New & Improved Burnouts Series

They’re the same unique, sweet contemporary new adult love stories but with a whole new look.

I hoping to bring them to a whole new group of readers so I took a new direction in the packaging. I wanted covers that better expressed that these are definitely romance books, full of all the great feels you want when you read a romance. But I also wanted the highlight the things that make them unique in the romance category. The heroes in both books are different. No “bad boys” here. These are really nice guys who genuinely like women. These are the guys you cheer for because you like them. They are multi dimensional, real people with hopes and fears and faults and dreams.

And my heroines are truly strong, sexy, fun girls–never apologizing for their smarts, love life or the choices they make.

The stories are a little more gritty, but all my reviews thus far have mentioned how much they are like what high school was really like–the heart aches, silliness, mistakes and awkwardness of falling in love for the first time.

Here’s a sample from “Suburban Love Song”

Carrie sat down with a fork and dug into the rest of the cake. She looked up into Ben’s disapproving eyes. “Wha?” she said through her mouthful, “it’s not like anyone else is going to eat it.” She shoved another forkful in to spite him, then chewed with a smile on her face, her cheeks full.

“So where is MG?” Ben was referring to her best friend who was grounded, at least for today.

Carrie thought about answering him and letting the cake fall out of her mouth, but she was enjoying his company and didn’t want to razz him too much. She held up a finger till she swallowed then said, “grounded.”

“She got caught going out with a 22-year old guy.” Ben didn’t need that information, but it was always fun to shock him a little. Carrie’s own sometimes boyfriend, Chuck, was 21; another fact that Ben would, no doubt, not approve of.  But Ben didn’t seem fazed, or really interested.  Why did she always feel the need to press his buttons? Because you are a mean girl, her mother’s voice in her head chimed in.

Carrie put down her fork as she felt the storm clouds of guilt rain on her little birthday parade. Focus on the other person, don’t always talk about you, said the mom-tape running in her head. “So, are you still going out with Joelle?” Carrie knew he was. Ben and Joelle always walked around school holding hands. Joelle proudly displaying her purity ring between their clenched fingers. People in Carrie’s group, the druggies, would gag and make retching noises when they walked by.

His answer was a strangely weak, “yeah.”

“What?”

“Nothing.” Ben filled his mouth with cake so he wouldn’t have to talk then focused on giving Christopher another bite. Carrie kept watching him, looking for more details than his lukewarm answer. Finally after swallowing Ben said, “You don’t like her much, do you?”

Carrie wondered if her feelings about Joelle showed on her face. She hoped they didn’t because she was going to lie to be nice to Ben, “She’s alright,” she said with a shrug. Ben wasn’t buying it. “OK, no, I don’t like her much, but I think the feeling is mutual.”

That seemed to get his attention, “What are you talking about?” You could hear his shock that Joelle Welker, purity ring-wearing President of the Right to Life club and outspoken Christian would have anything bad to say about anyone. Carrie knew better.

“She talks about us, about me, and MG.”Carrie paused to read his reaction, so far neutral. “More than once I overheard her and her friends calling us whores.  She calls my friends drug-addicts.”

Ben raised his eyebrows, “Aren’t they?”

Now it was Carrie’s turn to get defensive. “Some of them do drugs, but not all. Most just dress different, ‘cause they’re creative. So people judge them, people like Joelle.”

Ben carried Christopher into the living room and dropped him on the couch. Two-fer giggled. Ben picked up the remote and turned the TV to cartoons, distracting him from their conversation. “Is that why you hang around with them?” he asked as he walked back into the kitchen, “because you’re creative?”

 

“Yeah, I guess so, and they’re nice. They don’t judge.” She raised her eyebrows, challenging him.

“You’re kidding, right?” Carrie knew he was referring to them gagging when Ben and Joelle walked by.

“They only give it back to those who dish it out.”

Silence. Damn it. They were getting along ‘til she had to bring up this mine-field of a topic.

“Do you want some more cake?” Christopher popped up and looked over the back of the couch, “cate?” They both laughed.

“Not you Two-fer. I asked Ben if he wanted more because some little monster ate all his cake.” Christopher laughed and said, “meee.” Then he turned and plopped back down to watch TV. The uncomfortable tension between Ben and Carrie was still there.

Ben picked up his plate and fork, took them to the sink and rinsed them off.  Carrie was surprised he didn’t load them in the dishwasher. “Thanks for the cake.  It was really good.” He walked over and stood directly in front of her, crowding her space. “I’m sorry I forgot your birthday,” he almost whispered.

Carrie backed up into the counter. She didn’t want him to be nice, it was too real, too honest, too much. Joking and teasing she could take, distance was good too. “Why would you remember my birthday?” she smirked. She was too raw for this today.

“Because I went to every one of your parties since we were 6,” he said as if he was pointing out the obvious. Ben was looking down at her, studying her.

“What?” she said, exasperated and irritated by his scrutiny.  There was pity in his eyes, and it was rattling her cage.

“Was this your only party? For your sweet 16?”

Oh, a swift kick to the heart. She couldn’t let him see how much it all hurt.  “Yeah, well, I’m not so sweet.” She tried to diffuse the tension.

Ben was standing over her, trying to look into her eyes, like he had something important to tell her, something he wanted to make sure she heard. “You deserve better than this.”

Shit he was direct. That last hit was her undoing. A tear she fought all afternoon while she made her cake ran down her cheek. She looked away from him and tried to turn away in the small space between two stools, the counter, and Ben.

But he didn’t move. He stayed in her space, blocking her in, witnessing her humiliation. Carrie worked to shut down her pain and turn it into anger. She was about to shove Ben out of the way or say something rude when he crushed her thin defense. He reached out and hugged her.

“I’m sorry.” He spoke quietly into her hair. “I just say stuff. I think just because it’s true, I should say it.”

Carrie’s body tensed. Her brain spun trying to make sense, trying to process, trying to find a reference for his comfort. She felt a small warm spot in the pit of her stomach, and it felt amazingly good and god-awful strange at the same time. She tentatively bent her arms and touched his waist.

“I’m sorry I made you cry.” He said over the top of her head.

Carrie tried to respond but couldn’t talk past the ball of emotion caught in her throat. She was about to tease him about wanting to hug her because that’s all he and Joelle did, but she fought the urge to make him angry. It felt too good. He was tall, and warm; there was so much Ben surrounding her. And his jacket smelled like fresh air and laundry detergent and fabric softener. She felt the lump in her throat melt and the breath it had been blocking all day eased out of her.

***

I hope you liked it. If you did you can pick up an kindle copy of Suburban Love Song for just 99c for the next 5 days.

 

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The End of Being Chicken Sh*t or Why I Self-Published

To celebrate my 50th birthday I jumped out of an airplane, got a tattoo and self-published my first novel. Of the three, publishing was by far the scariest but they were all part of my midlife journey, my campaign to live my life differently, more deliberately, for the second fifty years (give or take a few).

The night before my skydive a friend asked me why I was doing it. I told her that I couldn’t live as a chicken shi*t any longer. There were so many things that I feared, irrationally, at that time. I was scared to death of heights, but I knew that statistically skydiving was pretty safe. I was scared to do much of anything permanent, because I was scared of making a mistake and scared of regret. My tattoo is permanent and a constant reminder that I can trust my gut and the choices I make for myself.

And I was scared to death of anyone knowing me, who I really was, what was in my heart. Writing “Burnouts, Geeks & Jesus Freaks: a love story” was me leaning into that fear and pushing past it. It was me giving it the finger and saying that maybe I did have something to offer.

At first I was defensive of my writing and the topic, young love. But reviews told me that a lot of people really enjoyed reading the book because it mirrored their own high school experience and they loved reliving it. I began to apologize and back peddle less and own it. I showed up at writers groups and proclaimed that I write romance.

Other fantastic changes also happened when I hit publish. I was forced out of my very small world. I had to interact with other authors and ask tons of questions because I was so incredibly lost. I met amazing friends, people who are stoked about life and writing and helping others reach their dreams. My world expanded and filled up with great people. And I reconnected with others from my past. They read my book and contacted me to say they liked it and played the guessing game of who from our high school inspired certain scenes or characters.

A few days after publishing I created some flyers and carried them around with me (because I was still too chicken to ask to hang them). I had lunch at a local coffee shop and my friend/editorial goddess, Chrissy, pushed me to ask to hang one on the bulletin board. I can still remember how I described my book, with a long list of everything it wasn’t and a promise that the owner didn’t need to read it if she didn’t want to. Leanne, the owner of Pinks coffee shop is one of those really sharp, funny people who read people well. She welcomed my flyer (it’s still there now!) and read my book and recommended it to others. I have lunch there frequently because the food it really good and the coffee and hanging around Leanne reminds me how far I’ve come. I tell her all my writing plans now and I’m open to having a book signing party when I publish the Vivienne series in a few months, something that sounded absolutely painful two years ago.

This past Wednesday, February 4th, was my two year writing anniversary. I realize that in some ways two years isn’t a lot. I hope its the start of a very long career. But I’m commemorating it to celebrate just how far I’ve come. My bravery level is through the roof compared to back then. I do things daily that I would have been absolutely traumatic to the old me. Right now I am planning to teach a class on self-publishing locally starting in April. Going through all the steps to make this happen I still feel fear–fear of failure, fear of rejection. But I’m not the chicken shi*t I was in my 40’s because even if I am afraid, I do it anyway. I tell the negative voices in my head to shut the F up and I do it. And it feels amazing, life-affirming, crazy powerful. I’m pushing forward, past my fears because I want others to get a chance to feel the same thing.

I’m going to end with a quote from one of those amazing, stoked, life-affirming people I’ve discovered along the way. Danielle LaPorte creates Truthbombs, daily smart thoughts. This was one from the other day, yet another that nailed exactly what I was feeling. If you like it you can subscribe to them here.

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I’m in the Mood for Love

Do you remember the feeling of falling in love for the first time? God I do. It was a completely blissed-out ride on a ton of happy hormones. It was feeling stupid happy with a really doofy grin on my face all the time. Damn that was fun. 


Sometimes I want to relive that, well, the feeling at least. (My husband might have something to say about me falling in love again with someone else.) But the cool thing is that I can get it and not rock my marriage apple cart. It’s not always easy to find, but sometimes I can find it in a book. And when I find one of those books, one that brings back that same fantastic feeling, I don’t want to finish it. I don’t want the feeling to end. I want more from that writer.

That was the kind of book I wanted to write. One that transported my readers back to their high school days and all the wonderful (and a few not so great) feelings that went along with it. I wanted to write something that someone would pick up after a particularly trying week that would make them laugh and sigh and bliss out and OK, cry some too. From all the reviews of “Burnouts, Geeks & Jesus Freaks: a love story” and “Popstars, Friends & Lovers: a dreamer’s tale” I think I accomplished that. 

Mood or feeling is one of the top reasons someone picks a book but it’s often overlooked in the writing process. 

As a writer I know it is easy to get caught up in the mechanics of what I am doing. I get focused on grammar or sentence structure or plot points and get all tangled up in the details and lose sight of the big picture, of the mood I want to create, of how I want my readers to feel. 

I’ve found a fantastic writing guide called, “Wired for Story” by Lisa Cron. It’s about the psychology behind what readers are looking for in a story, how the brain works when someone is reading a story, and how to develop your own story for maximum reading pleasure. I’m only halfway finished reading it but it has already made a major impact on the way I am creating and developing my next series. It has helped me focus more on the aspects that will pull my readers in and less on things that can be a distraction or even irritate a reader. I’ve had a few LOL moments when Ms. Cron points out common mistakes that I’ve made or read that leave readers wondering “what just went wrong here?

I love the fact that self publishing has given so many aspiring writers, like myself, the opportunity to offer their stories to readers. But in the crowded chaos stories can start to sound the same. One plot can sound a lot like so many others. When that happens the way to distinguish your work is through mood or feeling. There can be hundreds of stories about first love but the one that captures that giddy feeling and conveys it to the readers will be the one that stands out. 

So, what are your mood books? Do you have a favorite book or author that you always go to when you are looking for a certain feeling?