Any Other Love: Chapter 1

Packing was the hardest stage of any trip. It signified the last chance to turn back. It also served as a depressing reminder of just how many pills, salves, and electronic devices Amarie relied on.

She rolled her hand over the steroid pills that her primary care doctor had reluctantly prescribed rattled in their bottle. They were tiny. How such a small, foul-tasting white pill could make her feel better so quickly mystified her. It stumped her doctor, too. Even worse, it would stop working just as quickly when she finished the prescription.

Amarie closed her eyes, pushing the negative thoughts away. She should be excited. After all, it wasn’t often that her entire group of friends got together anymore. Not since they’d graduated high school and all gone their separate ways, to colleges scattered across the country.

She was almost done with her own degree. After that, she had no idea what was next. For all she knew, the last-minute camping trip could be the last time she’d see her friends for a while.

Glancing over at her neatly written checklist, she ran through it again, eyeing the items on her bed. Pillbox, check. TENS machine, check. Thank goodness it was the size of a TV remote—unlike the giant units in physical therapy that they had to roll around on carts. Prescriptions in their bottles, in case anyone questioned her—check.

Bathing suit.

She moved aside hoodies and tiny travel bottles of shampoo. She’d forgotten that—and sunscreen. Even though she’d been blessed with a rich, tawny complexion that could tan to a deep bronze in the summer, her mami had never let her forget that even the darkest of Dominicans could burn, too.

As if summoned, Paloma knocked on the open door and stuck her head in. “Did you pack your sunscreen?”

“Ay, Mami.” Though Amarie rolled her eyes, a smile touched her lips. If ever the day came that her mother stopped, well, mothering her, Amarie would be struck dead with disbelief. Not to mention a smidge of concern.

Paloma held out a plastic grocery bag. “Your bathing suit was hanging in the shower.”

Taking the proffered bag, Amarie peered inside. Nestled among the strings of her bikini was a neatly folded giant beach towel—and two different bottles of sun lotion.

“One’s for tanning, the other for protection. So you can alternate,” her mother explained. “Use the 30 SPF on your face, mi amor. You don’t want that leathery look.”

“You mean wrinkles,” Amarie corrected.

“No.” Paloma shook her head. “I mean leather skin.” She made a face. “Like your bad cousin Jaime. All those tattoos, now ruined by wrinkles and rough skin. Speaking of, make sure you use the 30 on your tattoo.”

Amarie stifled a laugh. “Mami, we’ve been through this. I don’t have any tattoos.”

“That’s right. You don’t. My good girl doesn’t even dye her hair.” Paloma beamed.

“You know, dying my hair or getting a tattoo wouldn’t make me bad,” she said, thinking of all the times she’d snuck out to get drunk with Lucas and their friends.

“No, but it would set a bad example for your students.”

“My future students, Mami.” Amarie arranged her face into what she hoped was a pleasant expression. Behind that face, swirls of doubt shadowed her mind. The fall semester was going to be her last, and then she’d be a teacher—just like her mother, and Paloma’s mother before her. Except Amarie wouldn’t be an elementary school teacher.

Paloma’s face softened. “You’re going to be a wonderful pre-school teacher,” she said.

Amarie nodded. She didn’t say that she hoped so, that it’d be a miracle if she got through her last semester and found a position that didn’t mind her missing time for doctor’s appointments.

“How long are you staying, again?” Paloma asked.

“Just the one night.” Amarie surveyed her bed again. To anyone else, it might look like an awful lot of things to pack for just one night of camping.

“And you’ll be okay sleeping on the ground?” Paloma pressed the pads of her fingers to her face, fretting. “Do you want your Papi’s old air mattress? It still holds air. You just have to refill it now and then.”

Amarie smiled. “No, Mami. I’ll be okay.” She hoped. More than likely, she’d be too busy making out with Lucas to notice. Besides, the guys were bringing plenty of booze, and her best friend Neve always had a blunt tucked away, ready to go. She’d be fine.

“I’ll leave you to it, then.” Her mom smiled, then turned, her footsteps down the hall as light as a fairy floating through the woods.

Taking a deep breath, Amarie removed the bottles of shampoo and conditioner from her bed. It was only one night. She didn’t need them. Everything else, though, she’d have to fit into one bag. Lucas would kill her if she made him schlep all of their gear and three bags of her own.

She put aside the heating pad, too. It’d be too hot, and besides, there wouldn’t be anywhere she could plug it in. She’d have to hope that her joints behaved for the one night. If all else failed, she could just go home. It wasn’t as if they were even going out of town. Black Rock State Park was less than five miles away from her parents’ house.

She was going to try to enjoy herself, though. She rarely got to see Neve anymore, and Lucas wouldn’t be happy with her if she took off early.

Subtracting her extra pillows, instant ice packs, and a few other things from her bed, Amarie shoved the remaining items into her tote.

“Thank goodness for obnoxiously large Victoria’s Secret totes,” she murmured.

She was going to have fun, she told herself. Everything would be just like normal: the guys cracking open cheap cans of beer and shotgunning them; Neve braiding her hair while they tanned on the small lake beach; the group sharing silly ghost stories around the fire as they passed the blunt back and forth.

Still, even as she added one more pillow to her tote—just in case—Amarie wished that, for once, things could be a little different.

* * *

Because their campsite was so small, the group decided to bring as few vehicles as possible. Amarie hated the idea of leaving behind her little blue Hyundai Accent. If she needed to leave, she’d have to talk someone sober into bringing her home. Or, she surmised with a grimace, she’d have to call her parents like a stranded teenager. She propped an elbow on her big ass tote and rested her head on her hand.

Lucas was late—as usual. She’d been sitting outside for fifteen minutes, not that she minded. The sun was warm on her skin and, despite the humidity, there was a regular breeze that made the air bearable. What was bugging her was her empty iMessages.

He hadn’t even texted to give her a heads up.

A pristine white SUV pulled into her driveway. Her best friend leaned out of the open driver’s side window. “Need a ride, little girl?”

“Aren’t creepers supposed to drive white vans?” Amarie grinned and stood, hefting her ginormous tote with both arms. Her elbows ached in protest.

Neve pressed a button and the door to the trunk lifted open, its air compression mechanism hissing softly. “True,” she agreed, “but beggars can’t be choosers.” She patted the dashboard.

Amarie fit her tote into a nook between a packed tent and several folded camping chairs. Then she joined Neve inside, the cold air conditioning a relief. “I can’t believe your parents let you drive this thing.”

“Me either.” Neve flipped on the rear camera and began backing out of the driveway.

“Then again,” Amarie said, “I guess it’s harder to total a vehicle when you have cameras helping you.”

“In my defense, someone T-boned me while I was parked.” Neve eased the SUV—which reminded Amarie more of a spaceship than a car—onto the road.

“Excuses, excuses,” she teased. “So, while I’m super happy to see your face in person, I’m a little confused. I thought Lucas was picking me up.”

“I know you were looking forward to making out with your boyfriend,” Neve said, slipping on sunglasses against the glare, “but you’re stuck with me.” She puckered her lips, and Amarie laughed.

“You’re too straight for me,” she said. “Seriously, though. Where’s Lucas?”

“The guys couldn’t fit all of their gear in one car, so they asked me to be the transporter. Matt is coming later in his truck with the rest of it.” Neve jerked her head toward the back seat, her delicate but tightly coiled curls bouncing with the motion. Though her skin was a few shades lighter than Amarie’s, she had her beat in the hair department.

“Oh.” Amarie eyed Neve’s hair, mentally comparing it to her own spirals for probably the millionth time. While her curls would weigh heavily against her neck during the hottest part of the day, Neve’s floated in a cloud around her face.

“I know what you’re doing,” Neve said. “Not all of us can be this blessed. Thank goodness for my beautiful African genes.” She patted her hair.

“Rub it right in,” Amarie said with a smile. She scrolled through her texts again. “I just . . . I’m sorry for obsessing, but he didn’t even text me.”

“You’re like a conversational ping pong ball.” Neve glanced at her over her sunglasses. “Boys, hair envy, and then boys again. If I promise to braid your hair and feed you wine coolers, will you relax?”

She sighed. “I’ll try. It’s just, I thought he was coming.”

“You’ll see your man soon enough,” Neve said. “God, you guys are so gross. You’re like the power couple of the group. He looks like a model, and you ain’t so bad yourself.”

Amarie pictured Lucas’s full, sensuous lips and sensitive brown eyes. He was gorgeous, and she did like him, but being Lucas’s girlfriend felt more like the right thing to do rather than the thing her heart desperately needed. He was her best friend’s boyfriend’s friend—not to mention studying to be a special needs teacher—and it’d just made sense. When they both started working at the same Dunkin Donuts together, it sealed the deal.

“All right, girl, quit spacing out and pouting, and help me sing this embarrassingly catchy ESX song.” Neve turned the volume to the XM radio station up. She definitely had the comfortable lifestyle of a doctor down. By the time she graduated Stanford, finished her residency, and started practicing, Amarie mused, Neve’s life wouldn’t be much different.

She wondered, in ten years’ time, where she and all of her friends would be. Despite how easily the group had fallen into place, they were all going in completely different directions. Even she and Lucas couldn’t possibly withstand the test of time. Especially not with her deteriorating mystery illness.

She was going to be lucky if she made it long enough to gain tenure as a teacher.

“Okay, you asked for it.” Neve turned the volume higher and practically screeched the annoying but catchy boy band song.

Rolling her eyes, Amarie obliged her friend. She was supposed to be having fun on this trip, after all.

* * *

Amarie snuggled into her cozy sweats, enjoying the way the combed cotton caressed her body. The sun had dipped below the tree line a while ago, and even though it wouldn’t set until around 8:30 p.m., the pines overhead made their campsite chilly.

“We’re almost out of wine coolers,” Neve lamented. She closed the cooler and joined Amarie, settling into her camping chair. She handed Amarie a bottle.

“You two are a pair of lushes,” Jason said from his position by the fire pit. He squatted next to it, stacking kindling around balled up pages of newspaper and a few candle stubs. For a guy with such a cherubic face, he was far handier than Lucas.

Amarie supposed that, out of the trio, Matt and Jason were more the outdoorsmen than her guy.

Jason swore in Portuguese. Amarie looked over just in time to catch him sucking on a finger.

“Maybe we should wait for Matt,” she said.

He shot her a dirty look. “I can build a fire.”

“Clearly,” Neve said, arching an eyebrow at him.

Despite the ribbing, Jason looked at her tenderly. He returned to his task, striking another match and holding it to the newspaper.

Amarie wished that she and Lucas had the same connection that Neve and Jason seemed to have. Even as Lucas scooped her out of her chair, settling her into his lap, she didn’t feel the butterflies in her tummy that she should have—though things much lower heated and clenched.

With Lucas, things were purely sexual. Her heart just wasn’t in it, no matter how hard she tried. She snuggled into his arms, willing herself to feel it. His arms wound around her, holding her close, but the only warmth she sensed was body heat and lust.

She wanted that great love, the kind that would knock her off her feet, sending her life careening off track. Even Matt had found it—the only one of them that rarely dated, dedicating most of his time to his mother and little brother. If he could, surely so could she. So far, though, the longer she waited to fall in love with Lucas, the more she realized that their relationship was seriously lacking.

The sound of tires rolling over the dirt road snagged her attention. Matt’s truck backed into the campsite. The party would really be starting soon.

She craned her neck, trying to get a glimpse of Matt’s new girl. Her name was something uncommon, something that started with an R. Rosalie or Rhiannon or something like that. Her eyebrows scrunched together as she fought through the brain fog to remember.

The girl who hopped out of the truck first wasn’t anything like she’d expected, though. Her heart hitched, catching mid-beat. Wild, teal hair framed her face, contrasting lush red lips. Bright, round blue eyes surveyed the campsite.

She looked nothing like Amarie had pictured. She certainly didn’t look like Matt’s type. When her gaze lighted on Amarie and she smiled, Amarie’s heart actually fluttered.

“Guys,” Matt said, drawing her attention. “This is Rowan.” He gestured to another girl standing shyly next to him. A pretty girl, but Amarie’s gaze immediately flickered back to the other woman. “And her friend Charlotte.”

Charlotte, she mouthed, tasting the name on her lips.

From across the site, Charlotte’s eyes met hers. She held her gaze. Fireflies drifted through the purple-streaked twilight, their lights flashing gently as they called to each other: Be mine, be mine, be mine. Amarie’s hands trembled on the arms of her chair. The soft breeze that had caressed her skin all day stroked Charlotte’s hair, moving it away from her face.

Those cherry lips parted, and the campsite around them disappeared.

“Hi,” Charlotte said, wiggling her fingers. “Nice to meet you.” Those eyes never wavered, trained solely on Amarie.

“You too,” Amarie whispered. She drank in those eyes, mind flipping through all of the colors she knew, trying to remember the name of the exact shade of Charlotte’s eyes. They were somewhere between cyan and gray, a blue bright and pale, like the spot where the sky met the ocean on the horizon.

“Call me Char,” Charlotte said, and it was as if she was speaking directly to Amarie. Every time her lips moved, Amarie strained to memorize them. They were so red and plump, as if they were made especially for kissing. She had to restrain herself from imagining exactly how swollen she could make them if she ever had the chance to kiss Char.

“Welcome to our humble gathering,” Lucas rumbled from underneath Amarie. The vibration of his voice through her body snapped her out of the trance that Char had put her under.

She yanked her eyes toward the flames licking the newspaper, igniting the sticks. Jason stacked skinny logs in an upside down V around the flames.

Matt laughed. “Dude, are you drunk? You’re supposed to set up the teepee shape before you light the kindling.” He shook his head. “Let me get our tents pitched, and then I’ll take over fire duty.”

Amarie straightened, wondering where Char was going to sleep. Since Matt and Rowan were together, that made Char the seventh wheel. Surely Rowan wouldn’t leave her friend to sleep alone in the woods. She opened her mouth, ready to make rearrangements so that she, Neve, and Char shared a tent, leaving Lucas and Jason in the third tent.

Rowan pulled a tent of her own out of the bed of Matt’s pickup, though. To Matt’s dismay, she and Char began pitching it.

Amarie pressed her lips together, feeling a bit sorry for Matt—and herself. She had a boyfriend, though. She snuggled into Lucas, closing her eyes. Besides, even if she was single, it wasn’t as if Char would actually be into her. Their “connection” had simply been a product of all of the booze floating through her veins. Nothing more.

Still, all throughout the night and the rest of their camping trip, she couldn’t get Char out of her head. If she took a leap and broke up with Lucas, she might find herself in the kind of love that swept her away. Or maybe she would be living yet another fantasy.


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#TeaserTuesday: From Every Angle

From every angle, they were a mismatch. Warning signs screamed that they shouldn’t be together. She’d known from the beginning that it was a long shot, yet there she was, sharing a hotel room with the girl she couldn’t imagine living without.

Any Other Love will be available this summer! Join my email list to get updated as soon as I have a release date for you. Click here.

I’ve got just over 32K words down for the WIP. They’re on their first real date now and it’s basically the cutest thing ever. I created a spoonie comedian just for the occasion.

I’ve got some freelance work this week, as well as lots of words to write for Any Other Love, so I’m going to be pretty quiet online. See you on the other side!

Almost Adults: The Perfect NA Movie

via almostadultsmovie.com

Everyone who knows me well knows I’m still not-so-quietly grieving the abrupt cancellation of Chasing Life. For those of you who somehow missed out on this treasure, it was an ABC Family Freeform show about a young woman who gets diagnosed with cancer just as her career is beginning. It followed the ups and downs of April’s navigation of adulthood, family, illness, romance, friendships, and the journalism industry, and it was fucking fantastic. Then ABC Family decided to re-brand themselves and they canned a show that meant a lot to many people affected by cancer (and new adulthood).

Honestly, don’t get me started on Freeform. Not long after that, they had a show called Recovery Road that was aimed for their re-branded teen audience. That was a kick-ass show about substance abuse recovery, but it too got canned for reasons I will never understand.

Yes, I’m bitter. #saltyaf

Anyway, between the loss of Chasing Life and the downward spiral of New Adult fiction, I’ve really had a hole in my life. I’m pushing 30, so I’m not really in the NA target audience anymore, but I really, really love it anyway. I could write a whole other post all about my love for NA—and I have—but I’m here to tell you about Almost Adults.

Where lit has failed, TV and film have swooped in to save us all. I’ve noticed more and more shows and movies telling compelling stories about 20-somethings, and Almost Adults is one of them.

This comedy feature follows two best friends in their final year of college while they transition into adulthood. One embraces her sexuality and tries to catch up on everything she has missed during her teenage years, while the other ends a long term relationship with her boyfriend and discovers her life isn’t going as planned. Both struggle to keep their friendship together as they begin growing apart. (via)

I stumbled upon Almost Adults while sifting through Netflix for something lighthearted. I loved the BFFship between Mac and Cassie, and even though I’m getting to be a seasoned adult (sort of), I related to a lot of what they were going through. It’s always difficult to find your ground when you’re in a lifelong friendship and you both seem to be moving in different directions.

I thought the characters were pretty realistic, and there were some great one-liners. Though I didn’t quite find it believable that Cassie had no clue Mac was a lesbian, I still loved the dynamics and true-to-life situations. Elliot was adorable and I’m now looking for an excuse to name a character after her (though I like spelling it with two “T”s).

These kinds of stories are (still) what I want for NA lit. Though I’ve broadened my brand a little to include YA and adult stories too, I still write the kind of NA that I want to see on shelves. Almost Adults was fantastic inspiration, and a great feel-good movie to snuggle up with.

Have you seen Almost Adults? What did you think? Which movies have you seen lately? Let me know in the comments! I’m sort of a Netflix junkie.

#TeaserTuesday: Kissing Char

Kissing Char was like being enveloped in the clouds during sunset. Her lips were soft, commanding explosions of pastel orange and red behind Amarie’s eyes as they moved against hers. She melted into her, her hands finding Char’s hips, tugging her closer. She needed more, all of her, all at once.

Here’s another teaser for you from my work in progress, Any Other Love. I wrote this first kiss scene, believe it or not, after dreaming it. I hadn’t yet reached that part in my draft, but I created a separate doc and got it all down before it faded completely.

I’m over 21K into it now, so we’re way past the first kiss. I still don’t have a release date, but if you sign up for my email list you’ll be the first to know (and I’ll be sending an exclusive excerpt soon). Click here to join.

Side note: I’m having a lot of trouble finding stock photos of two women kissing, never mind a white woman with teal hair kissing a Latina with curly hair. If you can recommend any stock photo sites, please let me know in the comments!

Behind the Scenes of ANY OTHER LOVE: The Distancer and the Pursuer

via Unsplash

These two have been giving me a run for my money. When I first started all my pre-writing for Any Other Love—character profiles, plot structure, etc—I thought I had the whole who’s chasing who part down. It seemed pretty cut and dry: my shy little Amarie would be the distancer, and my animated Char would totally be the pursuer. Apparently these two had other plans, because Am was the one to make the first move and now Char is the one who’s hesitating.

Which is why Rihanna’s “Love on the Brain” is so perfect for these two.

And I run for miles just to get a taste
Must be love on the brain

According to some psychologists, in every relationship there is a distancer and a pursuer. You can even flip roles from time to time, depending on the circumstances. I’m trying to find a balance between the two, because I don’t want Char and Am flip-flopping throughout the book, driving you crazy. I think I’ve found a rhythm, though, with Am the full-time pursuer and Char very uncertain but also very into her.

On Friday I crossed 20K for this book, which is a huge deal! My wrists haven’t exactly been cooperating—I’m seeing a neurologist soon to be evaluated for carpal tunnel—and I’ve also had a lot on my plate lately. But I managed to check off all of my To Do list for this month, so all of this week will be dedicated to writing.

That first 20K was fueled by A.G. Ferrari coffee, Stash Breakfast in Paris tea, and Celestial Seasonings Bengal Spice chai. I typically have one cup of coffee in the morning, then Breakfast in Paris after lunch and my chai in the evening. So far I’ve been mostly listening to SZA, The Pretty Reckless, and Phildel while writing.

Originally I’d hoped to finish the first draft by the end of this month, but I’m only about a third of the way done. It is what it is; all that matters is I’m putting the words down, one day at a time.


Are you on my email list? Join now—I’ll be sending out an exclusive excerpt from Any Other Love in another week or so! Click here.

#FridayReads: The Gravity Between Us, by Kristen Zimmer

For the past few months, I’ve been stuck in a reading rut. Every time I tried to read for fun, I just couldn’t get into it. I forced myself to finish books or just stopped reading them altogether. And it broke my heart because, hi—I was the kid who used to get in trouble for reading inside her desk during class.

Mrs. Serra, if you’re reading this, I have no regrets, but thank you so much for trying to teach my mathematically challenged brain.

The few books I did manage to read during my rut just didn’t sweep me away like they normally do. It wasn’t because they were bad books, per se. They just weren’t what I needed.

Enter The Gravity Between Us, by Kristen Zimmer.

Since I’m writing f/f romance, I figured I should read some to see what works and what doesn’t. I mean, I know what I like—hello days of yuri slash fic—but in this gig, market research is super important. Fortunately for me, market research usually means reading.

There aren’t as many books in the lesbian or bisexual romance section as there are in the het romance section, but there does seem to be a hungry readership for it. Unfortunately, Amazon’s categories could use some organizing to better serve their readers—but I’ll talk about that in a future post.

Keeping myself within a budget narrowed down my selection, so I started scrolling through the remaining titles. I looked at lots of covers, read many blurbs, and tried a few excerpts, but nothing really grabbed me—until I came across The Gravity Between Us.

The cover, though pretty, isn’t what I expected; it could be anybody kissing, which I guess must’ve been the point. I almost passed it by, but I decided to give the blurb a shot.

Where does friendship stop and love begin?

At just 19, Kendall Bettencourt is Hollywood’s hottest young starlet, with the world at her feet—but behind the glamour and designer dresses is a girl who longs for normal.

Payton Taylor is Kendall’s best friend since childhood, and the one person who reminds her of who she really is—her refuge from the craziness of celebrity life.

With her career taking off, Kendall moves Payton to LA to help keep her sane. But Payton is hiding a secret that could make everything ten times worse. Because to her, Kendall is more than a best friend—she is the only girl that she has ever loved.

Just as they need each other more than ever, they’ll have to answer the question of where friendship stops and love begins? And find out whether the feelings they have can survive the mounting pressure of fame…

The Gravity Between Us is a daring, romantic, emotional story about friendshiplove, and finding the courage to be yourself in a crazy world.

It sounded fun and romantic with just the right touch of angst—and it is. I’m not much of a fan of the coming out trope anymore, because I feel like it’s been done to death. At least, it was in the fan fic community. But Zimmer balances each of Kendall and Payton’s troubles with humor and absolutely adorable moments. You also get to see these two just living their lives—which is really important to me in f/f fiction, because as much as readers need coming out stories, we also need stories that tackle other life problems. It was especially interesting to see how Kendall and Payton each handled their relationship being in the spotlight.

The sex scenes are emotional and evocative rather than descriptive, and while I wouldn’t have minded Zimmer turning up the heat even a little, they were beautifully done. It felt like it took forever for these two to have their first kiss—in a totally good way. I rooted so hard for them, I practically threw a party when they finally got there; the slow burn is one of my favorite tropes, and this one was so very sweet.

The Gravity Between Us is more like the NA I wish we could always have: young people figuring out adulthood while dealing with tough issues. I really enjoyed it, and I hope Zimmer writes more f/f romance soon.

Grab Your Copy Now

Give me your f/f recommendations! I honestly haven’t read very many. I’m pretty sure the last one I read was The Bermudez Triangle… and Maureen Johnson has since changed its title to On the Count of Three. That’s how behind I am. Please send help! Leave me a comment with your favorites.

Creating Characters for Any Other Love

Usually the first thing I do before I start writing a new book is sketch out the characters. Since Any Other Love is a companion novel, that part was mostly done for me. I just had to build upon the characters I’d already created for Just One More Minute.

Whenever I start a new book, I create a stylesheet for it. A stylesheet is something an editor will put together during their first pass of a book, making note of character features, style choices, and other things. I can’t remember where, but I once read a blog post suggesting that authors start a stylesheet from the very beginning to keep track of these things. Doing so has been a game changer for me. Because I love spreadsheets, I create my stylesheets in Numbers.

The stylesheet includes the characters’:

  • name, any nicknames
  • current age
  • date of birth
  • occupation
  • goal
  • fear

I took the Just One More Minute stylesheet and updated it for Any Other Love (which mostly involved aging everyone up by a year—tough work, I tell you).

I’ll often fully sketch characters in my dev doc—the document where I develop the plot structure, outline, and other important pre-writing elements. My dev docs range from a few to dozens of pages. While sketching characters, I list their physical features, typical outfit, any quirks, and other things. I also complete exercises I’ve picked up from different places over the years.

Sometimes I’ll do some writing where I throw the characters into a short scene, just to play with them or get to know them better.

There are also some things that are just for me to know, referred to as author headcanon—official things about a book or series that only the author knows. Usually I’ll make a note of these things in the stylesheet or dev doc. These are often things that won’t make their way into the book, but help me flesh out the character—like their favorite movie, or something else minor.

Inevitably I’ll end up on Pinterest. Don’t judge me—Pinterest is a fantastic place for writing inspiration! I always create a board for each new project, pinning pretty things that remind me of my story and characters. This includes everything from celebrities that look like the characters I see in my head, to typical outfits that my characters would wear.

And if I get sucked down the Pinterest rabbit hole, I’m still technically working. 👀

Speaking of pinning, I’ve got to, um, get to work…

While I do that, check out basic character sketches of Charlotte and Amarie!

Playlist for Any Other Love

One thing I have to have while writing is music to match the tone of the scene I’m working on. Sometimes I’ll throw on an instrumental focus playlist on Spotify, but more often than not I’ll listen to a few specific albums over and over while writing the first draft. For example, while I wrote Just One More Minute, I basically listened to LIGHTS’s Midnight Machines on repeat.

Any Other Love is shaping up to be a The Spirit Room (Michelle Branch) book, with my usual Banks in between. (I’m obsessed with her latest album, The Altar, right now.) I have a feeling there will be a lot of Eisley, too.

Here’s the Spotify playlist I’m building of songs—so far—that remind me of Amarie and Char, and are inspiring certain scenes I’ll be writing.

What are some of your favorite “I don’t wanna fall in love” songs? Let me know and I’ll consider them for the playlist!

Meet Amarie Locke

The first “vision” I ever had of Amarie was of her sitting by herself, chin in hands, tendrils of curly hair framing her face like a mane. In her eyes, though, danced pain and longing. I knew right away when I was writing Just One More Minute that Char and Amarie were going to get their own book, and that Amarie has Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disease (UCTD), like me.

Amarie, inspired by Angelic Zambrana

Age: 21

Occupation: Dunkin Donuts

High School: Kennedy High

College: Naugatuck Valley Community College

This is the college where I got my A.S. degree in web design. Amarie is in their Early Childhood Education (ECE) program. It’s convenient for her because NVCC has a childcare center for parents, meaning that she gets hands-on experience right on campus. She’s also been able to keep up with her classes… so far.

Car: blue 2015 Hyundai Accent hatchback

This car is freakin’ cute, and I feel like it fits Amarie perfectly. It’s royal blue and very compact, but quietly powerful. That thing can fly if you let it!

Wants: to be a pre-school teacher

Fears: her disease rending her completely bedridden

This book is #OwnVoices mostly because this is my fear. My UCTD can get pretty aggressive if untreated, and currently Amarie is still searching for a doctor who will listen to and treat her. Everything that I went through in the past decade was such a nightmare, and it’s important to me to share that experience. There are so many facets to being a chronic pain patient: living with the actual illness and its debilitating symptoms, trying to get a diagnosis and treatment from doctors who won’t listen, dealing with people’s looks when you’re using a cane but don’t “look” sick… I could go on but I plan on pouring all of that into this book.

It’s also #OwnVoices because Amarie is bisexual. In Just One More Minute, she’s dating Matt’s friend Lucas. Unlike me, she knows what her sexuality is but hasn’t had time to explore it; she’s been so sick that she hasn’t exactly had time for dating, never mind dealing with yet more looks and questions that she hasn’t really been able to answer for herself. It’s especially difficult being bisexual because society wants you to fit into a neat package and, well, you don’t when you’re bi—at least, according to their rules.

Despite the difficulties that Amarie and Char face, my goal is to keep the tone of Any Other Love just as light as Just One More Minute—with, of course, steamy sex. I’m so excited to write this book, I kind of want to drop my entire life in order to do it. These two have been chattering away in my head for over a year now, and I can’t wait to share their story with you.

What do you think of Amarie? Are you excited for Any Other Love? Let me know in the comments!

You can also go meet Char.

Meet Charlotte Butler

I’ll be starting my f/f contemporary romance Any Other Love pretty soon, and since I’m in the pre-writing stage, I thought I’d share some tidbits with you. You might remember teal-haired, bouncy Char from Just One More Minute. She and Rowan run into each other in the grocery store and it’s BFF love at first sight. Here are some fun facts about Char!

Char, inspired by Frances Bean Cobain

Age: 21

Occupation: short order cook at The 545

Fun fact, The 545 is based on a lounge in my own small town. It was creatively named The Lounge, and for years it was the place to go. I never actually set foot in there—mostly because my thing was karaoke—but my sister went a few times. It closed a couple years ago and it’s been empty ever since.

High School: Kaynor Tech

Since these books are set in the town I live in, I had to include my high school. It’s a technical school, meaning you get a dual education. When you graduate, you receive your high school diploma and usually certification in a trade. My trade—and Charlotte’s—was culinary arts. Out of high school, I could have worked at any restaurant or gone on to culinary school, but I decided it wasn’t for me. Charlotte, however, loves cooking and found her place at The 545… for now.

College: N/A

Car: green 1998 Pontiac Sunfire

Oh, how I miss my Sunfire. It bit the dust several years ago, suddenly and painfully. It lives on in these books. 😥

Wants: to open her own restaurant in NYC

Fears: being stuck in intolerant Greater Waterbury for the rest of her life

She also has a major crush on Amarie, who she met during a camping trip with Rowan and Matt in Just One More Minute. There’s just a teeny problem: Amarie is dating Matt’s friend Lucas, and doesn’t seem to be into girls.

Char is always dying her hair in “crazy” colors, and is usually pretty upbeat and bouncy. It’s interesting, because when I was in high school it wasn’t considered cool to dye your hair unnatural colors. You were automatically labeled goth or punk, and were considered weird. Now everyone dyes their hair all kinds of colors. Man, how things have changed!

What do you think of Char? Are you excited for Any Other Love? Let me know in the comments!