Wow, this is the third blog post I’ve done this week! Could it be that I’m… procrastinating writing? LMAO
Yes, yes it could.
But today, I at least have an excuse.
Here I am, sitting at my desk, and I only have a few minutes before an appointment I have to leave for. I’m not great at writing in short bursts, so opening up TANK and finishing a chapter is something I’ll have to leave for later today.
In the meantime, then, I got an idea: How about telling people about a few of the things I have around me in my office that help me write?
So: Here’s installment one: my coffee mug!
This is a mug I actually haven’t had very long. A reader sent it to me for Christmas this year. But I absolutely LOVE it! It cracks me up every time I put more coffee in it. (And I have to admit, I may have tortured people I know in real life by putting them in my books once or twice…)
This mug helps me write because: A) it justifies me doing that, lol; and B) COFFEE, which is like putting gas in my tank in the mornings.
I’m not sure where she got this mug, but I do know you can find one on Amazon here.
So, if you are a writer, or have any writers or aspiring writers in your life, consider this a great gift idea. You’re welcome. <3
I’m writing to you from the shores of Lake Superior — and this is me yesterday, sitting on my balcony, sipping a delicious adult beverage and watching the waves crash against the shore…
I really know how to take a vacation, don’t I? 😉
To be honest, it’s really cool up here. I’m in northern Minnesota, somewhere north of Duluth. It’s about 15 degrees right now, heading down into the single digits today. I’m on what authors call a “writing retreat” — which is a fancy term for leaving my everyday life behind and spending some time alone in a cabin trying not to spend too much time on social media.
Mr. Loveling is with me, so I’m not entirely alone. I’m working on TANK, book 10 in the Lords of Carnage series, which I hope to get out in March. Cross your fingers for me that I get some good words in while I’m up here!
Here’s another picture of Lake Superior from the balcony, taken yesterday:
It’s beautiful. In a harsh, haunting way.
I hope your January is going well so far — any New Year’s Resolutions? My main one is to eat better and hopefully get rid of a few pounds. (Me and half the population of the United States, I’m sure…)
I hope to have more updates for you on Tank’s book in my next newsletter, coming in a couple of weeks.
Meanwhile: thinking to warmer weather, what are you doing in June?
Start your New Year by snagging tickets to Authors Rocking Little Rock. 🖤
June 6th, 2020 in Little Rock, Arkansas!
I’ll be there, as will tons of other awesome romance authors! Check out this list!
I hope that all of you who celebrate Christmas had a restful, relaxing holiday — full of good food and good friends.
Here at the Loveling household, we had a very quiet Christmas — even quieter than usual. We usually have at least one of my two stepdaughters and her family here for Christmas day. But this year, my younger stepdaughter was with her husband’s family, and my older stepdaughter was on her honeymoon to Spain! So it was just me and Mr. Loveling.
Thankfully, our best friends in town were on their own this year, too, and they invited us to their place for Christmas dinner. They are amazing cooks, so the food was absolutely fantastic. And then two days after Christmas is my birthday, so we had them over to our house for dinner that day!
Lots of food, lots of fun, and very relaxing. Just the way I like it.
But yeah, my New Years resolution is definitely to drop the pounds I gained from all that eating and drinking… and then some! 😉
But tomorrow is New Year’s Eve, so there’ll be one more celebration before I tighten my belt — literally!
We always go out to the same restaurant with two groups of friends on New Year’s Eve. We’ve been doing this for close to ten years now. It’s nice, because we never have to ask ourselves what we’re going to do on NYE! And we’re generally back home in plenty of time to ring in the new year just the two of us(on the rare occasions that we manage to stay up until midnight, that is…).
How about you? What did you do for your Christmas celebrations?
What do you have planned for New Years Eve?
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me — I’d love to hear from you!
It’s Christmas at the clubhouse.
Angel, Jewel, and the rest of the Lords of Carnage family are getting ready to celebrate the holiday.
But an unexpected visitor throws the club into turmoil,
Dredging up secrets from the past…
What will Christmas bring for the LOC?
Catch up with Angel and Jewel, Jenna and Ghost, Brooke and Beast, and the rest of the LOC couples and find out! ❤️
As my Merry Christmas gift to you, Forgiveness is on sale for 99 cents on Amazon for *one day only!*
*** As always, it’s FREE with Kindle Unlimited***
“Oh my goodness, I am in love with this book! Bullet is my new book boyfriend.” Amazon 5-Star Review ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
“The engaging storyline is filled with action, excitement, deep emotions, bright splashes of humor, secrets, steamy passion and a truly heart melting romance.” Amazon 5-Star Review ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
I was consumed by vengeance.
Living in a dark place that only fire and death can cleanse.
Then I found her.
She’s running from her past.
Closed off and afraid to accept help from anybody else.
She’s the light to my shadow.
She’s everything I want. Everything I need.
There’s no way I’m letting her walk out on what we have.
I’ll do anything — kill anyone – to save her from the trouble bearing down on her.
Six is mine. And I protect what’s mine.
A story of vengeance, loss, love and redemption. 𝑯𝑬𝑨𝒈𝒖𝒂𝒓𝒂𝒏𝒕𝒆𝒆𝒅.
BULLET is book 9 in the Lords of Carnage MC series, and can be read as a standalone. Note: A shorter, novella-length version of this story appeared in Wanted: An Outlaw Anthologyunder the title “Rebel Ink.”
“Is it the number of times you’ve broken a man’s heart?” he teases me. “Because if so, you’re about to make it number seven.”
I laugh in spite of myself. “No, that’s not it either. Face it, you’re never going to get it.”
“Would you tell me if I did?” Bullet challenges. He gives me a sexy wink. “Come on, now. I bet I already guessed weeks ago.”
“No, you honestly haven’t,” I tell him, flushing slightly.
Although he is right.
I wouldn’t tell him, even if he guessed.
The name I go by — Six — is a frequent source of interest and amusement here at Rebel Ink. Though, if you wanted to find a place where a weird first name would blend in, a tattoo parlor is probably one of your best bets. I work here as a receptionist and aspiring tattoo artist. I fit right in among Chance, Sumner, Hannah and Dez. Most of my customers hardly even blink when I tell them my name. Hell, a lot of them go by handles even stranger than mine.
Like Bullet, for example.
But so far, Bullet is the only one of our customers who’s been this insistent on trying to find out what my name means. The first time he came into the shop — all leather-clad, tattooed, and gorgeous — and introduced himself, I tried to deflect his question by pointing out that his name was just as weird as mine.
But then he immediately told me his real first name is Wyatt, and that Bullet is the road name given to him by the Lords of Carnage MC. Apparently, ‘road name’ is what motorcycle clubs call the nicknames their members go by. If he can be believed, Bullet has an actual bullet lodged in his body. Hence the choice of monikers.
And hence why he keeps insisting I need to reciprocate, and reveal to him why I go by Six.
Bullet leans forward now, one elbow propped up on the counter of the reception desk that separates us. He’s close enough to me that I can’t help but notice the flecks in his golden-brown eyes. Beneath his short, dark beard, one corner of his full mouth twitches with mischief.
“I think I know what Six stands for,” he murmurs in a low voice. There’s an intimacy to his tone that sends heat straight to my core. Dammit, this man has no business being this hot. I swallow audibly and try to look unaffected by his words.
“Oh yeah?” I retort, but my voice comes out a little less steady than I want it to.
“Yeah,” he breathes. “It’s the number of times I’m gonna make you come.”
Jesus. His words are so unexpected that I pull back in surprise, knocking a cup of pens and pencils off the counter and onto the floor. The clatter is loud, and I jump, pulse rate spiking as my heart starts to hammer in my chest.
“Sorry to startle you, darlin’.” Bullet gives me a wicked, satisfied smirk. He glances down at the mess I’ve created. “You need some help with that?” he asks, lifting an amused brow.
“No, no,” I mumble hastily as I bend down behind the counter to gather up the pens. I feel my cheeks flush even redder than before. Bullet loves to flirt with me when he comes into the shop, but my God. He’s never said anything remotely that direct before.
If it was any other guy, I’d give him a piece of my mind. I might even go as far as to tell the owner, Chance, that one of his customers was sexually harassing me.
But as I pick up the cup and pens with shaking hands, I realize there’s a reason I won’t say anything to Chance. And it isn’t because Bullet is a member of the Lords of Carnage MC — the local motorcycle club that gives our shop all of their tattoo business. It’s not even because I’m afraid of getting on the wrong side of a man who’s probably not used to being refused anything, by anyone.
The real reason I won’t say anything?
It’s because I’ve fantasized about exactly what Bullet just said.
Waymore than six times.
While I’m still down on the ground, I take advantage of the two or three seconds where I’m hidden from view to take some deep breaths and try to come up with a smart-alecky response — one that won’t reveal to Bullet how rattled I am. But thankfully, just as I’m picking up the last pen, my boss, Chance Armstrong, comes striding down the hall.
“Bullet. My man,” his booming voice calls out in greeting. “Shit, you’ve been in here a lot lately. You here for some more ink?”
I stand up awkwardly just in time to see Bullet turn and lift his chin at Chance. “Hey, man. Yeah.” He grins easily, spreading his hands. “What can I say? I got some time, and some space to fill.”
“This is the third tattoo in two weeks,” I point out, breathing a little sigh of relief that the subject has been changed. “I don’t know how you have any more space on your body left.”
For some reason, even saying the word bodyin reference to Bullet makes me shiver a little, but I try hard to ignore it.
Bullet glances at me, looking slightly feral. “Don’t worry, I still got some room.” He winks at me again, and my mind can’t help but slide into dangerous territory, wondering exactly where he is and isn’t tattooed.
A low thrum starts up on my skin, which feels almost electric. I try to ignore it, but it does no good.
“Shit, Bullet, I don’t have any open appointments until later this afternoon,” Chance frowns, glancing at the clock on the far wall. “I guess I can fit you in though, if you want to come on back.”
“Actually,” Bullet replies easily, “I was thinking Six could do the tat.”
What the what?
“Me?” I ask in surprise. I glance uncertainly from Bullet to Chance. “But… I mean… I’m still in training.”
“I trust you,” Bullet murmurs. “You’ve been training with Chance for a while now, right? He wouldn’t have taken you on if he didn’t have confidence in you.”
Actually, Chance took me on as a favor to Hannah. She started out here as a receptionist, too. Chance didn’t know me from Adam (or Eve) when I first walked in the door to Rebel Ink. I’ve worked my ass off to pay him back for taking a chance on me, learning everything I could and taking all the grunt jobs just to show him how thankful I am. So far, he’s never had any cause to complain about me. He’s even said once or twice that I’m a quick learner, and that I have a good eye.
Still, it’s one thing to do a simple flower on some twenty-year-old girl’s ankle. It’s entirely another to ink a member of an outlaw motorcycle club. I could completely ruin Rebel Ink’s reputation with the MC if I fuck it up. If Bullet’s tattoo turns out bad, and one of the other Lords asks about it, that would be enough to harm the shop. Which is why I look again at Chance, hoping like hell he’ll refuse.
But instead, he just gives us a brief nod and shrugs.
“Sure. I’ll have Dez come out and man the phones,” he says swiveling on his booted heel. “Come on back, Bullet. I can come in and supervise Six while she works.”
Desperately, I cast around in my head for some excuse to say no. But before I know it, Chance and Bullet are already walking down the hall toward one of the free rooms.
With a helpless sigh, I stand up and follow them, stomach already churning. On the way down the hall, Chance stops by Dez’s room and tells him to go out front and man the desk for me.
Then, almost before I know it, I’m sitting on a stool, with Bullet in front of me.
Looks like this is happening.
Well, shit. Here goes nothing, right?
* * *
BULLET will release on Amazon Thursday, November 7!
The other day, I asked my private Facebook readers’ group Daphne’s Divas what they would like me to write about in future blog posts and in my newsletter.
(By the way, if you aren’t a member of Daphne’s Divas but you want to be, all you gotta do is click here to join!).
I like to ask my Divas about this stuff because, left to my own devices, I would probably just fill my blog and newsletter with cat pictures. And on that note, here are some cat pictures. (Petunia is on the left, and that’s Nigel on the right.)
Okay. I get that my cats are cute as hell, and I can talk about them all day. But I should probably not let myself go down the Cat Lady rabbit hole. So instead, I’m going to start writing about some of the subjects my Divas told me they want to hear more about.
Here’s the first question, asked by Mercy P:
“I like to know about you because you are not only a great author but a great person, not everyone can write and make people feel so much emotion.”
First… Awww, can I just say, that gave me SO many warm fuzzies to read!! ❤️
Second… Okay. Here we go.
Author J.A. Huss recently did a blog/newsletter post on the occasion of her fiftieth birthday. And in it, she kind of summed up her life by decade. I decided after reading that post that I was going to do the same. So here is the abbreviated Story Of My Life.
I was born in a small town in northwest Iowa. I’m an only child. My mom was a secretary, and my dad was either a salesman or an assembly line worker for most of his career. The first four years of my life were spent in that small town. And then my dad, who always had a bit of wanderlust, moved our family to a town in Colorado, more or less on a whim. We lived in that town for two years, and then moved to Nebraska. Four years later, we moved again, to a new small town in southwest Iowa. And then a year later, to another town, elsewhere in Iowa.
All of that was in the first thirteen years of my life. It was a lot of moving. And a lot of being “the new girl.” I was shy, and bookish, and I had thick glasses that I sort of hid behind. I was outgoing and funny once you got to know me, but I was also a bit of a loner. I don’t know if I was that way by nature, or if it was something I learned by being moved around so much. But the end result either way was that I was a kid who was used to spending a lot of time alone.
And I was a reader. Oh, boy, was I a reader. I learned to read at four. My mom didn’t even know I could read by myself until one day when we were visiting a friend of hers who had two younger kids who were toddlers. Mom and her friend were in the kitchen chatting over coffee when she overheard me in the next room, telling a story to the two kids. She went in to investigate, and found me holding a Dick and Jane book, reading from it. She knew I was actually reading because we didn’t have any Dick and Jane books at home. I had never seen the book before.
As soon as we left her friend’s house, she immediately took me to the library, to get my first library card.
My love affair with books started early. And since I was so often alone and without friends in a new town, they were my refuge. Thankfully, my mom let me read pretty much anything I wanted to, and never sought to censor me. One of my favorite stories about this is about the summer I was eleven years old, and I read A Tree Grows In Brooklynfor the first time. (That is one of my very favorite books of all time, by the way). If you want to read about that story, I talk about it here in a blog post.
Books have always been like dear friends to me. They’ve gotten me through some hard times. They’ve taught me so much about life, and about worlds and people’s experiences. I feel that books have made me a more compassionate person. They’ve taught me to have sympathy and empathy for people whose lives are nothing like my own. I can’t imagine a world without books. My life would be so much less rich without them.
The second decade of my life, my teen years, were spent mostly in a smallish town in Iowa where we had finally settled down, for better or for worse. These years were not always easy. My parents were not getting along. My dad lost his job for almost two years. We almost lost our house, and but for the generosity of my grandparents giving my parents a large loan, we would have been homeless. The strain on our family was great. I got a job as soon as I possibly could, and did my best to be self-sufficient, and to try not to add to my parents’ stress. I was a pretty good student. I thankfully fell into a group of friends who were not, as they say, a “bad influence.” Honestly, I feel like I could have fallen into some pretty bad shit if it wasn’t for those friendships at a time where I really needed them.
I graduated high school. And one thing my mom had pushed on me since basically the time I could talk is that I WAS going to college. That was never in question, and if I had tried to resist, I think she might have actually put me in handcuffs and forced me there at gunpoint. Neither she nor my dad had been to college. My dad barely graduated high school, in fact. My mom had been very academically talented, but never had the opportunity to pursue a degree after high school. She was determined that I would not be the same.
The decade of my twenties was all about education. I went to college, and learned that even though I was pretty damn smart for my small high school, college was more of the big leagues. College was where I learned to work. It was where I learned that “I will” is more important than IQ. I ended up graduating with honors. And then I went to graduate school, surpassing my parents’ expectations.
If my twenties were about getting an education, my thirties were about teaching. They were also about my first, failed marriage. I had had relationships here and there along the way. Some of them were fine while they lasted. Others were… bad. Let’s just say bad. (Maybe I’ll do a blog post about that sometime in the future.) But when I met my future first husband, I was mesmerized. I really thought he was it, you know? He was an amazing boyfriend! He literally gave me flowers every single Friday for our entire relationship. Sounds great, right? Like, I used to tell people that with such pride! As though it was the proof that he really loved me. Proof that he was good.
The thing is…
What I didn’t know… what I didn’t SEE… was that he was doing that as kind of an insurance policy. And a way to manipulate me. To feel good about himself and give himself an out for basically anything else he did.
Because every time he did something shitty to me, he would never apologize. He would just act like I was too demanding. Or too sensitive. Or too… something. After all, he gave me flowers every week! He reminded me of that all. the. time. In his logic, if I didn’t appreciate him, it was because of something flawed in me.
Yeah, it was messed up. Once we actually tied the knot, the relationship got bad, fast. I was gaslighted, manipulated, mocked, belittled… oh, and then there was that time he tried to kill me. But that’s another story. Suffice it to say, the marriage itself only lasted three years. Thank God I had the sense to get out of there. I got divorced at 39. And it was one of the best decisions I ever made.
And then, not long after, I met future Mr. Loveling. And thus, began my forties.
It’s funny. They say that the forties are a time when a lot of people experience less happiness in their lives, before life satisfaction starts to pick up again around fifty. For me, though, I’d say it was almost the opposite.
Mr. Loveling is my perfect match in pretty much every way. And weirdly, meeting him actually made me gladabout my previous failed marriage. Because the shittiness of my life with husband #1 made me truly, deeply appreciate everything I have with Dave. He’s amazing. He’s kind. He’s funny. He’s romantic. And best of all, he loves with his whole heart. He doesn’t keep score. He doesn’t give me flowers as an insurance policy against ever having to apologize or admit he’s wrong. In fact, he never gives me flowers at all.
He just gives me him.
With Dave also came his two daughters. I never had children of my “own” – biological children. And I have to admit, I was a little intimidated at the idea of the stepmom gig. Because you hear tons of stuff about how hard it is, right? And wow, you hear about evil stepmothers from basically the time you’re born, in fairy tales and stuff.
Thankfully, though? All my fears were baseless.
Oh, sure. I’m not going to say there were never difficult moments. It turns out there’s no manual about how to be a stepmom. Or about how to be a step-kid. It’s not easy to figure some of that stuff out at first. But you know what? I honestly would not trade having my two bonus daughters for anything. I tell people I was, and am, so lucky to have won an “insta-family” when I met my husband. I feel so fortunate to have not only my husband, but his daughters, their partners, my younger daughter’s two sons (so I’m a grandma, too!), and also my parents-in-law, and my siblings-in-law. It’s all such a gift. Truly. Especially because my own parents died while I was in my late thirties. And I don’t have brothers and sisters. So someone/something was smiling down on me at precisely the right time, giving me a family at the exact moment I was losing the one I was born with.
My forties were also the decade I started writing fiction. And then, a few years ago, I decided to leave my teaching job and start writing full-time. I’ve been doing that for three years now. And because of all that, I’ve connected with you.
What will the decade of my fifties hold? I haven’t got a clue. All I know is, even though no one’s life is perfect, mine feels pretty great right now, all things considered. It’s crazy, isn’t it, that when you look back on your life, you never could have guessed some of the things that would happen? I definitely never would have predicted I’d be sitting at this computer this morning, writing the story of my life to my readers, as a full-time author.
A few weeks ago, Mr. Loveling and I realized that we (especially I) hadn’t had a vacation in a pretty long time.
I was really craving a little rest and relaxation, and a change of scenery and a break from my routine.
Funnily enough, about a day after we had that conversation, I was leafing through the travel section of the Sunday paper… and what to my wondering eyes did appear, but a gorgeous-looking spa and resort on a lake just a couple of hours from where we live in St. Paul, Minnesota!
Immediately, I started having visions of delicious margaritas sipped lakeside, with nothing to worry about but whether I should take a nap or read my book. I gave Mr. Loveling my best doe-eyed look and asked him if pretty pleasewe could plan a long weekend to visit my stepdaughter and her boyfriend, and stay at that resort for a night or two on the way?
Well, Mr. Loveling is helpless in the face of my considerable charms, so he agreed. I immediately jumped online and got us a reservation.
And friends: It. Was. Glorious.We were only there for a couple of days, but wow, was it relaxing. Good food, good drinks, flawless weather… We even got a couples massage together, which we had never done before.
My massage therapist told me I had one of the worst cases of “tech neck” she had ever felt. (Oops.) She spent most of the hour just working out the kinks in my neck and upper back. It hurt like hell (hello, deep-tissue massage) but I felt 100% better afterwards. And I realized I might have to start allowing myself to have monthly massages to counteract the effects of sitting at my desk and writing full-time.
As soon as we got back from our mini-vacay, I booked myself a massage for two weeks from now so that I won’t put it off. So I guess a little bit of our vacation followed me home after all. I hope I manage to keep it up.
Here are some pictures of the beautiful resort we stayed at! (I’m a bad photographer, so this is the best I could do, lol!)
Have a wonderful weekend, everyone! I hope you’re able to relax and enjoy it. For my US peeps, have a fantastic three-day Labor Day weekend! And for those of you in Florida in the path of Hurricane Dorian — please stay safe! <3
Today is the 3-year anniversary of my book CRASH: Stone Kings MC! This book has a special place in my heart, so I’m celebrating Levi and Cherish’s anniversary by setting CRASH to FREE on Amazon! Happy reading, and Happy Anniversary to one of my very favorite couples! <3
She’s a good girl … from a world I left behind years ago. One where virtue and purity are all that matter. She’s never learned about desire, about lust. And how a fire can burn so hot that you’ll risk anything to quench the flames.
I’m going to change all that. She’s got a body that was made for pleasure — she just doesn’t know it yet. And I’m just the bastard to teach her.
She’s come to me for protection from the cold, cruel world. Trouble is, the thing she needs protecting from most of all … is me.
He was just a name — my only chance to escape from the way I was raised. I went to him in desperation, hoping for help, for refuge.
I found a man unlike any I’ve ever known. And now I understand: purity is easy when there’s no temptation.
His touch fills me with forbidden longing. He sets me on fire … until burning up sounds like heaven.
So, I don’t blog super-regularly. I just do this sometimes so that I can connect with readers and just tell them about my life. So, whenever I do a blog post, you can be assured that this is uncensored, un-edited, and just me saying whatever.
It’s early August right now. Which, like WHAT THE FUCK? How in the hell has this summer gone so freaking fast?
I feel like I have barely had time to catch my breath. This summer has been a lot about me trying to take advantage of my own life. Which is weird. Like, why is it that I have this great life, where I get to work from home and write all the werdz every day and I get to be my own boss, but then somehow I STILL feel like I’m super stressed and that my life is out of control???
I honestly think that we all just put so much damn pressure on ourselves. It’s crazy. Like, I used to be a teacher, which meant that my salary was very regular, but it would never really get any bigger, because teachers sort of don’t get cost of living raises. So, I knew exactly what I was going to make for many years going forward, and I knew it would sort of shrink based on cost of living, but at least I had one specific number, you know?
And now that I’m a full-time author… my income varies WILDLY from month to month. I have never had this experience before. I honestly go into every new month just like, “Wheeeeee! Let’s see what this month earns me, shall we? Maybe it will be zero dollars, or maybe it will be a MILLION dollars!” (Spoiler alert: it’s NEVER a million dollars…)
I mean, it’s cool. You just have to budget better with this kind of life. You never really know what you’re going to make in a given month, so you have to be careful. That’s okay, because I’ve always been really careful with money. I’ve never had a lot, so, you know… you just learn to adapt, right?
But it’s weird that it all feels kind of random. You just really need to be conservative as hell. It’s fine. It’s just… different.
So… that’s kind of my blog post. I probably literally don’t have a lot to say. It’s just me, saying… I’m an author, paying the bills like any of you. Trying to budget.
I say this because sometimes I think readers have the impression that authors are a different species, or something. But we’re not. We have to keep the lights on. Just like y’all.
I’m really lucky because the work I do to keep the lights on, I can do in my jammies.
So, thank you all for that.
I know a lot of you are gearing up for back to school shopping now. Your budgets are tight. You’re trying to figure out what you can afford for each kid.
I’m lucky. Because my (step)kids are all grown now. But damn, do I remember the back to school shopping budget.
Stay strong, Mamas. You got this.
You are all amazing. I am so, so SOOOOO thankful for you.
Tori and Dante’s story is especially close to my heart. The inspiration for Tori comes from a dear friend of mine, who shares Tori’s feistiness, her determined nature — and her riot of blond hair! 😄
Early reviews are already coming in, and readers are loving it — which makes me so happy!
Here’s what a few of them had to say about Iron Heart:
“This release has so much substance and creativity, I literally sat devouring it in one sitting. I just couldn’t put it down.” – Love051300, Bookbub review
“Daphne did it again. I have a new book boyfriend. Dante and Tori had sparks flying and it helps that he is an electrician. Can’t wait for the next book.” – Jennie, Amazon review
“I think this is my favorite Lords book yet!” – Cmew, Amazon review
“If you’re a fan of MC romance stories with an intriguing storyline and packed with drama, secrets, lies, suspense, betrayal, off-the-charts chemistry, action, and hot sex scenes, then you definitely need to read Iron Heart by Daphne Loveling.” – Cheryl, Goodreads review
Don’t miss out! Grab your copy of Iron Heart in time for the weekend! One-click now!
Since IRON HEART is almost here, I’m giving away three signed paperbacks of IRON WILL, the first book in the Ironwood series, to three lucky winners!
The giveaway will run from today through Saturday, July 27. I’ll pick and announce the 3 winners the following week. This contest is open internationally — so if you have a functioning mail service, you have a chance to win! 🙂
I realized the other day that it’s been a while since I did a blog post about… just stuff.
I’ve been working a lot lately the past few months — on the first book in the new Ironwood MC series, my novella for the Outlaws charity anthology (which I’m going to be turning into a full-length novel in a month or two), on my Christmas novella Dirty Santa, and most recently, on a short story for a charity anthology connected to the Motorcycles, Mobsters, and Mayhem book signing in April.
So, somewhere in all of that, I kind of forgot about this blog, and that it’s kind of fun to just come on here from time to time and talk about whatever, just for a few paragraphs. No editing, no thinking too much about what I want to say — just writing. To you.
So, today, I’m taking a little break from work to answer something I get asked a lot — especially by readers I meet in person at signings:
What is it like to be a full-time author?
Well. I have a lot I could say about this. Mostly good, some not so great. But all things considered, I do love being a full-time writer. It’s radically different from my prior life as an educator, for sure. So, here are some thoughts about what it’s like for me to do this as a career.
First, it’s really a job where you have to be good at setting deadlines for yourself and following through!
Being a writer, for me, means working at home most of the time. I’m alone in my office, every day, Monday through Friday. I don’t have a boss, other than myself. So, if I want to, I can just decide not to work today! I can go to the mall, and hang out, or go to my favorite place for a fancy lunch, or just go to a movie, or hell… go do a spa day! And hey, why not do the same thing tomorrow? And the next day? And the next…?
What will happen if I do that? Nothing! No boss will fire me. I won’t get “written up.” I won’t miss any important appointments. (Mr. Loveling might notice, and ask me what I’m doing, but other than that…)
So, if I don’t have the self-discipline to sit my ass in this chair every day and do the work… well, the work ain’t gonna get done. I won’t get that next book finished. My income will go down. I’ll disappoint my readers.
Some people need others to set deadlines for them, and the fear of being fired to spur them on. Some people aren’t cut out to be self-employed. Thankfully, so far I don’t seem to be one of them.
Second, it’s a job where introverts tend to thrive.
I think it would be really hard to be a writer if you were the type of person who really needs to be around other people. I spend my work days talking to no one but my cats. And that’s fine with me.
But: it’s also a job that makes it easy to disconnect with the outside world.
I actually do interact with a lot of people during my work day — on line, that is! I love the internet. It quite literally makes my job possible. It makes doing research much easier than it would have been thirty years ago. And it makes me able to talk to readers from all over the world, which is AWESOME. But: it also makes it very easy to just spend all day indoors and never go out and talk to real-world people. And since I’m an introvert, I’m not very bothered by that. But it’s not good for me. So I have to make an extra effort to see friends and meet new people, because I don’t have the built-in daily social interaction I used to have when I worked as an educator.
And: it’s really easy to neglect my physical health!
The thing about writing is, you have to sit in a chair to do it. (Unless you’re a writer who can use dictation, in which case you can write while taking a walk. But dictating doesn’t work for me.) And when I’m really being productive, it’s extremely easy for me to say to myself, “Hey, Daphne, let’s just skip the gym today. We’ll totally go tomorrow, though. Right? I mean, totally!”
Yeah. And then tomorrow comes and… nope. And the day after that… and the day after that…
The dumb thing about that is, I’m actually much more productive when I take time out of the day to get some exercise. Raising my heart rate for a while, and getting my head out of the book I’m writing, is incredibly rejuvenating! Time and time again, I have found that when I’m exercising regularly, my writing is the better for it.
So… why is it so damn hard for me to remember that? 😀
Good question! All I know is, it’s a constant struggle for me. Like right now: I decided to take a break from working. And what did I decide to do instead?
“Is it the number of times you’ve broken a man’s heart?” he teases. “Because if so, you’re about to make it number Seven.”
I laugh in spite of myself. “No, that’s not it either. Face it, you’re never going to get it.”
“Would you tell me if I did?” Bullet asks. “I bet I already guessed, weeks ago.”
“No, you honestly haven’t,” I tell him.
Although he is right.
I wouldn’t tell him, even if he guessed.
The name I go by, Six, is a frequent source of interest and amusement here at Rebel Ink, where I work as a receptionist and aspiring tattoo artist. Though, if you wanted to find a place where a weird first name would blend in, a tattoo parlor is probably one of your best bets. I fit right in among Chance, Sumner, Hannah and Dez. Most of my customers hardly even blink when I tell them my name. Hell, a lot of them go by handles even stranger than mine.
Like Bullet, for example.
So far, Bullet’s the only one of our customers who’s been this insistent on trying to find out what my name means. The first time he came into the shop and introduced himself, I tried to deflect his question by pointing out that his name was odd, too.
But then he immediately told me his real first name is Wyatt, and that Bullet is his “road name,” which is what motorcycle clubs call the nicknames their members go by. Apparently, Bullet has an actual bullet lodged in his body. Hence the choice of monikers.
And hence, the fact that ever since he’s been telling me that since he told me all this, I need to reciprocate and tell him why I go by Six.
Bullet leans closer, one elbow propped up on the counter of the reception desk. He’s close enough now that I can see the flecks in his golden-brown eyes. Beneath the short, dark beard, a corner of his mouth twitches with mischief.
“I think I know what Six stands for.” He murmurs the words deep and low, like they’re just for me.
My heart does a little flop in my chest as I swallow and try to look unaffected. “Yeah?” I challenge, hearing that my voice is a little less steady than I want it to sound.
“Yeah,” he rumbles. “It’s the number of times I’m gonna make you come.”
Jesus. His words are so unexpected that I pull back in surprise, knocking a cup of pens and pencils off the counter and onto the floor. The clatter is so loud that I jump.
“Sorry to startle you, darlin’.” Bullet gives me a lazy smirk. “You need some help with that?”
“No, no,” I mumble as I bend down behind the counter to gather up the pens. I feel my cheeks flush with heat. Bullet loves to flirt with me when he comes into the shop, but he’s never said anything remotely that… direct before. If it was any other guy, I’d give him a piece of my mind, and probably even tell the owner, Chance, that one of his customers was sexually harassing me.
But as I pick up the cup with shaking hands, I realize the reason I won’t say anything to Chance isn’t just because Bullet is a member of the Lords of Carnage MC — the motorcycle club that gives our shop all of their business. It’s not even because I’m afraid of getting on the wrong side of a guy who is probably not very used to being refused anything, by anyone.
The real reason I won’t say anything?
It’s because I’ve fantasized about exactly what Bullet just said.
Way more than six times.
While I’m still down on the ground, I take advantage of the two or three seconds where I’m hidden from him to try to come up with a response that won’t show Bullet how rattled I am. But thankfully, just as I’m picking up the last pen, my boss, Chance Armstrong, comes striding down the hall.
“Bullet. My man,” his booming voice calls out in greeting. “Shit, you’ve been in here a lot lately. You here for some more ink?”
I stand up awkwardly just in time to see Bullet turn and lift his chin at Chance. “Hey, man. Yeah,” he grins. “What can I say? I got some time on my hands, and some space to fill.”
“This is the third tattoo in two weeks,” I point out, breathing a little sigh of relief that the subject has been changed. “I don’t know how you have any space on your body left.”
For some reason, even saying the word body in reference to Bullet makes me shiver a little, but I try hard to ignore it.
Bullet glances at me, looking slightly feral. “Don’t worry, I still got some room left.”
“I don’t have any appointments until this afternoon,” Chance frowns. “I can fit you in though, if you want to come on back.”
“Actually,” Bullet replies, “I was thinking Six could do the tat.”
“Me?” I ask in surprise. I glance uncertainly from Bullet to Chance. “But I’m still in training.”
“I trust you,” Bullet murmurs. “Chance wouldn’t have taken you on if he didn’t have confidence in you.”
Actually, Chance took me on as a favor to Hannah, who started out as a receptionist here, too. Chance didn’t know me from Adam (or Eve) when I first walked in the door to Rebel Ink with her. I’ve worked my ass off to pay him back for taking a chance on me, learning everything I could and taking all the grunt jobs just to show him how thankful I am. Thankfully, he’s never had any cause to complain about my work. He’s even said once or twice that I’m a quick learner and I have a good eye.
Still, it’s one thing to do a rose on some twenty year-old girl’s ankle. It’s entirely another to ink a member of an outlaw motorcycle club. One that could ruin the shop’s reputation with the club if I fuck up.
I look toward Chance, hoping he’ll help me out of this situation. But instead, he just gives us a brief nod and shrugs. “I’ll have Dez come out and man the phones,” he says. “Come on back, Bullet. I can comein and supervise in between my appointments.”
Desperately, I cast around in my head for some excuse. But Chance and Bullet are already walking down the hall toward one of the free rooms. With a helpless sigh, I stand up and follow them. Chance stops by Dez’s room and tells him to go out front.
Then, almost before I know what’s happening, I’m sitting on a stool, with Bullet on the table in front of me.
So, I was at a writing conference a couple of months ago, in Ecuador. I was one of the presenters there. I did two presentations. One of them, at the request of the conference organizers, was about how to write a sex scene.
When they asked me if I could do a talk on that, I said, “Sure! I have strong opinions on that!” (Anyone who knows me knows I have strong opinions on a lot of things.)
But as the date got closer, I started to think about preparing my talk. And I realized, oh, my God. I am going to be standing in front of 30-40 people talking about sex! That’s, uh…
And potentially hilarious, if I’m gonna be honest.
Because sex is embarrassing to talk about. And one use of humor or laughter is for humans to diffuse situations that are embarrassing.
So, sexual humor is often a mask for our embarrassment in talking about it.
And, maybe, our obsession with it.
And it stands to reason, then, that it’s also embarrassing to write about.
Also, there are SOOOO many bad sex scenes out there! You know what I mean. A lot of romance readers tell me they often skip oversex scenes in books, because they’re just badly written. Which I totally get. Because, secret? I do, too.
Today’s post is a little more focused on the writing part of romance, for the authors and aspiring authors out there. It’s also a little longer than most of my blog posts. But I hope that the readers will be interested in it, too. Ready? Here we go!
As a romance author, I read a lot of romance novels. And even in some of them where the story is good, I sometimes find myself skipping over the sex scenes. Because they can actually be really boring, with NOT AS MUCH EMOTIONAL DEVELOPMENT AS IN THE REST OF THE BOOK!
BORING might be the worst possibility…
In those books, these scenes are sort of just placeholders to me. Like, in my brain, I just say, “And then they have sex,” and turn the page to get back to the actual relationship development.
OR maybe there IS worse than boring.
FUNNY is worse. As in, laughing at the language or the positions or… CRINGE-Y. Sheesh. There’s nothing more embarrassing than a scene that’s supposed to be sexy but just makes you go, “EEEEK, yeah, no!”
So. How DO you write a good sex scene?
Well, I may not be the world’s leading expert, but judging from what my readers say, I do a pretty good job. Here are some thoughts.
FIRST: THINK ABOUT WHY THE SEX SCENE IS THERE
It depends on the genre, of course. But assuming the sex is supposed to be pleasurable, it’s there to communicate something about the relationship between the characters, of course. A change in relationship? Or a deepening of a relationship? Or a sameness in the relationship? Is it first-time adolescent fumbling? Is it comfortable, long-time married sex? Is it a fling between two people who know they have no future together? All those things make a difference, and are going to be communicated through the way the characters experience the encounter.
Now, of course, I write romance. So, I write about sex between two people who are falling in love. I generally end up having about three sex scenes in my book. And it’s not really that I count them. It’s just the way the relationships tend to develop in my books. I’m a big fan of the “slow burn.” That’s when the two main characters try as hard as they can to resist each other, but in the end they just can’t take it anymore and fall into each other’s arms. So in my books, the characters never really have sex until about halfway through the book. So the first half has a lot of smoldering sexual tension.
That’s really important, the sexual tension. You have to build it up like a pressure cooker, until things get too hot and they explode. So, I like to say, the sex scene doesn’t start with the first kiss or touch. It starts with the first time the two characters meet. Make sure you’re not just tossing them in bed together when you decide they want to have sex. Prepare them. Make sure you’re developing their emotional relationship as well as their attraction for each other. Prepare the reader. Make us all want it – craveit – so by the time they do fall into bed together, the reader is SOOO happy! FINALLY, I’ve been WAITING for it and here it finally is!
NEXT: HEAT LEVELS
I’m not going to say too much about this, but if you’ve ever read any romance, you know there are lots of different sub genres to the main genre. Right? Cowboy romance, regency, sweet, Christian, small town, steamy contemporary… There are really way too many to list here. If you write romance, or you want to write romance, you had better know what your subgenre is. And the explicitness of your sex scenes will be dependent on the subgenre you choose. Make sure you know what is expected within that genre. You have to read your genre in order to know how to write your genre.
I am a huge fan of the slow burn in romance stories. I simply hate it when two characters fall into bed in chapter 2. Because romance is nothing without the sexual and relationship tension. After all, we know how it ends: Happily ever after! Or at least, happy for now. If it wasn’t for the anticipation part, we could just skip to the end, read the last chapter, and blow off the rest of the book, right?
So. The characters need to fight their feelings for each other. That’s true of the romance part, but also for the sex part, in my view.
EMOTION is REALLY important in a good sex scene! And if they don’t have an emotional relationship/feelings for each other, the sex is going to be hard to write in a way that’s convincing.
Remember: the sex scene doesn’t start with the first touch or kiss. It starts with the first time they meet. The looks they steal at each other. The hitch in their breath when their eyes meet. The way their heart speeds up, or their skin flushes. Those physical reactions to the other person’s presence. Don’t neglect those. Give the reader some foreplay. Then finally, when they FINALLY touch, we know how much they’ve been dying for it. And the reader has been dying for it, too! Remember, they say the brain is the biggest sex organ. Give them brains. And give the reader access to their thoughts!
Which brings me to:
POINT OF VIEW (POV)
What point of view is the book written in? Is it 3rd person? 1stperson alternating? Whatever point of view it is, the reader still needs to get into the heads of at least one of the characters. What are they thinking about the other person? What are the naughty thoughts that they would be SO embarrassed if the other person found out they were thinking? What are their fantasies of what the other person’s lips would feel like? What they want to do, or have done to them? Remember your choice of narration affects how much you can get into their heads, and in what ways.
USING ALL THE SENSES
Think about the little details you notice when you’re attracted to someone. The rasp of their voice. The curve of a neck. That really delicious V of a hot guy’s torso. Think about things that your character can notice or imagine about the other person in anticipation. Try to be creative. Little details are more than just the obvious. And try to make the things they notice actually reflect on the character/noticer’s personality. (If you don’t have particular characters and this is for the future: Think of a time when you were attracted to someone and wanted a relationship to develop. Make yourself into the character for your author to write about. What do you as the character notice?) Think of things you notice from each of the five senses: sight, hearing, taste (this might just be that you taste whiskey on his tongue, for example), smell, touch.
EEK! Here we are! We’re gonna have sex! Oh boy!
Okay. SO. This is the nuts and bolts (LOL – I said nuts!) of the sex scene.
This is a lot more than “insert Tab A into Slot B”, right?
So. Let’s break it down. Think everything through that we just talked about.
What is this scene ABOUT? Yes, it’s about sex, but it’s ALWAYS more than that. How to think through what this scene is doing to advance or reveal the characters internal conflicts and the delicious push-pull of falling in love or in lust.
Begin with the end in mind– no, this doesn’t mean skipping foreplay! Emotional content and always be thinking about what this scene will do to advance the relationship. It’s “not” sex.
The vocabulary appropriate to your heat level (again, read it to write it…)
The five senses (again) — remember to use them during the whole act!
RHYTHM! This isn’t something we’ve talked about yet, but it’s super-important. It’s about tension, and how to create it. Your sex scene may involve a change in style, as the primal mind takes over. You’re narrating what’s going on in the character’s head just as much — if not more– than the physical aspects/description. Talk about breathing, changes in body temp, etc. Sex is titillating, but it’s also part of the dance. Use it to reveal their internal fears and external conflicts as well.
You can use language more poetically here, to convey the characters’ feelings in the sentence structure and pacing. As their brain gets more excited, and they get more involved, you can use some poetic license: Run on sentences might be fine, because they imitate stream of consciousness, the breathlessness of the moment… don’t be afraid to do this, at least in the first draft. Let yourself get caught up in the moment. You can read it over later and decide whether to change things.
ONE LAST THING: Don’t get TOO caught up!
Don’t forget that you have to keep track of the reality that the characters are in a physical space. They need a place to lie down, or brace themselves against, etc. Is it hard? Soft? Slippery? rough? They also have clothes on at the beginning, probably. How are you going to get them off? It can be helpful to think through all this at the beginning, so you don’t spend too much time puzzling through how to get rid of a bra or a pair of pants while you’re trying to find the rhythm of the scene.
FINALLY: THE AFTERMATH!
Don’t forget that the characters will be thinking about this awesome sex afterwards. What will their reaction to it be? How will it change them and the relationship? How will it change the story? If the sex scene really needs to be in the book, it WILL change the story. If it doesn’t, then it’s not meaningful enough. It either doesn’t need to be there, or it needs to be changed so that it has more importance in the characters’ lives. After the scene, both characters need to be thinking some form of “this changes everything!” And if it’s in the middle of the book — helping to develop the plot — it ought to (at least temporarily) make things WORSE! Oh my God, I just slept with my boss! Oh my God, how am I going to handle having to see this person every day from now on?! AAAAAHHHH!
Well, that’s it! My strong opinions on sex scenes! I hope it was entertaining. I enjoyed it, for sure! But it also gave me a huge excuse to procrastinate on my daily writing quota for my next book… OOOPS! 😀 So, I should probably stop here, go grab a cup of coffee, and get right on that.
They call me Ghost for a reason. Silent and in the shadows, I don’t make my move until I am absolutely sure of everything.
Four years ago I was sure about Jenna. My best friend’s kid sister had grown up into a spitfire I couldn’t resist.
One night we stopped resisting…
We promised we’d keep it a secret. It was a one-time mistake, but we’d put it behind us. Jenna left but I kept my word.
Jenna tried to get out of our corrupt town, but it pulled her back in again. Now she needs help. She needs protection. I’ll do all of that for her, if she’ll just shut the hell up and let me. She can even keep all of her secrets, except for one…
I lost everything years ago. My brother. My family. Everything that ever meant anything to me.
Now the Lords of Carnage are my life. Anything I need, the club provides. Anything else is unimportant.
At least, that’s what I tell myself until I meet Samantha Jennings. She stirs something inside me I haven’t felt for years. Back when I had hope. Back when I thought life would give you what you asked for if you wanted it bad enough.
Wanting is dangerous. I’ve learned that lesson. But when I look in those deep brown eyes, I want Samantha. I want to possess every inch of her body — to hear her call my name when she loses herself in pleasure.
If I was smart, I’d push her the hell away. Do anything to make her hate me.
But I know I won’t. I’ll never stop until I have her. Even if it destroys us both.
Sassy, sexy, and hot-headed,
She came into town like a wildfire.
She’s got secrets, I can tell.
But Sydney Banner’s keeping her cards close to her chest.
She can fight it all she wants,
But as the Enforcer for the Lords of Carnage,
I have a way of getting what I want.
And I want her in my bed.
Every. Damn. Night.
She says she doesn’t need protecting.
I know better.
My inner caveman is in overdrive. Something’s keeping Sydney from telling me the whole truth.
She doesn’t want a savior. But this time, she doesn’t have a choice.
I’ll do whatever it takes to keep her safe.
I live by the cut. It’s a brotherhood.
Sex, crime, and power.
It’s all I know, and all I care to know.
But when I see the sexy, feisty little number, in over her head at the biker bar,
I want to pummel the son of a bitch who threatens her.
Taking Alix back to my club for protection is all I can do.
Even though hell, I want to do so much more.
She wonders if I’m dangerous. Loaded question…
But she needs my help anyway. She has to know I’m her only hope to find her sister, before the clock runs out.
And after that, Alix is mine.
Whether she knows it or not.
Ever seen this hilarious clip of Homer Simpson about alcohol?
Yeah… that’s kinda how I feel as an author about the internet sometimes.
Ahh, the internet. To be honest, I can’t imagine being an author without it. How did writers manage to do their research without it, back in the day?
I mean, I know how they did it. They went to the library. They went undercover with the cops. They consulted experts. They talked to people who lived the things they wanted to write about.
Which I do, too. (Well, maybe not the library one. Or the cops one. Yet.) But wow, it must have taken SO much time, and so much effort. It’s no wonder that most successful authors in the past were people (mostly men) with money, and time to do this stuff.
But me? Now, if I need to find a person who has lived through something I want to write about, I can connect with someone online. If I need to find out a fact, or a date, or something like that, there’s Google. If I need to watch an open-heart surgery, I can even do that, on YouTube! It’s amazing! For someone who has a thirst for knowledge like me, it’s a fantastic tool. Not to mention, it certainly speeds up the research process. It used to be that writing a book a year was lightning-fast. I wrote six books last year alone. And that’s not even that fast, by romance author standards.
So, the solution to all my problems, right?
Yeah… Except… Facebook. And Twitter. And all the news and information sources I read. And the cat videos people send me. And… and… and…
And this blog. Seriously, I AM SUPPOSED TO BE WRITING CHAPTER SIX OF BEAST RIGHT NOW!!!!!
Damn, the internet is a DISTRACTION! It’s such a distraction that I literally came on the internet to whine to all of you about what a distraction it is — hence, it has just become even more of a distraction. And let’s not even get started about the rabbit holes I frequently fall down when I’m doing research for something. What I think will be a simple search can turn into an hour-long fact-finding mission. Or, I will find the information right away, but the article it’s in is so fascinating that I have to read the whole thing, and then it links to something else that’s even more interesting. And when I’m done with that, I just HAVE to get on Facebook and share this cool thing I’ve just learned…
And then I’m back in social media hell.
What is the point of all this rambling?
It’s mostly just a vent. Which the internet is GREAT for, too. If I didn’t have it right now, I wouldn’t have anyone to complain to, at all. (Except my cats, and they don’t care.)
Except… if there wasn’t internet, I wouldn’t be wanting to complain about the internet…
Okay. Back to work. For real, now.
(This rant brought to you by the Daphne Loveling Society for Useless Internet Rants.)
THORN, my latest Lords of Carnage book, is coming out in just a few days! It’s the story of a hot-blooded Irishman who’s a cold-blooded killer, and the woman he’s sworn to protect.
Here’s a special sneak peek of Chapter 1, just for you!
“Izzy, come on!” my best friend Deb cries.
“Jeez, I’m coming!” I retort, trying not to wobble on these insanely high heels I borrowed from her.
The back entrance we’re heading toward definitely doesn’t look like it’s for customers. But the dimly-lit parking lot of the roadhouse was full, so Deb ended up having to park way in back, next to a dumpster. We’re not wearing coats against the early November chill, and this door was propped open with a rock, so of course Deb made a beeline for it to get inside as quickly as possible.
I shoot one last glance back into the parking lot, just to check for myself that there’s no one watching or following us. Reassured, I slip through the heavy steel door behind my friend.
Buzzy’s Roadhouse is a few miles outside the city limits. I’ve never been here before, but Deb says she came here once with her brother. The building itself is a wreck. The outside is poorly constructed clapboard and faded siding that makes it look like it’s likely to fall down in the next strong storm. Inside, it smells like smoke and body odor. The lights are so dim you can barely see anything.
Buzzy’s is known for being a dangerous place. Somewhere no “decent” girl would go — especially unaccompanied by a male companion. People turn in curiosity to look at Deb and me as we walk in. We’re clearly not regulars, and they probably think we’re scared. Or at least, that we should be.
But most people don’t know my father, or the family I grew up in. This? This is nothing.
Deb, on the other hand, probably ought to have thought twice before coming here. Or at least she should be less eager and excited than she is. But as long as I’ve known her, Deb has never been afraid of anything. She’s always been the kind of girl to run toward the fire instead of away from it.
Paradoxically, of the two of us, I’m the more cautious one. Not because I’m afraid, but because my life has had more than enough chaos in it already.
Deb’s dad is an important lawyer in our town. She grew up with a silver spoon in her mouth. But hey, we always want what we don’t have, right? So of course, Deb has always been tempted by walking on the wild side, the wrong side of the tracks. She loves the idea of coming here to Buzzy’s to find some dangerous, shady guys to flirt with.
As for me, I’m usually happy to curl up with a book and spend my evening that way. But these days, since I’ve basically been under house arrest for the last month, I was more than willing to break out and have a little fun at Deb’s request. Besides, as shabby and potentially dangerous as Buzzy’s is, it does have two major things going for it.
One: none of the dumbasses we knew from high school are likely to be here.
And two: neither is anyone from my dad’s club.
Once we’re inside, I finally start to relax. The prospect of a couple of hours of freedom is a happy one. I follow Deb through a dubious-looking hallway. We pass a couple of closed doors with faded, smoke-stained signs labeling them. As we go by the men’s bathroom, a door opens, and a large, beer-gutted man comes out. The stench he leaves behind wafts into the hallway. I reflexively wrinkle my nose and take a step back in disgust. But Deb, excited as she is, doesn’t even seem to notice.
“Come on!” she calls again, reaching back to grab my hand. She practically drags me toward the bar, and I almost stumble on my high heels trying to keep up with her.
Inside the main room, the din of music and voices is deafening. The smell of sweaty bodies is worse in here. It’s just short of stifling. My lungs feel like they need a big, deep gulp of fresh air, but there’s none to be had in this crowded room. Instead, I take shallow breaths through my mouth and try to ignore the odors.
Deb makes a beeline for the bar to get us drinks. I watch as she stands up to balance on her tiptoes, and leans over the counter to yell our order to the bartender. Her breasts half-spill provocatively from her low-cut dress; the barman stares openly and gives her a wolfish grin.
While she’s busy, I take a moment to look around. The place is packed almost wall to wall with people. Most of the men are large, hairy and tattooed, with muscles running to fat. The women are younger, with a few exceptions. They’re tarted up, like me, and dressed like offerings to the male population. Clothing-wise, I’m certainly not out of place, although my sluttiest black dress and Deb’s heels are actually a little on the conservative side compared to most women here.
Though I’m certainly not scared, I’m already starting to wonder if coming to Buzzy’s was a good idea. I came here for a rare night out with my BFF, and away from the gaze of my overprotective father. But I’m starting to wish we’d chosen someplace a little tamer, with a little less testosterone. Sure, I wouldn’t mind a little flirting myself. And maybe I was hoping in the back of my mind that there’d be a hot guy my age to do a little lip-locking with. But right now, as the hungry gazes of the males in this bar start to shift toward me, I’m starting to feel like a piece of packaged meat on display. With a neon sign overhead that says eat me.
“Here!” Deb calls into my ear, handing me a plastic cup full of beer. “You can get the next round.”
I accept the cup from her. We raise our glasses in a mock toast, and I take a drink. It’s cold and soothing against the smoke that’s burning my throat. I let out a sigh of pleasure, even though the beer itself isn’t that good.
“Have you noticed how many guys are staring at us?” I murmur into Deb’s ear.
“I know!” she crows happily, and flips her hair back in a flirty, seductive move. “I told you this place would be cool.”
“That’s not what I…” I shoot back, but before I can finish my sentence, a tall, stocky man with a long dark beard comes up behind Deb and grabs her around the waist.
“Well, well, well, darlin’, haven’t seen you here before!” the man bellows. “You look good enough to eat!”
Deb laughs and moves out of his grasp to look at him. “Hey,” she simpers, cocking her head at him.
“I’m Ralph,” he says.
“Deb,” she answers. “And this is my friend Izzy.”
“You girls are new around here,” he says, looking each of us over slowly and with obvious pleasure. “I’da noticed you around.”
“You a regular, then?” I reply. Distaste tinges my voice, but he doesn’t seem to notice. He’s not bad looking, honestly, although he’s not really my type. But he’s so obviously looking to score with anything in a skirt that I’m immediately turned off. Deb, however, doesn’t seem to share my feelings.
“Here every weekend,” he says proudly. I just manage to stop myself from snorting. “Wished I’d seen you before. I coulda bought your drinks for you.”
“There’s always the next round,” Deb smirks, and bats her eyes at him. Oh, brother.
Ralph takes this for the invitation it probably is, and takes a step toward Deb. He pulls her close and cops a feel of her ass. “You are tasty,” he leers.
“How would you know?” Deb shoots back. “You haven’t tasted me yet.”
Then before I even know what’s happening, Ralph’s tongue is so far down Deb’s throat I’m pretty sure he’s checking to see whether she still has tonsils.
If you’ve ever had to stand around while two people suck face in front of you, you’ll have some idea of how awkward this is. I take a long sip of my beer, and look around the room like the clientele is fascinating. But when I look back, Deb and Ralph are still going at it. Ralph’s got his hand on her thigh and he’s inching his hand under her dress. Deb’s not doing anything to stop him. In exasperation, I wonder whether they’re going to start going at it right here, in full view of everyone.
“Um, guys?” I say snarkily. “Really?”
Deb breaks away from Ralph’s mouth and gives me a little pout. “Come on, Izzy. We’re just having a little fun.”
Ralph looks up at me, and flashes me a wink that he probably thinks is sexy. “Are you ladies a twofer?” he asks with a leer.
Ugh. Gross. “No,” I reply crossly, but Deb actually laughs.
“What’s the matter, handsome? Am I not enough for you?” she whines, placing a hand on his forearm.
“More than enough,” he growls. “Let’s take this somewhere else. I got a truck out in the parking lot. Back seat of the cab’s pretty comfy.”
Deb flashes me a half-apologetic glance. “I’ll be back in a few, Iz, okay?”
Suppressing a sigh, I wave her off. “Fine. I’ll be here.”
“The offer still stands,” Ralph tells me. I shoot him a disgusted look. “Suit yourself, candy ass.”
Ralph leads Deb out the front door, nodding to the bouncer on the way. I take a deep breath and let it out, then look toward the bar for a free stool. Looks like I’m going to be here for a little while.
With a little difficulty, I slide up onto the only unoccupied bar stool I see and try to make myself invisible. I’d much rather be an observer than one of the observed, especially while Deb is off having fun with Ralph. Absent-mindedly, I finger the small gold starfish that I wear on a chain around my neck and glance around the room. It’s kind of amusing, actually. The guys in this bar are all puffing and posturing, trying to look tough and dangerous. They don’t scare me, though. They look like pansies compared to the guys in my dad’s club, the Death Devils. My dad, Oz, is the president of the MC. And as much as I’ve grown to hate the club and everything associated with it, I have to admit they’re ten times the men that these guys are.
Still, I’m definitely attracting attention, and I can tell I’m not going to be alone for much longer. Reflexively I reach in my purse and finger my pepper spray, reassured that it’s there in case I need it.
“Hey. You look lonely.” A hint of beer breath comes wafting toward my nostrils. Grimacing slightly, I turn to see a greasy-looking guy with unwashed shoulder-length hair staring at me with an expectant grin.
“No. I’m really not,” I tell him, and turn away. But of course, he’s not about to be deterred so easily.
“Oh, come on, girly. Give me a smile. I bet you’re beautiful when you smile.”
Ugh. “Sorry, but I don’t owe you a smile, or anything else. I just want to sit her and be left alone, thanks.”
I should have known my refusal would set the greasy stranger off. “You’re kind of a bitch, you know that?” he snarls.
“Yeah. I know,” I hurl back. “So leave me the fuck alone.”
Asshole leans over in the other direction and mutters something, and then a moment later there’s a second man standing in front of me. “What the fuck is your problem, bitch?” he challenges me. “My friend here was just trying to offer you a drink.”
“No, he wasn’t,” I retort. “He was trying to get into my pants. Which are closed for business. So there’s no need to keep making conversation.”
I turn away towards the bar, but the second guy grabs my bicep and pulls me back around.
“What are you, a fuckin’ dyke?” He’s towering over me now, flecks of spittle appearing on his lips as his face contorts into an angry mask. I know he thinks he’s scaring me, but fuck that shit. I’ve had enough of this bullshit.
“Yep. I’m a fuckin’ dyke,” I agree, and stand. “Now, if you’ll excuse me. I’m gonna go into the ladies room, and find a hot young girl to eat out, because I know I’ll do a better job of it than any of the clowns in this bar can.”
I stand up and try to shake the second guy’s hand off my arm, but he tightens his grip and wrenches me toward him. Bracing myself against the bar for balance, I bring my spiked heel down hard on his foot, crushing it against his boot and breaking off the heel in the process. But it’s enough: the guy lets go of my arm and howls in pain.
I make a break for it before the first asshole can grab me, limp-running through the bar toward the hallway where we came in. I don’t stop at the bathroom, in case they decide to stand outside the door and wait for me. Instead, I head through the back door out into the parking lot where we came in.
Outside, I keep going until I’m far enough away that I’m not easily seen from the back entrance. In spite of myself, my heart is pounding a little bit as I take a few deep breaths and look around to assess my situation. I’m safe, but my shoe is fucked. And I’m without transportation until Deb is through boinking Ralph in the back of his truck.
The night air is cool, but not so cold that I can’t stay out here for a while. I wander over to Deb’s car and lean against it. I send her a quick text, which she predictably does not respond to.
For a few minutes, I wait on high alert. No one who looks like the guys who were harassing me comes out the back or the front, so I start to relax a little. I do a scan of the parking lot , looking for a rocking truck, but there are so many pickups here that I’ll never be able to see Ralph’s in the dark. Since walking is kind of a hassle right now, I settle in to wait for them to finish, figuring I’ll catch up with them when they head back toward the bar. Taking out my phone, I decide to pass the time by checking social media for a while.
It’s my own stupid fault that I’m not paying as much attention as I should to the comings and goings in the parking lot. My father’s trained me better than this, but for some reason his training has momentarily gone out the window. Which is why the soft rustling behind me doesn’t register in my conscious brain for a second.
Turns out, it’s a second too long.
Before I know what’s happening, a rough hand has clamped itself over my mouth. My phone flies from my hands as my arms are wrenched behind my back. I start to scream as a hood is pulled roughly over my head. Before I can try to thrash away, my wrists are bound, and I’m being lifted and carried in the opposite direction from the bar.
I hear a van door open, and I’m tossed roughly into the back. Whoever nabbed me climbs in beside me, making the shocks dip, and the door slides shut. A key turns, the engine starts, and the van pulls away and accelerates quickly, driving off into the night.
It’s December, and as I write this it’s ten days until Christmas. I’ve always thought of December as “my” month, because it’s the month I was born — two days after Christmas, to be exact. (And no, I’m not going to tell you how old I am. Everyone’s got to have some secrets, after all.)
I know a lot of December babies say they hate it because they don’t get as many presents as someone who was born in, say, June. But I loved my December birthday as a kid. Because my birthday falls in late December, between Christmas and the New Year, when I was growing up I never had to go to school on the actual day. So, that whole week just kind of felt like a special present from the universe, to me.
There were a few disadvantages to a December birthday. For example, the above-mentioned tendency by people to give you one present and tell you they spent twice as much and it’s for your Christmas and your birthday. (Pro tip: Don’t believe it. They did not spend twice as much. They spent like $5 more and then did a little private fist-bump that they got out of buying you two presents.) Another sort of sucky thing, if you lived in the Midwest like I did, was that certain presents weren’t exactly winter-friendly presents. Like the year I got my first bike, and there was so much snow on the ground that my dad couldn’t even take me out to teach me how to ride it. I spent the day of my birthday sitting on the bike in my parents’ living room, propped up on the kickstand next to the Christmas tree. I didn’t even get to ride the damn thing for the first time until February.
Yeah, I’m still bitter about that.
But… you may have noticed the title of this blog is about my favorite Christmas gift ever. And you may have also noticed that I’m 4 paragraphs into this blog post without even mentioning it. Sorry, it’s Friday and I’m feeling a little wordy today. Anyway. My favorite Christmas gift ever was another one of those gifts that was not winter-friendly. I got it the year after I got my first bike, when I was seven.
A pogo stick.
Have you ever ridden a pogo stick? I find it’s actually not something a lot of people have done, at least not successfully. Learning how to pogo takes time and effort and patience. These are things that the average seven year-old does not possess in abundance.
As it turns out, learning to ride a pogo stick takes something else that I did not have in great supply as a gangly seven year-old.
I was so excited to get this pogo stick. I couldn’t wait to get outside and try it out. Of course, my mother put her foot down and absolutely forbade me to do it in the house. Unfortunately, it was one of those years when snow had packed on the driveways and sidewalks and streets, so doing it outside wasn’t really feasible either. In the end, I grabbed the stick, put on my coat, and excitedly went out into our unheated garage to try the sucker out.
I put my foot on one of the pedals, did a little hop and got my other foot up there.
And managed to move the spring about an eighth of an inch before I lost my balance and fell off.
I tried again. Same result. It was only barely different from jumping up and down on the floor and expecting it to move.
In the days that followed, I went out to the garage again a few times, dejectedly trying to ride my prize present, but no dice. It just wasn’t happening. Eventually, my mom got sick of it cluttering up her pristine garage (my mom was a serious neat freak, y’all) and hung it up on the wall with a nail. Where it stayed.
Wow, some present, huh? You sure know how to tell a story, Daphne.
But after all, I never said that the pogo stick was my favorite present that year.
So. It’s years later. We’ve moved to a different town, in a different state. I am now eleven years old. Still gangly. I’ve grown into a relatively unathletic, bookworm type. The type that would eventually grow up and begin a career as a romance author. I’m an only child, which means I spend a fair amount of time with my nose in a book, or wandering around looking for things to do because I don’t have any siblings to fight or play with.
It’s summer. I’m in the garage. Looking for something to occupy my afternoon. My eyes happen to fall on the pogo stick. The same pogo stick that I got when I was seven. Hanging there, in a different garage, by a different nail. I remember I suck at pogo sticking. But for some reason, I decide to give it a shot.
I put my foot on the peg. I hop on.
The spring compresses. I bounce. Once, twice.
I fall off.
I try it again. I bounce once, twice, three times.
I fall off.
I get back on.
You see where I’m going with this.
I spent the entire afternoon on that thing. And the next day, I did the same thing. I became freaking obsessed with counting how many times I could bounce, and then beating my previous record. Pretty soon, I reached three-hundred bounces. Then I beat that record. Eventually, it got to the point where I could pretty much bounce indefinitely without falling. I even briefly contemplated going for a world record — except this was in the days before the internet, and I had no idea what the record was.
I started pogo’ing one-handed. Then I started doing it while drinking a can of Coke.
Years later, even now, if I had to, I bet I could beat practically anyone in a pogo sticking contest. I am freaking good at pogo sticking, people.
So, why is the pogo stick my favorite Christmas gift ever?
Because it was the first object in my life that ever taught me the lesson of progress, and readiness, and growth — both physically, but also mentally. I was physically unready and incapable of using the pogo stick when I got it. Years later, when I was ready, I was able to appreciate it fully — much more fully than I would have if I’d just been able to hop on and play with it for a while that first year. Who knows? If I had been able to do that at seven, I might have just played with it for a couple of afternoons, and then forgotten about it. Instead, I became a full-fledged pogo sticking ninja.
The lesson of the pogo stick taught me that there would probably be other things in my life that I would not be ready for, but would eventually grow into. The lesson, frankly, was kind of mind-boggling for a kid that age. And I doubt it was a lesson that any person could have taught me so well just by telling it to me. It was something I had to learn, and understand for myself. And learning it in such a physical way… well, it stuck with me, because it was a lesson I could actually feel as well as understand.
So, that’s the story of my favorite Christmas gift ever. And a postscript: while I was looking for a funny image to put at the end of this blog post, I learned that pogo sticking is actually an excellent form of exercise for the back, core, legs and butt. And that pogo’ing has had a little resurgence with adults because of those “recess” – type fitness classes.
Huh. Maybe it’s time to ask Santa for a pogo stick this year…
“Yes!” Kayla screams, pumping her fist in the air so wildly she almost topples off her chair. “Drink, Aaron!”
My buddy grins at the red arrow pointing to him and grabs the shot glass, downing it in a quick gulp. “Yeah!” he roars, and holds it up to the bored-looking bartender behind the counter. “Another round!”
“You gonna join in on this one, Mase?” Aaron asks me, cocking his head with a taunting grin.
“No can do, man,” I toss back. I try to look like I’m bummed about it. I don’t think I do a very good job, but everyone’s too toasted to pay much attention.
I try to not to roll my fucking eyes when Aaron calls me a pussy. I don’t know how much longer I can fake like I’m having fun watching them play drinking games before I can’t take it anymore. We’re hanging out at a sports bar called the Penalty Box. I’m here with a couple of guys from the Springville Rockets — the pro football team I’m hoping to get signed to any day now — and the chicks they’re currently banging. Kayla, the girl who’s here with me, is one of the cheerleaders for the team. My buddy Aaron Brooks introduced me to her about a month ago.
Aaron and I went to the same university, where we played college ball together for four years before we both went pro. Two years ago, Aaron got signed on as a linebacker for the Rockets. It’s a crazy coincidence, because if all goes well, starting this season I’ll be playing alongside him again.
If all goes well.
My stomach does an unpleasant flip, and I push the negative thought that’s forming out of my mind. I’ll get signed, I tell myself. I will. I’m doing everything right. It has to pay off. It has to.
The bartender sets out another round of shots in front of the group. They’re playing a stupid-ass game called Spin the Shot. Spin the Shot centers around this spinner thing with a red arrow on it, and a holder just big enough for a shot glass. Each person takes turns setting a shot into the holder, then spinning the arrow until it lands on whoever has to take the shot. The group started out with strawberry margarita Jello shooters, but now they’ve moved on to their second round of something called a Blue Hawaiian shot. It’s made with some sort of vile-looking blue-colored Jello. From the smell, I’m guessing the alcohol is rum. Since I’m not drinking, I just sit back in my chair nursing a Coke and watch everyone else play.
It’s Aaron’s turn to spin the arrow. It lands on Kayla, who squeals and grabs the shot from the holder so roughly she’d have spilled it if it wasn’t Jello. Tipping her head back, she slides her tongue into the shot glass and scoops the Jello into her mouth and down her throat. She chews a few times and swallows, then sticks out her tongue dramatically and coughs at the alcohol. Her tongue is dark blue. Everyone else laughs like it’s the funniest fucking thing they’ve ever seen.
One thing I’ve learned since I stopped drinking: drunk people are never as funny as they think they are.
Aaron’s teammate Mike Brandt drinks next. Then it’s the turn of the girl he’s with, a big-titted redhead named Ashley. Then Kayla again. At this point, Kayla’s starting to get pretty fucking sloppy. I realize pretty soon she’s gonna be too drunk to do anything but pass out in the passenger seat of my SUV. Inwardly, I cringe at the thought of her ralphing up blue puke all over my interiors.
I decide it’s time to go. Before that vision becomes a reality.
“Come on, Kayla,” I say, grabbing her gently by the shoulders. “I think it’s time for us to call it a night.”
“But I’m having fun!” she protests. She gets up, though, and stumbles a little on her high heels so I have to steady her.
“I know, but it’s time to continue the fun somewhere else,” I tell her, even though I’m already starting to have second thoughts about that.
Kayla lets out a little bleat of laughter. “We’re gonna go fuck!” she announces to the others drunkenly. The girls start to giggle loudly and make sex eyes at me, like they wish they were in Kayla’s shoes. But they’re at least as wasted as she is, and anyway I’ve got my hands full enough with her.
“Okay, then,” I say to my buddies. “You guys have a good night.” I toss a couple bills on the table, even though I only had a soda and a couple mouthfuls of the nachos we ordered earlier. Everyone calls goodbye to us and we turn toward the front door of the bar, Kayla wobbling beside me on her heels.
“Are we going to your place?” she asks me eagerly as we walk out into the cool night air.
“Nah,” I shake my head. “How about yours?”
“Come on, Mason,” Kayla croons at me, screwing up her face into a little pout. She must think that look is sexy, because she does it to me a lot. “You never take me home!” she whines. “I won’t even stay the night if you don’t want me to.” She sidles up to me and breathes into my ear. “You know how good I can make you feel, baby.”
In my pants, my cock stirs, but irritation overrides any attraction to her I’m feeling. I’m pissed that I have to have this argument with her again.
“My place isn’t really moved into. You know that,” I say, trying hard to sound reasonable and not pissed. It’s actually true. Even though I bought the house over a year ago, a lot of my stuff is still in boxes. Shit hit the fan shortly after I moved out here. So I haven’t been exactly motivated to unpack and decorate.
But that’s not the real reason I don’t wanna take Kayla home. The real reason is, I don’t want the hassle. Kayla’s hot, but she’s not all that. I can get any woman I want, without having the expectation that I’ll have to take her home and let her spend the night. It’s just not worth it to have to make small talk with her tomorrow morning while she thinks up excuses to stick around.
“Look, babe,” I murmur, grabbing her hand and pulling it away as she starts to reach for my crotch. “There’s a hotel just down the road. A nice one. Why don’t we go there?”
But Kayla’s having none of it. “No!” she complains, her voice rising. “I’m sick of this, Mason. Why don’t you want to take me home? Are you ashamed to be with me or something?”
I’m not with you, I almost say, but manage to refrain. Goddamn it, Kayla knows going home with me isn’t an option. I make it clear to every woman go to bed with. And that we’re just having fun, nothing else.
“Kayla, Jesus,” I sigh, running a hand through my hair. “It’s not that…”
“You know what?” she interrupt me. “Fuck this. You’re nothing but a drunk and a loser anyway,” she screeches at me. “You’re not even a Rocket yet. I bet you won’t be one, either.” She gives me an ugly, angry sneer. “I’m done, Mason.”
I shrug, more relieved than anything that I won’t be spending the night fighting this. “Fine by me.”
Kayla blinks a couple of times uncertainly, like she was expecting me to argue with her. She opens her mouth to fire back at me, but pauses. Then finally:
“I have to pee.” She announces it loudly and defiantly, like it’s a stellar comeback.
“Fine,” I grumble. “Go.”
She goes back inside to the restrooms that are by the front door. I wait for her, trying not to get pissed at the insults she hurled at me. In one respect, Kayla’s not wrong. I’m not a Springville Rocket yet. Oh, I had been — for all of three weeks or so. The team had signed me for last season, and everything was all set. I even moved here to Springville and bought my house. But then, all the fucking shit hit the fan, and… well, I ended up getting un-signed. And sitting out last season completely.
And now, if they decide at the last minute they don’t want me this year…
Shit. I shake the thought from my head, for probably the millionth time. I need to move forward. I can’t afford to get stuck worrying about something that hasn’t happened yet. All I can do is hope things keep going in the direction they are, and that the team will sign me for this season. Once that happens, I’ll be in the clear. I’m one of the best linebackers in the league, and they know it, too. My agent has told me as much. I know I can perform. I know I can make myself one of the most valuable players on the team, if they just give me a chance.
But the Rockets have had more than their fair share of scandals in recent years, and they don’t need another one. Which means that any whiff of trouble makes the owners and managers gun shy.
And unfortunately, there’s a whiff of trouble around me that just won’t seem to go away.
Kayla takes fucking forever in the bathroom. I wait, then wait some more, and finally, she comes back out of the bar, smelling like re-applied perfume. She’s put on more lipstick, too, I notice. But underneath the cherry red color, I can see the blue tinge on her lips from the Jello shots.
I gesture over to my SUV in the parking lot. “Come on. I’ll drive you home.”
Kayla lifts her chin. “Fuck you,” she sniffs at me. “I called an Uber.”
“Fine by me,” I say, relieved. I was anticipating another big argument when I dropped her at her place. Now I won’t have to have it. Pussy like this is too much damn work.
Even though I want to get out of there, I wait with her until the Uber arrives out of a sense of obligation. The whole time, she sits on a bench with her arms and legs crossed, pointedly ignoring me. A few minutes later, a Toyota sedan pulls up. The driver’s side window rolls down and a guy pokes his head out. “You call an Uber?”
“I did,” Kayla announces, standing up from the bench where she’s been pouting. “Not him.”
“Hey,” the guy peers at me as Kayla goes around to the passenger side. “Are you Mason Robichaud?”
“Yeah,” I say, giving him my best for-the-public smile.
He’s fucking asshole Mason Robichaud!” Kayla shouts toward me as she opens the car door. She throws herself inside, making the car shake, and slams the door violently. I grimace and look apologetically at the guy.
“Dodged a bullet?” he murmurs at me knowingly.
“Looks like it,” I nod with a tight grin.
He snorts, then his face brightens. “Hey, man, can I get an autograph?”
“Sure thing,” I tell him. I wait as he rummages inside the car and pulls out a scrap of paper. I can hear Kayla bitching at him, but he ignores her. He holds out the paper and a pen to me. I sign it on the roof of the car and then hand it back to him. “Have a good one.”
“You too,” he smirks, giving me a knowing look.
I watch the Uber drive off, and take a deep breath of relief. For a second, I consider going back inside to hang out with Aaron and Mike, but the prospect of watching them get drunk just isn’t doing it for me. Instead I decide to just go home and call it a night.
As I’m stepping off the curb toward my car, a commotion off to one side makes me turn my head.
“You fucking, stupid, old, beat up fucker!” a voice yells.
The voice is female. It’s coming from the parking lot of the place next door. In the light of the street lamp, I can just make out the silhouette of a woman in a dress. She looks to be throwing a tantrum next to a car that I’m assuming is hers.
I’m too far away to see what the woman looks like. But I’m close enough to see that her dress is form-fitting, and that she’s wearing heels. From here, it looks like she has a killer ass. And legs to next Tuesday.
I watch in amusement as she continues swearing a blue streak and starts pounding on the hood. The corners of my mouth quirk up. Whatever’s wrong with her car, that’s sure as hell not gonna fix it.
Curiosity gets the better of me. Instead of walking over to my SUV, I cross the parking lot and head toward the chick beating up on her car. Hell, since Kayla took off, I’ve got nothing else pressing to do with my evening anyway. I may as well spend the next few minutes playing hero to this chick.
And who knows? I might even get some action out of it and salvage this night after all.
I was just talking to a new acquaintance at a dinner party a few weeks ago. She’s the wife of a friend of my husband, and although we’ve interacted a little bit on Facebook, this was my first time really talking to her face to face. She, like many non-writer friends, was fascinated by the idea that a “regular” person can just write a novel — let alone many novels.
I certainly don’t blame her. If you’d told me five years ago that someday (like, this week), I’d be publishing my fourteenth full-length novel, I would have questioned your sanity. I mean, sure, I’ve always been a voracious reader. And given how many books I’ve read in my lifetime, I probably have a better sense than the average person of how a novel “works.” But to go from that to actually writing one? No way!
Fast forward to today. It amazes even me that I’ve written more than a dozen novels. By this time next year, I’ll probably be approaching twenty books. How have I done it?
Okay, that probably sounds dumb, or like I’m pretending ignorance. The fact is, I certainly have learned a lot over the last few years about writing. And I’m always learning more. Clearly I’m not a “newbie” anymore as a writer. But every single time I start a new book, I still take a deep breath, look at the blank screen on my monitor, and will myself to believe that it will work out. And so far, it always has.
Going back to the dinner party — my new acquaintance, whom I’ll call Katie, asked me one of the questions I get a lot from people who find out I’m a romance author: do you start out with a book knowing everything that’s going to happen, or do you just make it up as you go along?
The answer is… a little of both.
In the writing community, we often talk about “plotters” vs. “pantsers.” A plotter, as you can probably imagine, is someone who writes out a detailed plot, down to what will happen in every chapter, before he or she ever starts actually writing the book. A pantser is someone who does the opposite: just starts writing. In other words, someone who “flies by the seat of his/her pants.”
In a way, I guess I think about plotters vs. pantsers as people who are setting out on a road trip. The plotters have a detailed map of how they’re going to get to their destination. The pantsers know where they’re starting, and where they want to end up, but they’re going to turn on the car, point it in more or less the right direction, and leave it up to serendipity to find the “scenic route” to get to their destination.
In my daily life, I’m definitely the kind of person who NEEDS to have a plan. I’d no sooner leave my house with no idea how I’m going to get to my destination than I would leave the house wearing a snorkel and a pink sparkly tutu.
But as a writer? I’m definitely a pantser.
I start out every novel with a sense of who my main characters are. I know their names, what they look like, and what their childhoods were like. I know what their internal and external conflicts are, and how those conflicts are going to get in the way of their falling in love. I know that by the end of the novel, they will have surmounted those conflicts, and declared their undying devotion to each other. I might even have some ideas for a few funny, or sad, or tense scenes.
But beyond that — the novel evolves the way it wants to evolve.
I’ve plotted books before. But the fact is, I don’t like writing that way. One of my favorite things about writing books is letting the relationships between the characters develop organically. And for me, that just happens better when I’m letting the characters drive the plot, not the other way around. When the characters show me the way — where they want to go, what they want to do — their relationship evolves more naturally. They know what they’re doing. The process reminds me a little of a quote attributed to Michelangelo (not than I’m anything like Michelangelo), saying that when he sculpted, he took a piece of marble, saw the figure living inside it, and then chipped away everything that wasn’t that figure.
In my case?
I put my hands to the keyboard, and let the characters tell me who they are.
99% of the time, if you wonder where I was when I was writing, formatting, or editing the book you’re reading, I was right here. With my a** planted right in that chair. (And probably with Petunia sitting right where she is, too, taking up most of the space on my desk.)
This is my home office. It used to be a second bedroom, which is where my stepdaughters would sleep when they were over for the weekend. But now my stepdaughters are grown and living on their own. So right before I decided to go full-time as an author, Mr. Loveling said to me, “It’s time to give you a place of your own to work, where you’ll be happy spending many hours a day creating worlds and characters who fall in love.”
Well, he probably didn’t say it exactly like that! He probably just said, “You need an office. Go make one you like.”
And I do like this space. It’s actually pretty small. But it’s mine. No one goes in it but me, for the most part. My daily commute is about ten seconds — from the front sun room where I hang out with Mr. Loveling until he has to go to work, to the back of the house, and my office. When I come in here, I’m in work mode. A switch flips in my head, and for the next few hours it’s down to business, writing my word count for the day.
I know a lot of authors like to write in coffee shops, or at the library, or even just sitting on their couch with a laptop in their laps. I’m not one of those people. I do occasionally work in a coffee shop (like yesterday, actually). But if you see me working in my favorite cafe, I’m probably editing or formatting, not writing. It turns out, I need the predictability of a set routine in order to write well.
And, it also turns out that I write best when I’m sitting there in my jammies, my hair pulled up in a messy bun and my glasses on, with my mug of coffee next to me. I like to write first thing in the morning. Before I’ve put in my contacts, or taken a shower, or styled my hair, or anything like that. (Yup, that means before I’ve brushed my teeth, too. Sorry. TMI.) Once I’ve let the distractions of the world in for the day, my concentration goes out the window. Sometimes I go out to the gym or for a run at lunchtime, then come back and write some more. But the bulk of the writing I do happens in the morning — before I have to see or interact with anyone except for Mr. Loveling and the cats. In the morning, the only people I’m “talking” to are the characters in the book I’m working on — who are doing their damnedest to resist falling in love with one another.
So, now you know the full, ugly truth of where I am when I’m writing. That picture up at the top? I took it literally right before I started writing this post. So my a** is now planted in that chair. Petunia is now sleeping in the same spot — stretched out all over my papers, of course. I’m one cup of coffee down, and just about to get up and refresh it. And start writing for the day.
I hope your day is starting out well, too. Make it a great one!
I live by the cut. It’s a brotherhood.
Sex, crime, and power.
But when I see that sexy little number in over her head at the biker bar,
I want to pummel the son of a bitch who threatens her.
Taking Alix back to my club for protection is all I can do.
Hell, I want to do so much more.
She wonders if I’m dangerous. Loaded question…
But she needs my help anyway. She knows I’m her only hope to find her sister before the clock runs out.
After that, Alix is mine.
Whether she knows it or not.
I’ll do anything to fight for my sister.
Crime and power took her away from me,
And I’ll battle anyone who tries to stop me from getting her back.
Everything about his rugged exterior screams danger,
And I’ve been in threatening situations before.
But there’s something terrifying about Gunner.
Terrifying, and irresistible.
I want to trust him when he says he’s just trying to help me.
I know better. Men like him will say anything to get what they want. Even though I want it just as bad.
GUNNER: LORDS OF CARNAGE MC is a completely standalone, steamy bad boy romance with guaranteed HEA, no cheating, and no cliffhanger! It’s also the fourth book in the hot-as-hell Lords of Carnage MC series.
GUNNER: LORDS OF CARNAGE MC is available NOW on AMAZON!
Mr. sexy and enigmatic is seeking a nanny.
I’m the lucky lady.
But he’s rude, impatient, and totally barbaric.
And it’s getting hard to ignore the rumors.
Suspicions for why he moved into my small town.
People tell me he’s damaged goods.
Flawed or not, I wouldn’t mind accepting his package.
I just hope whatever he’s running from is locked away for good.
One Sexy Flight Attendant One Hot Pilot And an eventful flight together!
My job as a Pilot is demanding
I enjoy being in control!
Until I meet Jess, my hot blonde flight attendant
There’s nothing about her that doesn’t drive me crazy
No matter what time and what place
But getting involved with a woman is the last thing I wanted
And now I dream doing some very inappropriate things to her sweet body…
Being a single mother is not easy
Especially when you work odd hours
Still I try to keep it all together
Until I meet the new gorgeous pilot on board
One look at him and all my warning bells go off
But I have my daughter to care for!
This box set from Amazon bestselling author Vivian Ward includes a collection of 12 hand-picked, hot and steamy romance stories for your enjoyment. There is a combination of bad boy romance, second chance love, billionaires, secret babies, and much more! All stories are full-length stories with NO cliffhangers and all of them include an HEA.
Also, I just started writing book four of the Lords of Carnage series. I’m not going to reveal who it’s about right now, but I will say that he should be out in mid-September. Stay tuned for more info!
Now… it’s on to DAPHNE’S DEALS for AUGUST 1, 2017!
Ever wonder what your spouse “really thinks” sexually?
This all started when my wife, Maddy, and I seemed to have drifted apart. I found an online ad written by a guy who promised to help unlock her secrets, but I wasn’t going to trust some creep to talk to my wife so I downloaded a text app.
Her fantasies quickly became my obsession. I wasn’t going to lose her to a stranger who didn’t exist, but the damage was already done long before I ever sent her the first message.
This stranger could give her things that I never thought of, make her feel things that I hadn’t made her feel in years, but this stranger was all me.
Now my wife is in love with two men.
Or maybe one…until she discovers who’s behind the messages.
They call me Doctor Feelgood for a reason, and I loved it… until I met her.
Ansley is everything I thought I never wanted.
I usually go for the clueless girls who don’t know anybetter.
Ansley’s got her sh*t together.
She knows exactly what’s going on.
And her read on me?
That I’m a better man than I care to admit.
I don’t know about that.
She thinks that because I’m a doctor, my heart’s in the right place.
What do I say?
I’ll show her the night of her life.
I’ll get to know every inch of her body.
I’ll leave her breathless, begging for more.
And then I’m gone.
On paper, I’m a firefighter.
But my real profession?
F*cking girls until they scream my name.
I’d never really noticed Molly Peters, the shy, chubby friend of my obnoxious little sister.
Until one day she walks down that street, dressed to kill.
Her voluptuous curves and that s*xy a$$ are begging me to take her.
She’s so damn forbidden, but I want a taste of her.
And when I learn that she’s a virgin, I pledge that I will be the only one to claim her.
I have no time for love.
A night of fun where I get to pop her cherry is not a bad idea after all.
I will teach her things that she’s never known before, take her to places she’s never been before. But Molly’s trying to teach me a thing too. Wait…I said I have no time for love.
This is going to be kind of a “musing” post. I get this question all the time from people:
Why aren’t you trying to get a publishing contract with a traditional press?
It’s a good question. If you don’t know anything about independent publishing and how much it’s changed in the last 5-10 years, that is. When most people I meet in real life hear I’m a full-time author, we have a conversation that goes something like this:
“Oh, wow, you write romancenovels? Like, are you published?”
“Yeah. I’ve published twelve books so far.”
“So, which publisher are you with?”
“I’m actually an independent author. I self-publish.”
“Oh.” Awkward silence. “So, do people actually buy your books?”
And it makes sense, really. Most people have little idea about the independent publishing revolution that’s taken place with the advent of ebooks. I think when most people think of self-publishing, they have a stereotypical image of an author shelling out thousands of dollars to a vanity press in order to publish a hundred copies of their magnum opus — which took them years of sweat and tears to write, and which no one but their mom and their Aunt Sylvia will ever read.
Most people don’t realize it is possible to make an actual living off writing and self-publishing.
They don’t realize that if they did a search of the top 100 best-selling books on Amazon right now in a lot of categories, half or more of those books would be self-published.
They don’t know that people like me never even attempted to get a contract with a publisher, because we knew it didn’t make sense to do so.
Imagine the number of aspiring authors per year who send their manuscripts to dozens of publishers — and how few of those people actually get their book accepted. I’m not going to go at length into how small the odds here, or how arbitrary the selection process is, or how many great, well-known authors were rejected over and over again before they finally managed to get their book published. And just imagine how many amazing books were passed over and never saw the light of day, just because they weren’t exactly what the publisher was looking for at that moment.
And consider how long the publishing process takes with a traditional press. And how, if your book doesn’t make a killing when it first comes out, it eventually gets pulled from bookstore shelves entirely and languishes in a box in the backroom, never again to see the light of day.
A typical author would get a 10% royalty net profit from a book published with a traditional press. The rest gets divvied up among all the other parties involved in publishing and marketing the book, whether they do a good job or not. And in exchange for having those other parties promote your book for the limited time they’re willing to do so, you give up an awful lot. You give up a fair amount of creative control in terms of edits to be made, the cover chosen, etc. You might have to change your title. You might have to change your plot. You might even have to change the ending. All because they want the book to conform to what other books are selling at the moment. And, you give the rights for your book away for the period of time specified in your contract.
I’m not saying being an independent author is easy. It isn’t. It’s still a hell of a lot of work. You have to have a lot of faith, a ton of discipline, and a willingness to learn and change as the market changes. There are days where you think you’ll never manage to be a success. It can be tough.
But honestly, in a way that’s kind of awesome.
Because you also have control.
You have control of how much you write. You have control of the marketing decisions. You can decide when a book is done, and no one is going to force you to change something you don’t want to. You are in charge of making sure your books stay visible. And in exchange, you keep a ton more of any profits you make.
Sure, you also have to work harder to learn the ins and outs of the business, instead of relying on a publishing house to do that stuff for you. But that’s good. As an author, you should know a lot about the business you’re in. And frankly, even though it can be daunting, it’s also really interesting.
Plus: since there’s no middle-man (except for the e-retailer where you’re selling your books), the way to success depends more on the actual readers, and not on some editor/gatekeeper deciding whether you’re any good or not. If you’re good, readers will buy your books. And then you’ll be successful.
And isn’t that a better system, over all? I kinda think it is.
Like I said above, I never even tried to get a traditional contract. And if by some crazy chance I got contacted by a publishing company today about one of my books, I have to tell you that the deal they offered me would have to be amazeballs for me to even consider it. Frankly, I’m not even sure what they could offer me. Maybe a million dollars and a baby unicorn. (If there are any publishing houses reading this right now, those are my terms. Take them or leave them.)
In the meantime, I’ll keep creative control of my work. I’ll continue to enjoy learning about the business, and having so much direct contact with my readers, my ARC team, and my awesome community of independent authors.
And even though I’m not rich by any means, whenever someone asks me in a dubious tone, “So, do people actually buy your books?” I’ll laugh and say…
Sassy, sexy, and hot-headed,
She came into town like a wildfire.
She’s got secrets, I can tell.
But Sydney Banner’s keeping her cards close to her chest.
She can fight it all she wants,
But as the Enforcer for the Lords of Carnage,
I have a way of getting what I want.
And I want her in my bed.
Every. Damn. Night.
She says she doesn’t need protecting.
I know better.
My inner caveman is in overdrive.
And I’ll do whatever it takes to keep her safe.
Bossy, rugged, and hot as Hell.
Brick may be a former Marine,
But I can fight my own battles.
He has no idea what I risked to get here, and I’m not about to tell him.
I’m no damsel in distress. I don’t need saving.
Even though his hard, chiseled body makes me want to surrender…
He’s just not a gamble I’m willing to take.
BRICK: LORDS OF CARNAGE MC is a completely standalone, steamy bad boy romance with guaranteed HEA, no cheating, and no cliffhanger! It’s also the third book in the Lords of Carnage MC series.
Yeah. When you’re writing primarily about outlaw motorcycle clubs, drug and gun running, people getting shot, and stuff like that — well, unless you’ve had a very eventful life, you’re gonna have to do some research.
I came across this shirt a while ago, and boy oh boy, is it accurate. During the writing of any given book, there is always at least one moment where I type something into Google, and think, “I wonder if I’m on any FBI watch lists yet? Because if not, this will probably do it.”
I’ve researched how to sabotage someone’s car without anyone being able to figure it out. I’ve looked up how to poison someone in a way that’s untraceable. I’ve looked into what the effects of gunshot wounds are to various parts of the body, how to make bombs with materials easily found in the average household… you name it. And I know I’m not alone among authors in this. I mean, they didn’t make this T-shirt just for me, right?
I’ve also had to research what life is like in polygamous religious cults, the daily work life of a physical therapist, what happens at football spring training, and what it’s like to bungee jump for the first time. Sometimes, I’m lucky, and have someone in my life who knows about this kind of stuff. Or, failing that, someone who knows someone who knows about this kind of stuff. That’s always great, and I’m always super appreciative of how generous people are with their expertise and how willing they are to help. Other times, I have to stop writing mid-book and spend some time going down search engine rabbit holes, until I feel comfortable enough to keep going. Then, of course, I have to cross my fingers that I haven’t screwed something up really badly. It hasn’t happened yet. Cross your fingers for me, would ya? 🙂
But, as scary as writing about stuff that I don’t know about from personal experience can be, it’s still one of my favorite parts of being an author. I love learning about things. So the time I spend asking experts or doing research is actually really fun for me. It’s a way to “live” more than just my one life, to have to create characters with different life experiences and knowledge than me.
Sort of like reading, right?
“I read so I can live more than one life in more than one place.” – Anne Tyler
This question is high on the list of things that people ask me — especially my real-life friends who know I am a romance author. They ask me whether I’m “writing what I know” — in other words, am I using scenes from my own life in my books?
Well… given that the majority of my books so far have been about motorcycle clubs, no… I am not an old lady in an MC, lol! And I’d venture to guess that probably no other romance authors who write MC romance are, either. Though, I do know how to ride a motorcycle. And I have owned a few motorcycles throughout my life, though never a Harley, unfortunately. My pride and joy, which I had for many years, was actually a 1972 BMW R60:
(Note: The picture above is/was not my actual bike. It’s a picture I found on Google images. But it looks exactly like my lovely baby did when I sold her!)
These days, I have to get my motorcycle fixes vicariously, like my cousin’s 2002 Harley Super Glide. Maybe some day I’ll get another motorcycle, but it’s not too high on my list of priorities right now.
Anyway. All that to say, knowledge of how to ride a motorcycle has certainly helped me to write my books, but I definitely am not “writing what I know” when I write about outlaw biker clubs. (I am, though, like many of my readers, a huge Sons of Anarchy fan! Jax Teller, you’ve populated my dreams more often than I care to admit…) So, what I lack in direct knowledge, I have to make up in research, and reading other authors’ books, and of course watching Charlie Hunnam’s gorgeous, ripped torso… Ahem… Sorry. Got a little distracted.
In what way am I writing what I know? Well, the romance part, of course. I do think it would be pretty darn hard to write a good romance novel without having had the experience of falling in love — falling deep, and hard, and fast. The delicious, scary, all-consuming passion of a first kiss. The shiver of excitement and the first tugs of lust. The anticipation of a first sexual encounter… Wow. Gosh, that stuff is addictive. And it is so, so fun to write about. I’ve certainly had my share of relationships — some of them total duds, some of them passionate but toxic. And one of them — the best one — was and is my own perfect love story. Mr. Loveling. My soul mate.
So, am I writing what I know? In that way, yes. Mr. Loveling doesn’t ride a Harley, but he sure as hell does rock my world. And in the eleven years we’ve been together, I couldn’t ask for or dream of a better leading man for my story. I feel so lucky to be able to write romances, and know at the end of the day that my Mr. Right is going to walk through the door and greet me with a steamy kiss!
I hope all of you get to live your own happily ever after!
Hey, there! I just finished my latest novel and sent it off to my ARC reviewers, so I’m taking a little break between books to relax, do a little marketing, and write a blog post or two. So today, I’m going to tell you about the very first romance book I ever wrote! 🙂
First, I have to tell you how I discovered romance books. Like maybe a lot of you, I found out about the genre when I was a teenager. In the summer before eighth grade, a second-hand bookstore opened up just off the town square where we lived — easy biking or walking distance from my house.
I’ve always been a voracious reader, even as a young kid, and I was really excited about a store where I could get lots of books without spending every penny of my meager allowance. Plus, you could even sell the books back to the store when you were done with them! What a deal!
My best friend Jodi and I used to go down there and spend hours poring over the books, creating a stack to purchase that grew larger and larger until we had to stop because we physically couldn’t carry any more. It was during one of those visits to the shop that Jodi added a few books to the pile that I had never seen before. They featured women with long, flowing hair, bursting bodices, and hard, muscular men holding them tightly and looking at them with something almost like anger.
One of the main authors I remember from that time was… Johanna Lindsey.
Sorry for the bad quality of this picture, but this was one of the books I remember reading back then. Wow, these books were a revelation. Jodi and I devoured them, exchanged them when we were done, and then went back to the store for more.
When the summer ended and the school year started, gone were the lazy summer days reading steamy books in the summer heat. So, instead of reading them, Jodi and I came up with the idea to start writing them! We got a notebook, and began creating stories about winsome beauties, and strong alpha men, taking turns writing chapters and handing the notebook off to each other at our lockers between classes.
Unfortunately, Jodi and I lost touch after high school. She moved away from town, and I’ve never managed to find her on Facebook. I don’t know whatever happened to that notebook. Maybe she still has it. But little did I know that our little eighth-grade dip into writing romance would eventually come full circle for me! Maybe some day I’ll find out that Jodi did the same…
(Note: This blog post is based on a newsletter I sent out on July 1. Unfortunately, I didn’t get around to posting it here until after the Fourth of July holiday. Sorry about that… DL)
Now, I know that there are a lot of you out there who don’t live in the USA and don’t celebrate Fourth of July. But the weekend of the Fourth is always a great time to go to the beach, relax, spend some down time with family, and go watch fireworks. So since today’s the first day of this “weekend,” it’s a perfect time to give you some cool new deals to take with you to whatever fun celebrations you have planned.
As I’m preparing to send this out, Rye Hart’s new book is at #57 in the ENTIRE Kindle Store. And there’s a reason for it. This is a hot, boy next door, second chance romance. Rye Hart really knows how to write a steamy romance. This one gets my “highly recommended” stamp. 99 cents, free with Kindle Unlimited!
A bad boy billionaire baseball player. He’s a hot single father, who has always played the field. But Terra Harmon is the woman who makes him want to slow down and and take his time — she’s also his best friend’s little sister.
99 cents, free with Kindle Unlimited!
He’s a billionaire MMA fighter whose cocky smile and washboard abs make wet panties drop left and right.
She thinks she wants him for one amazing night out and end it.
Boy, did she think wrong.
He’s about to teach her how much more she really wants.
99 cents, free with Kindle Unlimited!
There you go — three steaming hot July reads for your Kindle!
By the way, my latest release, BRICK, is coming very, very soon!
Sign up HERE for my mailing list to get an email from me just as soon as it goes live!
One of my very favorite things about being an indie author is the contact I have with readers. Unlike people who choose to go the traditionally published route, I don’t have an agent who fields my correspondence. When you email me, you literally get me. If I write a response to you (and I always will, until I’m so damn popular that I physically don’t have enough hours in the day!), the person writing that response is me. Guaranteed.
Readers give me all sorts of cool feedback. They also ask me all sorts of questions. One of the questions I get most often is: What’s your writing process/schedule? Do you wait for inspiration to hit, or do you have a set schedule you stick to?
I’ll probably write more about this at some point in the future, but today, I’ll give you the basics.
What’s my writing process?
Step One: Write.
Step Two: See step one.
That might sound simplistic, or snarky, or… I dunno, like a non-answer. But the fact is, this is pretty much true.
The only way to write, is to write. At least for me. I treat writing as a full-time job. Which means for me that I write every weekday, Monday through Friday, and take the weekends off. During the week, I sit down and write. I have a set number of words that I aim for. Even if I’m not in the mood. Even if I feel like inspiration isn’t hitting me. Because most of the time, once I start, inspiration does hit. (Or if not inspiration, then at least a few good ideas!)
Let me tell you a little Daphne Story. In a past life, before I took the plunge to writing full-time, I earned a graduate degree in a field that’s kinda-sorta related to writing but not really. One of the things most people have to do in order to earn an advanced degree is to write a long research project. A master’s thesis clocks in at around 70-80 pages long. A doctoral dissertation can be up to 200 pages, or even more.
I was, understandably, freaking out a little bit about this project. I mean, I’d written papers in college, of course, but never anything even close to that long. And my adviser gave me the best piece of writing advice I’ve ever gotten.
He said, “Write one page a day.”
That’s it. One page a day.
Because at that rate, you can have a draft of a master’s thesis in three months.
I took his advice. It was a lot less intimidating than thinking about writing a whole huge paper.
And what I found was, quite often, once I’d written one page, I decided to go a little further and write another. And another.
I finished my paper in record time, and probably with a lot less angst than a lot of my grad school friends who were struggling along with me.
I’ve remembered that advice ever since. And whenever I start to get overwhelmed, I just remember:
The Shipping News, written by E. Annie Proulx, came out in 1993. It won the Pulitzer prize, and the Natinoal Book Award, and they even made a movie out of it (which I never saw, because sometimes when you love a book SO much, you just can’t bear for the movie to ruin it, know what I mean?).
The Shipping News is a love story. A quiet one. Not a romance, but the story of a deep love born of tragedy, pain, and the loss, and then the rebirth, of hope. The main character is Quoyle, an ungainly, pathetic lump of a man who falls in love with and marries an awful, amoral woman named Petal. He has two children with her, and all three of them suffer immeasurably from her presence in their lives until she is (SPOILERS) killed in a car accident.
Quoyle has nowhere to go, and his life is collapsing around him. With no options, he accepts his aunt Agnis’s offer to come live in her rundown childhood home, in Newfoundland.
Quoyle moves into an impossibly bleak and hopeless landscape, and little by little begins to construct something of a life for himself and his daughters. What follows is a work of quiet, remarkable loveliness.
I read this book not long after it first came out. I was going through a personal tragedy of my own, and feeling emotionally flayed and incredibly fragile. The bleak landscape of Newfoundland becomes the perfect backdrop for this story of a man who at first inspires only pity and sadness, but slowly transforms himself through love and quiet courage.
This tale of hope and transcendent beauty was exactly what I needed at the time that I read it. I have rarely been left with such a strong, enduring impression after reading a book. I haven’t read many other books by Annie Proulx, but this one is certainly a masterpiece.
I realized a little while ago that I haven’t posted very much at all here about writing and reading — which are two things I love, of course! I’ve always been a big reader, ever since I first read a Dick and Jane book by myself (true story) at four years old.
So. Today, I’m gonna start blogging more frequently. About the things that brought me to writing, my writing process, some books that influenced me along the way, and hell — anything else that strikes my fancy. I’m going to start letting readers peek into my world a little more often, too.
The first book I want to talk about is A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, by Betty Smith. It’s a book you may or may not have heard of. It came out in 1943, but it’s set in the first couple of decades of the twentieth century, in New York (well, Williamsburg, Brooklyn). It’s one of the first books I can remember having a very profound personal impact on me.
I read this book for the first time the summer I was eleven years old. By total coincidence, that’s how old the main character, Francie, is at the beginning of the story. Francie and I, despite the fact that she lived in Brooklyn and I lived in a town of less than 3,000 people in western Iowa, had a surprising number of things in common. Francie didn’t really have any friends, for one, which resonated painfully with me. I had just moved to that small town with my parents, and school hadn’t even started yet. I was an only child, so I spent that summer essentially alone, with only books to keep me company.
Francie was also a huge bookworm, like me. She went to the local branch of her library almost every day, and pored over the stacks like her life depended on the decision she was about to make. Her goal was one day to read every book in her library. For that reason, she always chose one “for pleasure” book, and then one book that was literally the next in line in the stacks (she started at the very beginning). She was shy, and her librarian often questioned or tried to dissuade her from checking a particular book out. But Francie always held firm.
My “library story” about A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is one that always makes me feel a special kinship with Francie. You see, I, too, went to my local library almost every day. And one day, completely by chance, I happened to pick up A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I didn’t know what it was about, but by opening it at random a few times and skimming some paragraphs, I was convinced it looked very interesting. I took the book up to the counter and presented my library card. The librarian looked at the title, and then at me, and told me sternly that this book was “too old” for me, and that she would not allow me to check it out.
Bewildered, I trudged back home, and happened to tell my mother about what happened. My mother was a great lover of reading herself, and believed firmly that I should be allowed to read whatever I wanted. She called the library, asked to speak to the librarian, and told her in no uncertain terms that I was to be allowed to check out whatever book I wanted, with no questions asked.
I returned to the library, checked out A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and there began a virtual kinship across time, space, and pages between young, lonely Francie and young, lonely Daphne that I still feel today.
It’s true, the book has some tough, even adult, themes that were new and troubling to me as a precocious eleven year-old girl. But the lessons and compassion I learned from it were invaluable. Thanks, Mom, for being in my corner, because without you I might never have read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.
Have you read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn? What’s a book you’ve loved that made a difference in your life?