Live Reading: Any Other Love

In case you missed it, here’s my live reading from Any Other Love on my Facebook author page. Like my page so you never miss future videos!

Five nights under the city lights could give Amarie and Char the happily-ever-after they’ve always wanted, but a devastating diagnosis and once-in-a-lifetime opportunity could send it all crashing down.

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Why I Wrote Any Other Love

Five nights under the city lights could give Amarie and Char the happily-ever-after they’ve always wanted, but a devastating diagnosis and once-in-a-lifetime opportunity could send it all crashing down.

With just three days ’til Any Other Love hits the shelves, I thought I’d share a bit more behind why I wrote this book.

Any Other Love is my first bisexual/lesbian, f/f romance. Even though I chose a partner who happens to be a dude, being bisexual is still a huge part of me. Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation, stigma, and prejudice surrounding bi people. There also isn’t much representation of bi people on the shelves—especially of bi people in m/f relationships. When I met Amarie and Char in Just One More Minute, I knew they had to be together, and writing their book became a perfect opportunity for me to contribute to proper bi rep in literature.

It also served as an opportunity for me to represent people with invisible illnesses. Like me, Amarie lives with Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disease (UCTD). I wanted to tell some of my story, and show that even though UCTD and other autoimmune diseases can be debilitating and throw your life off track, you can still live a fulfilling life. You just might have to live at a different pace. Many of Amarie’s struggles in the book were inspired by my own experiences.

I’m not sure if I’ll publish more f/f romance; while I love writing it, my writing is a business and I have bills to pay. So far, my pre-orders have been low—but I’m still so very proud of this book and glad that I put it out there. If my production schedule allows, I have even more f/f romance stories I’d like to tell. It’ll depend on how Any Other Love sells after release and whether I can fit more projects in while sticking to a steady release schedule.

It’s my hope, though, that Any Other Love will resonate with readers. I hope that it’ll show the world that being bisexual is not a state of confusion, a fad, or a sexy plot device. I want to show people that having an invisible chronic illness and disability isn’t laziness, inspiration porn, or attention-seeking. Mostly, I just want to show the world that two women can fall in love and live happily ever after—even when life isn’t perfect.


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Read an Excerpt: Chapter 1

The First Round of Any Other Love Edits

The first round of edits for Any Other Love are done! I finished the bulk of them around 2 a.m., then left a few things to tidy up after I got some rest. When you read straight through a 70,000-word novel in about five hours flat, your brain starts to melt.

Still, I prefer to do rounds of edits in one sitting. It’s kind of like cramming for a test, except I’m taking the test while binge-studying. All of the details stay fresh in my mind—even with autoimmune brain fog, haha—and I can flip back and forth between comments in the document.

I still have to write a new chapter to add to the beginning of the book. The first draft took for granted that not everyone will have read Just One More Minute. This new chapter will be a sort of second “meet cute” that catches readers up on Am and Char’s history.

I’ve sent the manuscript off to my CP for notes. Meanwhile I’ll be getting back to my work in progress.

Though I’m a little behind schedule, I’m still happy with how things are moving along. Just six weeks left ’til release day!

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.

Writing the First Kiss Scene

It always amazes me that, no matter how many times I write a “first kiss” scene, it’s always different. I’m always worried that I’ve reached my limit, that I won’t be able to write another first kiss to save my life, but I still somehow pull it off. I still find myself getting sucked into the moment. And, to me, if I’m not feeling it while writing it, my readers sure aren’t gonna feel it.

Because I’m neurotic (or maybe dedicated to my craft), I was thinking about what makes a first kiss scene while making my coffee this morning. There are three elements:

  • The anticipation
  • The kiss itself
  • The aftershock

The anticipation is the buildup, the suspense. It’s every little thing that happens between the signal that there might be a kiss and the actual moment. When the POV character realizes that she wants to kiss the other character (or that they’re going to kiss her), it triggers the anticipation. You can approach this with that character’s reaction in a few different ways. Maybe she’s longing for that moment when their lips lock. Or maybe she’s completely flustered because she’s not even sure she wants the kiss. Attention to detail here is key. Which things does she notice about the other character? How quickly or slowly is time passing?

Then there’s the kiss itself. It’s a checkpoint, another affirmation that these two really do belong together. It’s got to be fireworks, baby. There can be adorable awkwardness, but this kiss cannot fall flat. After all, it’s one of the 12 stages of physical intimacy. (Of course, just like any other writing rule, once you know it, you can break it with good reason.)

Whenever I write a kissing scene, I think of my top three all-time favorite kisses from my actual life. Even though those kisses were with three very different people, I mentally highlight what made each of those kisses magical. I like to pick a couple of those elements, mix in my characters’ personalities, and bam! Whip up a first kiss.

Finally, there’s the aftershock—the physical and emotional reactions to the kiss that has transpired. This is a perfect opportunity to make sure that your readers are ‘shipping. I like to physically separate my couple and send them off to their own spaces where they can bathe in that afterglow. It’s also a good place to switch POV, to get a sense of how the other character is feeling.

If anyone has any doubts or if you want to ramp up the angst, this is a good time to weave that in, too. Or you can set up anticipation for the next encounter.

There are a million ways you can go about a first kiss. It really can be different every time, no matter how many of “those kissing books” you write.

What’s your all-time favorite fictional first kiss? Let me know in the comments!


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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!

This Book Will Be the Death of Me

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I’ve scrapped and restarted Cruising with the Blues, the fourth and final book in the South of Forever series, more times than I can count now. I don’t even want to think about how many thousands of words I’ve thrown out and how many outlines I’ve crumpled up because this damned book just isn’t working.

Sometimes that happens.

It’s super frustrating, especially when you can’t figure out why. It was driving me absolutely bonkers, and I was thinking about it so hard that I swear smoke was coming out of my ears. Being a chronic over-thinker is simultaneously one of my worst and best traits. I can get in so deep that I think myself all the way into a state of woe, or I can think my way out of a complex problem in seconds.

This time things started to go the woe way—until I started talking things out with my friends J.C. Hannigan and Molli Moran. I’ve noticed that I’m much more productive if I start thinking out loud with someone who will listen and let me bounce ideas off them. Both of these ladies are super good at that, and it didn’t take long until it dawned on me.

The reason I’ve been having so much trouble with SOF4 is because I’d strayed from my brand.

I write stories starring strong belles who chose a different path.

That’s my brand whether I’m writing YA or NA, romance or suspense—women who do things they aren’t supposed to, who are strong in many different ways. In each draft so far, Krista wasn’t conflicted about her path. When I compared it to the other books I’ve published, each of my heroines did something she wasn’t supposed to. I couldn’t find any place where Krista railed against her expectations of herself or someone else’s expectations of her. So I grabbed my book of writing ideas and scribbled down some questions.

What does Krista think she should do or is supposed to do? Which path does she take instead?

I’m still trying to find the answers to these questions—especially since I also “have to” wrap up the series with this book. In the meantime I’ve decided to put it aside and work on something else, rather than make myself crazy. I might realize that there might not even be a fourth book. At the end of What Happens on Tour, the band has defeated their rival and strengthened their bonds. They’re planning on organizing their own tour and continuing recording and playing. That’s a pretty good happy-for-now ending; I might need to let go of the idea that I “should” write a fourth book.

That’s the not so exciting part of the writing process. Sometimes you have to let things simmer on the back burner. Sometimes you think you know something, but then everything changes because art. The creative mind is a beautiful but mysterious thing. It can also be kind of a jerk.

Plus, let’s face it: I tend to put a lot of unnecessary pressure on myself, rather than going with the flow or letting my instincts guide me. I tell myself I “should” do something, even when I don’t necessarily have to, and stubbornly cling to the idea until it dawns on me that I can let it go.

So, for now, I’ve decided to let the South of Forever series be. Things are stable enough that there’s no cliffhanger to resolve but I can also come back and write more books later if need be. In the meantime, I’m going to focus on some other projects.

Happy 2nd Birthday, The Nanny with the Skull Tattoos!

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Two years ago today, I released my third novel, The Nanny with the Skull Tattoos. In the two years since, this little book and I have had a wild journey together. It was the first romance I published, which was nerve-wracking enough, but I’d decided to push the boundaries with the social issues I tackle in my writing.

A single dad, dealing with his daughter’s irresponsible mother while trying to put himself through college.

A tattooed Latina artist, determined to do more than just get by, and have a real career.

A little girl who brings them together through a Craigslist ad.

I wanted to crush stereotypes, to show the world that young single parents and tattooed women aren’t the “losers” they’ve all branded us as. It was my friends’ decisions to raise their children alone, but they never asked for strangers’ opinions on whether or not they’re good parents. It was my decision to get tattoos, but I never asked for customers at the jewelry store I worked at to rudely interrogate me about my body.

I wanted to tackle heritage, how colonization forces immigrants to assimilate into American culture, to give up the things that makes them unique, the things they eventually lose. Like the Italian my family no longer speaks, the Spanish my niece and nephew rarely use.

I also wanted to challenge gender roles and equality rules. Who says a man can’t raise his daughter alone? Who says that a woman can’t choose to be a nanny while she builds her career?

These things had been burning inside of me for years, and they all sort of bubbled out of me while writing The Nanny with the Skull Tattoos. I knew that a “traditional” romance was never told from the guy’s point of view unless it alternated with the woman’s, but I wanted to do something different. I wanted to break the mold.

Go big or go home, right?

I’ll probably never win any awards for this book, but I’m damned proud of it. It’s a great big middle finger to society and conforming, and that’s reward enough for me.


Single dad Max isn’t looking for love—or so he thinks.

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Chapter 1 · Chapter 2 · Chapter 3 · Chapter 4 · Chapter 5

How to Create in a Time of Resistance

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Pretty much everyone I know is having a hard time functioning right now, never mind writing or otherwise creating. Whether you’re upset by current national or international events, or things going on in your personal life, it might feel selfish or meaningless to continue making art. I’ve had a really hard time focusing on writing lately, and every 500 words has been a battle, but there are several things that have been helping me. I thought I’d share them with you so that you can keep creating, too.

Remember, simply existing is resisting. Continuing to make your mark on the world is a protest in and of itself.

Write morning pages every day.

I’ve talked about The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron in previous blog incarnations, and how working through the book helped unblock me during a long and stubborn episode of anxiety and depression. In the book, Cameron introduces the morning pages—three daily pages of stream of consciousness writing in a journal. You do it the old fashioned way, with pen and paper, and just write whatever comes to mind.

I’m terrible at doing these every day, but I almost always come back to them when I’m stressed. (Imagine how productive I’d be if I did them every day anyway!) I’ve started doing them again, and they’ve been extremely helpful. I almost always write about current news in the U.S., but by writing about it, I’m dumping the things that are blocking me. After closing my journal, I’m much more able to focus on my To Do list—and my work in progress.

Practice self-care.

Even when I’m not anxious, I often get sucked into whatever novel I’m currently writing, forgetting to do things like eat meals and shower. During times of crisis, a normal routine is more important than ever. If you’re feeling thrown, sticking to your routine will keep you grounded. Plus, just like flight attendants always tell passengers, you can’t help anyone else if you don’t put your oxygen mask on first.

You have to come first. It’s not selfish, it’s pragmatic; you can’t fight for anyone else if you’re not taking care of yourself. There are five things you should be doing every day for your own sake.

  • Eat three meals. Whether you’re hungry or not, feed yourself breakfast, lunch, and dinner—even if you can only manage small meals. Keeping your body fueled will not only give you more energy and focus, but it’ll also help stave anxiety; when your blood sugar levels drop, anxiety is often aggravated.
  • Take all medications. You might think this is a simple thing to remember, but if I’m thrown off anywhere else in my life, I can easily forget to take my meds. Get yourself a pillbox and organize your medications by day and dose time, then set reminders on your phone or with your friendly virtual assistant Siri or Alexa.
  • Get your R&R on. “How am I supposed to relax,” you ask, “when the world is burning?” It’s easier said than done, but during times of crisis it’s more important than ever to take time out. Watch something lighthearted on Netflix. Treat yourself to a hot bath or a face mask. Snuggle with your cat, dog, or other furbaby. Make sure you’re carving out some kind of “me” time every single day, allowing yourself the room to decompress and just chill.
  • Use coping methods. This goes hand in hand with relaxation. Hopefully, you already have a toolbox of coping methods you can go to when your anxiety is high. Some of my favorites include journaling, aromatherapy, meditation, hot baths, writing, reading, coloring, yoga, and music. A coping method can be anything that puts you at ease and isn’t harmful.
  • Get moving. Sometimes, the best way to dispel anxious energy is to get your body moving. Even if you have limited mobility or can’t go out for a walk, you can do things like chair dancing. Whirling through my house and cleaning like a tornado almost always calms me. On days when I’m too sore or stiff to scrub anything, though, I still walk a bit through my apartment or do some simple yoga poses, like standing forward bend.

Do your civic duty tasks before you create.

Remember what I said about creating a routine? Build your work as an activist into your day, making your tasks part of your regular schedule. That way, when you sit down to write or paint or create, you’re not thinking about what you “should” be doing to save the world, because you’ve already done it.

Pick a couple issues that are important to you and stick with them. Right now, so many things are happening so quickly, it can feel overwhelming to keep up with them all. The truth is, though, that you can’t fight every battle. You can try, but you’ll just burn yourself out. By assigning yourself a daily task to fight for one or two causes, you’ll be organizing yourself for action.

Remember, this fight is a four-year marathon, not a sprint.

For example, my daily tasks are:

  • share information that is sourced and fact-checked
  • support my fellow activists with kind words and self-care reminders
  • cheer on my state senators and representatives, and bring issues to their awareness as needed

Yours might be something like “call my senator and ask them to please fight the Muslim ban” or “make my sign for tonight’s women’s rights gathering.”

Then get your tasks done. Set a timer if you need to keep yourself from losing track of the day passing. You can also do them in batches—whatever works best for your lifestyle and schedule.

Put your ass in the chair and create.

Your art is important. Even if it has nothing to do with current events, people need what you’re making. If you’re writing a romance, you’re giving people an escape. If you’re painting a protest piece, you’re encouraging other rebels. If you’re knitting caps and mittens, you’re keeping people warm.

The world needs your art.

The world needs you.

  • Unplug. Log out of Twitter and Facebook. Close your news tab or app. Shut off the ringer on your phone and get away from distractions. Turn off the TV and radio. It’ll all still be there when you’ve finished your work for the day.
  • Put on some music to help you focus or relax. I like the Deep Focus playlist on Spotify. Soundtracks and ambient spa music work well, too. Or maybe you need some thrash metal to get your fingers moving over the keys. Plug those earbuds in and block out the world.
  • Set a daily goal. Whether you’re writing a novel or painting on canvas, setting a daily goal for yourself keeps you on task. Be realistic and gentle with yourself; when you’re already stressed, setting high or unachievable goals may put more pressure on you. You may want to set goals that are possible but challenging, or goals that you know you can easily reach.
  • Hold yourself accountable. Sprint with a friend. Find someone in your industry to buddy up with. My work wife J.C. Hannigan and I did two 30-minute sprints yesterday. Share your progress on social media as you meet milestones. I like to tweet out my total word count at the end of every day. Sharing your momentum keeps you motivated, and more likely to reach the end because other people know how far you’ve come.

Using these tips every single day will get you back into productivity in no time—especially if you’re gentle with yourself and allow yourself to do what works best for you. Give these things a try and experiment to see what has the best effect.

Did these tips help? Please leave me a comment and let me know, or share any other suggestions!

NaNoWriMo Week 1 Wrap-Up!

via Unsplash
via Unsplash

The first week of NaNoWriMo is officially behind us now! I have a lot going on in my personal life (nasty flareup, financial stress, very sick relative I’m worried about), so I haven’t been writing as much as I’d like to. Still, I’m pretty proud of what I’ve accomplished so far.

Title: Twisted Broken Strings
Series: South of Forever, Book 4
Word Count Goal: 75,000
Current Word Count: 9,078 10,021

Admittedly, I’d written about 4K before NaNo started. Listen. Every month is National Novel Writing Month for me, okay? My production schedule waits for no NaNo, and all that. I’m just grateful that things fell this way so I can actually participate this year.

😂 I’M A PUBLISHED AUTHOR I DO WHAT I WANT DON’T JUDGE ME 😂

That said, my word count goal for this book is high. 75K?! I tried to whittle it down, I really did. The other SOF books are about 60K each, give or take. But Krista and Perry’s story, well, it needed a little more than that. There’s no way I’ll write 75K by the end of this month, though. Not with the condition my wrists—and the rest of my joints—are in. I do think I’ll hit the NaNo goal of 50K, though. Slow and steady wins this race, my friends. Hell, I’ll even write 54K, just to make up for that 4K I wrote before the official start. 😉

With every novel I write, I try to learn a new technique. Here’s what I’m doing with Twisted Broken Strings! (Possible spoiler alerts, so reader beware.)

  • Giving an antagonist a “save the cat” redeeming quality or two. So far, we’ve come to hate Saul (lead singer of King Riley), and we have a lot of reason to. But we’ve barely gotten to really know him—the real Saul. Krista gives us that perspective. Saul is her brother, and he’s made a lot of mistakes, but she knows he isn’t all bad. She’s just as concerned for him as she is for Jett and Max. I’m hoping that softens him a bit in my readers’ eyes. Krista reflects on good deeds he’s done and her worry for his sobriety (and safety).
  • “We’ll never speak of this again.” I can’t remember the name of this writing technique—brain fog, the horrors!—but basically something happens that the reader and/or other characters aren’t aware of that no one wants to talk about. Between SOF3 and SOF4, South of Forever goes on a regional headliner to promote their EP (and to shake off the disastrous tour with King Riley). This happens off-screen, and during that time, a thing happens that affects the plot of SOF4—a lot. It’s hinted at a couple times, and eventually revealed to the reader so that the reader can commiserate with Krista. This wasn’t part of my original outline, so I’m pantsing the big reveal. After talking with my CP, I determined that I definitely don’t want to reveal it too early… but also don’t want to wait until the very end, either.
  • #OwnVoices. Twisted Broken Strings is my very first #OwnVoices novel—my MC Krista is disabled, like me, dealing with similar struggles I had in college and have now. There’s no magic cure for her at the end; where I’m still undiagnosed, I’ve diagnosed her with Lupus (since that’s a possibility for me), which is an autoimmune disease with no cure. Krista’s Lupus isn’t the main plot, but it impacts the story a lot. It’s simultaneously cathartic and really freakin’ hard to write about this. I really want to show people that just because you don’t “look” sick, it doesn’t mean you’re not struggling—and you can also lead a fulfilling life. I’ve had #OwnVoices supporting characters before, and included bits from different areas of my own life in several novels, but never like this.

So despite gimping along, I’m pretty satisfied with this week’s progress.

How many words have you written so far this week? Tell me where you’re at in the comments below!


ED: I ended up doing some writing today, so I’ve updated this post to reflect my new word count for the week!