Musings

Cover Reveal and Excerpt: Every Breath: Sarah and Benny

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EVERY BREATH
(SARAH AND BENNY)

by Liz Durano

Twelve years since he promised her his heart, can their love stay as strong as ever… even without that ring?

Twelve years since he promised her his heart, can their love stay as strong as ever… even without that ring?

For the last twelve years, Navajo environmental protection scientist Benny Turner has never missed spending a single Valentine’s Day with Sarah Drexel. But when a toxic waste spill in Colorado requires his presence, the unfortunate event couldn’t have happened at the worst time.

For the first time since they’ve been together, they’ll be spending Valentine’s Day apart.

But Benny has never been one to give up so easily. And he’s determined to give Sarah a Valentine’s Day she’ll never forget even if he has to move mountains to do it—or employ the help of a few friends…

This is a steamy Valentine’s Day novella featuring Dax’s sister Sarah Drexel and her longtime partner Benny Turner. It’s a slice-of-life story set in Taos, New Mexico where we first met Harlow and Dax in Everything She Ever Wanted. Featuring characters you’ve met in previous books in A Different Kind of Love series, this story is guaranteed with steamy feels and no cliffhanger!

AMAZON

EXCERPT

His phone buzzes from the bedside table and excusing himself, Benny reaches over me to retrieve it.

“Work?”

He shakes his head, returning the phone to the table and pulling me in an embrace. He buries his face in my hair. “My mother.”

I pull away, studying his face. “Why didn’t you answer?”

“Have you seen the time?”

“It could be an emergency.”

Benny doesn’t answer. He kisses my forehead and then my lips one more time before removing his arm from under my head and sits up. Now he really needs to get ready to go to the airport.

“Are you packed?” I ask instead, the silences growing longer between us again. It always happens when he’s about to leave for long periods of time. This is one of those times. Pipeline spills don’t get cleaned up in a day, certainly not when it happens on tribal land. There’s just too much red tape, even danger. The last time Benny was sent to consult at one of these things, someone shot at him with a rifle. Later, they claimed they thought he was trespassing. It didn’t even matter that he was driving a truck with official markings.

“Of course.” He gets up and heads to the bathroom, shutting the door behind him. A few seconds later, I hear the shower running. I get up and take a peek at his phone which buzzes again. This time it’s a text message from his mother.

Call me. Noelle is in town.

My chest tightens, my throat turns dry. I know that name.

Noelle.

I get up and walk out of the bedroom, making my way to the guest bathroom so I can wash my face and brush my teeth. Twelve years since we first kissed, why on earth am I still letting Noelle bother me?

But then, why not? She and Benny grew up together on the reservation. She’s also the woman Benny’s mother had wanted him to marry. They’d started dating when they were teenagers, attending dances together whenever he returned home from college in the East Coast where he’d earned a scholarship. While he wasn’t the first in his mother’s family to earn a college degree—his mother has an Associate’s degree in Business—he’s the first to earn a Doctorate.

That’s where I come in, setting Benny’s path a totally different direction from the one his mother had hoped for. I was completing my Bachelor’s in Nursing and he was working on his dissertation on Environmental Biology for his Doctorate when we met and the next thing everyone knew, we were inseparable and I had Dyami, a strong and beautiful baby boy with Benny’s eyes and lustful cry that could wake up the neighbors.

I stare at my reflection in the mirror, droplets of water clinging to my skin. Blue eyes, creamy skin and dark-haired, I’m what people have always called a curvy girl. Broad shoulders, wide hips, big boobs. Far from the ideal woman that many men I’d met in New York held on to when I went back there for my first two years of college.

How I wanted so badly to leave the quiet of Taos then, flying back to New York ten years after Dad uprooted me from everything I knew so Mama could live in Taos again. I thought I’d fit right back in like I never left it.
Only I’d changed.

What I thought I wanted—the hustle and bustle of Manhattan along with the status that came with it as Daniel Drexel’s oldest daughter—had faded into the tired rumblings and exhaust fumes of the city that never slept and a father whose affection for his only daughter turned into an expectation of perfection in everything.

Too bad I was far from perfect, and still am.

But at least, Benny loves him a girl with something more than skin and bones to hold on to. You’re more than just curves I can’t stop thinking about, Sarah, he’d say teasingly. There’s a woman in this body. My woman.

Shi’áád.

He just hasn’t put a ring on it, not since he first kissed me twelve years ago and promised to be mine forever.

RELEASE DATE: FEBRUARY 8, 2019

Amazon US ➭ https://amzn.to/2T2Csec
Amazon UK ➭ https://amzn.to/2Cv458L
Amazon CA ➭ https://amzn.to/2FGNXEo
Amazon AU ➭ https://amzn.to/2FwJ6X3

It’s a New Release: Her Lucky Charm 🍀🍺


Just in time for St. Patrick’s Day, Her Lucky Charm, a lighthearted (though with a little bit of angst) is now LIVE!

I had originally written Falling for Jordan‘s Addison and Jordan’s St. Patrick’s Day wedding and honeymoon but before I knew it, Roxy and Kodi, (the bridesmaid and groomsman respectively) took over!

Suddenly, it was the morning after the wedding and Roxy’s alleged “walk of shame” from Kodi’s townhouse goes viral.

Oh, what to do, what to do, right?

So I kept going and Her Lucky Charm came to be. I hope you like it!

Here’s the blurb:

HER LUCKY CHARM
A St. Patrick’s Day Romance

Did we or didn’t we?
That’s the million-dollar question when I wake up next to Kodiak “Kodi” Donovan the morning after a mutual friend’s St. Patrick’s Day wedding.

Forget that he’s one of the hottest bachelors in Manhattan, a billionaire, and as the founder of the nonprofit ReBuild to Heal, a philanthropist to boot.

And so we agree to go on with our respective lives and pretend nothing happened.

Too bad my walk of shame ends up getting plastered all over social media and the next thing I know, I’ve become #walkofshameroxy.

As if that isn’t bad enough, my job as an ICU nurse is in jeopardy, too.

Suddenly whether we did it or not is the least of our worries. To save my reputation, the only other question becomes…

Should we or shouldn’t we just take it all the way?

Her Lucky Charm is also part of Steamy Sensations Holiday Love: 10 Authors. 10 Holidays. 10 Steamy Romances and please do check my fellow authors’ stories out, too!

Flashback Friday: New Mexico

While doing some spring cleaning yesterday, I came upon a set of negatives in an art folder and figured I might as well check out what was in it. After debating whether I really wanted to scrounge around for materials needed to make my own film lightbox, I found an iOS app called Film Developer that does it for you.

It’s not perfect but I just needed to see what were on the negative, in some sort of color. I also should have done a better setup so the pictures would end up clearer but this is a quickie version.

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Yup, that big butt on the right is mine, shopping for piñon nuts right before driving over the Gorge bridge

This was my first visit to New Mexico around 2004. I didn’t even know where it was on the map then and I had no idea what the Rio Grande was. It certainly didn’t look grand from the air because they looked like tiny streams.

This was also the first time I visited Taos and my friend took me to check out the Earthships at the Greater World Community. You can see it in the middle left where there’s a guy sifting gravel on the side. I remember how enamored I was of the sagebrush. They were everywhere!

The day before, we’d gone on a hike in Santa Fe and were totally unprepared. I thought he said we were going on a stroll but it turned out to be this hike and we ended up getting lost and then on private property and then accosted a herd of cows that didn’t look too welcoming. I felt like a city girl transplanted in who-knows-where and the altitude got me during that hike.

The guy in question’s long gone—as in moved on, got married, and we don’t talk anymore. But if it weren’t for him, I would never have written my New Mexico stories at all or discovered the Earthships where A Different Kind of Love series is firmly rooted. I also would never have seen just how vast and beautiful the New Mexico sky is.

I always knew I had stopped at a piñon stand during that trip but thought it had to be my imagination. Glad to know it wasn’t and there I am with my big butt jeans having a grand old time buying beef jerky and piñon nuts to take home with me to California.

Read Across America

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Today was Read Across America Day and so I, along with three other parents, read a story in my son’s classroom. It was my first time to do so and I had so much fun I didn’t even have time to document it with my phone, not even for social media.

I almost did, though. I had my phone in my hand in the beginning but I realized that you really can’t enjoy the moment and document it at the same time without losing something. And so I placed my phone back into my purse and set the purse in one corner.

That way, I was present 100 percent.

The first story I read was my son’s favorite, Hop on Pop by Dr. Seuss. Five children gathered around me including LIlDude and they listened as I read the book from cover to cover. I even told them something about copyright and how Hop on Pop first came out in 1963 and that made their eyes go wide.

1963 is basically a generation and a half for them.

A_Fish_Out_Of_Water_(book)_cover_artThe second book I read was A Fish Out of Water by Helen Palmer, based on a short story by her husband, Theodore Geisel’s (Dr. Suess) called Gustave the Goldfish.

Then the kids took turns reading. One read Cat in the Hat, another read I Can Read with my Eyes Shut, and another, A Wocket in my Pocket. We actually ran out of time but it was so much fun. It was wonderful to see the kids read aloud and with a lot of enthusiasm.

Growing up, no one read to us because it just wasn’t in our culture. Instead, we were told stories, not by our parents, but by the help and usually, they were scary stories right before bed.

It wasn’t all bad since it meant I had to learn to read the stories myself and so that’s what I did. I became a voracious reader and fell in love with fairy tales.

I’m glad many kids (at least in my son’s case) have access to books. It was great to see eight- and nine-year-old kids still into Dr. Seuss. Heck, I still love Dr. Seuss’ stories and I’m glad they didn’t ask me to read Cat in the Hat out loud because I would have performed it for them!

Hope you’re having a wonderful Friday! I’m writing up a storm this weekend and next week, after a big name author said it’s impossible to write a 50,000-word novel in seven days, I’m going to attempt to do just that. That’s 7,100 words per day, give or take.

Let’s do this.

A Look Back: Getting It In Writing

It’s a look back again at that old treasure trove of files in the old external hard drive and I found this entry written on August 9, 2000 and posted as is. I am really dating myself but while reading this, I don’t even remember the part where I stood in front of three airline counters not knowing which one would take me to Sun Valley, Idaho because I didn’t even know where Sun Valley was. Ah, the times before Google and Maps…

I went to my very first writers conference in August of last year with no expectations, whatsoever. First of all, I had no idea where in the world Sun Valley, Idaho was. All I knew, as I told the ticketing agents at the Del Amo mall, where I stood in front of three airline counters, was that I needed to get to some resort town in Idaho, and who among them could fly me there.

Lucky for me, the bewildered ticketing agent at the Delta counter raised her pen and beckoned me to come over. I had forgotten what city I was supposed to fly in and so I asked her to name all the resort towns in Idaho. I honestly think she really believed I was crazy.

When she got to the name ‘Sun Valley’, I told her that was it and booked my flight. She reminded me, three times, that my ticket was non-refundable so I better be sure I was going to the right city. I reassured her that I was sure, and prayed all the way home till I found my confirmation letter.

And so I found myself in Sun Valley, Idaho, standing in a small airport with only one terminal, having been flown in by a prop engine plane. Wow. The view from above was awesome and I wondered how it looked in the winter time when, the woman next to me said, was really more beautiful. When I smiled in acknowledgement to her, I still had no clue where I was.

It wasn’t as if I did not know my geography. I simply had never been to a writer’s conference before where one rubbed elbows with Pulitzer Prize winners like Frank McCourt and Jane Smiley, and my confusion had carried over to my geographically addled brain. It was as if I were sleepwalking into the conference, inundated by too many obligations and responsibilities of real life, and when given the time to simply relax, was totally unable to do so, or even comprehend that this time, right now, was entirely mine. Mine to do as I pleased.

And so I listened to the babbling brooks and creeks at night, trying to understand what I had just paid almost a thousand dollars to be here for, struggling to coax words out of my head. People I met told me that writers conferences such as this either left one totally invigorated and inspired, or totally distraught and overwhelmed. I didn’t have a problem with that. I could tell that I was all of the above, and very confused as well. I was walking on a cloud, not entirely comprehending the fact that I was talking to real writers who had honed their craft and now were teaching others what they knew.

Frank McCourt, after hearing that my best friend was a teacher about to demonstrate along with other teachers for higher wages, lamented to me about the plight of teachers in America. How could Julia Roberts command millions of dollars while the people entrusted with the country’s young barely scraped by with what they could get? Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, United Nations Ambassador to Kosovo, had asked me whether I had grown up in the United States or in the Philippines, where he knew both the Marcoses and the Aquinos. Even sweet and quirky Annie Lamott commented on the uniqueness of my name, asking me what I wrote as we walked towards the school house where lunch was being served. I wondered offhand if any of their talent and skill would carry over to me, like osmosis.

However It would take me four days to really get it. Which meant that on the fourth day I was back atwork in a cramped office in the small beach town I lived in, realizing that I had just met a few of the coolest writers on the planet and didn’t even realize how lucky I was. I remembered what one of the women said about how most people felt after attending one of these conferences. Invigorated and inpired, or distraught and overwhelmed.

I still knew I experienced all of the above. Invigorated and inspired by the very people I admired, and overwhelmed over the words and ideas crammed in my head, just dying to come out. But just as Annie Lamott wrote in her book about writing, I had to take it Bird by Bird. One thing at a time. One word at a time.

I don’t know if I’d ever return to that one particular conference again. Each year the list, it seems, get tighter and tighter. But I do know that I’d never forget the lessons I learned, no matter how confused I had appeared to have been. A year later, and a few projects later, I had finally gotten it.

Did you know I would end up losing all but one autographed book 10 years later when my husband ended up donating the wrong box of books to the library? The only book that didn’t get donated because I was reading it at that time is Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird.

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Musings Over Coffee: The Choice to Go Indie

Last night, I came across backup files of my old websites hosted on Geocities. I found poetry, stories, and interviews I’d done with actors like Alan Cumming and Dan Futterman. I also found a newsletter.

Yes, apparently, I wrote newsletters then! This one is from Christmas 1999. Y2k anyone? (I’m really dating myself, aren’t I?)


What struck me with this newsletter is that this is when I made the decision to stop writing my stories and submitting them so I could focus on building my massage practice.

Also stored in the external drive was a romantic suspense novella (2001) that was formatted into an ebook using a program that created ebooks for your computer. Unlike the way ebooks work now, back then, you had to buy a program that would convert your novel into an ebook that could only be opened within that program.

Also back then, there was no such thing as digital publishing like the way it is now with ebook retailers such as Amazon, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Google Play, Scribd, and so many more, with Amazon dominating the market by about 80%. If you wanted to be published back then, you had three choices:

  1. Submit to traditional publishers
  2. Publish your own book which includes forming your own press.
  3. Pay a vanity publisher to publish your book for a fee.

I never got around to do any of the three above although many members of my writing networking group did go #2 and #3 routes and they often held signings during the month to sell their books. Instead, I quit writing to focus on building my massage practice until 2012 when I began writing again to process my son’s autism diagnosis. I would then self-publish my first book in November 2014 and go full-time in 2016.

Currently, there’s a scandal going on in Romancelandia (as I’ve seen this field called) that involves a Brazilian author plagiarising lines from over 40 authors in her own books. She’s gone underground since the revelation but not before pinning the blame on ghostwriters and advice from publishing gurus that the only way to succeed in this business was to publish more books more often—like one book or more a month.

Long story short, it has devolved into “self-publishing is evil and crap” argument, where authors who offer their books free or for 99¢ must either be scammers or terrible writers because no self-respecting author would do such a thing. Readers have been given part of the blame for expecting more books more often from their favorite authors and also expecting them to be free or sold at a discount. And then there’s the “evil” Kindle Unlimited program that devalues books and authors’ hard work by offering a subscription service that allows readers to read exclusive-to-KU-books for $10/month, sometimes even less when there’s a promotion like last holiday’s $3 for 3 months’ subscription.

A quick side note: What I’d give to listen in on filmmakers and musicians whose movies and songs end up getting licensed by Netflix, Spotify and other streaming services. Does that mean they sacrifice $$$ for the visibility and exposure of their work to Netflix or Spotify’s millions of subscribers much like Kindle Select authors sacrifice $$$ for their books to be seen by the millions of subscribers of Kindle Unlimited?

I’m not going to argue whether KU is evil (I have half of my books in KU while the other half is available everywhere), whether perma-free books and 99¢ devalue my books or is a scammer’s tactic (my erotica pen name has a perma-free and so does Liz, with the perma-free available everywhere BUT Amazon and I also have 99¢ books), or whether I should limit my publishing output this year to two books a year because any more than must mean I’m a scammer who has to hire ghostwriters to meet the demand or the quality of my work must be crap.

No, I’m writing this over my now-cold coffee to say that I’m a self-published author because that’s the way I like it, I price my books a certain way as part of a marketing strategy, and I plan to release more books this year simply because I want to. I have so many stories to tell, and after holding myself back the last two years because of the whole ehrmagawd what will everyone think of the many books I want to write syndrome, I’m done with that. And yes, that includes releasing under different pen names.

Looking back at 2001 when creating an ebook meant one had to have a dedicated computer program to create the ebook with and read it on, we’ve come a long way to continue to cling to the belief that books are scarce and that authors are only amazing when vetted by a traditional publisher and that they have to publish only 2 – 3 books a year like the Big Five authors do.

Times have changed. People have changed.

Why do we have to go back to the way things were that primarily benefited only a select and oh-so-privileged-in-more-ways-than-one few?

Musings Over Coffee: Writing to Your Strengths

Years ago, I did the Personality Type test that said I was ENFP, a Campaigner. I posted the assessment results on my blog and then moved on, mainly because while it was cool to be someone who was “a true free spirit,” or “the life of the party,” I had no idea how it applied to my life as a writer.

“More than just sociable people-pleasers though, ENFPs, like all their Diplomat cousins, are shaped by their Intuitive (N) quality, allowing them to read between the lines with curiosity and energy. They tend to see life as a big, complex puzzle where everything is connected – but unlike Analysts, who tend to see that puzzle as a series of systemic machinations, ENFPs see it through a prism of emotion, compassion and mysticism, and are always looking for a deeper meaning.”

-ENFP Personality, the Campaigner, 16 Personalities

Last month, I took a course by Becca Syme called Write Better Faster. It came highly recommended by authors I admired. It took me a while to get into it because I was still in the midst of tackling more projects than I could handle and feeling overwhelmed by them all. It also explains why I have four giveaways for February to celebrate the release of ONE novella.

It comes with the territory of being overwhelmed and not realizing I’d signed up for or set up so many promotions. All while trying to write three stories at the same time.

Anyway, back to Becca Syme’s course. Well, I finally had time to go through the lessons and one of the first things we had to do was take a personality test, the same test I took two years ago.

Guess what? Same result – ENFP.

But this time, Syme, who is also a life coach, explained the results in relation to being a writer or a creative. Her examples made sense as to why a very detailed story outline that I tell myself will take me two weeks to shape into a novel (as I pretend to be someone’s ghostwriter) often has me looking for more new projects instead… oh look! A squirrel!

It’s a vicious cycle but thanks to Syme’s Write Better Faster course, it’s a cycle I recognize doesn’t work for me and never did. The system that works for me is not an outline or an 8-image collage aesthetic. It’s a book cover, one that has my name on it already and the working title.

From that image, I go to town and write the story loosely following Joseph Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey” and my understanding of Michael Hauge’s “identity to essence” which you can find here. When I’m stuck, I talk out loud to myself. Sometimes I talk to my characters (in my head) and ask them where they’re going with the story so far. Sometimes I write out the scene according to their eyes even if that chapter won’t make it into the final book. It’s my process and it turns out, it falls under my strengths as an ENFP.

I have my eighth-grade English teacher to thank for this, by the way. One day, she handed us a shoebox filled with pictures and she told us to select one picture and for the next half-hour, write something based on the photograph. It blew my mind and to this day, it’s one of the only days I remember from that year other than the one where I almost got suspended for writing an NSFW play months later… but that’s a story for another day.

So anyway, for so long I thought it wasn’t just weird. I thought it was wrong because I didn’t know anyone successful who did it. I mean, the successful authors in my peer group had visual schedules and publishing schedules that went all the way to two years with multiple series and books already outlined and written within the two-month window they allotted and then published. I mean, their systems worked. They rocked and they killed it in terms of sales and ranking. Of course, I wanted to do exactly what they were doing (although some now have ghostwriters to keep up with the crazy schedule).

Did it work?

Well, no, not for me.

So now I know better and accept that my process isn’t weird or wrong. It’s simply what works for me and I’m finally okay with that (I may have said I was okay with it before but I never believed it).

At this point, it’s not about writing or editing faster for me. It’s about letting my personality type work for me and not against me. So if I need a book cover to inspire that next story, then that cover will inspire that story. If I need to talk to myself or to my characters instead of writing the details down, then I talk as much as I want. It’s just the way my wiring works and after two years of trial and error, I’m glad I finally realized that the way I used to write was because of my wiring, my personality.

If you would like to find out how to write better faster, check out Syme’s course. I think she’s got a new one coming up this month. If not, sign up for her newsletter so you can stay updated about the next one. That’s how I heard about it. I signed up after one course was closed and then got signed up to the next one and I have no regrets.

Syme also has a new book out called Writer, You Need to Quit (and no, it’s not what you think).

Here’s the description:

The marketplace is crowded. The industry is moving fast. Everyone has opinions about how you should work and how you should run your business. If you’ve found this book, there’s a good chance you’ve heard them all. So, what am I saying that’s any different?

I’m saying, there are some things we all need to quit doing. What are they? Take a look inside and see.

Of course, you could still click away, and go about your business. Up to you, Neo. Red pill or blue pill?

I’ve coached a lot of writers–from the Uber-successful to the brand-new–and this book is a collection of what I’ve learned from watching patterns. There are some things we all need to quit, and I can tell you why.

So that’s pretty much all the musing I’m doing this Sunday. My coffee’s long gone cold and I might need something to eat before the caffeine hits me on an empty stomach.

What about you? What’s your personality type?

A Valentine’s Day Steamy Shorts and A Giveaway!

I’m so behind on everything that I almost forgot to wish everyone a Happy Valentine’s Day! As a romance author, I’d be remiss to miss this day, right?

I even treated myself to one of these cookies when I was buying a cupcake (with a similar cookie on top!) for LilDude’s homeroom teacher.

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Today is also the day that my Valentine’s Day novella Every Breath launches as part of Steamy Sensations Holiday Love, a project where ten authors get together to write ten steamy stories for ten holidays in 2019.

Ambitious, no? But I’m actually having a lot of fun and I’m thrilled to be in the company of these amazing authors!

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You can find all the stories here: Steamy Sensations Holiday Love

I’ve also got a few giveaways going on! Three of them can be found on my Facebook page while this one, which is a Valentine gift pack that includes a signed copy of Everything She Ever Wanted (or if you already have a copy, another one of my books), a Phenomenal Woman drink neoprene wrap, a notepad/pen set, a Papaya Arts coin purse AND a $15 Amazon Gift Card ends at midnight! And yes, that memo pad/pen set is upside down. I didn’t even notice it until right now...

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What about you? Any plans for Valentine’s Day?