance writing world, and what it means to me. But I'm not going to. There's plenty of that to go around online. Suffice it to say that I treasure and support my romance writing friends and comrades, and I want a professional organization that is on the side of diversity, equality, and inclusion. Anything more will either have to wait for another time, or another space.
Now it's time to share what I've been reading lately!
It was a tad stressful this holiday season, so I found myself turning to some favorite rereads for comfort. Two that stand out are Liberating Lacey by Anne Calhoun, and Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston.
Liberating Lacey has an older female main character (FMC) and younger male main character (MMC), but that's not at all where the conflict comes from, and I love that. Instead, it has more to do with gender roles, expectations, and financial/social status. It's a good one, so go read it.
Red, White and Royal Blue is my favorite new book from 2019, and it deserves all the attention it's received. We've got royals (both British and the American equivalent), we've got love letters of the modern variety (texts and emails, and quotes from classic missives of LGBTQ+ historical figures), we've got enemies-to-lovers, and the most delightful First Family ever (or at least since the Obamas). Don't ask any more questions, just go out and read this right now.
And I've started my year with Love Lettering by Kate Clayborn. I've been hearing about this author for a while now, and the blurb for this book sounded different and appealing. A calligrapher leaves a hidden message in the wedding program of a client. About a year later, the groom shows up and wants to know how she knew his marriage would be a mistake. That's just how it starts, folks. The writing is beautiful, and I feel like I know much more about lettering than I ever would have learned otherwise. I do love learning things as I read romance. The MCs are lovely and human, with all that entails. It's a bit of a quiet, contemplative read, and can make tears sprout from time to time, This is a story I'll be thinking about for a long time to come.
Here's hoping for a wonderful year full of romance reading for all of us!
Look, I did a thing! In the vernacular of a certain British friend of mine, I'm fairly chuffed.
This was certainly a bright spot in an otherwise dismal year. Many huge life changes, most of them unwelcome. Unending stress at work with no respite. And my writing came to a halt in January.
Sounds great, right?
But it hasn't been all bad. Since I haven't had the physical or emotional capacity to write, I've been entering contests with Mine Would Be You. I've learned a lot through the process, including what I would wish for regarding feedback from a judge critiquing my work. Bottom line: the more specific and constructive, the better, even if it's negative. Accolades are wonderful, don't get me wrong, but they don't help me to improve my writing. I won't knock the boost I get from knowing that there might be an audience out there for my work. That's always welcome!.
I've judged a contest or two this year, and that has been a great experience. I hope my comments have helped those writers.
And I've come to realize just how much work goes on behind the scenes with writing contests. Kudos to those people who do it, and do it well.
I had a couple of opportunities to work on my moderating skills with author panels both at the Alaska Writers Guild annual conference and at my library. I love being able to ask questions that the audience wants to know, and making the authors feel comfortable enough to really open up and have a good time.
How about some holiday romance recs since the season is almost upon us?
Check out Erin McLellan's Stocking Stuffers. It has a bisexual humbug heroine who sells sex toys, and a Christmassy cinnamon roll hero who wants to win her over to the festive side. Of course, they get snowed in at a quaint inn (almost completely populated by lesbians--lots of queer rep here!). Even better: sex toys and shenanigans! This is the first in a series of holiday books, so keep your eyes peeled for the next one, too.
If you want a non-Judeo-Christian holiday story, read A Kiss for Solstice by Elizabeth Allyn-Dean. It's part 1 of her Midnight Sun Supernaturals series featuring a witch who saves a werewolf and puts both their lives in danger. Don't worry--even the first part has an HFN (Happy For Now) ending. Lots of paranormal power plays in this story, so if you like your holiday books with some tension, this one has it.
Both of these are available on Amazon (and I would post links if I knew how), and are novellas--just the right length for this busy time of year. Also, the authors are both wonderful friends of mine, but I wouldn't rec their books if I didn't believe in them. You can take that to the bank.
If you have some holiday romance recommendations to share, please put them in the comments. I love me some yummy holiday love stories!
Wow, that was a LOOONNNGGG break!
I've had a lot of things happening in my life recently, and writing has taken a backseat for several months. I'm still not quite up and running again, but I have an idea for a standalone roadtrip romance I may work on next.
In the meantime, to prove I'm not dead yet, let's talk about what I've been reading lately.
In the past 10 days or so, I've managed to read the first 4 books in Larissa Ione's Demonica series. It's paranormal romance with a high heat level, and I think she does a particularly fine job of world building without making it a slog with overwhelming details. Tidbits are spooned out in small bites as needed so they don't disrupt the action. And there's a lot of action, both the fighting and sexy kinds. If you like brothers who are sex demons of the incubus variety, and a funky Underworld hospital treating monsters of all stripes, this might be the series for you. There's an ongoing plot line with a horrible villain (no spoilers), but each book features a brother and his love interest getting their HEA.
Many thanks to author Boone Brux for turning me on to this series. I may be late to the party, but I'm all in for the ride!
So, tell me: What have you been reading?
I didn't expect to go so long between blog posts, but that's how it goes sometimes.
Last weekend, I was in Seattle with a couple of my marvelous critique partners for the Emerald City Writers Conference put on by the Greater Seattle RWA. I'd heard good things before going, and you'll only hear raves from me. It was amazing, from the masterclass with Damon Suede (!) to keynotes by Damon, Beverly Jenkins, and Elizabeth Hunter (sadly, I missed most of hers due to my early flight), to the sessions (taxes and productivity have never been so fascinating) to the social stuff. I met fun, funny, smart, talented folks. And I took a big leap by pitching for the first time.
Five minutes from introduction to possible request for all or part of a manuscript? Yikes! But I did it (even though, as I predicted, I didn't look at my notes even once), and got a request from an agent I really like for the first 3 chapters and synopsis of Mine Would Be You. I'm giving them a last look before sending them off, but I was seriously flying high coming out of that room. It's not a promise that she'll want the whole manuscript, or will make an offer of representation, but it's a step forward. It pushed me to stretch and grow in ways I hadn't imagined.
That masterclass I mentioned? It was on characterization, and it was phenomenal. I can't say enough about it, truly. Damon Suede is one of those rare writers who can really teach. Not everyone can, but he's got that skill oozing out of his pores. I can't wait to put his ideas into play with my stories.
So with all of that, plus getting caught up at my day job, and starting NaNoWriMo (celebrating 3 years of writing fiction!) two days ago, things have been busy.
My head and heart are full to overflowing, and I'm ready to tackle new challenges. What do you want to try on for size?
Cheers, and best of luck!
So I'm off to Seattle on Thursday to attend the Emerald City Writers Conference for the first time. There are some notable names there: Beverly Jenkins, Julia Quinn, Damon Suede. And some others I hope to meet as well. I'm looking forward to the master class on Friday taught by Damon Suede, and the chance to meet lots of writers from outside my immediate area.
But here's the thing: I'm also signed up to pitch my book to an agent or editor. I've never really seen a pitch before (unless you count the instructional video by the aforementioned Damon Suede and Kristan Higgins), and I've never written or delivered a pitch before.
I am, quite frankly, terrified. Like, more nervous than I think I've been about almost anything I can think of in recent history. I'm really just hoping I don't vomit or pass out. Or both.
I couldn't be more happy (and relieved) to have my critique partners and friends, Neva Post and Elizabeth Allyn-Dean, along for the hair-raising ride. Whatever happens--success, failure, or embarrassment--I know they've got my back.
That's one of the most important things I've learned about joining the romance-writing community: it is the most supportive and encouraging group of people you will ever meet. I'm so lucky to count myself among them, and I hope I hold up my end of the bargain.
If I come back with good news, you'll see it here. If not...well, we'll see what I have to say about that. Either way, it's bound to be an exciting ride!
I know I'm not alone in feeling stress right now: from my day job, family health issues, and things going on in the world around me. So I'm taking a weekend to recharge and take care of myself. I'm at one of my thrice-annual craft retreats with my lovely lady crafters, and you would not believe the amount of talent on display here! There are quilters and scrapbookers, and handmade card makers (me) with a smattering of other creative endeavor-ers. (That kind of got away from me.). My plan is to alternate writing and card making, but we'll see what happens.
There will also be wine-drinking and storytelling (not only by me) and much laughter. I know I can always count on giggles with this group. There will be good food, and music, and naps, and staying up late. If I can figure out how (because I'm such a freaking newbie to this stuff), I'll post pictures. I will absolutely be tweeting some pics, so you can check my Twitter feed.
So in these tumultuous times, make sure to take care of you. Get away if you can, put on some noise-cancelling headphones if you can't. Go for a walk. Read a book. Watch a movie. Watch a sunset. Cuddle a pet. Snuggle a child.
Be kind to yourself. You're worth it. #selfcare
Tomorrow, Saturday, September 15, is the debut of a romance-only book club at my local public library. I'm so excited! Usually, romance readers must stumble across others of their kind or go online to blogs and forums to talk about what they love to read. This is a real, in-person opportunity to hang with romance peeps, and I couldn't be happier. I'll keep you posted on how it goes, but how could it be anything but glorious?
In other news, I'll be at the Alaska Writers Guild Conference in Anchorage next weekend. I'm moderating a panel for AKRWA on Saturday afternoon (Sept 22), and we'll be talking about writing to market and writing cross-genre work. I'm looking forward to spending time with more writerly sorts, and doing a couple of manuscript reviews. I'm also expecting my head to be full to overflowing by the end of the conference, so don't be surprised to see some good writing stuff dripping out of my ears.
Because I have an article in The ECHO (a community newspaper) featuring local romance writers and members of AKRWA: https://www.echoak.com/2018/09/romance-writing-in-our-midst/
We have a very active and supportive chapter of RWA, and I wouldn't be as far along in my journey as I am without them. If you are writing romance, or thinking you might like to, please check out your local chapter. Most will allow you to attend a meeting (or three) without joining. It's well worth the nominal fee I pay to have the support, mentoring, and friendship I've found there.
It's been a rough month for a variety of reasons, most pretty minor but piling on each other, but I'm happy to say that it's been a banner month for me with regard to reading romance.
I know I'm late to the party--I've been hearing about this series for over a year now--but I finally started reading Elle Kennedy's Off Campus series. It features students at a small college not far from Boston, and all the male main characters play hockey. Confession: I'm a sucker for sports romances. Doesn't matter what sport. It may not even be one that I'm willing to watch. There's something about characters who excel at physical feats that I couldn't hope to do that really works for me. Anyway, I like how the drama and conflict feels real and appropriate to that stage of life, and the way the relationships unfold gradually, and with fits and starts. It feels real, and I like that in a contemporary romance. So I just finished the second in the series, The Mistake, this morning, and I'll be starting book 3 (already downloaded) later today.
Also, I think I'll be making this a regular post here. I read a lot, not even kidding. I passed the 100 books mark last week for 2018, and hit a total of 176 for 2017. And one of the things I love as much as writing romance is making book recommendations in the genre. It makes me so very happy! So if you want a rec, let me know. But I don't generally make them blind, so give me an idea of what you've enjoyed in the past, whether by trope, author, setting, subgenre, or other appeal factor so I have something to go on.