Season Song

An MFRW Post – and check out the other great blogs on the hop!

 

boat-2565426_1920For the quintessential bookworm, fall is a time of cozy contemplation, of spicy, orange-colored teas and sweater tights and Oxford heels and lots and lots of books. While I dreaded the start of the school year when I was a child, college– and college in New England– meant that September was filled with excited learning, new adventures in a beloved city, and the ubiquitous color-changing, cinnamon smelling, sweater-wearing joy of academia in Boston.

I love Halloween the most. Fall flavors mean the baker and cook in me gets to experiment with spices and root vegetables and warm stews. (Though I once failed three times with a single pumpkin, on the Jack-O’Lantern, the pumpkin soup, and the pumpkin seeds…) Fall is about hunkering down, pea-coats and stacks of books to read when the sun goes down just a little earlier, without the shoulder-clenching, face beating cold of winter on the east coast.  

But, of course, winter always comes. In the beginning, winter is the most colorful season of all. Dad throws Christmas lights from the third floor, spreading them before the house in an enormous Christmas tree design that even the extraterrestrials can see from the warmth of their spaceships. The Christmas tree sparkles in thirty years of acquired ornaments, an amalgam of colorful memories, like the sparkly menorah my brother and I decorated back in pre-school with shimmery dinosaurs and glitter that is still managing to stain our hands all these years later.  

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In the beginning, Christmas comes in orange and pink, in the cranberry and citrus cake I made for the family party last year, in the light blue snowflake cookies decorated in shimmery sprinkles and the touch of my red and gold painted fingernails. For a while, winter is bright and colorful and warm. 

But the long weeks of darkness drag, many weeks past Christmas, past my lover’s birthday and the New Year celebration. In these weeks, the darkness isn’t just outside, dark late into the morning and early at night, but it lingers in the shadows of the house, in the cold car, in space between my toes that run like ice from November to April, woolen socks and flannel slippers hopeless against the winter demons. 

Persephone, however, is not so hopeless, and she teases us come March and April and May, will spring start today? The crocuses think so, popping their naive heads through the still-frozen dirt. Perhaps it will start today, when I wear too many layers to work, and I find myself shivering in cold sweats. Spring plays hard to get, the fair maiden with the rosy smile and the blue of hydrangeas in her eyes, always darting behind arches and stone walls, sometimes staying long enough for the flirtatious winking of sunshine, the warm touch of days to come as her fingers tease our winter-worn skin.

pasqueflower-1585303_1920And one day, the game is over. We have won this mad seduction with the bursting of fragrant blues, the return of life to the skies and the now-thawed ground. The dirt is soft, so very wet beneath our sodden shoes, memories of the bogs from so many, many years ago. Spring is coming into life. It is rebirth and renewal. It is decadent and sweet and we wear flowers on our shirts and in our hair and weave grass between our fingers while eating fresh apricots and slicing up mangos.

And somewhere, usually in the midnight of June, we trade our fingertips in the new grass for the sensation of bare thighs pressed to the long, soft stalks, growing wild and free, the way we run against early mornings and late nights, the way we drive into sunsets, drive forever, because the sun never sets, not really. Summer is the lust and the gluttony of the year. We indulge and we devour, sweet berries and every dessert we can make from them, each other, in the pool, in the car, in the places where shadows usually hide, but summer is a shadow itself, and it guards us from judgment, from repercussions. 

cherries-1503974_1920Summer is for the young, they say, but it is truly for the reckless, for the dangerous, for the saturated and stained– fingers, lips, inner thighs to the beat of the local jazz festival carried on the wind. 

And fall, my ever beloved autumn, seduces me as well, not so obviously, not so overtly, but the glimmer of knowledge in a sweet, young professor’s eye, the warmth of whiskey and fresh apple cider, as it slides down my throat, the promise of spice and cold nights, where we’ll do anything to keep warm.

Like lovers in lifetimes past, the seasons all share a part of my heart, whispering fingers, promises touches of sunlight and firelight and dreams against the background of time passing and somehow staying the same year after year. And they do return, sometimes slipping through the window, sometimes pounding down the door, but they always come back, familiar and yet, somehow different, an amalgam of memories and dreams and realities all tangled before me. And despite those differences, despite those wrinkles and lines of age, or perhaps because of, I love them all. ♦

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Staycation for the Writer? More Time to Work.

An MFRW Author Post – And check out the other blogs on the hop! 

 

relaxing-1979674_1920We’re leaving tomorrow morning on a six am flight to Boston and I’m stressed. Not about the trip, but about the piles of work that have been stacking up in the week since before the holidays, work that everyone else is getting back to doing and I’m going to attempt to complete while on the road. The beauty of being self-employed, of being able to take my work with me, is that I make my own schedule, I book my own tickets, my time belongs to me–if I am smart with it. 

Because of that, I could never take a stay-cation. 

What is a stay-cation, but the chance to sit back and enjoy creature comforts, to spend the day on the couch, to meander to the gym mid-morning and to read throughout lunch? I am the master of my own destiny, and I already to get to do those things–and I wouldn’t know how to stop. 

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Writing for a living means I don’t have a weekend. It means I need to be selfish with my time and not apologize when I need to complete a project. It means I need to be the one to say stop, when I’ve been working too long or not getting enough sleep and it means I need to be the one to turn down the things I would rather do when there just aren’t enough hours in the day. For me, a staycation would be the equivalent of parking a sleeping bag at the office. I simply couldn’t stay home and not work. 

To be fair, I don’t think this is a bad thing. I think it can be very challenging to manage a freelancer’s lifestyle and it’s something I’m still learning. I don’t think it’s the right path for everyone, but I know it’s the right path for me. I love the freedom and I love the opportunities that come when I don’t need to worry about a single job and a single boss. I can always be searching for the next great project and when it comes, I’m allowed to take it. This means I can go to Boston and then California, that I can book tickets and worry about the workload later, that I’m always around for concerts and movies because two hours now or two hours later is still two hours. 

coffee-1283672_1920I don’t know the last vacation I took. This trip to visit family in Boston and then California is going to be busy and not very relaxing. We went to Montana for three days over the summer, but it took nearly as long to get there, and my big trip to New York was for a writer’s conference, but that’s not the point. 

I don’t need a staycation or a vacation because I’m living a life I don’t want to escape from. I have freedom and opportunity. I control my work and I pick the projects I want to dedicate my time to. I work very hard, but I’m also very lucky and I know it. 

So six am flight and a week spent on both coasts while completing projects for half a dozen clients? Yeah, bring it on. 

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Why I Don’t Make Resolutions

The last MFRW Author post of the year! And check out the other blogs on the hop! 

Every year, on December 31st, I write myself a letter. When I open the letter from the year before, I can look back over the changes, challenges, and accomplishments I’ve made and experienced, and I can help orient myself towards new goals and ideas for the upcoming year. The letter is informal and no one else will ever see it, but it is my way of opening my mind to a new plan and a blank canvas. For me, this letter, amorphous as it may be, is a much more effective than resolutions.

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I’ve written myself resolutions in the past – lose X number of pounds, get all As, read X number of books, and I find that the moment the limitation has been placed or the goal has been made solid, is the moment my drive disappears.

Most of the time, I love solid goals. Write 2,000 words. Read 100 books. But when it comes to New Year’s, the pressure is suddenly tenfold, and I often find myself overwhelmed, as if well if I can’t do it for the new year, I’ll never be able to accomplish it. The truth is, I don’t need some special date or day to set goals or plans for myself, and doing so on the special date makes me not want to accomplish them, in some twist about problem-with-authority type way.

Instead, I write myself a letter. And in it, I say the big picture dreams, the goals, and plans that I am aiming for, rather than each of the individual steps along the way. I will not write write 10,000 words a week because that’s an unrealistic goal. Instead, I will write complete Series X and start Series Y because that gives me an ambition, without tying me down to deadlines and plans I may not be able to stick to.

Because I’ve learned over the years of doing this – coming up on anniversary number six of being a published author – that things don’t go according to plan. Maybe I won’t get an agent this year. Maybe another press with shut down. Maybe I’ll be offered a job I can’t say no to. By limiting myself to the smaller details, the little goals, I am forgetting that there are a dozen ways to skin a cat, and I often lose sight of the big idea.

mountains-2186080_1920Instead, my new year’s resolutions are about the big idea. Write more, work harder, focus on my career, but they don’t tell me how, because telling me how is the sticking point and always the place where I lose.

2019 has been a challenging year personally, professionally and politically. I have struggled and succeeded and I’ve learned an incredible amount along the way. There is no way to predict what will happen next year and I’m not going to try, but I can certainly say to myself that I will keep my head high and my nose to the grindstone, that I will fight for my career from a dozen different angles, and that I will try again when what I’m doing doesn’t work.

happy-new-year-2020-celebration-with-golden-confetti_1017-21341I set concrete goals for myself every day. I’m a planner, a plotter, and an organizer. It’s what I do. But I also know all too well that things don’t always go to plan, and that you have to be open to new ideas, ways of thinking and approaches to battle. That’s why I don’t set resolutions. Instead, I set my compass to the final goal, to the big idea, to the great evolution, and I open myself to all the different ways I might get there. Because when I do that, there’s a much better chance I’ll actually achieve what I set out to achieve, and isn’t that the point of a resolution?

Wishing you all a happy, wonderful and lucky new year. Much love, and many thanks for reading this 52-week blog challenge! I look forward to seeing you in 2020! ♦

What’s on Your Shelf?

 

I don’t think I have a favorite book genre. In a lot of ways, romance and erotic romance are my favorite, my go to books for feeling good, rewarding myself or wanting to escape the world for awhile. They have been a constant in my life since well before I realized the social implications of a genre dedicated to women, and many years before I decided to write them myself. I love romance and everything that falls under its umbrella. Some days, regency is my favorite subgenre, some days it’s Special Forces, but the grand, overreaching title of romance seems to mark the box pretty accurately. I love this genre and I am no longer embarrassed to admit that. 

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But, of course, I love other genres as well. Recently, I’ve been delving deep into nonfiction, specifically with a focus on feminism and a focus on climate change and environmental science. I studied journalism in college, and an increasing awareness of the impact humans have made on the environment has pushed me toward wanting to learn all I can about the largest threat facing our world today, perhaps even considering it as a career.

Reading books on feminism, including an in-depth look at feminism in the Middle East and rolling back the years of history to the female employees at Newsweek demanding the opportunity to prove themselves, had given me a greater need to fight, to shout and to march in the streets, continuing their eternal struggle. The deeper I delve into that genre, the more I understand how romance incorporates so many elements of feminism and progressive thinking, and why its reputation as being a lesser-than genre is yet another tool to undervalue women’s interests.

bookcase-1869616_1920Nonfiction is wonderful, but can be a little overwhelming at times, especially when the take away from the book is that global trade needs to be eliminated in order to fight climate change or some monumental thesis of that nature. So there are other genres that I turned to when I need to get away from the reality of the world.

I’ve grown to truly love and respect historical fiction, like the Outlander saga. (In my mind, this book is a much larger one than simply romance and I shelve it outside of that singular genre.) Historical fiction is a wonderful educator on matters of research and rewriting history. I learn from it as I do from nonfic, but without quite as much doom and gloom.

And then I’ll escape to the fantasy worlds of Juliet Marillier and Patrick Rothfuss, stories woven from the ancient folklore of Britain and Scandinavia, very nearly historical fiction, only the history is made of tall tales, told by traveling bards to rooms of ancient royals. These books teach in a different wave, weaving fine lines of magic between the pages of history, making everything seem slightly out of focus, like it could almost be real.

Every once in awhile, I’ll turn back to the classics, to Jane– the reigning romance queen or to the swashbuckling tales of the Musketeers or Shakespeare or Byron. Each of these books adds something new to the next one I write, a folded note passed across the centuries, from one ink-stained hand to the next. 

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So what is my favorite genre? My favorite genre is the book. It’s the book in play form or the book in audio form. It’s the book read on a Kindle or folded between two fingers while I push the little girl I nanny on the swings at the park, one eye on the trials and tribulations of the African American women who made NASA function during segregation, the other on the back of her head, braids swinging in the summer breeze. My favorite genre is binge reading stories from the library, spending all day in bed swearing I’ll stop after one more chapter, developing massive, unhealthy crushes on fictional characters. My favorite genre is whatever I can get my hands on.

Reading, in any form, is fundamental to being a writer. Reading widely and often, new authors, new genres, indulging in the best sellers and showing up for the challenge of the classics. Each of these genres, and so many more, make me a better writer every time – whether the book itself is good or bad. I need them all to grow, to learn and to push my own writing higher. So no, I don’t think I can pick a favorite genre, because it is all books, read and unread through time, that have gotten me here and given the opportunity to pick up the mantle. And to a writer, there’s always room on the shelf for just one more book. ♦

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Global Inspiration

An MFRW Author Post

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Travel and writing go hand in hand. As a writer who has spent her entire life longing for distant lands, I can say that some of my greatest inspiration has come from the smallest details of new places – an exchange in a cafe or an uncomfortable train ride through foreign terrain. A few years back, I studied abroad in Europe, visiting over 20 cities in nine countries in just over three months. It was a whirlwind, and it changed my life in a ways I’m still learning, years later.

I haven’t been everywhere, far from it, but I have seen enough of the world to know how much more I need to visit, how many places demand exploration and immersion. Below are just a few of the trips I have yet to take.

 

emperor-penguins-429127_1920Antarctica – It’s a little crazy, I know, but I like the idea of testing my mettle against some of the world’s harshest elements and seeing how I fare. More than that, however, I’m drawn to the idea of exploring such a wild and intensely natural place – one of the few left on earth, as well as seeing some of the most amazing wildlife there is. Antarctica is certainly extreme, but what doesn’t kill you definitely makes you stronger.

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African Safari – Another extreme one, but admittedly I’m a gigantic nature and science geek and I just really like the idea of breaking far out of my comfort zone to explore an environment totally foreign to me. There are countless amazing cities in Africa I would love to explore and understand, utilizing a global age to better inform my ideology, but I am especially drawn to the nearly timeless nature of the great reserves. The trick with a trip like this would be picking a program that benefits local business owners while keeping the animals safe. 

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The Great Barrier Reef – Literally I would get over all of my fears and learn to scuba dive, surf and swim with carnivorous animals. I’m a huge environmental activist and the sad truth is that The Great Barrier Reef is a disappearing habitat, one I would love both to protect and see before the opportunity escapes us. Australia also just feels like the kind of place where adventurers go, and I think it would push me out of my comfort zone and make for amazing content.

Carnival in Venice/Rio – When I was living in the Netherlands, we celebrated Carnival in a tiny town, population 300, and it was the craziest week of my damned life. These people drank from dawn to dawn for a week straight, stopping only to host parades, throw a perpetual dance party and dress up. In the Netherlands, Carnival is only celebrated in the south, the Catholic part of the country. Amsterdam and more north is Protestant, and they frown upon the frivolities and sinful behavior of the party. I loved Carnival, and I would give anything to experience it in one of the two most notorious places on earth – plenty of fodder for the romance novelist there! 

carnival-411494_1920Scandinavia – Living in the Netherlands gave me a little insight into how their Scandinavia neighborhoods behave, and it’s amazing. Now, given the chance, I’d move back to the Netherlands in a breath. I loved that country for its ideology, art, history and just about everything else. Scandinavia’s social programs, green initiatives and remarkable beauty have always called to me, and I look forward to the chance to explore each of the amazing countries to the fullest extent. 

aurora-731456_1920These are just a few places or adventures that I dream of. Travel has always been an important part of my life and who I am, but I like to think that finding adventures doesn’t need to be time-consuming or costly.

Though I revel in the idea of a month spent in a cottage in Ireland or New Year’s in Madrid (this actually might happen!) I try and find stories and inspiration in the every day. I am lucky enough to live in Nashville, but more than that, I am a writer – and the best part about being a writer is that you can go on any adventure you want from your own home. In your imagination, at least. ♦

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Romance Large and Small

An MFRW Author Post – And check out the other blogs on the hop!

My boyfriend and I just celebrated our sixth anniversary. Before Robbie, there was one summer boyfriend, the year before I left for college, but I long enjoyed my life as a single, independent person and rejected the idea of being tied down for any length of time. Obviously, that changed, and we’ve traveled, laughed and cried together for nearly half a decade. 

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When it comes to romance, Robbie has his finger on the button. As with all couples, there are elements and times when we struggle to see eye to eye or fight about small things that are actually big things, but those arguments never last long and there is always the promise to try harder the next time around, to make a solid, concerted effort toward our future.

The first time I realized just what kind of person Robbie was, we had been dating about three months. Robbie was mostly working morning shifts at the coffee shop during college and I worked Saturday night events and Sunday morning events at the museum, in addition to us both being school full-time, so we didn’t go on our first date until November, several months after we met and began hanging out, but things felt real and comfortable and good.

Fast forward to January, the day before I’m supposed to head back up to Boston after winter break, and I’m down and out with a fever and a cough. I’ve got two huge suitcases, a train, a bus, and another train ride ahead of me and I’m absolutely miserable. Well, he had already won by heart by that point, but that was the day Robbie won my folks over when he rented a car (he still won’t tell me for how much) and drove the four hours from Boston and back to pick me up and take me to school.

human-1215160_960_720It was a grand gesture and it solidified what I already knew about the cute redhead who’d so captured my attention. He was kind, loyal and protective of those he cared about. And I had become one of those he cared about.

Over the years, we’ve gone on some amazing dates, traveled around the country, hiked, picnicked and swam on both coasts. We’ve spent nights in watching Marvel movies and binging comedy series and days at museums, zoos, aquariums, and bookstores.

And that white knight hero who came to pick me up, sick and sniffling and far from cute all those years ago, had become even more of a force to be reckoned with, a respectful, kind, intelligent hero, who works hard, loves hard and supports me in my endeavors, both when they end well and when they do not. He has gifted me with signed copies of my favorite books and figurines of powerful female characters. At a high point in my writing, he brought me a statue of Wonder Woman and told me that was how he thought about me.

How can I pick one romantic moment, the most romantic moment, when this man has taken me to dinners overlooking Boston for birthdays and graduations, but also stood sentinel when I lost my grandfather and for every single rejection I’ve weathered these years. He is both broad-stroke romantic, impressionistic and brilliantly designed, and detailed, specific, finding the perfect gift, surprising me with the treat I need after a long day. 

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Romance is not built on those big moments, memorable and beautiful as they are. It is built on the consistent respect, the willingness to learn and grow together, on communication and kindness.

Yes, Robbie does a remarkable job with those big moments, with surprises and New Year’s Eve boat cruises and picnics in the park. But he is romantic for the in-between, the nicknames and soft touches, the pride he takes in me, the respect he has always given to my industry, the determination in his voice when he tells me he won’t let me give up this dream, not ever.

With a hero like Robbie in my romance novel life, how could I ever pick a favorite romantic moment?

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The Devil on My Shoulder (Maybe Just a Low-Ranking Demon )

We all have nasty habits. For instance, I’ve been a nailbiter since I was a kid, and though it comes and goes, I still find myself gnawing at my nail beds. Yes, it’s gross. But nail-biting isn’t actually that big a problem, not when it comes to my career. No, there are some much bigger demons to vanquish. Here’s are just a few bad habits that interfere with my work.

I’m a Procrastinator

sloth-1879999_1920This a sometimes bad habit, but when it’s bad, it’s really bad. It’s almost like I’m trying to make up for lost-procrastinating time by squeezing it all in when I have a really big deadline coming up or edits to work on. Sometimes I’ll clean or read when I procrastinate, but other times I’ll waste six hours on Pinterest and lift my head up from the computer wondering when it got dark. 

I Stress Eat

hot-2574466_1920Oh yeah. The worse the deadline, the more potato chips in my mouth. I’ll wander down to the kitchen, pretending like I’m not going to do anything stupid, and next thing I know I have a full block of cheese and six marshmallows in my mouth. It’s not the cute kind of I’m so stressed, let’s binge, eating either. It’s disturbing to watch.

I Get Into Research Black Holes

While some writers push the research element to either the beginning or end of their story, I like to know the details as I go. That’s all well and good, until you go back online in search of a fundamental element from a story, and end up on a Wikipedia page about conspiracy theories or the Isabella Stewart Gardner art heist. I’ve learned a lot of things when I should have been writing.

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The social media is all-consuming. Why the hell should I write a book, when I could tweet about writing a book, isn’t that better? And let me get the perfect angle on my computer to show just how dedicated I am to completing my task. Oh yes. So dedicated.

I Start Planning or Writing Other Books

The grass is alway greener, or rather, page is always brighter on the other side. Especially when one book has an insane deadline and the other is the third in a series that still hasn’t been contracted. Which do you think takes priority? It’s no secret that our stories bug us until they’re written, but I need to find some way to keep from giving in.

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We all have our nasty habits, the little, low-level demon poking at your neck saying isn’t it time for a snack, I think it’s time for a snack.

One of the biggest challenges of being a writer, of ever finding a way to get any write done, instead of just tweeted about, is learning these weakness, these nasty little habits, and finding a way to work around them. For instance, I put my phone on Do Not Disturb and turn my WiFi off until completely necessary. As for the rest, well, I’ll figure that out right after I go grab a quick snack. ♦

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Taught Me  

An MFRW Author Post – And check out the other blogs on the hop!

 

dandelion-445228_960_720My mother taught my first creative writing class

And how to throw rhymes out the window

How to create something from nothing

How to teach writing when I do not understand how to write myself

My father taught me the beauty of commercial art

Of how to make a living by coloring within the lines

But drawing the lines however you like first.

My grandmother taught me that art is a business

And how to walk the line between doing what you love

And supporting a family, friends and other artists.

My grandfather taught me that to break the rules of wordsmithing

You must know them. Worship them. Sacrifice to them.

And then destroy them for the greater good.

I come from a family of creators and craftsmen, of do-it-yourselfers and imaginers, a little shrewd, a little desperate, determined and driven. 

My family has taught me how to fight for the right to create, how to make it the most important thing in your day and your life.

They have shown me that there is no direct route and how to forge my own,

Taught me humbleness in managing rejection and

How to switch tracks,

When the weariness sets in.

There have been others too,

There always are.

Teachers who have given me an invaluable toolbox of books and lessons and edits and support.

Friends who have listened to the midnight rants and rambles, who have edited and critiqued, who have read and reviewed, who have gone museum adventuring and plane-riding to help me find that next story.

I am grateful for them all.

girls-1149935_960_720For my partner, who has never said that perhaps I should try something different, something that doesn’t rip my still-beating heart from the cage of my chest each time I get a little bit closer and fall a little bit further, the one who has scraped my boneless body from the ground when the rejections came too often and the deadlines too quickly, the one who has celebrated the victories and mourned the defeats in equal, unwavering measure.

I am grateful to my communities, to the ones who still miss me from back home, to the ones who share articles and opinions and ideas, to the ones who inspire me to keep climbing, running and jumping a little harder, higher and longer.

And most of all, at the end of the day and the end of the year, I am grateful to each and every person who read my words, who opened a magazine or picked up their tablet or stopped by this website and listened to what I had to say. I am grateful for the chance. I am grateful for you.  

Leave It Under the Tree

An MFRW Author Post–and check out the other blogs on the hop!

 

I don’t come from a religious family. My father is a reformed altar boy and my mother was born Jewish but now considers herself a practicing Pagan. Recently, I had my DNA tested, and we learned that our Jewish roots date back to parts of the Middle East and the very original families from the Old Testament, and while I find that fascinating and wild, it is in an academic, romantic sort of way, and not because it holds much value as my personal spirituality.

I was raised without religion. Of course, we had the tree and the Menorah. We have Easter dinner and Passover and Rosh Hashana. I know Jewish prayers and have a surprising knowledge of ancient Catholicism, though much more due to a lifetime of study art than any texts of God. But the spirituality of the holidays, that sense of joy and family and togetherness, that transcends religion, or at least it does for me. Love and kindness, that is the credo by which I try to live my life.

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And that’s why I stopped giving Christmas presents, at least, in the traditional sense. My boyfriend and I are now playing the committed-grownups game, where we swap holidays between our families, and that makes it a little easier to downplay the buy, buy, buy that this season demands of us, but also add more people to the list, another reason to tone down on the commercialism and remember what this holiday is truly about.

Two years ago, my mom suggested that we all make our gifts. My brother, he drew illustrations of all of us. My boyfriend, Robbie, framed his photography. I baked hand pies and thin mints and truffles and we gave caramel corn to the neighbors. That year, for Christmas, my presents were cranberry vanilla bean scones and a rich meat and cheese quiche for Christmas morning and another for a side dish at a lush Christmas dinner not long after.

making-791111_1920Those are the kind of gifts I love. Sure, I surprised Robbie with a Stormtroopers coffee mug he’d been eying and maybe some themed-lingerie, but c’mon, a girl’s gotta have some fun…

But I digress. Gifts made from the heart, from the hands, gifts where it’s not about the price tag or the deals, but about love and kindness, that’s the Christmas I was raised on and the Christmas I plan to share with my family one day.

Of course, if I kept baking for my family, we would also slip into a Christmas coma and never come out, so this past year I picked charities and donated in everyone’s names instead. It’s something my Grandma first introduced back when we were really little kids. She would give us a list of charities and twenty dollars and allow us to pick where we wanted to give our money, and it always stuck with me. Another version was when my aunt and uncle gave all the kids a twenty to give to someone else, and we all came back and shared the story of who we’d found worthy of the Christmas gift.

And it’s fun picking good causes, especially at a time when there are so many of them. We now have ACLU posters on our doors, Heifer International postcards on the fridge and World Wildlife Fund stuffed polar bear floating around the house because my dad named him Finbar and likes to wear him as a hat. For my brother, it was a donation to the scholarship fund at his art camp. For Robbie’s parents, to the Pitbull Rescue Center of Massachusetts.

I didn’t come to any of these ideas on my own. Growing up, my parents took us away for big Christmas presents, or they gave us the kind of things that would inspire creativity, parties, and imagination. In high school, we spent one Christmas morning on a Native American reservation in New Mexico. Another year, we went to the Hershey Factory light show.

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And it isn’t just that. It’s the think, that they instilled in me, the idea that Christmas isn’t about toys or gifts – it never has been. Christmas is about the joyful expression on the face of the person you love as they see the Rockefeller tree all lit up for the first time. It’s about listening to music together around a brightly lit tree, sharing hot toddies and spiced eggnog. It’s about the scent of ham cooking all Christmas day and friends from the city and the idea that your parents have just as much fun wrapping stocking stuffers as you do opening them, even at twenty-five years old.

The holidays in my family are not religious. They are full of spirit and joy and togetherness. They are full of hope that next year might be a little bit better in the world, but full of the knowledge, too, that our little slice of the universe is just damn fine the way it is.

The holidays in my family now are the same way I will celebrate them when I have a family of my own. Because though you cannot wrap that feeling up and leave it under the Christmas tree, that, to me, is the very best Christmas present there is.

 

Interview With Kat Addams

I sat down with Kat Addams to talk funny stories, kangaroo balls, and her new book Nashvegas Nights! 


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Author Interview 

When did you realize or decide you wanted to be a writer?

I’ve always had a love for reading, which became a love of writing when I was around the age of five. I wrote my first story about a rabid bear. As terrifying as that sounds, it was a comedy!  Writing has improved since then, but creativity and ridiculousness have stayed the same. 

What has been your best experience as an author so far?

I’d say my best experience so far has been hearing from readers. When a reader reaches out to me and tells me that I made their day or they thought something was hilarious and couldn’t stop laughing, that is goals for me. I love making people laugh!

What sort of challenges have you faced as a writer? How did you overcome them?

Mommyhood. The struggle is real. I began writing when I was pregnant, and now, eight years later, I’m finally able to get back to where I started. When I had my daughter, I became a stay-at-home mom. At the end of the day, I was too exhausted to focus on much. Now, with my daughter in school, I can get back to the grind. I give so many props to those women writing while they have young ones in diapers at home! My mind doesn’t work when my child is around. I think they call it mom brain!

How do you research and plan your books? Do you find outlining helps or hinders your process?

For my Dirty South series, I’ve traveled to the cities in my books. My first book is based in Memphis where I live so that was an easy one! The second book is based in Nashville, which was inspired by a really wild girl’s trip! And my third book is based in New Orleans. I am a total pantser and don’t outline for the most part. I may scribble some notes here and there, but I usually sit and let the words flow. 

Have you learned anything really cool or interesting while researching your books? What’s been the weirdest research you’ve ever had to do?

I recently looked up the size of a kangaroo’s balls. I’d say that takes the cake as far as weird. Also, I had to look up old-school wrestling moves recently. So, I guess you can say I’m a pro-wrestler now. I’m still working on my wrestling name, but I have plenty of leather outfits and maybe a cape. 

What advice would you give to new writers in the field?

Patience. I don’t have any! But I hear that is what new writers need. 

Tell us a little about your writing nook! Favorite tea/coffee/writing snack?

Getting into the writing mood is the same as getting into my frisky mood. Candles, ambient music, lots of heavy breathing. No, wait! That’s not right on that last one! I meant healthy eating … such as grapes … in the form of wine.

Of all of your own characters, who would you most want to date? 

Jason Jones from Nashvegas Nights! I love a man who can sing and play instruments. One strum of his guitar and I’d be strumming his flute. It happens. 

What project are you currently working on?

I’m super excited about my next project! It’s a four-book series launching in April of 2020. Expect lots of strong heroines, ridiculous antics, and steamy scenes. I’ll be officially announcing the series and titles in December!

What’s next for you?

I’m still very new and trying to grow my readers! I have a few ideas for next year that involves swag and subscriptions, but who knows when that will happen. I’m doing my best to focus on writing and building a base.

 

About Kat

Kat Addams is a forever twenty-nine-year-old fashionista following her lifelong dream of writing contemporary romance inspired by the exotic men she meets in her worldly travels. At least, that’s what she would like for you to think. She’s certainly not a stay-at-home mom indulging in excessive daydreaming, frozen pizzas, an unhealthy addiction to purchasing pajamas, and one too many cocktails on the regular. That’s some other romance author. The poor thing probably has to sneak away upstairs to write her dirty stories! What would her family think? Thankfully, that’s not Kat

You can find me everywhere, but I’m mostly an Instagram girl! If you have Instagram be sure to check out my stories and highlights. Besides the drama with my blow-up boytoy, I have tours of places described in my books and maybe even some crazy wine reviews! 

If you’re still not sure about me, you can visit my website and join my newsletter for a free e-book (Hotty Toddy!) so you can try the cow before you buy the milk. Moo!

Find her on
GoodreadsBookbub Amazon Instagram – Twitter FacebookGroup or at www.kataddams.com

About the Book 

Tell us a little about your new release: Nashvegas Nights 

UntitledNashvegas Nights is my latest release from the Dirty South series. It’s releasing November 8th! Like all of my books, it can be read as a stand-alone contemporary romantic comedy. It’s also super steamy. Check the synopsis below!

What happened backstage, didn’t always stay backstage … in Nashvegas. 

Music Row star, Jason Jones loved three things— his dog, ice-cold beer, and gorgeous redheads. His life sounded like a country song … and he had the baggage to prove it. One minute he was onstage crooning to a flame-haired goddess, and then he was backstage giving her an encore she’d never forget. 

Neither would he … 

Hot mess express, Dorothy Elizabeth Prudence was a nurse by day and lonely by night. With a name like that, she never got laid. That was about to change, thanks to her “wing-woman” bestie. 

Hitting Nashville’s Music Row for a wild night had seemed like an excellent idea. She was only looking for a good time but found a lot more than she bargained for. 

They both did …

Where did your inspiration for the book come from?

I took a really wild girl’s trip to Nashville last May! Needless to say, things got a little crazy!

Did you outline the story, or dive right in?

I jumped right into the story and had the characters lead me where they wanted to go. At times they led me into some pretty sketch scenes, but I trusted them. It’s all good. Fingers crossed.

How did your characters come to life?

I pull from what I know. Some of the crazier personality traits may come from a crazy aunt or friend. Some of the better personality traits probably come from me. Liz, my main character, is a crazy redhead. Let’s just say she can be a hot mess. That couldn’t have possibly come from me because I’m a fake redhead!

Did you do any cool or interesting research for this story? What did you learn?

I did! I partied all night long at Music Row! For research purposes, of course. I learned that Nashville is not only for cowboys. There are some freaks among them and I love it! 

What was your favorite part of working on this story? What was the most challenging?

My favorite part of any of my stories is banter. I love, love, love banter. Writing banter comes easy for me. The parts I struggle with is usually feelings. I sometimes have a hard time balancing comedy, sex, and love. Sometimes I want to get angsty, but I know my books are strictly rom-com and I have to pull away from that. I wouldn’t want to shock the reader into something wildly different than my usual mess your pants laughs.

What’s next for this story – is it part of a series? When does it come out? 

Nashvegas Nights is the second book in the Dirty South series. The next and final book in the series, Mr. Big Ego, is launching in February 2020. 

Excerpt

Jason

“Thanks for lunch, by the way. I appreciate it, and I appreciate you showing me your shop,” Liz said. 

“It’s my pleasure. And, Liz, I want to make up for the other night. Being caught in the rain and all. I was wondering, can I take you out again—soon? Something simpler. Maybe pizza and dancing?” 

“First, it’s hot chicken, and now, it’s pizza. Are you trying to turn me into a butterball? You know the way to my heart has always been paved with grease … and maybe some vodka too.” 

“Is this a trick question? Because I do like that juicy ass of yours.” 

I took a bite of my sandwich and immediately felt my eyes begin to water. Surely, they hadn’t messed up my order. I thought I’d ordered a medium-heat level. I glanced over at Liz, who had also just bitten into her sandwich. Her face turned an odd shade of purple. 

“Holy shit! Did you order the extra-extra hot?” she said as she clutched her throat. 

“No! I didn’t. I think they messed my order up. Damn!” I choked back tears as I handed her a bottle of water from the take-out bag. 

I guzzled my own water down as I made a mental note to stop and get some antacids before I headed home. I loved spicy food, but whatever seasoning was on this chicken had come straight from the pits of hell. 

“You don’t have to eat it! Here, have some of these piggy chips.” I handed her a box stained with grease spots. The film it had left on my fingers gave me instant regret. 

“I can handle it. Fire, right?” she said as she took another bite. Her face was still a scary shade of purple that I’d never seen before. 

I continued eating and started to break out in a sweat. “Okay, firecracker, I see your resilient taste buds and match them with my own.” I licked my fingers, wincing, and I was pretty sure my eyes had halfway popped out of my head at this point as well. Maybe I had the purple-face thing going on too. 

We finished our meals in a state of competitive agony while she rattled off items she had thought needed to be done at the café. She fished out of her purse a pen and wrote our to-do list on the back of an old Target receipt. 

I wondered just how much help she would be. It would be hard to get anything done around her. 

I listened to her talk, but my gaze kept wandering to her lips—those beautiful, spicy lips. 

“And then I think you should do some industrial- style barstools and then maybe—are you even listening to me?” 

Busted. 

“I am! I just so love the way you get excited and how the little corners of your mouth get wider and wider and wider. It makes me excited, and then I lose my train of thought, thinking just how much I want to touch those lips.” 

She pursed her lips out. “Fine! Touch them then. But kiss me after.” 

I reached out and brushed her soft, parted lips with my fingers. I could feel my breath growing heavy. Her long, slow sigh was a green light for me. 

“Come on.” I pulled her back inside toward the counter. 

“Wait! We’re hanging this up!” She wedged the to-do list on the back wall, front and center. 

“Up you go too!” I grabbed her hips and set her on the countertop, and we both began to quickly get her scrubs off. I unbuttoned my pants before I realized I didn’t have a rubber. “Well, shit. I’m just not ever prepared for anything! I don’t have a condom. I’m sorry!” 

“Already on it,” she said as she grabbed a condom from her purse. 

“Wow, you really are on top of things!” 

“I’m about to be on top of things.” She licked her lips. 

“Not before I finish what I started last night,” I growled. 

I leaned down and gently spread her apart as I tasted every sweet bit of her. She arched her back and moaned while I traced my name with my tongue along her clit. J-A-S-O-N and again and again. I stroked my hard cock while she bucked against my face. 

J-A-S-O— 

“Jason!” 

I abruptly pulled my head up. How the fuck did she know my little trick? 

“Jason! Stop! Fuck! Oh my gosh! I’m on fire. Fuck. Fuck!” 

“What? What happ—” 

And that was when I felt it. Penis ablaze. Also, fire all over my cheeks and lips, my fingers, and somehow my rib cage. That was weird. 

“Holy shitballs! My dick!” 

“I need a paper towel! My biscuits are burnin’! My biscuits are burnin’!” She hopped down from the counter and waddled over toward a sink. 

I didn’t know how I was going to tell her I didn’t have the water turned on yet. I was too busy clutching my dick with my jalapeño hands and making it even worse. 

“No … water …” I managed to squeak out while I squeezed what little life was left in my little man, fanning it and hopping around like I’d just been bitten … by a fucking hot chicken—on the dick. 

“Oh no!” She fanned herself and leaned down to try to blow between her legs. 

She was surprisingly pretty flexible. I wondered if she did yoga. 

“Do we have any water left? I drank all mine! Did you?” She skipped around, still frantically fanning herself. 

I wasn’t sure if her pussy was blushing pink from my tongue or from being inflamed. I decided both. 

“Hold on! I got one in my truck! Stay put. I’ll put out the fire in the hole!” 

I’d stuffed my achy snake back in my pants and hobbled to the door. When I got back with the water, Liz looked as if she were in labor. She bent over the counter, slowly rocking back and forth, pants still down, and breathing heavy. If I wasn’t on fire myself, I might have been turned on. My cock jumped a little. I guessed I was still turned on even if my balls were about to melt off. 

“Here! Put it on a napkin and shove it up there! Let me help!” I doused the napkin with water before she grabbed it from me and held it to her crotch with a loud and almost-orgasmic sigh of relief. 

“ Ahh—”
I was pretty sure I’d heard a sizzle.
I wet the other napkin and wrapped my willy like a bandage. Now, I had a burned and useless arm and a burned and useless cock. 

“Are you okay? I’m so damn sorry, Liz. I had no idea that would happen.” I hung my head in shame. 

“That had to be the hottest sex I’d ever had!” She laughed. “I mean, you literally gave me fire crotch. It’s like you took a chili pepper and planted it right there in between my lips.” 

“My lips too! And cheeks. And dick. I think it might fall off any second now. I couldn’t help but touch it when I was facedown in you. You tasted … so damn good, and I just—” I growled before a fresh wave of heat flushed through my cock and sent it shriveling back into hiding. 

Liz was still laughing with each wince I gave, which made her wince and me laugh again until we were both in a fit of giggles and pain. 

“Think it’s okay? You’re the nurse. Should I go get some of that burn cream?” 

“No! Don’t touch it. It will be fine. It just needs to wear off. It will—shortly, I hope.” She hobbled over to me and smiled. “I need to kiss those spicy lips of yours before I go. I’m going to be late if I don’t leave now.” 

“I don’t want you to have flaming lips now, too, though!” 

“It’s worth it.” She leaned in and pressed her mouth against mine. 

Our bodies both instantly relaxed into a puddle of heat—stupid hot-chicken heat. 

“Two for two now. One disaster after another. How about that pizza and dancing Friday? I’ll make it up to you, I promise.” 

“All you have to say is pizza, and I’m there!” “All right. Pizza.”
“See you Friday!” 

I watched her turn to leave. There wasn’t a pep in her step this time. Just a cringe and a hop as she grabbed her crotch and ran out the door. 

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