Musings

Kinks

I could not resist.

In the Mood for a Hot Viking Story?

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It’s not mine but author Emmanuelle de Maupassant’s latest release is FREE for a limited time and she’s celebrating with an Amazon Gift Card Giveaway. You can also download the book for free or if you’ve got Kindle Unlimited, add it to your library ASAP because it’s steamy hot and… well, it involves one hot Viking!

I also can’t stop looking at those pecs tattoos.

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Other than Viking history books, this is actually the first Viking series I’ve ever read before that’s under romance. The first book was hot hot hot enough for me to take notice and wait for the follow-up (and that’s a rare thing for me) and now that it’s here, I’m loving it. Emmanuelle definitely did a ton of research into the era and I love the parts about herbs and poultices and also the way she delves into Nordic folklore.

The first book is 99 cents or free in Kindle Unlimited so do can grab that while you’re there.

DOWNLOAD VIKING WOLF

DOWNLOAD VIKING THUNDER

Lost & Found: Where I Was Last Night

NOTE: While going through old files, I found stories I’d written back in 2001—THIRTY years ago (because I can’t do math)! Can you believe that?! This was way before blogs were officially called blogs but somehow I wrote stories and posted them on my old Geocities website. Thank goodness I backed them up because here’s one now, found while cleaning up one of my external drives and revived! I’m also posting them without comment as to why I wrote the story or when or whether it was a prompt from one of the writing courses I took at night or the writing groups I met on Sundays because honestly, I don’t remember. Who knows? It could also be real life. Besides, it’s just more fun this way…

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Where I was last night is none of your business.

Although the thought of telling you now eats into my soul like a hungry mouse and a ball of cheese in its grasp. It has begun to fester and infect my soul, never one to be chaste and pure, for I long to tell you though I am afraid to. Where should I begin to tell you what I did last night? Even I do not know where to start my little novella of…shall we say, impurity encased within a woman so chaste in sight, a maiden of the purest of upbringing.

I can still recall the look in my eyes as I gazed at my reflection in the cheap hotel mirror that hung behind the door, its wooden frame nicked at the edges, pieces of hardened gum tucked behind its looking glass. Wearing a short floral dress that clung to curves studiously and meticulously tended for by fasting and furious dieting, running along the beaches of the coast to tone the limbs that now felt the caress of the thin silken threads, I gazed at my reflection on a cheap hotel mirror. I was the most beautiful woman in the world last night… if you ever needed to know. And the reflection looking back at me with an arched eyebrow delicately plucked by a dark-skinned hairdresser yesterday could not have agreed more.

When the phone rang, I ran to the desk and lifting the receiver to my ear, I could hear your voice like music plucked by sinewy fingers against the strings of a lyre in the Irish sea, and I sighed. My knight in shining armor, though tainted, was finally here.

Yet a knight he was to my eyes, and his steed was a ten-year-old white Corvette, its white plexiglass frame having been redone the year past because an impatient New Yorker backed into it while trying to get out of a parking spot. Don’t New Yorkers know how to drive? I had thought once, though I knew the answer already. The hood of the Corvette was white as snow, its smooth exterior glistening in the moonlight. Who needed to know about New Yorkers and plexiglass frames on such a night as this? I slipped into the passenger seat, my stockinged legs revealed as the dress rode up high up my thighs, and I turned to face him as my right hand pulled the door shut.

He had not changed much, except maybe he looked happier. Maybe it was because of me, I could never truly know, although my vain heart would have thought so without a shadow of a doubt. We did not know whether to kiss passionately or lock our arms in an embrace, for inside a Corvette, such an embrace would have been cumbersome with one twisting uncomfortably just to welcome someone to one’s chest. So we kissed, gently at first, then slowly allowing cold lips to suffuse with warmth before fully tasting each others’ nectar as the cars of New York outside our little world blazed with horns and screeches. What did we care? A kiss from such a man was not one I would have refused. He was still my knight in tarnished armor.

And as we continued our passionate reunion of lips long abandoned from each other, I no longer worried about the dress riding high above my thighs, my silk stockings smooth against my skin that now began to prickle in the heat of the reunion. I no longer cared for the hotel room rented under another woman’s name, its bed awaiting with petals of roses strewn across its cheap comforter and pillows, nor the cheap chipped hotel mirror that would bear witness to me and my knight locked in the throes of a forbidden passion.

All I cared about last night as I kissed the man my heart had fallen head over heels for one night in a Queens bar, just days before Christmas eve, was the frantic removal of a band of gold that threatened to choke the life out of me, its metal colder still against the skin of my finger. I last saw it flying, as if with wings, into the cool night air of autumn, its cold metal of gold mined in the isles of Scandinavia shining in the light of the New York moonlight filtering through the skyscrapers above.

Where I was last night is none of your business. But if you ever find a band of gold on a New York pavement on FiftySixth and Fifth, let me know. My husband awaits its return although losing it while shopping at Lord & Taylor is a difficult story to swallow, even for a husband as gullible as mine.

Weekly Update #amwriting

I took this photo during my first trip to the Frick Collection in New York’s Upper West Side three years ago this week. It was from a free paper I picked up along the way and I still have it three years later. Sometimes I see the photo posted on other people’s social media feeds and it makes me happy knowing that the saying (and the photo) still makes its rounds years later.

It’s also a quaint reminder of why I write.

Now to the writing update…

So this week, I completed about 28k words but edited thousands out so my final word count is 23k. This is also the point of the story where I start to question myself and have to go back to the outline I had written. This is because I am faced with the option of extending the word count since, most likely, I will not be including the story in that holiday box set that requires closed-doors sex scenes. That’s not to say that the box set is a “clean romance” set. It’s just a holiday Romance box set featuring closed-door sex scenes. Unfortunately, I keep mistakenly referring to it as “clean romance” which baffles some readers and fellow authors as to why I signed up to be in a clean romance set when I write steamy romance stories.

Thing is, I didn’t sign up to be in a clean romance box set. I signed up to be part of a holiday romance box set with closed door sex scenes and no C, D, and F words. That I can’t remove the sex scenes without having my hero look like douchebag and the heroine a slut is simply one of the disadvantages of my style of deep POV writing.

This term “clean romance” also had me wondering. If a clean romance set meant no sex, what is a romance book WITH sex? The antonym to “clean” is dirty. So does that mean novels with steamy scenes in it are classified as dirty romance?

Oh, well… here’s an excerpt in the meantime.

I turn my attention back to the tree, not wanting to ruin a beautiful moment between longtime friends because in the end, that’s what we are—friends. Who cares if we’re sitting on a faux sheepskin rug buck naked? Besides, it had been my decision to have sex—and boy, other than the guilt I’m feeling right now, it was the best decision ever. I’ve always known Campbell to be this quiet, intense and driven kid and I’d never once considered him as anything but a friend mainly because I grew up with him. He’s the boy next door and whenever we get together, my partner in crime.

Who knew that between the sheets, he’s amazing? His hands, his mouth, his… I bite my lip. No, better not go there.

Still, I may not have the experience to make such a declaration that he’s an amazing lover—after all, I’ve only been with two men before tonight—but I’ve also never felt so comfortable, so sexy and so gorgeous with any man before. The way he makes love is just beyond words. And even if I could find the words, I won’t because most of it can’t be described using the alphabet, at least, not in a coherent arrangement.

I turn my head to look at him. I never realized how thick his lashes are. “I wanted it to happen, Cam.”

Campbell kisses my shoulder. “I did, too.”

Tuesday Word Count

I wanted to write this last night but my mind was done after writing 3,133 words. Yup, 3,133 words for a total word count last night of 16k and change.

Today, I added more words for a total of 18,276. That leaves me with the dilemma of not using this story for the box set because we’re only at the middle of the story…. which also brings the chance of me losing that $100 come September 7 when the story is due.

Because even with my diligent outlining/plotting, it turns out I’m still pantser after all… or at least, I’m the type of writer who allows my characters to take the reins and run with the story relegating me to the job of the writer who chases after them, pen and paper in hand.

And that’s the way I like to write them, like writing a steamy sex scene running close to 2,500 words, feels and all.

And since it’s still Tuesday in my neck of the woods (with seven minutes to spare before the strike of midnight), I’m going to throw in a sneak peek for #TeaserTuesday. This is Campbell and Caitlin right after they see Hamilton the Musical at the Richard Rodgers Theatre in Manhattan.

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“Thank you, Cam. This was just amazing. Now I can’t get the lyrics out of my head.”

“You’re welcome, although I don’t think there’s anything wrong with lyrics being stuck in your head. Just don’t suddenly break out in song. Or if you do, give me a warning.” I move my arm from her shoulder. “You ready to head home?”

Caitlin’s brow furrows. “You’re taking me home already?”

“Actually, I was thinking maybe we could go to my apartment and hang out a bit. Come to think of it, you never got to see the tree all lit up.”

Caitlin bites her lower lip as she smiles. It’s a playful smile that makes the knot in my belly tighten. “That’s right. I haven’t.”

Suddenly all I see are the signs that I’ve fought so hard to ignore plain as day. How much longer can I go flirting with her when the last thing I want is to jeopardize my friendship with her older brother? Jordan is my best friend, or as he loves to say, my brother from another mother. He helped get me through the toughest times in my life, brought me into his family and he trusts me with his sister. If I truly value my friendship with Jordan and his family, I need to put an end to this madness now. I need to stop stringing Caitlin along and make her believe something’s going to happen.

But is that what I really want?

“Let’s go,” I say, my voice barely a whisper as I get up, knowing the moment I take her hand that there’s no way I can let her go now.

We make it to my apartment in twenty minutes and by the time we walk through the door, we’ve had it with the self-control. I know I have. It took all of my willpower not to kiss her in the cab or the theater or the bar. It took the last thread of self-control not to kiss her in the elevator. But as soon as the door shuts behind us, it feels like a dam breaking and one touch of her hand on my face, stroking my stubble in the semi-darkness is all it takes for me to let go—that and thanking my lucky stars I hadn’t set the timer for the Christmas tree or all this tension that’s built up between us all night would have gone to hell.

“Cait…”

That’s all I can say before I lower my head and kiss her. While I’d done my best to act cool around Caitlin the entire evening, it left a part of me almost distant, closed off only because I didn’t know how she’d react. I kept second-guessing every touch, every smile, every time she sneaked a glance at my direction during the musical. When I held her hand, squeezing it as an emotional scene played onstage, I suddenly felt alive, as if a real live connection had been established between us. No more guessing.

But there’s nothing like a kiss to seal the deal as I lose myself in the taste of her lips and the exquisite feel of her tongue. It’s heaven in a kiss I’d never experienced before and like a man in search of the sublime, I want more. My hands move along her sides, slipping inside her coat to feel her soft curves and the warmth of her skin from underneath her dress.

“Our coats… they’re in the way,” she mumbles as she lets go of my neck and shrugs off her purse and her coat, her hands tugging at my shirt from under my coat.

“Cait, are you sure?”

She looks up at me with her big green eyes and my breath catches in my throat. God, she’s so beautiful. So what the hell am I doing? Why the hell am I stopping her when this is exactly what I want, too?

Happy Endings

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There are rumblings on social media over what romance really is as a genre. Some state that all you need is a glimmer of hope for a story to be labeled a romance like, let’s say, Me Before You by Jojo Moyes or The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks*.

Therefore, a Happily-Ever-After (HEA) or a Happy-For-Now (HFA) is not exactly required. Allegedly.

I don’t know about you but can #romance just have one thing that’s entirely ours, like a happy ending? That’s really the only requirement for a story to be considered a romance. The happy ending. The journey of two people (or more, if you’re talking about Menage, Harem, or Reverse Harem romances) amid conflict and obstacles toward that HEA or HFN.

The argument about what romance is and isn’t had me looking back at the books I’ve read when I was much younger. Outside of the classics, the first novel I read was my mother’s copy of Harold Robbins’ The Adventurers, clearly not a romance because the Prologue (that’s also an Epilogue) already tells you that the hero is dead. Then there was also my mother’s copy of Thornbirds by Colleen McCullough, clearly not a romance because we know what happens to Father Ralph and Meggie. Not a happy ending.

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And then there’s P.S. I Love You by Barbara Conklin from Sweet Dreams Romance, which was handed down to me by a friend. I can never forget the cover because I got so sucked into this romance only to find out it wasn’t! Talk about an unhappy ending…

That taught me to be careful about books labeled “romance” because many are NOT romances but love stories. It also taught me to skip to the ending, because I’ve had trust issues since reading P.S. I Love You.

Yet for some reason, a lot of people insist that #romance books don’t have to have a happy ending. Um, yes, they do. Everything else doesn’t have to have a happy ending like literary fiction, women’s fiction, fantasy, sci-fi, mysteries, thrillers, and George R.R. Martin, so why insist that #romance not have it as well?

It’s the only reason I read and write romance—for that happy ending… and not in the massage kinda way.

*Sparks, by the way, insists he does not write romance.

“I haven’t written a single book that could even be accepted as a romance novel. I mean, there’s a completely different voice. They’ve got very specific structures; they’ve got very specific character dilemmas; they end completely differently; and they’ve got certain character arcs that are required in their characters — I do none of those things.

It’s like you might as well say, ‘Why have I been bothered by not being called a thriller writer?’ Because I’m not –- that’s not what I write.”

Source: So What Do You Do, Nicholas Sparks, Bestselling Romance Novelist?

Image by Tom Pumford

 

 

Sunday Word Count #excerpt

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I got to 680 before everyone woke up and it’s time to get off the computer and step outside for a while.

That’s 11109 words into my holiday novella and so far, I think I may have found my groove. Caitlin and Campbell seem to be cruising right along and I couldn’t be happier. I’m hoping to get at least 2k more words in by tomorrow so crossing my fingers!

In the meantime, here’s a sneak peek at a section that I just finished.

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By the time we make it to the theatre, the mere brush of his hand on my elbow or my hand leaves me feeling giddy, and somehow I can’t help but assume it’s no longer accidental. Even the theatre disappears whenever Campbell turns to look at me, all my senses heightened and focused on what he’s doing, on the words he’s saying. When he holds my hand as we make our way to the lobby during the intermission, I don’t see anyone else.

How long has it been since I’ve been with a man? Somehow I draw a blank. All I remember are the first dates that barely made it to first base, much less the second, my mind constantly on my research projects, meetings with my advisor, and that unwavering goal of making it to graduation and then finding a job.

But for tonight, I’m willing to toss all that out the window. I’m having way too much fun being with a man I’ve always felt safe with, my brother’s best friend and the boy next door. Only this time, something’s different. Somewhere between then and now, Campbell Murphy grew up and I never saw it until now.

#AmWriting, Yes I Am

Somewhere on this blog is a private page that has 32 covers I’ve purchased hoarded since I began publishing—and that number doesn’t include the covers I’ve made.

Yes, you read it right. Thirty-two covers.

And I can’t show any of them off because I have to write their stories first.

But I will show you one because I’ve decided to kinda do an ongoing journal of my writing process, word count, and all that on my blog.

So I’m supposed to be part of this holiday box set that comes out, well, during the holidays. And one thing about me is that I don’t write holiday stories. Not the happy ones, at least. If you’ve read The Accidental Christmas, that wasn’t exactly a happy romantic story. More like a bittersweet one because it’s just what I know. I mean, my favorite Christmas story is The Gift of the Magi. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s the story of a couple who give each other gifts that aren’t of any use because they sold that to which the gifts would have been of use for. Wait, that was confusing. Basically, she cut her hair so she could buy him a chain for his gold watch but he sold his gold watch so he could buy her a pair of beautiful combs for her (now non-existent) long hair.

Yep, that’s my idea of a holiday story.

So you can imagine me sitting in front of my laptop going, so what bittersweet story am I writing this year? No, I don’t think it will go over too well…

Enter two side characters from Falling for Jordan. Caitlin O’Halloran, Jordan’s sister, and his best friend and the boy next door, Campbell Murphy. Since Falling for Jordan is my happiest book so far, I have a feeling that there won’t be hardly any angst with these two side-characters.

Fingers crossed.

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Campbell is supposed to look more alpha male but for now, this works. It’s the girl’s expression I’m after.

I definitely need this mock cover to guide inspire me to make the story sweet instead of bittersweet.

But boy, has it been a struggle. It took me more than a week to outline it. Yes, outlining again, my nemesis! And this time, I managed to outline it from beginning to end! That way, it won’t go off the rails and become bittersweet.

So far, I’ve written 8819 words with 2,111 today. Chapter 4 done and tomorrow on to Chapter 5. I have a feeling I’ll overshoot my 25k word maximum requirement but I’m not about to sweat that one. I’ll deal with it when it happens. Actually, the box set is clean romance – No D, C, and F-words. So I’m sure I can scrape off the 10k extra words of all that steamy stuff easily (fingers crossed).

Anyway, I was just looking at my publishing calendar for the past year and I wondered why I had these gaps where Liz didn’t publish anything. And then it hit me! That’s when my Naughty Pen was publishing her stories! Duh!

And today, she published another one! Come to think of it, she published one last week, too, so it seems like she’s on a roll. But I can only do one thing at a time, devote time to one pen name at a time hence the outlines so I remember what I had planned to write to begin with. Lika a map. A Thomas Guide. Anyone remember that?

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Without an outline, it’s like relying on GPS to tell you what’s coming up only when you’re close. Having an outline to follow is like having a Thomas Guide handy. You get to see the big picture first and actually know what streets come before your actual turn instead of waiting for Siri to finally tell you to turn at 500 feet.

And so that’s how I’m viewing outlining now—especially when I’m juggling three pen names. It’s like having that trusty Thomas Guide that was indispensable for Los Angelenos before it was replaced by smartphone apps telling you when to turn left or right.

Or drive into a lake.

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A Bit of Sunday Gardening & Pondering

I woke up early this morning and started watering the vegetables that cropped up from soil that we’d set aside after our attempt at container gardening on the deck failed royally. Two years later, we’ve got them growing in pots in the garden which is probably a better place for them than our deck. Right now, I think we have summer squash although they’re still too small for harvesting and there’s even ginger from pieces hubby had tossed into the ground. Lots of ginger.

We also have a grapevine that used to produce abundant grapes before hubby pruned it almost to the nub one year and I thought he’d killed it. But it survived and this year it started bearing fruit. Now it’s a race to see if I get to it before the squirrels that live in the tree next to it do.

In the writing front, I’ve been productive with naughty pen’s stories although the marketing is a pain because I can’t market her books worth a damn. So basically marketing is nada, zero, zilch. That’s because all my newsletter subscribers and my branding is established with Liz and I can’t cross-promote naughty pen. That was the point I’d started her anyway; she wrote smut and Liz doesn’t (Liz writes “steamy” romance). I just have to remind myself that I started naughty pen because I didn’t want the pressure of an established brand to begin with.

But we all know how ego works and so it’s been a challenge each day not to blurt it out there that I also write smut. Well, “I” don’t but Naughty Pen does.

Actually, instead of whining about the non-marketing of Naughty Pen, I need to start writing Liz’s next books. There are seven (7) outlines already completed – SEVEN—although that includes a few books for Naughty Pen (dark romance, here she comes!)! Can you believe that? I whined and whined for months about the difficulty of following an outline and here I am now with seven of them that I need to start following. Apparently, after all that whining and writing to an outline, I cannot not start without one anymore. It’s like something you can’t un-see. Or maybe it’s just my rational mind saying, see, it worked for the last book, didn’t it?

Anyway, first in the line of seven outlines is a holiday novella for a box set that I secretly like to get out of only because it’s “closed door sex” so no steamy stuff and suddenly I can’t write clean romance. I don’t know how my brain works but somehow, if you tell me to do something a certain way, I somehow suddenly don’t know how to do it that way even though I do.

If I do get out of the box set, that’s $100 buy-in down the drain. It will be the second hundred bucks I’ll be throwing away when it comes box sets (and I really need to stop doing that). I mean, I should just write the darn novella, steamy scenes and all, and then remove the steamy scenes for the box set. Then three months after the release of said box set and when rights return to me, release the damn book with all its steamy sexy scenes! Great plan, right?

Tell that to Miss Ego though…

I’ve also been invited to an author signing… as an author!

Unfortunately, I can’t go. I’ve got some personal issues I need to take care of before I can do anything like that. Like legal personal shit that has a timeline of 6 months to the day. And I cannot take my eyes off the ball on this one. I cannot even dare to fail with this one so everything has to be done right.

So the last few weeks have been a test of priorities. Take care of personal crap (dot those i’s and cross those t’s!), write the stories, and hope hope hope for the best. These are scary times after all.

So that’s my update so far. I’ll write about the books I’m reading in another post. In the meantime, I hope your Sunday is going great!