01 November 2013


Today I am super excited to have my author friend Jean Oram on the blog in celebration of her new release! We'll chat about her books in a moment, but first a little shop talk.


Give us a little background about Jean Oram, regular gal.

Regular gal Jean likes to ski and grew up in an old schoolhouse. She has two kids, a dog, two cats, and a husband she calls her best friend. She also finds it funny to write about herself in the third person... I love to travel and hang out online with other readers and writers. I can't lick my nose.

And how about Jean Oram, author?

They are pretty much one and the same. Only the author version of me is possibly a little less shy. (And she can't lick her nose, either.)

Plotter or pantster?

A bit of both. Recently I've been roughly plotting out who the character is, what she wants, and what stands in her way. Then I have 18 scenes that are the backbones of the story's arc and progression. From there I pants it and sometimes find myself in a pickle. But this new method seems to save time--and lead to less editing which I like! So, it is a combination, I suppose.

Name one or two of your favorite contemporary authors. Favorite classic authors?

I love Meg Cabot's Heather Wells series. I nearly peed my pants when Meg followed me on Twitter. Then I realized that she follows everyone back. My pants were relieved. In terms of classics, I like Jane Austen. She surprised me!

How are you liking the self publishing process? Favorite part of it? Least favorite?

Love it! My favourite part is being in control of things and being able to tweak things as I go (things like book categories, etc.) and doing it all on my own schedule. My least favourite is that you have to seek out your own expertise partners and because those partners are doing their own thing, it can be difficult to connect so you can pick their brains. And I really like picking brains. It's a hobby of mine! As well, there are no controls to stop me from trying to do too much! But it all works out in the end, I think. I wouldn't change it for the world.

I know you've been moving house at the same time you've been finalizing things for the release of Whiskey and Gumdrops. First of all, you're crazy. Second, how do you do it? Do you have any time management tips to help balance work/writing/home/family/social stuff?

Yes, I believe I am certifiable. Especially since my husband forgot to get Internet hooked up at our new house and I'm using sketchy cell phone service to get online. That's enough to make me insane, right there!

Basically, I have no social life. And I don't watch television other than the odd show here and there. (Like maybe 4 hours a month kind of thing.) That frees up some time. I also avoid cleaning the house as much as possible. But truly, I grew up on a farm which taught me how to work efficiently as well as to put my head down and shoulder into it when things get tough. That has helped a ton. I have also learned to work in chaos and with many interruptions.

I think procrastination is the real killer for a lot of us, though. We say one thing is a priority but our actions don't show that. If you want to publish a book, you have to take a step towards it every day.

If you could give any advice to aspiring novelists looking at the traditional publishing vs self publishing debate, what would you say?

How much time do you have? How much work are you willing to do? How much do you enjoy learning? If you don't mind working hard, learning lots, experimenting, and spending your time on publishing then self-publishing is great. I've met self-publishers who are surprised their books aren't selling, but it is almost always because they haven't learned the business, haven't put the work in to ensure success. In self-publishing you are every person and get to control your avenues quite heavily. If that thrills you, then self-publishing might be right for you. I feel like I should be one of those drug commercials right now: Self-publishing might cause, insanity, anxiety, hives, freak outs, melt downs, excessive worrying, and other symptoms. Talk to your doctor to see if self-publishing is right for you.

What advice would you give to an author who has decided to go the self publishing route?

Read David Gaughran's books. No, they are not free, but they are full of tips that will save you time and a money and increase your sales. They are well worth the money. Read Let's Get Digital. Then read Let's Get Visible. Listen to Joanna Penn's podcasts. Learning about marketing from the hilarious, straight-up shooter, Sean Halpern of Social Triggers. Explore. Have fun! The awesome thing about self-publishing is that there are so many routes to success. Find yours! (Okay, now I sound like a travel ad! Explore self-publishing and enjoy the wonders of independent success today! Call for your free brochure or book your adventure today.)

Reading Champagne and Lemon Drops and watching your publishing journey have been part of what's influenced me to write contemporary romance. I'm currently working on one that was inspired in a small way by someone I actually know. Do you ever put bits of people you know into your characters, or use real life scenarios you've experienced in your fiction?

I sure do. ;) Although some of those things were taken out because they didn't quite fit. But growing up in a small town, and writing about a small town… it's difficult for real life to not sneak in. For example, the things Nash got upset about in Champagne and Lemon Drops were real life things (except for Lauretta and the wheelchair) I'd plucked from my own small town experiences.

Any projects or other things you want us to know about?

You bet. I am launching Whiskey and Gumdrops this week which is about Mandy (Beth's nemesis--is she the woman Beth thought she was?) in Blueberry Springs who has to learn to accept help (and love!) in order to get what she really wants from life. It also contains a sneak peek of book 3 in the Blueberry Springs series, Rum and Raindrops. (Jen, the nature guide, maybe kind of accidentally burns down a forest and then falls in love with the fire investigator.)

And this weekend you can join me on Facebook as I (and Jen!) [that's me Jen, not the aforementioned Blueberry Springs Jen! ;-) ] give away lots of great books along with many other authors as we celebrate the release of Whiskey and Gumdrops. It's a virtual launch party and everyone is welcome to pop in over the weekend at: https://www.facebook.com/events/553969544676089/


One woman. Two men. One meddling small town.

Raised by her older sister in the small town of Blueberry Springs, all Beth Wilkinson wants is to create a family so big she’ll never be alone. Things are going great until her accountant fiancé, Oz, experiences a family trauma, forcing him to rethink everything from his own career to their nuptial plans—leaving Beth alone.

As Beth works to rediscover her former bold and independent self in hopes of reattracting Oz, she catches the eye of the charming new city doctor, Nash. Not only does he see her as she’d like to be seen, but he knows exactly what he wants from life—and that includes Beth.

Torn between the two men, as well as two versions of herself, Beth discovers that love and dreams are much more complicated than they seem.

A chick lit contemporary romance that will appeal to fans of Jennifer Weiner, Jane Green, and Meg Cabot, and will have readers wondering who the heck Beth should choose.
Amazon    Kobo    B&N    ARe
iTunes    Smashwords    Sony

Tell us about Blueberry Springs. What inspired you to write a series set in a small town like this?

It started with Beth's story, Champagne and Lemon Drops. For her story it felt natural for her to be in a small town--the town could be a larger-than-life character meddling in her life and adding conflict and barriers as well as mess with her thinking. (Small towns tend to do that to people sometimes.) I had a few other stories and story ideas that could also be set in small towns and suddenly one story became a series and Blueberry Springs became bigger than I had planned (in a good way!).

As well, I grew up in a small town. (Actually on the outskirts of a hamlet of 100 people. Yes, I knew everyone.) I went to a school (different town) where my grad class was around 30 people. Everyone knew everyone and always had. Where I grew up, my parents were the 'new people' for decades as they had moved there from 'out East.' So creating Blueberry Springs was easy. I just looked to my own upbringing.

Can you tell us how many Blueberry Springs books you envision?

I have three planned for sure. Book 1: Champagne and Lemon Drops. Book 2: Whiskey and Gumdrops (released November 1st). And then book 3: Rum and Raindrops coming out Spring 2014. I have a couple other stories I'd like to set in a small town, but I'm not sure if they will be set in Blueberry Springs or if I will start a new small town series for them. What do your blog readers think? How many books are good in a series? [Tell us in the comments below!]

Personally, I love stories and characters that feel real, even in what is typically an escapist sort of genre like romance. Beth totally fit that bill in C&LD. She had realistic flaws and difficult decisions to make. I'm willing to bet Mandy will be another relatable heroine. What draws you to those kinds of characters?

Thank you. :) Good question. As a reader, I like a character who feels real because they become easier to relate to. I love a story where I get so wrapped up in it (like I did in The Poisonwood Bible) that I forget the characters are fictional.

WARNING! SPOILERS BELOW! There was a certain part of Champagne and Lemon Drops I really enjoyed and I've been dying to ask Jean about it. Finally got my chance! Just be forewarned, if you haven't already read the book, clicking below WILL spoil the ending for you. IF YOU DON'T WANT TO SEE SPOILERS FOR BOOK 1, SCROLL UNTIL YOU SEE THE NEXT BOOK COVER!

In C&LD, Beth talks about wanting kids a lot, but at the end she realizes that all of Blueberry Springs is her family and that kids aren't an absolute necessity for her future with Oz. I was totally rooting for that outcome, but didn't actually expect you to give it to me! Marriage and baby seem to be the obligatory ending for a lot of romance books. Beth's thought process was a breath of fresh air. How did that decision come about? Did you plot it that way from the beginning, or did you pants your way into it?

This is a long story. Hold onto your pants. When I first wrote Champagne and Lemon Drops (it's a free ebook, by the way), it was my first attempt at plotting a book out before writing it. It was much more women's fiction than romance. And part way through, Beth's friend, Katie, nudged her way into having her own point of view. But that didn't work so I had to pull it out. I rewrote this story several times. The last rewrite was intensive. It had been over 110,000 words and I cut it down to 50,000. Then I rewrote it back up to 80,000. That nearly killed me. Usually I drop a book and carry on to the next one when things get that problematic. However, I found I didn't learn from those mistakes. So, while that extensive rewrite was incredibly difficult, my writing skills took a jump and matured. It was worth it.

So, in the end, this book was both plotted and pantsed. However, yes, Beth's thought process around the kids was intentional.

Beth realizes her love for Oz is greater than her desire for a big family, but that doesn't meant it couldn't still happen. Inquiring minds want to know.... do they eventually go on to have kids? Do we have to tune in to a future book to find out? Or have you not thought about it yourself?

Some readers were a bit ticked off that I didn't put a massive red velvet bow on Beth's ending. I think there is a nicer bow on Mandy and Frankie's ending in book 2, Whiskey and Gumdrops. But to answer your question, yes, you do get to find out what happens to Beth and Oz in book 2.

Spoiler alert: Book 2 ruins the ending of book 1 (Champagne and Lemon Drops).)


Mandy Mattson has always believed that what you want isn't what you need. But never in her life has she been more wrong.

As a small town waitress, Mandy has never felt as though she deserves the love of her best friend Frankie. But when she sees an ex-lover marry her rival she realizes her life is adding up to a big fat nothing and realizes she needs to make a change. With every path in her new life leading back to Frankie, will she finally be able to reconcile that the one thing she's always wanted is the very thing she needs?

This best friend romance is a companion novel to Champagne and Lemon Drops: A Blueberry Springs Chick lit Contemporary Romance.

As Jean mentioned above, we're celebrating all weekend on Facebook with lots of fun and giveaways! On Saturday I'll be stopping by the virtual party to give away the first ever PRINT copy of my novel, Sorry's Not Enough. I hope we'll see you there!

Thanks for your time, Jean, and good luck with your new release! I'm anxious to get it onto my Kindle and start reading.

If you can't make it to the party on Facebook this weekend, keep up with Jean and her books on her website, Facebook, or Twitter.

26 July 2013

Go Ahead -- Call Me Selfish


*gasp* Oh, the horror!

What a terrible thing for someone to call you, right? There are times when I feel I care a little too much about other people, so for someone to accuse me of the exact opposite would hurt, for sure.

Have you noticed how selfish has become a really vile insult to toss at people? Or is that just my own perception of the word clouding my judgment? As a childfree woman, I've read plenty of articles about how women who choose not to procreate are obviously selfish (and maybe a bit immature). But that's a whole 'nother post. I've also noticed that selfish is an accusation lobbed at my generation quite often, especially when it comes to the workplace. Matt Bors summed it up brilliantly in this comic strip.

As much as I try not to worry about how others perceive me, I often do, and the selfish stigma is something I've worried about on more than one occasion. Most often regarding my career path(s). First, a little background.

I've been in retail since I graduated college. I've worked at several different places, in a wide variety of positions. A few of my job changes have come about as a result of relocation and company closures. One (soon to be two) came about because I became terribly unhappy with where I was and what I was doing, even though I loved the people I worked with. I even loved certain aspects of those jobs, at certain times. Yet with every job so far, I keep growing discouraged after a while. My husband has been working for the same company since we moved after college, and he sees himself there indefinitely. Why hadn't I found the same satisfaction?  Am I selfish? Am I lazy? I know it's called "work" for a reason, but is this all there is? What's wrong with me?

Well, screw that. It's time to set the record straight:

Selfish ≠ narcissistic.
Selfish ≠ entitled.

Can we stop using selfish as a vile insult, meant to shame and bully others into conforming to our preferred life script? I'm not saying all-selfish, all the time is anything we should aspire to. But let's face it - we make decisions every day, every month, every year that are inherently self-serving. Splurging on those new shoes or a new car, deciding to have a baby, deciding not to have a baby, moving across the country for a job opportunity, taking a vacation overseas. None of these things hurt anyone else, but we also don't choose to do them solely for anyone else's benefit, for the most part. There are, in fact, times when we should be making decisions based on how the outcome will affect us, and only us. No one will fault us for that.

Until it runs contrary to what they think we ought to be doing.

In just a few days, I'll be quitting my job. My full-time job that I'm good at, where people like me, and that I was crazy excited to start only a year ago. I don't have anything 100% solid lined up for after I leave, and we really can't afford for me to make much less than I do right now, but I know I have to get out. NOW. I'm underpaid and overworked, and the advancement opportunities at my company don't thrill me. I know this is where quite a few people older than me might be tempted to throw out the dreaded s-word. Selfish because they don't think I'm willing to "pay my dues." Selfish because the consequences could be pretty bad for my husband and I if I don't find something else that pays enough to help cover our bills, and I'm quitting my job anyway. Selfish because I have the gall to say "I'm worth more than this."

Maybe I am selfish, but I have to be right now. My mental health and happiness is my responsibility, and I can't keep putting those things on the back burner in favor of being a "real" adult following someone else's life script.

Yes, I am worth so much more than I'm getting from my company. That's not entitlement or narcissism speaking, that's experience. I have paid my dues over and over again being corporate retail's bitch for the past eight years. I know when I'm underpaid. I've long been a fan of creating change from within, playing by the rules you dislike until you're in a position to advocate for change and win. Sometimes it works brilliantly. Sometimes, though, you have to be a little selfish and make your own damn rules.

I'm thrilled to be leaving the retail world behind. It may sink its teeth into me and pull me back in temporarily in the future, but I'm determined to stay away. I still love clothes, and I love merchandising and making things look fabulous, so I'll be looking into other creative career options that let me use those skills. Until I find it, I'll be calling on my other creative skills to work on my next book(s), provide freelance transcription and copyediting services, and any other odd writing jobs that come my way. The financial uncertainty is scary as hell, don't get me wrong. But I know I will ultimately be happier and healthier.

I've lost too many people in my life in the past few years, met too many people who hate their jobs well into their 50s and beyond, and watched too many other people find their own bliss to let the fear of being called selfish stop me any more. Work doesn't have to be something you hate. Life is too damn short to be miserable.

So go ahead - call me selfish. Why aren't you being selfish, too?

15 July 2013

NAmazing Adventure!

Welcome to my stop on the NAmazing Adventure, a blog hop featuring over 60 New Adult authors, and prize packs that include ARCs, signed books, gift cards, swag, and more! If you're not sure what the NAmazing Adventure is, please click the banner below to start from the beginning and read the complete rules on the NA Alley website.

If you have no idea what New Adult is (whaaaaa? have you been living under a rock?) check out my post about it at From the Write Angle. Got it? Good. Now let's get this journey on the road!

(50% off at Smashwords during the month of July with coupon code SSW50)

SORRY'S NOT ENOUGH is a Contemporary New Adult novel that explores one young woman's struggle with love, family, and forgivness.

Charlotte learned at an early age that people – including family – are capable of hurting you so bad "sorry” will never be enough. The obvious solution is not to let anyone close enough to do any damage, and she's doing just fine with that until a summer writing workshop brings Steven into her life. Seemingly immune to Charlotte's Stay the Hell Away from Me pheromones, he uses his wit and good looks – or what Charlotte would call his obnoxious ego and his stupid good looks – to win her over. The unexpected summer romance screeches to a halt when Steven's job creates an ethical dilemma for the couple. Sorry doesn't begin to cover the hurt feelings.

Despite the secrets Charlotte's keeping and the renewed passion with which she pushes him away, Steven can't let her go. And so the cycle of their relationship begins. Over the course of four years they share moments as passionate lovers, periods of warm friendship, as well as months of barely-civil tension.

When no amount of time or distance, and no number of men, can make her forget the comfort of Steven's arms, Charlotte must dig into her painful past and face the man whose betrayal destroyed her capacity for trust to begin with. And by the time she finds the courage to do so, will “sorry” be enough to get Steven back?

Got the cover and description committed to memory yet? You'll need it for the quiz at the end of this quest. No, really, there's a quiz! You must complete ALL SIX quest quizzes to be eligible for a prize pack.

Thanks for stopping by! Ready for the next stop on your NAmazing Adventure? Just click HERE.

12 July 2013

Q&A With Elephant's Bookshelf Press

I'm super excited to have a Q&A session with Matt Sinclair, founder of Elephant's Bookshelf Press. EBP published the anthologies Spring Fevers and The Fall: Tales from the Apocalypse, both of which I am proud to have short stories in. EBP's newest anthologies, Summer's Edge and Summer's Double Edge are due out July 15, 2013.

Jello World: Tell us a little bit about the theme for this anthology.

Elephant's Bookshelf Press: In a sense, the summer anthology is a thematic mix of the two previous anthologies, Spring Fevers and The Fall. We have relationships that are facing doom of sorts. I call them relationships at a turning point. It could mean death, divorce, disruption. But it also could mean new discoveries and new directions.

Jello: You decided to split this into two separate books. Why is that? Did you just have an overwhelming number of excellent entries, or was there something else that factored into your decision? 

EBP: Honestly, that was exactly what it was about. When we launched The Fall, there was a moment when I feared we wouldn’t have enough submissions that warranted publication. That never happened with the summer anthologies. In fact, it was so overwhelming that before we knew it we’d fallen in love too many times! Plus, we received a lot of strong stories that were on the long side. I’d actually reduced the word

count limit to 7500 and still we found many that exceeded 5000.

Jello: EBP has released two anthologies already. Are there a lot of repeat authors in this collection, or a lot of new blood? Or a good mix?

EBP: There’s both new blood and old favorites (though I know of one of our favorites who seemed to be too busy working on her own collection and wasn’t able to send a submission ;-) Although there’s still a steady stream of writers we’ve gotten to know from AgentQuery Connect, I’m happy to say we’ve attracted a lot more writers who have found out about us by other means. Among the new writers are a young woman from India and a Canadian – neither of whom were familiar to me before their submissions. I was really impressed by some of the new writers who submitted this time.

Jello: What's your favorite part about compiling anthologies like this and your previous ones? Least favorite or most difficult thing?

EBP: I’d say my favorite part is discovering great new voices and the clever minds behind them. I love seeing what a storyteller sees. The least favorite probably is having to tell people their stories were not accepted. There can be all sorts of reasons why. Sometimes it’s because the writing wasn’t strong enough, sometimes it’s because the story sounds too much like something we already approved, sometimes it’s because the characters simply weren’t believable. Sometimes it’s because the story will just need too much work in the short amount of time we have before production begins.

Jello: I imagine it's quite a lot of work to do what you do. I also know you have some trusted helpers who've been invaluable in getting these books together, from cover designers to copy editors and more. Give them a shout out and tell us about them.

EBP: Well, I try to keep our reviewers’ names confidential, though I’m sure some people know who they are. But I will shout out the names of my chief partners – my brain trust, if you will – who are Mindy McGinnis and Cat Woods. For those who don’t know them, they’re very talented writers – Mindy’s debut novel, Not a Drop to Drink, is coming out on September 24 from Katherine Tegen/ Harper Collins -- but also totally in tune with what I’m hoping to accomplish with EBP. They’re part of my editorial advisory board as are Calista Taylor, who also writes as Cali MacKay, and R.C. Lewis -- they’re our cover and book designers, respectively – and Robb Grindstaff and Jean Oram, who served as copy editors of the earlier anthologies. They help with editorial questions as well as marketing questions that cross our paths. For the summer anthologies, we had a new copy editor, Laura Carlson, who edits for a living. Her firm is American Editing Services and she’s based in California. She’s done a tremendous job and I’m so thankful for all the work she’s put in. It was a bigger project than either of us anticipated.

Jello: EBP's first anthology last year was Spring Fevers, followed by The Fall. This year we have Summer’s Edge and Summer’s Double Edge. One can only expect that the next one will be winter-themed. Any hints you can give us just yet?

EBP: Well, we haven’t finalized the theme for the winter anthology yet. One of my ideas is to explore vulnerability. Necessity might be the mother of invention, but I’d twist that around and say vulnerability is the mother of creativity. When we’re vulnerable, we must discover ways to become safe – or at least safer. But that’s not a definite theme, so I’ll leave it at that.

Jello: Do you plan to continue seasonally themed anthologies next year?

EBP: The winter anthology will be released in early 2014, so in that respect, yes. But either in late 2014 or more likely early 2015 we’ll begin publishing a new series of anthologies. I’ll save a more formal announcement for the future, but the goal is to have genre-based anthologies. One will be for science fiction, for example. At the moment, my plan is to expand the number of people I have involved in running anthology projects, because I’ll never get a chance to work on my novels if I don’t delegate. And I’m a writer first.

Jello: It wouldn't be a publishing conversation between the two of us if I didn't ask my favorite question: when does the Elephant get a little sexy? Any erotica or romance anthology plans in the near future?

EBP: Ah yes, our discussions about Elephants After Dark! Possibly. If we go that direction, it’s more likely romance than erotica, I suspect. In fact, it’s one idea for the genre-specific anthologies we’ll do in the next series. Mind you, I don’t have anything against erotica per se, and Lord knows the market exists. I don’t know if I can handle a wave of twelve to fifteen erotic stories in stunning succession. I’d need a little cuddle time in between to let me recuperate.

Jello: Have you been surprised by anything you've learned about or experienced in the publishing process since you founded EBP?

EBP: I think what has surprised me most is how much I’m enjoying it. Put it this way: I’ve barely worked on a novel for more than a year and while I’m a little disheartened about that, I have these wonderful books to show for what I’ve been doing in the meantime! Plus, I’ve developed and improved relationships with wonderful writers, editors, and artists.

Jello: Other than anthologies, what's next for EBP?

EBP: Interesting how you put that, because even with regard to the anthologies, there’s a lot “new” happening with EBP. In the fall, we’re going to launch our first novel, Whispering Minds, by A.T. O’Connor. There’s a preview of it in the summer anthologies. It’s a huge thrill to me, because I always envisioned EBP as a publisher of novels. Eventually nonfiction books, too, though that’s probably at least two years off. I need to get moving on the winter anthology almost as soon as the summer books are out. It might seem far away, but with a January or early February publication date, there’s really not much time. Then in the early spring, we’re going to publish our next novel, which will be a YA baseball book by Steven Carman called Battery Brothers. We intend to publish that around spring training or opening day of the 2014 baseball season. We also have a third novel in the offing, probably for May or June of 2014. Plus, we have that new anthology series I mentioned earlier. So, we’re really busy, and it’s a major thrill to me.

29 May 2013

Time for a GIVEAWAY!

EDIT: I clearly underestimated how many people are out there just downloading free ebooks without much promotion on my part. I've just about made my June 19th goal, and there's still more than two weeks to go! So, I've decided to increase the overall goal to actually make it a challenge. I've also increased the number of winners, and added another way to gain entries!

My novel, Sorry's Not Enough, has been published! But that doesn't mean I want you to stop reading my free short story collection. No way! This morning I just passed 3,000 free downloads of Consenting Adults on Amazon.
Thank you to all who have downloaded it so far! If you enjoyed it, I hope you'll take a moment to leave a review on Goodreads or Amazon or wherever you downloaded it from. Now, about that giveaway...

I've decided that once Consenting Adults reaches 6,000 15,000 free downloads on Amazon, I'll give away a few prizes! There are three prizes:

  • A $15 gift card to Amazon or the bookseller of your choice, plus a digital copy of my novel, Sorry's Not Enough (2 winners!)
  • A $10 gift card to Amazon or the bookseller of your choice, plus a digital copy of SNE (2 winners!)
  • A digital copy of SNE (5 winners!)
The goal is to reach 6,000 15,000 Amazon downloads by midnight, June 19, 2013, which is three weeks from today. So that's roughly 615 downloads a day. Easy, right? I think so, too! If we reach the goal sooner, perhaps I can sweeten the pot with additional prizes....

So, how do you enter? The only requirement for entry is to comment on this post (please use the Rafflecopter widget to enter) but you can earn additional entries by following on social media and tweeting about the giveaway, and I hope you will.

To entice you a little more, here's some more info about Consenting Adults, the free book we want people to download.
This collection of five short stories is a literary quickie that looks at romantic relationships in various forms, from the tame to the erotic.

The title story, "Consenting Adults", explores the eroticism of an enthusiastic "Yes!" between lovers.

"The Haricot Verts" peeks in on a tense moment between a couple where she can't seem to say what's on her mind.

"The Reluctant Exhibitionist" follows a young couple learning to open up and share their fantasies without embarrassment.

"The Adventures of Sasquatch" is the story of a single mom - and her big feet - reclaiming her inner princess.

"Between the Lines" shows what happens long-hidden desires sizzle to the surface between two near-strangers.
And some info about Sorry's Not Enough, the book you can win:
Charlotte learned at an early age that people – including family – are capable of hurting you so bad "sorry” will never be enough. The obvious solution is not to let anyone close enough to do any damage, and she's doing just fine with that until a summer writing workshop brings Steven into her life. Seemingly immune to Charlotte's Stay the Hell Away from Me pheromones, he uses his wit and good looks – or what Charlotte would call his obnoxious ego and his stupid good looks – to win her over. The unexpected summer romance screeches to a halt when Steven's job creates an ethical dilemma for the couple. Sorry doesn't begin to cover the hurt feelings.

Despite the secrets Charlotte's keeping and the renewed passion with which she pushes him away, Steven can't let her go. And so the cycle of their relationship begins. Over the course of four years they share moments as passionate lovers, periods of warm friendship, as well as months of barely-civil tension.

When no amount of time or distance, and no number of men, can make her forget the comfort of Steven's arms, Charlotte must dig into her painful past and face the man whose betrayal destroyed her capacity for trust to begin with. And by the time she finds the courage to do so, will “sorry” be enough to get Steven back?

Since you only win if the Consenting Adults is downloaded, please share with your friends! Tell your work colleagues, your siblings, maybe even your parents if they're cool like that. Leave a review. Paint it on your chest. Get a tattoo. Just kidding, don't do that.

Are you ready? Get set... GO!!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

20 May 2013

Free Short Stories, and Novel Release Date

A brief update on my publishing journey! I've been super busy. First, I've released a collection of five short stories so that anyone not familiar with my writing can get a feel for it. Best of all - the collection is FREE!  The five short stories explore romantic relationships of both the more tame and the more erotic varieties. One reviewer had this to say:
Mouthwateringly hot, insightful and emotionally revealing! Did I say HOT?

Consenting Adults is available at Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Amazon, Kobo and more.

Secondly, my "official" release date for my novel, Sorry's Not Enough, will be Monday, Memorial Day, 5/27/13. Check back here then for links to be able to purchase the ebook on various websites. And in case you forgot, here's the cover again, and a quick blurb:

Charlotte learned at an early age that people – including family – are capable of hurting you so bad "sorry” will never be enough. The obvious solution is not to let anyone close enough to do any damage, and she's doing just fine with that until a summer writing workshop brings Steven into her life. Seemingly immune to Charlotte's Stay the Hell Away from Me pheromones, he uses his wit and good looks – or what Charlotte would call his obnoxious ego and his stupid good looks – to win her over. The unexpected summer romance screeches to a halt when Steven's job creates an ethical dilemma for the couple. Sorry doesn't begin to cover the hurt feelings.

Despite the secrets Charlotte's keeping and the renewed passion with which she pushes him away, Steven can't let her go. And so the cycle of their relationship begins. Over the course of four years they share moments as passionate lovers, periods of warm friendship, as well as months of barely-civil tension.

When no amount of time or distance, and no number of men, can make her forget the comfort of Steven's arms, Charlotte must dig into her painful past and face the man whose betrayal destroyed her capacity for trust to begin with. And by the time she finds the courage to do so, will “sorry” be enough to get Steven back?

11 April 2013

The Next Big Thing, and My Cover Reveal

Yes, I did just say MY cover reveal! Keep reading to find out more.

My friend Ty tagged me in The Next Big Thing blog hop whatchamacallit thingy that has been making the rounds. Please make sure to read his post, about his novel Flowers for Dionysus, which you should all be jealous to know I read an early draft of. And now onto the questions and my answers.

1. What is the working titled of one of your current stories?

I hate deciding on a title, so this novel was called a couple different things, including just "Charlotte" for a while, until I decided on the final title: SORRY'S NOT ENOUGH.

2. Where did the idea come from for the story?

Believe it or not, SNE grew out of the first novel I ever attempted in high school. Thinking back on that project, I have to thank my creative writing teacher for humoring me. I can't imagine how teenage-angsty and melodramatic and amateurish it all must have seemed. But through the years, there was still something about the two main characters that stuck with me. And as my writing grew and progressed, I revisited the characters and one aspect of that original story - a relationship between a high school student and her teacher - and wrote a new story. It took on a whole new life, and Sorry's Not Enough was born.

3. What genre does it fall under?

I struggled with this at first. I called it women's fiction, even though, in my mind, that term conjured an image of older characters and a different type of story. Because there's a relationship in the story, some early readers kept saying it was romance, but it's not. Because of the young age, some early readers insisted it was young adult, which it's not. Recently, the category of New Adult has become more recognized, and I think it fits SNE perfectly! Therefore, I am calling it Contemporary New Adult fiction.

4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I've never been one of those people who has a concrete idea of these things from the first word. I don't go searching for pictures for inspiration or anything like that. Which is probably why I've never joined Pinterest. There are only two actors I can think of off the top of my head who sort of look like how I imagine the male lead, but they're both a little too old to play 24-year-old Steven. Christopher Gorham and Matt Bomer both have the combination of charming and manly that I love about Steven's character. They'd have to wear contacts, though, because one of Steven's defining characteristics is his piercing green eyes.

As for actresses to play Charlotte... I'm not sure. I need to brush up on my pop culture, because I keep thinking of actresses out of age range! America Ferrera could work, but she's probably too old. Maybe Jennifer Lawrence.

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your story?

After being betrayed at a young age by the one man she should've been able to trust, Charlotte builds emotional walls to keep the world out, but Steven ignores the Keep Out signs and falls in love anyway.

(Um, or something like that... this has always been the hardest part!)

6. Will you be self-published or represented by an agency?

Well, this is it. The big announcement. I said once before that I would self publish SNE, then pulled back from that for various reasons that are less important now. I'm happy to announce that I will, once and for all, be self publishing Sorry's Not Enough next month (exact date TBD). With the help of Calista Taylor at Covers by Cali, I'm even happier to unveil the cover art. I hope you like it!

7. How long as the editing taken you?

Hoo boy... SNE has gone through about ten different revisions, and it has been several years since I first started writing it. There was quite a bit of down time between a couple revisions, as I was frustrated and worked on other things. I'd say overall, from when I finished the first draft until now, the amount if time I spent actively editing and revising had to be around three or four years. So this has been a long time coming.

8. What other stories would you compare it to within your genre?

This is where I come across looking like an illiterate schmuck, right? I'm really not sure what comparable titles are for my book, because I don't read as often as I'd like, and when I do, I mostly read outside my genre. Is that totally blasphemous, or what? Oh well. *sheepish grin*

9. Who or what inspired you to write this story?

See #2. :-) But also, I'd have to say the only creative writing class I took in college, during my senior year, helped rekindle my passion. It reminded me how much I loved to write, and my instructor gave us advice that has stuck with me to this day. I never could have known then how important his attitude of celebrating rejection letters would be.

10. What else about your story might pique the reader's interest?

It was a critique of a scene in this book, from a writer I admire immensely, that first started me thinking about writing erotica and embracing that aspect of my writing. (SNE is not erotica, but it does have some steamy sex scenes.) Here's an extended description of Sorry's Not Enough:

Charlotte learned at an early age that people – including family – are capable of hurting you so bad “sorry” will never be enough. The obvious solution is not to let anyone close enough to do any damage, and she's doing just fine with that until a summer writing workshop brings Steven into her life. Unfamiliar with Charlotte's Stay the Hell Away from Me memo to the world, he uses his wit and good looks – or what Charlotte would call his obnoxious ego and his really, really good looks – to win her over. The unexpected summer romance screeches to a halt when Steven's job creates an ethical dilemma for the couple. Sorry doesn't begin to cover the hurt feelings.

Despite the secrets she's keeping and the renewed passion with which she pushes him away, Steven can't let Charlotte go. And so the cycle of their relationship begins. Over the course of four years they share moments as passionate lovers, periods of warm friendship, as well as months of barely-civil tension. 

When no amount of time or distance, and no number of men can make her forget the comfort of Steven's arms, Charlotte must dig into her painful past and face the man whose betrayal destroyed her capacity for trust to begin with. And by the time she finds the courage to do so, will “sorry” be enough to get Steven back?
 Now I get to tag someone else to answer these questions! I choose Robert K. Lewis. Since his debut novel just released, what better time to answer some questions about the sequel?

(4/13/13 Edit: You can now add SNE to your Goodreads bookshelf!)

05 April 2013

Review: The Siren, by Tiffany Reisz

The Siren (The Original Sinners, #1)The Siren by Tiffany Reisz

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've been trying to write a thorough, intelligent review for some time now, and I'm having trouble putting my thoughts into words because I want to do the book justice. There are so many reasons why I enjoyed this book, why it's better than so much other erotica out there, and why it just works, but my brain refuses to compile that into a coherent review that will be useful to anyone and that also is less than five pages long. So for the sake of brevity, here's what you really need to know:

* I loved this book!

* This book is truly different from the typical "lots of (lukewarm) sex scenes + plot as afterthought" kind of erotica that is way too common.

* The characters are real and complex.

* When there is actual sex, it stems from the plot in an organic way, and is never overdone.

* Whether BDSM is your thing or not, you can enjoy this book, because it's not about BDSM. It's about the characters, several of whom happen to live the lifestyle.

* Sex, sexuality, BDSM, and the characters have an intriguing relationship to religion in this book, which I found fascinating.

* The sexy parts were sexy not just because it was sex, but because the book as a whole engaged my biggest erogenous zone: MY BRAIN.

The Siren was a great read that satisfied my love of intelligent fiction, interpersonal relationship complexity and drama, and smart sex. I would recommend it to anyone.

Disclosure: the author gifted me a copy of the ebook in exchange for an honest review.

View all my reviews

25 March 2013

#Scintilla13: Letting Go

Going back to a previous prompt for today's Scintilla post.

B: What have been the event horizons of your life–the moments from which there was no turning back?

Letting Go

She stared at the little black box, which held the promise of one particular future life. Marriage, kids, a house and a job most likely within twenty miles of the small town where they'd grown up. In theory, they could make their own path - create any kind of future their hearts desired. But somehow she knew if she said yes to her high school sweetheart right now, just days after they'd each graduated from college, it would be The Life Script all the way. For both of them. It wasn't a bad future. She just wasn't sure it was the one she wanted. There were things she wanted--needed--to experience first. There were things he should experience, too. Maybe they could experience them together. But not if she said yes. Not right now.

She stared at the little black box until he closed it and shoved it in his pocket. She started to apologize, but he cupped her face in his trembling hands and kissed her with more passion than he had in a long time. Between urgent kisses, she whispered that she loved him, and he whispered that he loved her too, but he had a job offer in Seattle and she should go to Europe just like she'd always wanted. He kissed her mouth and her cheeks and her eyelids, and he apologized, and then he thanked her. Thanked her for having the courage that he didn't have--the courage to let go, even though they loved each other.

She stared at the taillights of his car as he drove away. Her heart was heavy and her eyes wet with the sorrow of saying goodbye to the life in that little black box, but also with excitement at the life tomorrow would bring.

22 March 2013

#Scintilla13: Baby Fever

Today's Scintilla prompt:

B: Write about spending time with a baby/child under age 2. If you’re a parent, do NOT write about your own child.

And today's fiction:

As soon as my sister Caroline walked through the front door, I plucked baby Isabel from her arms and whisked her away to the den. It would take Caroline at least ten minutes to unload her massive diaper bag and portable playpen. Having an infant seemed like a huge hassle.

Izzy smiled and babbled as I removed her mittens, hat, and coat. She was pretty hideous right when she was first born, but I suppose most babies are. In the nine months since, she's gotten cuter every day. Those chubby cheeks are so pinchable and kissable, I can hardly contain myself. Something about high levels of cuteness makes me aggressive. I could almost literally gobble her up.

The baby seemed sleepy, so I cradled her against my chest and walked around the room. As her eyelids drooped, my heart swelled. This is how I love them. Docile, tiny, peaceful.

"Thanks so much for babysitting," Caroline said, coming into the room.

"Of course. You know I love to."

She peeked over my shoulder. "Oh thank goodness. I thought she'd never fall asleep. She's been fighting it for a while."

We were silent for a moment, both studying Izzy's little face. The impossibly smooth, porcelain skin. The round nose. The eyelashes I would kill for.

"I can't believe she's nine months already," I said.

"I know. It's gone by so slow and so fast at the same time."

"You ready to start trying for another one yet?"

She laughed. "You could always get one of your own, you know. You and David will be great parents."

"Nah. I'll just borrow yours." Izzy began to feel heavy in my arms.

"When do you think you guys will try?"

"We won't."

Silence. Caroline stared at me.

Awkward silence.

I tried not to imagine what was going through her head. I'd heard it all before. How can you not want kids? You'll change your mind. It's different when they're your own.

Babies are great. Toddlers and teens are not. I loved Isabel almost like she were mine, but I loved being able to give her back. I'd never had any urge to have one of my own, though.

I looked at Caroline, silently daring her to take her best shot.

"Cool. You'll get to spoil Isabel all you want."

Caroline smiled. I smiled. In her sleep, I'm pretty sure Izzy smiled.

21 March 2013

#Scintilla13: Getting There

I know, I've been sporadic with this project. But here's some more Scintilla fiction.

A: Talk about where you were going the day you got lost. Were you alone? Did you ever get to where you meant to go?

One day I looked around and he wasn't there. I woke up to realize the trappings of the life I'd built were unfamiliar and unsatisfying. When did collecting casual acquaintances like trophies become my measure of success? Around the same time he stopped calling, I think, though I couldn't fool myself about which event had led to the other.

One day I looked around and wished he were there. There, at the dinner parties, the clubs, the black tie galas. There, in bed, next to me every morning. There, at the end of the last known telephone number, now disconnected, or on the other side of the last known email, which goes unanswered for weeks. Maybe I'm grasping at straws, trying to reclaim the wholeness of my youth by seeking out the boy who was at my side through most of it. Maybe he wouldn't like the woman I've become. Probably.

One day I looked around and there he was. At my door, my email in hand. And the moment I saw him, I knew, and he knew, he was there for good. In my life and in my bed and in my future. And in finding him I found the comfort and certainty that nothing else in my life had been able to fill. I didn't realize I was looking for the place where I fit until he showed up, and then suddenly I was there.

19 March 2013

#Scintilla13: The Content of my Character

I'm sharing stories (real and fictional) with the Scintilla Project. It's not too late to sign up and join in. Today's post is 100% non-fiction.

A: Describe a time when the content of your character was tested.

I read an article the other day about procrastination having little to do with being lazy. Rather, it's a symptom of something else. That article really resonated with me, and I realized my own procrastination often has to do with avoiding some sort of emotional response. Take this post, for instance. I started this post yesterday, when it was supposed to be completed. I wrote a sentence. Stared at the screen. Checked my phone. Checked Facebook. Stared at the screen. Then I closed the computer because it was late and decided I would write this today instead. Not because I didn't know what I wanted to write about - I knew that the minute I read the prompt in my email early yesterday morning. I was just trying not to "go there" emotionally.

This prompt is timely in a kind of spooky way. Something happened in a nearby town on Sunday that has sparked a strong emotional/psychological response in me, and even though I was not involved in any way, I really feel like right now, my character is being tested. I'm questioning the most fundamental parts of who I am, how I live my life, and what I believe about the world at large.

Trigger warning: rape, misogyny, rape culture, victim blaming, generalized douchebaggery

Depending on where you live or the type of social media and online news you typically consume, you may know about the recent rape of a teen in Steubenville, Ohio. If not, here are the basics: A sixteen-year-old girl became extremely intoxicated at a party. While she was out of it, she was raped by two classmates. This past Sunday, a juvenile court judge found them both guilty. The boys were sentenced to a minimum of one year in juvenile facilities for the rape, with additional time possible.

Immediately, there was backlash. Major news outlets lamented about how devastating the conviction was for the "promising" young men, both football players. People took to social media to express their displeasure with the verdict and blame the victim, not only for her rape, but for "ruining" two young men's lives. One particularly despicable person, who doesn't believe rape exists at all, took the time to outline exactly why the victim was "asking for it." I won't link to any of this stuff in particular. If you really want to see for yourself, I'm sure you can easily find it.

I was livid. Absolutely fuming. Not just because these rape apologists exist and spoke up in this instance - I've known such people are out there for a long time. But the victim-blaming response was so swift, so widespread, and so disgustingly mean, it really caught me off guard.

I wanted to to scream at these people while using especially foul language. I wanted to hunt down every web page, twitter profile, blog, or facebook page where people were saying the victim deserved to be raped, brought it on herself, or were calling her vile names, and I wanted to tell those people that they're pathetic excuses for human beings (among other less eloquently worded things) in a very public expression of "fuck you." I was tempted to leave scathing reviews on an author's books - not just the one where he explains why he doesn't think rape exists - to warn people what an asshole I think he is and to discourage them from purchasing his book. I was raging inside with a capital R.

I don't get angry easily or often. I dislike anger in general because I find it to be a mostly useless emotion. It overwhelms me to the point of tears, and then it shuts me down. So I typically cycle quickly from anger to "over it" pretty quickly. Or in this case, from anger to depression in the same day. I still find myself vacillating between the two.

Last year, I responded to a Scintilla prompt with the post Still, I Have Faith. In it I talked about this seemingly unshakeable faith, optimism, and positivity I have about life. Without that faith in the general goodness of people and the tendency for things to work out satisfactorily, I don't know what the point of anything would be. And yet that faith is paper-thin right now, at best.

How do I reconcile the horrendous truth of so many people's ignorance with my worldview that usually assures me It's okay, it will all work out? How do I keep from going off the deep end of crazy because I don't know what else to do with my anger? How do I not give up completely on the idea that people, for the most part, are decent beings?

When it seems like nothing anyone says or does, ever, could change the minds of these awful people who would blame a girl for her own victimization... what am I supposed to do? Because these attitudes NEED to change. I fear for the future of this country and the world when such backward thinking is entirely too prevalent in this day and age.

Part of me wants to grab everyone I see by the shirt and demand to know what they think of this situation, and heaven forbid they say the wrong thing. Another part of me wants to forget it all, and to go about the rest of my life avoiding all mention of such things, and doing my best to live in blissful ignorance. Ultimately, I know neither of those is possible, but I haven't yet worked out the alternatives. My amazing family and friends have encouraged me to look for the good that's still out there in the world, not to give up, to not let this change me for the worse. That doesn't really sound doable at the moment. I can't even get through writing a post like this without fighting back tears. And I wasn't even involved in this situation. I can't imagine what the young woman who was raped must be feeling.

My heart hurts. That's where I am right now. For the rest, I'll have to wait and see.

17 March 2013

#Scintilla13: Nel cor più non mi sento

Playing a bit of catch up. Here's day three. Reminder: unless I state otherwise, I'm answering Scintilla prompts with original fiction. Written on the fly, unedited. So be gentle. :-)

B: Talk about a time when you were driving and you sang in the car, all alone. Why do you remember this song and that stretch of road?

Nel cor più non mi sento

Jeremy laughed two days ago when he got into my car and found my usual blaring punk rock had been replaced by Italian arias on piano. I was trying to decide on a solo for my voice class final exam. He didn't laugh when I refused to let him change the CD.

When it's your turn to drive, we'll listen to what you want. He begged to drive after half an hour.

I smile at the memory, turn up the volume on Lasciatemi morire!, and hum along. Jeremy has been my best friend for seven years, since eighth grade. He's heard me belt out some power ballads before, during some of our sillier hang-outs, but he'd never really heard me sing. Until this weekend.

These songs are... weird. Like there's something missing.

That's because there is. This is just the accompaniment track. The melody is missing.

Well shit. If you're gonna make me listen to this for much longer, you'd better start singing.

So I did. First it was Alma del core, but I sang it in an exaggerated, bouncy way. Jeremy grinned at my overdone vibrato and occasional hand gesture to punctuate the music, when I wasn't using both hands to maneuver through highway traffic.

Is that how you would really sing it?

No, of course not. My professor would kill me. And then fail me.

Sing the right way. I know shit about opera, but I think I know when someone sings well.

I sang through six or seven songs in a row, concentrating on controlling my breathing and maintaining good pitch, even through the jostling as we hit potholes and bridge joints. Jeremy didn't say a word until I pulled into a rest stop and switched off the music.

That's great, Kat. Why didn't I know you could sing like that? He smiled halfway, not enough for his dimples to show.

Suddenly it felt like I'd been keeping a deep dark secret. I shrugged.  

Most people don't.

It wasn't like I'd lied or intentionally hid it. It just wasn't something that seemed to come up in conversation a lot. Especially not with Jeremy. With Jeremy, I shared football and relationship trouble and surreptitious swigs of rum from his mom's liquor cabinet when we were eighteen. We shared hugs and sometimes tears, conversations about life and whether there's a god, words of encouragement and stupid inside jokes. There was never a time when I felt the need to say Hey, I like singing opera and classical stuff.

Jeremy drove the second half of the trip, and we listened to the different bands we both shared a passion for, especially the one we were driving to see. The concert was as amazing as I knew it would be, and we had a great time. It was nice to hang out in the middle of the school year, something we didn't usually get to do since we went to college in different states. Still, there was something weird. Maybe it was my imagination, but I kept catching him with this... look. I couldn't quite pinpoint what it was.

It couldn't be the singing thing, I told myself. Why would he be mad about that? That was just stupid. But he was pretty quiet. And Jeremy was never quiet.

We checked into a hotel after the concert to get a good night's sleep before driving back the next day. We said good night, climbed into our separate beds, and turned out the light. After an hour, I could tell by the sound of his breathing that he was still awake.

Did you have fun today? I asked.


Okay. You've been quiet.

So have you.

Only because you were, I said. What the fuck was this? Jeremy didn't do quiet, and Jeremy didn't do vague. Not in all the time we'd known each other.

Silence for several more minutes. So I said the most ridiculous thing any woman could say to a guy: What are you thinking right now?

Just remembering you singing in the car.

Shut up. I burst into uncomfortable laughter. You are not.

The light flicked on and Jeremy sat up in bed. I was, too.

Were not.

Was too. You were pretty fucking fantastic. He chucked a pillow at my head.

Whatever. I threw it back.

He pounced. In an instant, he was on my bed, straddling my hips, forehead pressed against mine. He smelled like toothpaste and... like Jeremy. The same cologne he'd worn since junior year in high school. One I helped pick out, now that I thought of it.

When will you ever learn to take a compliment? He closed his eyes and relaxed against me. Just as his lips brushed mine, he whispered, Scoot over.

I made room and he slipped under the covers like it was the most natural thing in the world to do. My stomach knotted itself into a quivering lump.

Turn over. He slid his hand over my hip as I did so, and pulled me tight against his body. Go to sleep.

I didn't know how I was supposed to go to sleep like that, with his legs tucked behind mine, his chest against my back, his breath tickling my shoulder. Jeremy was my best friend, so of course I loved him. But did I...

His breathing deepened in a matter of minutes as he quickly fell asleep. Something inside me ached. I grabbed Jeremy's hand and held it to my chest so his arm was wrapped tight around me, and that something inside me ached more profoundly.

I turn the volume up a little more as I drive, trying to drown that same feeling growing in me now as I remember last night. The closeness. The feeling of being surrounded by my best friend, and how it was so right, and how could I not have seen that before? We woke this morning, showered, and checked out of the hotel like nothing was different. We hadn't done anything, but it felt different to me.

The dainty intro of Nel cor più non mi sento trickles through the speakers. Perfect. A song about the torment of love.

I'm still not sure that's what I'm feeling. I dropped Jeremy off in front of his dorm twenty minutes ago. He hugged me and held on longer than usual. That something continued to ache, even after he grabbed his bag from the trunk and disappeared inside. Could he really be feeling what I'm feeling right now? Could that be why he was acting so weird?

The song ends and I hit the back button to replay it. It's so perfect, this song. I sing along this time, smiling through the lines cagion del mio tormento, amor, sei colpa tu. Translates roughly to something about love being the cause of all my torment.

Amore è un certo che, I sustain the note and add an embellishment before continuing with the last line. Che disperar mi fa. Thou, Love, are surely one that will drive me to despair. But the music is light and airy. Fun, even. I imagine a woman scolding her love for tormenting her, driving her to despair, but with a wink and a knowing look, because she knows that love aches so badly only because it fills your heart near to bursting.

I cut off the driver next to me to make it onto the nearest exit. I have to go back. Not knowing if Jeremy shared my unexpected epiphany yesterday is going to drive me to despair. On a related note, I think I found the song to sing for voice class.

I pull off into a McDonald's parking lot to figure out how to get back on the highway in the opposite direction. Before the map loads, my phone alerts me to a missed call and a voice mail. Jeremy. I must have been in a dead zone when he called. I dial into the voice mail system and listen.

Hey. I'm sorry I'm such a fucking coward. This isn't how I wanted to say this to you, but I guess it's all I have right now.

There's a pause and I place a hand on my chest, where my heart is pounding like mad. Who would've thought falling in love would physically hurt this way? In message, Jeremy clears his throat before continuing.

I'm not even sure when it happened, okay. It just sort of... I just... Fuck. (nervous laughter) I need you, Kat. You keep getting better and more amazing, and I feel like I won't keep getting better if you aren't there with me.

A strange noise startles me, but then I realize the noise is me. I'm crying. Hard. Does he know how much I need him, too? Anyone can give me a compliment, tell me I'm getting better at anything, however small, but it only makes me self-consciously proud when it comes from him. I stifle a sob just in time to hear his last words before hanging up.

I love you, Kat. I love you.

14 March 2013

#Scintilla13: Famous Names

Yesterday I wrote a fictional story for Scintilla. I'm switching over to real life for today's prompt.

B: Tell the story about something interesting (anything!) that happened to you, but tell it in the form of an instruction manual (Step 1, Step 2, Step 3….)

Step 1: Cringe at the fact that your full name is on your name badge when you start your new job.

Step 2: Smile and try not to roll your eyes at the customer in your checkout line who tells you Nicole Kidman is somewhere in the store. It's a stupid thing for them to say, but at least they didn't crack one of the many J.Lo jokes you've heard over and over again throughout the years.

Step 3: Pick your jaw up off the floor when Nicole Kidman really does walk up to your line to pay.

Step 4: Grin like a fool for the rest of the day.

13 March 2013

#Scintilla13: Drinking the Job Away

When I signed up for Scintilla this year, I did so with something a little different in mind. I decided I would try to respond to the prompts with a piece of fiction each day. Unless a prompt really speaks to me and makes me want to share a personal experience, Scintilla will truly be a fortnight of storytelling for me. So here were today's prompt choices:

A: Tell a story about a time you got drunk before you were legally old enough to do so.
B: Tell a story set at your first job.

And so I present you with this story that combines the two.

Drinking the Job Away

Some confluence of luck and fate and all those other cliches of good fortune has bestowed upon me my first job. Okay, not exactly my first, but I can hardly count the summers at Dairy Queen and numerous semesters in the university bookstore as the same kind of jobs as this. My first real, grown-up, pinch-me-am-I-dreaming job. And if I were a coffee drinker, I might not have gotten the opportunity.

Best coffee in the city and you order hot cocoa, he said with half a smile and a half-cocked eyebrow that spoke more of amusement than derision. We talked while the barista made my drink and less than five minutes later I was out the door with my cocoa in one hand, a business card in the other, and a dizzying feeling of euphoria in my head. I sent my resume as soon as I got home, then endured two weeks of emails, interviewing, group conference calls, and painful waiting before I got the news: I was in.

I'm in. And now I'm here, celebrating with him, and with five others who will round out the team of this new start-up venture. I like the idea of being part of something that we'll build from the ground up. The real work starts Monday, but tonight, we toast.

Maybe it's my new blunt-cut bob and chunky red-framed glasses. Or maybe it's the fact that everyone else looks older. I don't know what it is, but I don't get carded. Not with the first beer, or the second. Not when the champagne is poured. Not when I order a martini with more specificity than someone under the age of twenty-one ought to.

In all the conversations, phone calls, emails, there was never any reason to mention that I skipped the seventh grade and completed my freshman year at a local community college while I was still a senior in high school. He had no reason to think I was still eight months shy of legal drinking age. I didn't want to miss out on this inaugural celebration, so I didn't bring it up when the waitress brought my martini. Or when she brought another round of beers. Or when someone suggested shots.

Soon enough, my head feels light on my neck, and not because I'm still so excited for this job. I remember I haven't eaten since lunch, except for the nachos and fries we all split with the first round of drinks. Stupid. Stuipd. Luckily he is much more steady on his feet than I. How many drinks did he have? I can't remember him having anything but water after the first beer and a glass of champagne, over two hours ago.

No worries, no worries, he says when I apologize for what I'm certain he must think is my unprofessional behavior. I didn't intend to get drunk tonight. I can drive you home and take a cab from there. You definitely shouldn't be driving.

I surrender my keys willingly and we bid the others good night. The air outside is cool and calming. I'm glad he has my keys already because the chill in the air wakes me up and gives me a false sense of sobriety. Until I stumble on the curb. He catches my elbow and slips an arm around my waist before I lose my balance and make a complete ass of myself.

Somehow I manage to keep up half a conversation while giving directions to my apartment. With each pause in the conversation I wonder if now would be a good time to mention my age.

A light rain has begun to fall as he walks me to my door, so I invite him in to wait for his cab.

I'd offer you coffee, but since I don't drink it, I don't have any, I say with a smile.

He smiles back. No problem.  He steps closer. Maybe now would be a good time to mention my age?

His stubble scratches my chin as he kisses me, and the kiss wouldn't be so bad except I'm not feeling so well and the force of it has me off balance and - oh yeah, he's supposed to be my boss. I stumble backward, giving him an excuse to grasp my hips with both my hands. Instead of steadying me, it makes me feel trapped.

I turn my face away and his mouth lands on my neck instead, which probably seems like an invitation, but it isn't. His biceps are firm beneath my hands as I try to push him back. Am I really this weak? Or is it the alcohol?

No, don't. We can't. He ignores me, so I try again. Stop. Please stop.

C'mon, it's okay. You don't want to be all work and no play, right? And his voice has that lilt again, and that half-smile is there, and the half-cocked eyebrow, just like the first day and I wonder if he's still amused or if it's something else that I should've seen from the beginning.

I protest, and he holds my hips tighter, and he pushes me back against the kitchen wall. He kisses, I evade, and he holds my hips tighter. Still, I protest. Still, he persists, and he holds my hips tighter and presses his entire body against mine, against the kitchen wall.

My stomach heaves. I don't know if it's the urge to puke or to cry, but I suppress it. Maybe now is a good time to mention my age? In all the conversations, emails, interview sessions, I never saw this coming. If somewhere along the line I said how old I am, would we still be here right now?

I open my mouth to plead with him again to stop, but no words come out. What comes out is my perfect martini, a few beers and glasses of champagne, and two shots. All over his shirt and my shoes.

He jumps back and shouts something, I'm not sure what, but it isn't a happy exclamation. He grabs a hand towel from the kitchen counter and attempts to clean the vomit off his clothes. After a moment he mutters a few barely audible expletives and storms out, taking my towel with him.

Some confluence of karma and bad luck and all those cliches of misfortune has stripped me of the opportunity to have my dream job.

I sink my vomit-covered, unemployed ass to the floor and weep tears of joy.

12 March 2013

Back to Jello Basics

Change. It is a-comin' to this here blog.

If you've been following along with me for any length of time, you probably know that I can be kinda sporadic with the posting schedule. Recently I've found myself thinking I should write something on this. Blog about it, maybe. But then I falter, because the topics don't seem to jive with what I've created here on the blog in the past five and a half years (whaaaat? yeah, it's been that long.)

I'm a writer. So, naturally, when I first decided to start a blog, I thought it would be great to make it about writing, with a dash of "life" thrown in there. But you know what? By and large, my writing life isn't all that exciting. Did I write today/this week/this month, or didn't I? How is the story coming along? What revisions am I making? But you know what... even I find that kinda boring.

I hope to connect with current and potential readers by engaging in social media, whether it's Twitter or blogging, or whatever. That's always been part of my reason for blogging. I'm realizing now that by talking about writing, trying to offer writing advice, chronicling my writing journey, the only people I'm likely to reach are fellow writers who've been there, done that, or are currently experiencing the same things.

But here's the thing... writing is just part of who I am.

In my very first blog post, I gave the world and introduction to my jello philosophy. (If you don't know, "jello" is a nickname of mine that plays off my name/initials as well as a reference to my love of the jiggly dessert.) I closed that inaugural post with a bit of wisdom that I needed to hear again right now:
As long as you live knowing that who you are - not what you look like, what you do, what you eat or don't eat, who you love, or whatever - is what makes you an amazing person, then you have learned the jello lesson.
Hello there, good advice. How did I forget you so easily?

I hope that people will want to read what I have to say about a lot of things, not just my writing journey. My friends like me for all of who I am, and not just for the writing part of me. Instead of pushing all that other awesome me-ness out of the way because it isn't writing-related, I'm going to honor it. Bring it to the forefront, into the spotlight.

Jello World will be shifting focus away from a "writing blog" to a "me blog." I will still talk about books and writing on occasion, as that is a big part of what I do, but I want to share other thoughts as well. Ideas, philosophies, musings, things I find funny or perplexing, and hopefully some more free fiction. It will likely get a bit political at times, which many consider to be a cardinal sin when it comes to the public persona of published authors. I suppose if I get terribly extreme, I could alienate some people. But there will be those who agree with me, and that's enough for me. Chances are, if you dislike what I have to say so much that you'd refuse to read my writing as some sort of moral statement, you probably wouldn't enjoy my writing all that much anyway.

I'm happy to say that this change will be effective immediately, and I am kicking off this new focus by participating in the Scintilla Project. Scintilla starts tomorrow! It would be fantastic if you'd join us and tell your stories.

The Scintilla Project

Jello World will be getting a facelift, too. But not until after Scintilla. I will probably get rid of or greatly trim my blogrolls in the sidebar. Please don't be offended if I remove a link to your site. I hope you will all follow along with me on this new blogging path, and I look forward to letting you in on different sides of myself that many of you may not be familiar with. If you would still like to hear my thoughts on all things writing and publishing, please join me and my cohorts over at From the Write Angle.

06 January 2013

#JanPlan: Getting It Done

On New Year's Day, someone retweeted something into my stream that caught my eye. Something called a JanPlan. What the heck is a JanPlan, I wondered? I clicked through to this post from Christa Desir to find out. The basic idea is to take some project you've been wanting to finish, and finish it!

I liked the idea of setting some kind of goal for myself for this month, and there are a lot of things I want to get going, so I decided to jump on board.

I've already had this feeling that 2013 is going to be my year. I don't know in what way, exactly, but I see success in my future. With any luck (and a lot of hard work) this will be the year I quit retail and make my living doing something writing-related that I enjoy. Therefore, my JanPlan will help me tidy up a few things that need to be done to start me on that path. This month I plan to:
  • Launch my transcription website and start seeking out clients
  • Follow up on some freelance opportunities I've come across
  • Continue work on one of my fiction manuscripts that I had set aside. A stretch goal would be to finish the draft of that manuscript, but that would be a pretty big stretch. :-)
Do you have something you want to finish this month? Join us on Twitter and share your #JanPlan efforts.

01 January 2013

Consent is Sexy--Dialogue, Not So Much

Every year on my Facebook page, I post an erotic short story. Just for fun. This year it took me a little longer than I would've liked to get the story written and posted. As in, I only managed to finish writing and do a quick copy/paste so that it was up at 11:59pm on New Year's Eve.

I always forget how much longer it tends to take me to write erotic scenes than I think it should. But this year there was also something else dragging it out, and I think it was the dialogue in the story. I've written previously about how much I obsess over dialogue. I pare it down as much as possible and can't stand to have more than a couple lines of it without some sort of supporting action.

This year's story was heavier on the dialogue than I like to be, generally. But I couldn't help it. The nature of the story demanded it. The story, appropriate titled Consenting Adults, focuses on explicit consent in sexual encounters. The idea struck me, but I didn't want to make it overtly political or preachy. In order to show consent as sexy, it required a lot of dialogue.

A lot of repetitious dialogue.

Lots of yes and can I and would it be okay if...

I think it took me so long to get the story written because I was just trying to avoid writing all the dialogue!

Anyway, I finally finished it an hour ago and hastily posted it to my FB page. Didn't even spell check it. Eep! I know some writers are appalled at the idea of letting anyone read the rough or first draft of anything. Obviously, I'm not one of those writers. If you'd like to read the story, you can find it here. I would love to hear from you about whether you think I made consent sexy, or anything else you'd like to comment on. I wouldn't mind a little 'like' on my page while you're there, too.

Do you ever have a "message" in your writing that you try not to make too preachy? Any tips?

And at what point do you feel okay letting people read your writing? If not the first draft, which one?