Free Yourself of Your Harshest Critic, and Plow Ahead

Your job is to do the work, put it out there and let the world decide.

Now, I know that sounds scary. But let’s be dead clear about something: You’re not John Steinbeck (and neither was he, at the start). You have to get there first. And the only way to do that is through practice and criticism. But the only way to get practice and criticism is to make and share your work.

This isn’t just about writing. It’s about anything meaningful you do. Singing, painting, entrepreneurship, giving financial advice, museum curating, boat building, skiing, whatever. Whatever it is, your job is to do the work, to become the best you can be.

Just As Beautiful (A Short Story)

Now that I’ve recovered from the consequences of high expectations (last post), I’m returning to the things that make me happy and that’s writing stories and being inspired by beautiful people (beautiful both on the inside and the outside). Thank you so much for your kind message, Dacia. This one’s for you.

The late Anton Yelchin was the muse for this story when I wrote it three years ago.

They said he was only after one thing, and that after he’d get it from me, he’d forget me. And so after it happened, I stayed away, kept to myself, and minded my own business.
But now he was doing his first big show, showcasing the latest fashion by the city’s most successful designers, modeled by the city’s most beautiful people – and I wanted to be there. My brother, Mick, was the official photographer. And after he sent his assistant home because the guy caught chicken pox, I became his unofficial assistant. So I helped Mick lug the heavy equipment from the car to the Magnolia Ballroom, trying hard not to be noticed in my t-shirt and jeans, a baseball cap pulled down to cover my eyes.
After everything was in place, I found a chair at the back of the ballroom and sat down. They were deep in dress rehearsals and everyone was there – the make-up artists, the hairdressers, the assistants and even the assistants’ assistants gathered around the designers and their models, making sure not a hair was out of place, their make-up perfect.
With my brother settled on his platform in front of the stage, my work was done. The next time I’d need to actually do some work would be to help him pack the equipment and stuff all of them in the car till tomorrow when we’d do it all over again for the big show.
And so, armed with a slice of pizza in one hand and bottle of water in the other, I leaned back against the chair and watched the first run of the show.
I had never been one that people called pretty right off the bat. The best they usually could say about me at first glance was you’ve got a great smile. Or you actually have beautiful eyes if one took the time to look.
But with Trevor, it was different. One didn’t need to look hard to see that he was beautiful. He was tall, with dark hair and a gorgeous smile. With his deep blue eyes, all he had to do was blink – simply because humans had to – and women swooned. Men, too.
I met Trevor that semester. He sat behind me in Sociology, and we barely exchanged more than brief hellos. But when everyone had to pair up for a presentation on culture and socialization, he tapped my shoulder and asked me if I wanted to be his partner. For the next month, we buried ourselves in research books and online articles to better understand the subject at hand. Soon, we were lying on the rooftop of my apartment building where I lived with Mick, trying to spot the constellations and telling stories about ourselves.
Then two months later, out on that same rooftop, Trevor kissed me.
It was at the apartment that Trevor was “discovered” by one of Mick’s fashion designer friends. Two weeks later, after we did our presentation in front of the class (we received an A), Trevor officially signed on to become a model for some big-name agency.
That’s when everyone told me that the only reason Trevor had picked me to be his sociology partner was so he’d get a chance to meet my brother – and maybe get discovered. They said that Trevor had never really loved me, even though he said he did. I still had his letter in my pocket, sent after I broke up with him, the stationary worn out from being repeatedly taken out, opened and read.
I love you, he wrote. I think we have something good going, and I really believe we can still keep going – but only if you want to. But if you believe the lies that people are saying, about why I’m with you, then you don’t know me at all. Wasn’t it you who told me to accept the modeling offer?
But how could Trevor love me when he was now surrounded by such beautiful people, I thought, as I watched him saunter onstage. They must have taught him how to walk like a model. They must have drilled it into him how to swagger like a man who knew he had the goods, and that he could deliver them all. I watched him scan the non-existent audience in front of him, his gaze passing over me like I wasn’t there.
He really did forget me, I thought then, my appetite suddenly gone.
I must have sat there for some time, lost in thought, for the next thing I knew, the rehearsal was over and Trevor was sitting next to me. He was no longer wearing one of the designer suits he’d been modeling earlier. Instead, he was wearing the usual white t-shirt and jeans he always wore to school (it drove the girls crazy and he must have known it).
“You’re a sight for sore eyes,” he said, grinning. “Mick said he had a surprise for me and I sure hope he meant you.”
I turned to look for Mick, who must have needed my help in packing everything up, but there was someone there already, helping him load equipment on the cart.
“Mick said I could drive you home,” Trevor added as Mick waved at us. “We need to talk.”
“I look horrible,” I said, feeling self-conscious and realizing that I was still holding the slice of pizza in my hand. “You looked amazing out there.”
He shrugged. “Meh, it’s alright. It’s really not my thing, but I figure, you only live once. I might as well give it a try, right?”
I nodded. “Yeah, you should.”
“You gonna eat that?” He asked, looking at my pizza.
I shook my head and handed it to him. Trevor ate it in four bites, brushing his hands against his jeans when he discovered I didn’t have any napkins.
“I don’t want to be starving all the time,” he said. “And this modeling business makes you hungry, that’s for sure.”
“Aren’t you having fun?”
“Only with you around,” he said. “Other than that, it’s actually boring.”
“Oh, stop it, Trev,” I chided. “You’ve got all those beautiful people surrounding you. Why on earth would you choose to spend it here, with plain ol’ me?”
Trevor leaned forward, and I could smell the scent of his cologne. He never used to wear cologne, I thought. But maybe all models wore cologne.
“Because ‘plain ol’ you’ is who I want,” he said, his expression serious. “I meant it when I said that I liked you, that I love -”
“But you could have anyone on that stage -”
“Didn’t you just hear me?” He said. “Stop listening to what everyone says about why I chose you as my partner in Sociology – that I did it so that I could get discovered by some talent agent, or whatever else they say I did it for. That’s baloney.”
“Then why did you choose me?”
“Because you’re beautiful, that’s why,” he said as I rolled my eyes. “I mean, you did help me get an A in Sociology -”
I fake-punched him in the arm, both of us laughing as he continued. “- but I always thought you were cute. Why do you think I sat behind you, one row away?”
Someone was calling him, telling him they were headed to the hotel bar for some drinks and that he should come along. Trevor waved them off and turned back to look at me.
“Why don’t you go with them?” I asked.
“Because I’m with you,” he said, grinning. Then he stood up and offered me his hand. I took it, allowing him to help me up from the chair.
“Where are we going?” I asked as he led me outside to the hallway. We headed for the stairs that led to the side of the building.
“To look at the stars,” he said. “Wanna come?”
Twenty minutes later, Trevor and I were lying on the hotel lawn looking up at the stars. He was holding my hand, and soon, he turned towards me and kissed me.
“Why me?” I asked.
“Why not?” Trevor said. “You’re beautiful. You’re kind. You’re funny.”
“You’re more beautiful.”
“You’re so hung up on that. There’s more to life than this, you know,” he said, his hand circling his face. “One day I won’t look like this anymore, and what then?”
“Life goes on,” I said.
“Exactly. And what matters is in here,” Trevor gently tapped the middle of my chest. “Well, there are other things, too…but you know what I mean.”
I smiled as I looked at his blue eyes. Suddenly, I realized that I did know what he meant, about what really mattered. And that was what I loved most about Trevor – that he truly was beautiful. Inside – and out.
And when he kissed me again, I realized that he was right.
I was just as beautiful, too.

Being Real (Hard Truths)

Today is one of those days when reality smacks you right in the face with the truth. It’s a day when your dreams as a writer collide with the reality of being a mother of a child with special needs. It’s a day that started out exciting and scary as hell when you drop the kid off to Day Camp thinking he’ll do fine only to get that dreaded call three hours later with, “Please take your child home. We’ll refund you the money for the eight weeks you signed him up with us.”

Today is the day when you realize life isn’t a bed of roses and behind all the posturing on social media and making it seem like you’ve got your shit together, you don’t. You realize you’re so far from the woman you want to be, definitely not Annabeth Markum, Laura Linney’s character in Mystic River. Instead, you’re Celeste Boyle, the sad pathetic mother and wife played by Marcia Gay Harden whose final description/frame in the book and in the movie never left me ever since I saw the adaptation so many years ago.

Today is the day when you need to get real and accept the realities of your life as a writer still at the bottom of that ladder where every single one of your peers holds their letters (USA Today, NYT bestselling author) and can boast in testimonials about earning five figures every month and make 350% and above ROI on their investment.

It’s one of those days when you know that your only saving grace is that you can write good angst and passable sex. But it’s also the day when you learn–again–that dreams are just not–and will never be–enough.

Well, That Got Settled Fast…

Mom: I hear you typing. Are you working?

Me: My proofreader just came online and she finished proofing my latest novella.

Mom: Oh, you have a new story?

Me: Yep, and it’s going to come out next month… oh, but, Mom, it’s um… it has sex. Lots of sex. It’s erotic romance.


Me: I might need to release it under a different name.

Mom: But then no one will know you wrote it.

Me: But it has lots of sex in it. Like more than all my 5 books combined.

Mom: So what? How else will anyone know you wrote it?

Me: Good point.

Needless to say, that settled the whole should-I-or-shouldn’t-I use a pen name question about my upcoming darker romances. For someone who doesn’t know much about publishing but raised a voracious reader because she’s such a reader herself (though not of romance – her tastes lean towards political thrillers and suspense), my mom does ask the obvious questions.

And now that my manuscript has just come back from my proofreader, it’s like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders. It also turns out that the novella I’ll be publishing through Kindle Worlds is only available for sale in Amazon US. It’s crazy but it’s true. You can’t buy it unless you’re a US resident and only from Amazon. However, you can leave a review by logging into Amazon US.

So if you want to read my angsty steamy novella as an Advance Reader’s Copy, let me know. You may have to read Beg Tease Submit first to understand it although my proofreader said she did fine without having done so (but she is going to dive into it; peaked her interest enough to learn more about the series). It’s the first novel in the Submission series featuring Jonathan Drazen and Monica Faulkner and right now it’s one of four novels in The Alphas: Four First Loves by CD Reiss and it’s free everywhere for a limited time.

Four Alpha Obsessions.
Four novels.
Four ways to fall in love.





Musings Over Coffee: Heart VS Mind

I did the math for ESEW and since taking it out of Kindle Select back in March, it’s sales everywhere outside of Amazon account for only 13.4% overall, maybe 15% if I’m going to be generous. Amazon still makes up the bulk of the sales, all 87% or given the generous 15% rate, 85%.

That’s 85% of total sales in the last three months since it’s been out of Select.

I’ve also crunched these numbers against the advertising I spend each day. Yes, I still advertise this baby with links to all vendors and Amazon still outsells all vendors combined every single day.

It got me thinking about how, as authors, we think with our hearts instead of our minds.

Heart: I want everyone to discover Dax and Harlow. I want their story to reach far and wide. It’s beautiful and it needs to be out there.

Mind: Shut up, heart. The numbers don’t lie. They haven’t been lying to you for the last three months. 85% is 85%, no matter how generous you want to be with your figures.

So Dax and Harlow are spending this weekend WIDE before they go into Select for the summer. Here’s the boost for the next 3 days:

In the writing front, I’m over-extended. I’ve already over-extended myself with the Kindle Worlds story, spending close to two months agonizing over what ended up to be 17K words of a story I can’t advertise as much as my other books because it is straight up EROTIC ROMANCE. Heck, maybe just erotica will do. I don’t even know if it’s a smart move to release it under my name. It’s one thing to say, hell yeah, I wrote straight up erotica! I knew I could do it! It’s another thing to put it up next to all my books that are of a more serious nature (even if they fall under contemporary romance).

(Sigh) Heart VS Mind.

I’m also supposed to be part of a charity anthology in the fall. Deadline for submitting the stories is July 1st and that’s another over-extension I don’t need. I need to tend to my own stories and they’ve been neglected now for the last two months. I have a pre-order, for crying out loud. I’ve got my books to tend to.

Heart VS Mind.

Alright, enough whining. I’m heading back to work.

EDITED TO ADD: This is me in panic mode.

Musings Over (Diet) Tea: Donations and Finally Finishing that Story

One of my readers is active with a nonprofit organization called the Burrito Project and it’s a group of people who get together to literally make burritos from scratch, pack them in bags with bottles of water and then hand them out to the homeless and hungry in LA’s Skid Row.

The last time I spoke to her, she told me they needed people to volunteer (I can’t cook burritos – I don’t even know where to begin) or donate (that I can do though). So I told her that when I get my next royalties from a particular vendor through Paypal, I’d donate.

Well, turns out I’ve been donating to the wrong group. Tonight I discovered there are different Burrito Projects all over LA. At least, two and I sent my donation to the one she’s not part of. But it doesn’t matter. It’s still a donation that could get them boxes of water, rice, and beans, and that’s what matters.

Goes to show, I don’t pay attention.

On the writing front, just when I thought I was done with my Kindle World project, I wasn’t. The big honking clue was the fact that I could not get back into my upcoming release, Falling For Jordan. Forget that it has a preorder date and I’m still in Act 1, but for the life of me, I could not dive back into it.

Instead, I was still stuck in that darn Kindle World novella even though I swore I was done at 16.5K words. It has an epilogue and everything, I told the writing gods.

But of course, they didn’t listen, not when the lead character wasn’t done. And he’s a Dominant which means submissive writer me has to do as he says.

And so I wrote.

– My plane lands at 9:30 PM. I’ll be at the apartment at 10. –

– Yes, Sir. How would you want me to be ready for you? –

– Surprise me. –

Maybe tomorrow, he’ll finally let me go.

I’m Not Crying… You’re Crying!

I just discovered this short film today and yes, I cried. It reminds me so much of why I write, creating alternative realities inside my mind and in many ways, slowly shaping my world.

In other news, I’m trying to dive back into the world of my own characters so I can finish it in time for its preorder date in September. No such luck. Instead, I’ve managed to catch up with all the golden buzzer moments from that Simon show although I did finish the final edit on that Kindle Worlds secret project so I can call that done and dusted.

Kinda productive day, but it’s only Monday…