About McKenna Dean

from shifters to 1950s paranormal investigators to contemporary love stories, romance lives here.

Lessons Learned on a Mountain Trail

Recently, I had the opportunity to join my husband for a trip out to the Grand Tetons. He had to fly out West for a conference, and decided since he was out there to meander through the desert and up to Jackson Hole. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see a part of the country I’d never visited before, so I begged for time off work and flew out to join him.

The week I spent out there was fabulous. No matter where we turned, we were faced with jaw-dropping scenery like this:

I mean, seriously. We found ourselves laughing at times because of the sheer beauty of what was before us. Honestly, after coming back from a tough couple of years of loss, any time away would have been good for my mental health, but this? Just breathtaking.

As the week went on, I began taking note of my feelings, determined to hang on to the lessons I learned and bring them home with me as a buffer against the weariness that has weighed me down for so long.

Slow down. Tune out. Reconnect with nature.

Before life got so crazy, I used to go hiking every week. Spending time in the woods was vital to my well-being. But somewhere along the way, I replaced walking in the woods with the dogs with walking around the neighborhood or just throwing a ball in the yard. Yes, it is time-consuming to pack everyone up in the car and drive to one of the local hiking trails. And yes, “it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity” really is a thing. While in Wyoming, we noticed that almost no one ran air-conditioning, even though the day time temps were almost as hot as back home. The difference is in the Appalachian mountains in the summer time, it can be in the upper sixties at 9 am, but you’re still drenched in sweat because it is so humid. So, if I want to be outside here at home, I’m either going to have to get up early or wait until the fall to pick up my hiking habit again. But pick it up, I will.

Because of the remoteness of our hikes, we frequently didn’t have cell service. I have to say, being forced offline was one of the best things that could have happened to me this past week, despite the fact I have a new book release this coming Tuesday. I spent a few minutes each evening online to catch up with emails and things related to the book launch, and then I walked out the door and left all of that behind.

I realize I’m speaking from a place of privilege here. To shut out the news of world events for a week is a luxury not everyone can afford. Finding the balance between staying informed (which usually means staying angry) and being able to do something about it is something I struggle with. Because I can seldom actively participate in things, I tend to share information and donate to causes when I can. But staying connected with social media means I’m frequently in a state of upset and anxiety. After spending a hour watching a moose and her calf feeding in the marshes surrounding a river, calmness draped around me like a warm blanket on a chilly night. I realized then I don’t need to be constantly bombarded with bad news. It doesn’t make me a more effective activist. Just a stressed one.

So I’m going to spend less time online. Hopefully, I’ll spend more time doing the things I enjoy, such a photography, hiking with the dogs, and yes, writing. I’m going to concentrate on changing the things that are within my power to affect, and let the rest go.

You don’t have to see everything.

This was another big lesson learned. We only had a week–there was SO much we wanted to see and do. We stopped at various visitor centers and asked people where we should go and what we should make a point of seeing, and it quickly became apparent we couldn’t take it all in. Not even if we had more than the 6 days allotted to us. We were so close to Yellowstone, we decided to spend a couple of days there as well, only after the first day of driving from geyser to geyser, stopping at overlooks and waterfalls for the view, we decided not to go back to Yellowstone a second day. There was so much to see and do in the Grand Teton National Park that we didn’t need the extra driving. We also wanted to spend more time with each place we visited, instead of pulling up to an overlook, admiring the view for thirty seconds or so, and then jumping back in the car to drive to the next landmark. We wanted to get in the forest, not just view it from the car in passing.

Seeing less allowed us to see more.

Plan, but don’t be wedded to it.

We wanted to see wildlife, and after talking to the park rangers and volunteers (all of whom were so friendly and helpful) we realized we were going to have to get up early to beat the heat or else go back out just before dark. But we were successful! On this trip, we saw elk, bison, moose, mule deer, pronghorn antelope, whistling marmots, ground squirrels galore, pika, foxes, coyotes, a black bear, and even a weasel carrying dinner across the road.

Birds too! Magpies, crested jays, trumpeter swans, merganzers, bald eagles, red-tailed hawks, a golden eagle, the tiniest hummingbird ever, sandpipers, redwing blackbirds, sage grouse, and more. The mountain bluebirds are such an intense color, much like the bluebirds back home–and yet they were different too. It was fun seeing species in the wild that I’d only ever read about before. But if we hadn’t planned for it, I doubt we would have seen nearly as much. We saw moose almost every day–and some people we spoke to never saw any.

But we didn’t always stick to the plan. Sometimes we had a destination picked out for the day, and a conversation with a fellow tourist changed our minds. We’d originally planned to spend two days in Yellowstone, but at the last minute decided to stay in the Grand Tetons instead, where we ended up taking a ferry across Jenny Lake and hiking up to an alpine meadow in the middle of Cascade Canyon. I wouldn’t have missed this view for the world.

As we were hiking this trail, it seemed to go up and up with no end in sight. We knew the trail made a big loop, one farther than we had time to do that day, so we asked someone coming down if there was a natural turning point somewhere.

Our fellow hiker shrugged. “You turn around when you feel like it.”

That seemed like the quintessential Jackson Hole answer. 🙂

Communication is everything.

I’m fortunate that my husband and I see eye to eye on many things (including what movies to watch, which is a blessing, let me tell you!). But when you’re hiking several thousand feet higher in altitude than you’re used to doing and you’re not exactly in shape, you need to be able to tell your partner when you need a break. We began listening to our bodies–able to hear them for first time in a long time in the vast silence around us. We knew we needed food and water when we began developing headaches.We took breaks in the shade and watched streams burble at our feet until we felt rested. We were upfront with each other about what we could manage and what we didn’t want to do–and that made bailing on Yellowstone a second day much easier. I can’t tell you how important it is to have the kind of relationship where you can be so open and honest with each other. I probably would have found joy on this trip no matter who I went with–but taking it with my husband made it one of the best vacations in my life.

Change your priorities.

This one was a bit of a rude wake-up call, to be honest. I don’t normally wear shorts, but after a day of wearing jeans when it was nearly 90 degrees, I pulled out the dark navy pair I’d brought with me, to wear with a blue t-shirt. At one point, I asked a couple on the trail to take a pic of my husband and I–and I was shocked when I saw myself looking like giant blueberry.

I knew I’d gained weight. The scale and the clothes don’t lie. The past couple of years have been emotionally and mentally challenging, with a great deal of personal loss. I’ve been battling depression and anxiety–and I don’t tolerate medications well. But I seldom look in a full-length mirror at home and I’d half-convinced myself it wasn’t so bad.

Until I saw the picture. For a split-second, a horrible wave of self-disgust rolled over me. No more photos! OMG, how could I have let myself go like that? I almost let it affect my enjoyment of the moment–until I reminded myself that, giant blueberry or not, I’d climbed three miles to reach that canyon. That was no small achievement. And while I definitely need to lose weight and get back in shape again, it’s no longer because I want to look ‘attractive’. It’s because I want to keep doing the things I love when I’m an old lady. 

A few years ago, seeing that picture might well have destroyed my entire vacation. Well, I’ve lived through worse, and being 25 pounds overweight isn’t the end of the world. Neither is getting wrinkles, or thinning hair, or any of the other signs of aging that I’ve long hated. This is the body acceptance I can get behind: accept what is without hate, but don’t accept what you can and should change.

For me, that means cleaning up my diet. To find better coping mechanisms for my stress besides a bowl of ice cream. To reward myself with other things besides food. As I jump back into the work week tomorrow, I know this will be a tough lesson to hang onto–but I think it’s the most important one of all.

Jake by Suzy Shearer–New Book Release

Jake

The Silk Rope Masters – Book Two

by Suzy Shearer

Heat Rating : Level 4

Word Count: 64,579

Available on Evernight Publishing

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

 

They ooze power, control, natural dominance – and sex. They are The Silk Rope Masters.​

None have ever found love but watch out! When they fall, they’ll fall fast and hard!

Jake Nichols, 53, was so tall that Emily Miller, 49, had to crane her neck to look into his face. Muscular – he could pick her up in one hand and yet he held her as if she were a fragile bird.​

And that’s exactly what she was, a beautiful plus-sized woman with a pain so deep she’s buried her emotions rather than face the tragedy that happened just a few months ago.​

Jake was assigned to care for her by Master Ash, the head of Silk Rope and what Jake didn’t expect was to fall in love.

But she was only in his safekeeping until she could fly on her own then he would have to release her. 

Be Warned: BDSM, anal sex, sex toys, voyeurism, flogging, public exhibition

This is an erotic romance. There are explicit sexual descriptions and explicit language used throughout. It will offend some readers.

 

STORY EXCERPT:  

So here she was.

It was almost eight on Friday night, and Emily sat nervously in her car in the large car park. Would this be the same as either Threshold or The Lair? She hoped it was. If it was a lower classed place she definitely wouldn’t be coming back. Maybe she could find another club somewhere if that proved to be the case. Still she was hopeful. She couldn’t imagine the manager of The Lair, Bevan Fuller, transferring her to a lesser club.

Then she wondered for the hundredth time, “What the hell am I doing here?”

She still felt numb inside. With every emotion rammed down that hard, Emily couldn’t even cry. She actually knew how foolish she was, knew perfectly well the therapists, her family, were right. Time and again they’d told her she shouldn’t keep everything bottled up, should allow herself to grieve and move on, but she was far too frightened to face her pain.

Her weekly sessions with the therapist consisted of her sitting, staring into her lap or answering in monosyllables and refusing to utter one word about what had happened. In fact, she’d never cried, never shouted, never gotten very angry since that day. As soon as she’d woken in the hospital and given her statement to the police, every emotion, every thought of what had happened—her grief, every single thing, she pushed deep down inside her and refused to look at them. She held them down for so long that now she honestly couldn’t take the chance on remembering.

She was dead, and yet she breathed.

Sometimes in a lighter moment she thought of herself as a zombie. An animated corpse walking amid the living. But mainly Emily thought she was like a well-shaken bottle of soda pop with the lid screwed down tight. A slight twist of the cork and the whole bottle would vigorously explode, its contents scattering everywhere, never to be replaced. She couldn’t risk it, couldn’t risk her emotions, couldn’t set them free—the pain would be too great, and Emily knew she couldn’t handle it. She honestly doubted she would survive if at any time she was forced to face her past.

In the back of her mind she knew if she’d grieve, she’d be able to move on and live again, but instead she tortured herself by bottling everything up. This was her only escape now, coming to BDSM clubs—her haven. Sometimes she felt they were all that was left of her life, so at least she could vicariously live through its patrons.

It was strange, but those BDSM clubs now felt more like home than any house possibly could. Inside those doors in front of her she knew what would happen. She knew the rules, and she knew the outcomes. She knew exactly how people would react, how they would be toward her. She could sit and watch and know people would leave her alone unless she indicated she wanted company. No one would expect anything of her, and she could hide in plain sight. It was her secure place, the only one she had, and she knew it would protect her. It really was her safe house—impenetrable, sheltered. All those years she’d spent at Threshold only reinforced the idea. A club was her sanctuary, a place where, even if only for a few hours, she could pretend she was still alive. A place where she could hide among the living.

But at the same time, she wondered, would she ever be able to return to the woman she was?

The one who laughed, who enjoyed life and lived it to the fullest? Or was she destined to remain empty, afraid of showing any sort of emotion, afraid to face her heartache? Terrified of the floodgates she was sure she could never hold back if she allowed one iota of emotion, of agony, of her grief to slip through.

Finally getting out the car, she walked up the stairs that fronted the huge Georgian mansion. Clutching her coat a little tighter, she entered the warm foyer. Behind a desk a large, burly man smiled warmly at her.

“Good evening, Miss.”

“Hello. My name is Emily, Emily Miller. I believe the owner from The Lair, back east, contacted your manager about me transferring from there to here?”

 

© Suzy Shearer 2018

  

LINKS – WHERE TO FIND SUZY:                                                         

Website :  http://www.suzyshearer.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SuzyS

Blog:  http://suzyshearer.blogspot.com.au

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/SuzyShearer

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/suzshearer

Twitter : https://twitter.com/SuzyShearer

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/sooziiis

Linkedin: http://au.linkedin.com/in/suzyshearer

Publisher: http://www.evernightpublishing.com/suzy-shearer/

Publisher: http://www.bookstrand.com/suzy-shearer

 

Email her at: suzyshearer.author@gmail.com

 

A FEW LINKS WHERE TO BUY:

Amazon: https://www.amzn.com/B07FTHQB8B

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com

Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com

Angus and Robertson: https://www.angusrobertson.com.au

Smashwords:  https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/882008

 

 

BIO:

Renaissance woman, best-selling and Award winning author Suzy Shearer writes contemporary and paranormal erotic romances filled with mature and interesting characters. Her books always feature older heroes and heroines; ranging from mid 40s to 60s. The heroines are usually confident plus-sized women who are proud of their curves. Suzy feels it’s important for readers to connect.

Suzy also wants her readers to understand just because people are older doesn’t mean they aren’t intriguing, desirable, open to challenges and willing to experiment. They may be older but not always wiser. Remember sexy isn’t just for the under 30s.

A Buddhist and artist, Suzy lives in the Western Suburbs of Sydney Australia with one very spoilt dog and two equally spoilt cats keeping her company. When Suzy is not writing, she is usually painting – an accomplished watercolour Artist her subjects range from portraits and animals to nudes and landscapes. She is also a quilter, toy maker, sculptor and potter. Suzy’s Art

 

E-BOOKS OUT NOW

The Club series

The Club: Bound

The Club 2: Uncollared           

The Club 3: Waxed

The Club 4: Displayed

The Club 5: Submit

The Club 6: Unmasked

 

The Hunters series

A Hunter’s Heart – Book 1

A Hunter’s Choice – Book 2

A Hunter’s Challenge – Book 3

 

Dark Desires series

(each book is a standalone)

Whipped Delights      

Craving Her Master   

Melting Her Dom’s Heart

An Artist’s Kiss

Elephants and Ever-Afters

 

 

The Silk Rope Masters series

Steven

Jake

  Single Titles

Daemons Are Forever

Build a Love

Perfect Three

Her Dom’s Secret Past

 

MOST BOOKS ARE ALSO AVAILABLE AS PAPERBACKS

 

Editor vs Writer: Adversaries or Critical Partnership?

Eight years ago, when I first got the bright idea to submit a story for publishing, I was extremely lucky. 

The Kindle was taking off, making e-books easy to produce, and small digital publishers were popping up everywhere. I submitted a story on a whim, and not only did a publisher snap it up, but they wanted everything else I wrote too.

In the beginning, my only job was to write stories as fast as possible. Everything else, including cover art, editing, and marketing was handled by the publisher. I was so thrilled to be published, I didn’t question anything either–not when the cover didn’t meet my expectations, or when the editing didn’t seem as rigorous as it should.

As time passed, I became more savvy about these aspects of publishing–and the audience demanded more as well. The successful publishers were the ones who developed house guidelines and standards, but as self-publishing became easier, more and more small presses caved under the inability to compete with Amazon. It’s no wonder many authors chose indie publishing. Some writers prefer the greater creative control over their work. For me, it’s a matter of scheduling: as a self-publisher, I’m my biggest client–and I can alter deadlines based on my work demands. For others, there wasn’t a choice in the matter. It was self-publish or stop writing.

Which means many of us have had to learn the ins and outs of what makes a good cover, and how best to promote our own stories–particularly on a tight budget. One of the hardest aspects of going indie for me, however, was finding an editor to work with.

Toward the end of my working with a small press, I was assigned a new editor. When I got back my first round of edits, barely legible for all the suggested corrections, I was stunned. Not because I thought my story so precious any suggested cuts or alterations had to be wrong. Not because I was getting a far more rigorous edit than I’d previously received.

Because it felt like someone had run my story through an editing program without even reading it.

There are a lot of great editing programs out there now: Grammarly, Hemmingway, and ProWritingAid come to mind. Depending on the program, they’re going to catch spelling and punctuation errors, but may also point out passive voice, how many times you use adverbs, and so on. But these programs should never take the place of actual eyes on the draft. Many of these programs aren’t specifically designed with fiction in mind. Over-use of these kinds of programs can strip the author voice out of the story. My beef with my new editor was that her suggested changes seemed utterly arbitrary. Across the board recommendations to exchange one type of phrasing for another doesn’t enhance the story. It merely scrubs individualism from the prose.

In the end, I wrote a three page email to my publisher giving examples of the recommended changes and why I disagreed with them. After review, the publisher decided to assign a new editor to me. She took the same story that the previous editor had shredded, and came back with recommendations I could work with–and we continued to work together on subsequent stories.

Did the press accept that I was right and my previous editor wrong? Probably not. What they did was realize we weren’t a good fit and assigned me to someone else in the hopes we’d get along better. I’m okay with that, to be honest. You shouldn’t expect every editor to mesh with you. It’s important that they see your work the way you do and be willing to help you polish it until it shines. If they don’t, then you need a new editor.

The partnership between editor and writer is a special one. A good editor is like someone who helps you set the table at an elaborate dinner. You’ve cooked the 12 course meal. You’re impatient to serve it to your guests. A good editor is going to taste the food and suggest additional seasonings, look at the table and suggest alternative china or flowers, and check the seating arrangements and suggest moving some of the guests.

But you are the one who cooked the meal. The editor shouldn’t scrap your meal and produce one more to their own liking. Remember that.

Finding the right editor has been one of my biggest challenges since going indie. There are two areas of indie publishing where it doesn’t pay to skimp: cover art and editing. Cover art is crucial to catching a reader’s eye and getting them to check out your story. But no matter how good your cover is or how intriguing your story, if your book is riddled with typos and basic mistakes, readers will notice. If you have plot holes big enough to drive a truck through–readers will notice. If your story drags, if there is too much exposition, your readers will notice. And they probably won’t pick up another one of your stories.

Editors are expensive, which is why many indie authors choose to skip professional editing. I get it, really, I do. If you have to pay anywhere between $500-1200 for editing, you have to sell a LOT of books to recoup that. (Something I like to point out to those people who argue it doesn’t cost anything to produce an e-book, so therefore, they have no problem accepting an illegal download–but I digress…)

But you really shouldn’t use that as an excuse to skip professional editing. 

I make sure I send the cleanest possible copy to an editor. That means it’s been through a critique group during the writing process and beta readers before editing. If there are big, glaring problems, I want them caught before going to editing. I also run the draft through an editing program, knowing the limitations of said programs.

I’d never assume that was sufficient to publish without professional editing. That human screening and input is invaluable, in my opinion. If you want to produce the best story possible, that is.

But finding the right editor can be difficult. When I went indie, I did all the right things: I sought the recommendations of fellow authors. I submitted test chapters to editors to audition them. Price wasn’t my only consideration, but it was a factor. I simply cannot afford to spend $1200 on a book edit with no guarantee of recouping that in sales. But even after doing all my homework, I struggled to find a good fit for me.

On the advice of a fellow author, I hired an editor that worked with my old publisher but freelanced on the side. This seemed like a win-win for many reasons, not the least of which was that we’d have a familiarity of what to expect from each other. But this proved not to be the case. Despite being on a deadline to publish by a specific date to tie in with a specific event, this editor missed the deadline by EIGHT WEEKS, and produced a shoddy edit to boot. The edit was so late I ended up accepting it with only a cursory read-through–my bad–and it wasn’t until I began the process of creating an audiobook that I realized how rife with errors the manuscript was. To this day I’m still embarrassed at releasing it in that form.

After submitting chapters to numerous editors by way of auditioning them for the next book, I found an editor I thought would be a good fit for me. I booked his services, spelling out what I was looking for in advance. As he’d done a great job on the sample chapter, I was prepared to receive a decent edit. Instead, I received an edit that I could have done myself with Grammarly.

Grammarly is going to catch some things, but only what it is programmed to catch. It won’t, for example, point out repetitive actions (like the fact that far too many of my characters shrug or raise an eyebrow), or note when the action drags. That’s what a real, live editor does.

I have to say, I was beginning to think I’d never find affordable editing that was a good match for me when a former beta reader offered her assistance. I was skeptical, I admit. I’d been burned by too many freelance editors. I was concerned that as a beta reader, she wouldn’t be firm enough, that too many things would slide.

I was wrong.

She provided exactly the kind of edit I was looking for: encouraging without being unwilling to suggest changes, ruthlessly cutting unnecessary exposition while not trampling on author voice, catching continuity errors and questioning possible plot holes without making me feel like an idiot, nailing the SPAG that is critical to a polished, finished work and yet at the same time tossing out accolades in the form of the kinds of comments that are like crack to an author.

I can’t sing her praises enough. She truly gets the author-editor relationship, and though she is new to freelance editing, she has an excellent grasp on what it entails. You’d be wise to get in on the ground floor, so to speak. She’s working on her website and creating a Facebook page, but you can email her now at CAPSediting@gmail.com

You won’t regret it.

 

 

 

 

Now Available for Pre-Order: Ghost of a Chance by McKenna Dean

 

The second in the Redclaw Security series, Ghost of a Chance, is now available for pre-order! 

Redclaw Security is an elite paranormal agency whose agents seek out and contain alien artifacts, as well as provide security and investigate matters within the shifter community. Each Redclaw Security story can be read as a standalone, though the the stories and characters are all connected with Redclaw in some manner.

Ghost of a Chance

Blurb: At sixteen, Sarah Atwell walked away from her love of horses and a promising career as a competitive rider after discovering she’d inherited the family curse. Years later, her grandmother stunned everyone by leaving Sarah her horse farm—worth millions—but with conditions Sarah might not be able to meet.

A former Redclaw agent, Casey Barnes retired when a security assignment went bad, killing his partner and leaving him as a partial amputee. His inner wolf is in hiding. He’s been living quietly as a horse trainer, but June Atwell’s death now pits him against her granddaughter for rights to the stable.

With both of them snowed in at the farm, a series of increasingly serious accidents draws Sarah and Casey closer together, but they each harbor secrets that might tear them apart.

Available August 7th, 2018!

 

The Danger of Self-Deprecation

The other night, we were watching the new Queer Eye on Netflix when the episode about the stand-up comic came on.

I think stand-up comedy is incredibly difficult, and I admire anyone who can do it. It takes a special kind of courage to get up in front of an audience of strangers and attempt to make them laugh. But I found myself a little uncomfortable with the Fab 5 helping this adult man who was still living in his childhood bedroom in his parents’ house pursue his dream of being a comic. 

Not for the reasons you might think. Not because the goal was unrealistic or that I thought he should give up on his dreams and get a ‘real job’. But because his brand of humor was self-deprecation.

The episode ended with the comic getting a bachelor pad makeover of his parents’ basement as his own apartment and a well-received set at a comedy club. Even better, he wound up with a woman he was interested in and said all the right things. A very satisfying show.

Only I turned to my husband to voice my concerns. “His whole routine is about him being a loser. How will he ever be anything else if that’s what he keeps telling himself?”

I probably would have forgotten all about this except the next night we watched Hannah Gadsby’s Netflix special, “Nanette.” I don’t want to steal her thunder, so I’m not going to say what it was about, but Variety describes the show as “Startlingly frank and personal, it blends stand-up with art history and incisive commentary on the very nature of what comedy is. It also features the Tasmania native declaring she is quitting comedy, something her legions of new fans are sure to take issue with.”

And one of the reasons she gave for quitting was that telling her story over and over again in comedic form over-wrote the true version of what happened to her. It trapped her in time and prevented her from being able to move on and to heal. It’s a powerful special. You should watch it if you can. Yes, it’s comedy, but it’s so much more than that. It’s angry and it’s painful. It’s raw.

And I completely understand why she feels she must give up comedy as a result.

See, I’m the queen of self-deprecation. I learned at an early age that if I cut myself down with wit and humor, beating anyone else to the punch, I would deflate and diminish the impact of whatever derogatory statement someone else might make. As a coping mechanism, this is highly effective. The problem is, after years of playing that same song over and over, the groove is dug so deep the needle skips if you try to play a different track.

I struggle with the concept of positive affirmation. I can write down my ‘wishful thinking’ affirmations, no problem. I just don’t believe them. The more outlandish I think the affirmation is, the more I roll my eyes and snort. 

“I will be a USA Today Bestselling Author.”

Yeah, right. Okay, I’ve read the stories about people like Meryl Streep and Jim Carey who believed in themselves when no one else did, and became mega-successes as a result. I just don’t know how they did it. Because if I don’t believe something, I can’t tell myself it’s the truth.

Recently, I received an age positivity workbook. I have a hard time with aging. I grew up hearing how getting old was horrible and that I just shouldn’t do it. (Um, the alternative doesn’t sound so hot, either…) For years I thought my mother was simply vain–she’d had multiple cosmetic procedures and refused to tell anyone her age–but then I found out she kept her age a secret to avoid mandatory retirement which was age-based. That added another whole level of fear and distrust to the mix, which only worsened when I became a caretaker to my parents during their final years.

So yeah, time to work on my negativity toward aging, hence the workbook. Only on the second page, I was faced with the first exercise: list three positive things about your belly.

WHAT THE HELL? No, seriously, this was my reaction. It felt as though I’d been sucker-punched. You’re just going to throw me off the deep end like that, workbook? No swimming lessons? No life jacket? Sink or swim?

I literally could only come up with one positive thing to say about the roll of fat overhanging my belt: At least I won’t be the first to die in the coming apocalypse.

I’m pretty sure that’s not the chipper response the workbook designers were hoping for.

More and more I hear people advising that we need to stop self-deprecation, that the danger is we’ll believe that part of the story and sabotage anything that doesn’t fit that narrative. Especially we as authors, should understand the power of words, and telling ourselves that our stories suck and we’ll never make it as a writer is one of the worst things we can do. I’ve written about this before. I know this to be true. I find it less easy to resolve. 

I say terrible things to myself all the time. I avoid looking in mirrors because I see a fat, frumpy, middle-aged woman who has nothing to show for her time on this planet. See, that part of this paragraph rolled out without any thought whatsoever. It’s the song I know by heart.

When I attempt to say nice things to myself, they usually come out with as, “Huh, not bad for an old broad.” I mean, I can’t even tell myself something positive without adding the negative qualifier.

But if I want to change the playback, I have to learn new songs. Part of me wants to suggest that I not start with something too big to accept–that instead of telling myself I’m going to hit the bestseller list, I should remind myself that everything I’ve ever envisioned about myself has come true–and that I should start with smaller goals. The negative soundtrack is too loud. I can’t drown it out with songs I don’t believe.

But the funny thing about the subconscious is it doesn’t know the difference between lies and the truth. I’ve been lying to myself for years–that I’m not smart, or pretty, or intelligent, or worthy. That song plays 24/7 without my even being aware of it.

Maybe it’s time to belt out a new song. I don’t have to believe it–not completely. I just have to sing it over and over again.

 

 

“True” by Ann Everett: Book Tour & Giveaway!

Please welcome author Ann Everett as she shares a bit about herself and her newest book, True. Be sure to check out the giveaways after the author interview!

True
A Bluebird, Texas Romance
by Ann Everett

Ann is giving away five awesome prize packages. Please use the Rafflecopter below to enter. Remember you may enter every day for your chance to win one of the prize packages. You may find the tour locations here

About True:

Sometimes it takes losing everything…

True Shanahan must be the unluckiest woman in the world. Either that or she’s cursed. After another failed relationship, True leaves Dallas with a broken heart and new attitude. It’s time to walk on the wild side. But when she makes a wrong turn and ends up in Bluebird, Texas, the only man she wants is anything but reckless.

…to find all you’ve ever wanted.

Ritter Malone is the town’s favorite son and has the local hero awards to prove it. Seems he’s always in the right place at the right time. But when he crosses paths with True, his life takes a turn he never sees coming. Her songwriting skills may be questionable, but her ability to turn him inside out is indisputable.
Welcome to Bluebird, Texas.

Where a chance meeting gives two people a chance at love.

Amazon Buy Link

 
Excerpt:
When Ritter arrived at the gym, he spotted Cole jumping rope. He stopped and glanced at the wall clock. “You’re late. Roommate didn’t have you tied up, did she?”
 
“Very funny. We got a dog. Stayed up playing with him. I hit the snooze one time too many.”
 
Cole ran a towel over his face, then his lips curled. “That’s not good.”
 
“What? Getting a puppy?”
 
“Naw. The we in that sentence sounds like a contract extension.”
 
Ritter stretched. “I won’t lie. I’ve gone home to an empty house so long, thought having someone there would drive me nuts, but it hasn’t—for the most part.”
 
Cole stepped on the nearest treadmill, turned it on, and ran a steady pace. “I gotta hand it to you. You’ve managed to sleep with her and keep your hands to yourself. Or have you?”
 
Ritter climbed onto the machine next to Cole’s and matched his stride. No need to confess he hadn’t exactly resisted, but he’d not passed second base—by much. Had it not been for the phone call, he would have hit a home run. He’d had the wood for it. “No.”
“Come on. No way you haven’t hit that. Especially after what you told me about her coming on to you.”
 
“That’s why I can’t let her stay. My resistance is wearing thin.”
 
Ritter and Cole’s phones sounded a text at the same time. Ritter read his, then shot Cole a look. “Turns out, we’re off this afternoon.”
 
Cole dropped his cell back into the cupholder. “I’ve never been to New Jersey. You?”
“Nope but looks like the storm is calling us there.”

 

Hello! Welcome to my blog, Ann! Thank you for answering my nosy, I mean discerning, questions!  First, please tell us a little about yourself and the kinds of stories you like to write.

 Would you say there is an underlying theme behind your stories?

I like to write romance with some sass and sizzle. All of my stories are set in Texas…since I’m a Lone Star native that’s what I know most.

What part of the world do you call home? Can you tell us a little about where you grew up and where you live now?

I grew up in Brownsboro, Texas, a super small town about 125 miles east of Dallas. When I was growing up there, the town only had 300 people. I’ve lived in bigger cities…Austin and Lubbock, but currently I reside in Mt. Pleasant, Texas. We’re in the northeast corner of the state, near the Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana borders.

How long have you been writing? Did you write as a child or is it something you developed a passion for later in life?

I wrote some in college but was never serious about it. Then on a whim, when I was in my fifties, I decided to write a short story and enter it in a contest. Before I knew it, I had 25,000 words and decided I’d make it a book!

Of the stories you’ve written, which one do you like the most? Which one would you recommend a new reader begin with?

I think Chirp is the best book I’ve written. It’s the first time I tried writing multiple storylines within the same story. It has three romances happening. Chirp and Rance. Seth and Hanna. Tom and Helga.

What advice would you give to someone who aspires to be a published author?

Join an online writing website so strangers can critique your work. They are the ones who will offer the best advice because they don’t have to worry about hurting your feelings.

Where do you find your inspiration?

Everywhere. The inspiration for True came from my electric co-op magazine. It had a picture of a yummy looking lineman on the cover…and I thought…hey, not many stories are written with a lineman as a main character….so, Ritter Malone was born in my imagination.

Best line you ever wrote?

As an author, this is the only time I pat myself on the back. I work hard, hard, hard, to come up with the best opening line of a book. I want it to grab the attention of the reader and set the tone of the story. Here are a few examples.

From Laid Out and Candle Lit: Not only did Tizzy Donovan think her cup was always half empty, she was pretty sure someone had spit in it.

From You’re Busting my Nuptials: Twenty-four hours ago, Tizzy Donovan was naked in Ridge Cooper’s bed, screaming to get God’s attention.

From Tied With a Bow and No Place to Go: Jay Roy Hobbs held the county record for talking women out of their panties.

From Say You’ll Never Love Me: Two weeks earlier, Raynie stood in the same spot and swore off bad boys. Absolutely. For sure. Maybe.

From True: True Shanahan stopped in her tracks, cupped her ear, and listened to the throaty moans, heavy breathing, and rhythmic grunts coming from the other side of Richard’s office door. 

 
NAME THE TWINS CONTEST:
Submit your name choices via comment Ann’s blog post, http://www.anneverett.com/2018/06/15/contest-and-new-release/or to her email ann.everett @rocketmail. com. (without spaces)
 
About the Author:
Award winning author, Ann Everett embraces her small town upbringing and thinks Texans are some of the funniest people on earth. When speaking to writing groups, businesses, book clubs, and non-profit organizations, she incorporates her special brand of wit, making her programs on marketing, self-publishing, and the benefits of laughter, informative and fun.
Social Links:

Free Stories, Upcoming Releases, and More!

Because it’s a national holiday here in the US, I’ve opted to move WIP Wed to next week–so be sure to come back to participate then!

I’m considering starting a New Release Saturday as well–where people can drop in and share what they have that’s about to come out–what do you think?

In the meantime, I’m in the final edits on Ghost of a Chance, the next standalone in the Redclaw Security series.

I can’t wait to share this one with you! I see a lot of similarities between Sarah and myself: we’re both fangirls and we grew up frequently hearing how we fell short on expectations. Part of Sarah’s journey will be to recognize her self-worth, and discovering things some people see as flaws can be your biggest strengths.

As part of the run up to the next book release, first Reclaw book, The Panther’s Lost Princess is FREE until July 5th,  so grab your copy now!

The Greatest Threat to Your Creativity Isn’t What You Think It Is

All my life, I’ve been a daydreamer. So much so, my parents despaired of my ever being functional in society. There were even times when I decided that daydreaming was bad for me, and counterproductive to my goals in life, and that I should do my darnedest to quit. To stop inserting myself into my favorite books, shows, and movies, having grand adventures throughout the day as I went about my daily tasks.

I was never successful at eradicating this behavior, and eventually I embraced it for what it was: a rich fermentation vat of ideas that would bubble and simmer until they produced a story of my own, something original and unique to me. I’ve always been a writer at heart.

The good news is I managed to be a productive member of society despite the relative ease with which I could drop into another universe. I discovered online fanfiction archives, wrote over a million words of fanfic, and then began writing my own original stories. In my fandom days, I wrote the equivalent of a novella a month. The words just flowed out of me. The transition to original fiction wasn’t without its bumps in the road, and my productivity slowed down as the stakes became higher. Without a built-in audience, world-building and character development had to be stronger. It wasn’t sufficient to have beta readers–you need betas, critique partners, and a good editor if you want to turn out quality work. You can’t just throw down words and have everyone applaud because they love your pairing and they’d leave kudos on a story where your characters read from the back of a cereal box. Writing for fun is lovely, but the more you write, the greater the drive becomes to do better than the last story. You begin seeing where you failed, and how your craft doesn’t measure up to your favorite artists. You can either quit at this point, or buckle down and do the hard work. But hard work takes time.

So I just assumed my new glacial pace of story production was pretty normal. After all, I have a stressful day job and a home life that’s heavy on commitments. Some of the people turning out a book every month are actually writing teams, which makes me feel a bit better about only getting out one or two stories a year. 

But the other day, a realization struck me like a bolt of lightning out of a cloudless blue sky.

I don’t daydream any more.

Could that be why my production is way down?

I used to play scenes from potential stories in my head at every free moment–outlandish, outrageous self-insert scenes to occupy my mind as I walked the dogs, or did some sort of mindless task (like the dishes, or folding clothes), or commuting to work, or just before I fell asleep at night. I’d replay the scenes over and over, polishing the dialog, perfecting the action, trimming the worst of the excesses, eventually removing myself as the heroine and replacing the lead with one of my characters. When I sat down to write, the scene was right there before me–I only had to smooth off the rough spots and blend it into the story I wanted to tell. Even better, if I was stuck on something, entering that day-dreamy state of mind often allowed me to untangle a thorny plot problem, causing me to suddenly shout “Eureka!” and grab the nearest pen.

But I don’t do that any more.

My daily commute, which used to be over an hour, is now less than 15 minutes most days. While I’m delighted to get two hours of my life back every day, I actually made good use of that time when I was driving by plotting and daydreaming about my stories. I rarely listen to music these days, as I mostly did so when driving. Music has the power to send me to that dreamer’s state more quickly than almost anything else, and without the pleasant background noise, I find it hard to get in the zone. But I rarely have the time to just sit and listen to music the way I did when commuting.

Getting a good night’s sleep is tough for me these days as well, so I usually read until I fall asleep instead of daydreaming. To be honest, I’m almost afraid to let my mind ‘go’ when I’m trying to fall asleep because instead of exciting adventures or romantic encounters, my brain is most likely to circle at the base of the Anxiety Tree, worrying at problems out of my control for the moment. So yeah, I’d rather lose myself in reading.

Worst, now when I’m walking the dogs, I’ve got the phone in my hand, checking my social media sites. That used to be a BIG source of my plotting time–I’d enter the theta brainwave zone and happily organize plots, scenes, and time lines while getting some much-needed exercise for both me and the dogs.

But now that phone is out and I’m checking to see what fresh outrage is occurring on Twitter.

I used to be the sort of person who carried a book with them everywhere, so if I had to wait somewhere, I could happily read. Reading served as fuel for my own story ideas, creating a lovely cycle of creativity. Now I scroll through timelines. An obsessive thumbing of bite sized pieces of information that frequently has a negative impact on my mental well-being.

The other night, my husband and I were out at dinner, and after we’d placed our orders and caught up with each other’s day, somehow we both drifted into scrolling on our phones. If this is something a middle-aged person that addictive to a middle-aged person, I fear for the minds of our kids. I really do.

I’m not saying don’t be informed. We need to be informed. We need to share information: about natural disasters, government atrocities, mass shootings, lost pets, you name it. We also need to share the good things: our wins, both big and small, the things that encourage us and make us smile, that give us hope when all hope is dying. But we shouldn’t let the constant NOISE of information drown out our creative voice.

We’re told we as creative types must maintain a presence on social media, and I believe this to be true. But I think our utter dependence on our phones to keep us occupied AT ALL TIMES is extremely detrimental to the creative mindset.

Blonde girl with retro camera

I recently read an article that said taking photos of a trip makes your brain forget the memories of the trip itself, and while that appalls me (because I love taking pictures), I can understand it too. Because you’re ‘capturing the moment’ on your device, your brain doesn’t feel the need to do so in the same detail. Think about it: do you remember phone numbers anymore? I don’t. I know where to find someone’s contact information on my cell phone, but I’d be out of luck if I had to call someone if my phone was damaged or the battery was dead. (NTS: make a list of important phone numbers and keep it in your car)

So while I see the need to keep feeding content to my audience, wouldn’t the better use of my time be to write actual, real content instead of snapshots of the boring life of a middle-aged woman? I can answer that one myself: yes.

And while I’m still going to take photographs, it won’t be the first thing I do when I arrive somewhere new. I’m going to take a deep breath and appreciate the scenery. I’m going to memorize what the air smells like, and what sounds I hear, and how I feel at that moment before I pull out my camera.

I can’t leave my phone at home when I am out and about because I need to be available 24/7. But I can choose not to take it out when I’m walking the dogs, or bringing the horses in from the pasture, or waiting in line at the DMV. I’ve deleted most of my social media. I’ve gone back to carrying a book or an e-reader. I’m making a point to listen to more music–turning off commercial radio and just playing the songs I want to hear. Because it doesn’t matter how much content I feed an audience if there isn’t a book to go with it eventually.

And you know what? I’ve started daydreaming again. Without any attempt on my part to make it happen. I just had to open the window to let it in.

 

Adam Mann tells us why Love is in the Air (book tour and excerpt)

Hello! Welcome to my blog, Adam, and thank you for answering my nosy, I mean discerning, questions!  First, please tell us a little about yourself and the kinds of stories you like to write. Would you say there is an underlying theme behind your stories?

  • What part of the world do you call home? Can you tell us a little about where you grew up and where you live now? 

I have lived and worked in what is called “developing economies” in Africa and Asia for over 50 years, and as a result I had to move home every two or three years as my work contract changed.  I met a lovely widow in Vietnam in 1997 which is where I live now with some of our seven adult children and most importantly grandchildren.

School and university was in England and Ireland, but I was made redundant from my job in London in 1964 and managed to land a good job in Lagos, Nigeria of all places.  I ended up spending 12 years in Nigeria until corruption got so bad I moved from the proverbial frying pan into the fire “Libya”.  Things go better in Kenya, Ethiopia, and Botswana with short inputs into Egypt and Uganda.

Don’t laugh but then I accepted a contract in the Swat valley in Pakistan, before the famous Malala was even born, but after two years moved to Sri Lanka, and then Vietnam where I live and write now.  From Vietnam I’ve gone on short term assignments to Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Cambodia.

  • How long have you been writing? Did you write as a child or is it something you developed a passion for later in life?

I probably first wrote because I had to – official reports, studies, surveys and so on – the boring stuff!

My first love was story telling rather than writing, and then I used to read the history of some of the countries in which I worked.   It was the “unknown” and the “blank spaces” in that history that prompted me to start enquiring and then writing.  With romance novels I wrote my first manuscript in the first person, but as the passion got hotter I really had to change!

My father worked in Singapore when I was a boy and in my early teens, and living there I became a Boy Scout, so story telling around the campfire was my first introduction to telling tales, and ghost stories.

I retired four years ago, and apart from gardening, have written ten crime and historical novels, and now over 30 contemporary romance novellas, which is really the subject that we are featuring today.

  • What gave you the courage to submit your first story to a publisher?

My first book was an historical novel, which I wrote in 1996 when I lived in the corner of a coconut estate in the north of Sri Lanka but which I sat on having been almost tempted by a vanity publisher in London! 

It was in 2014 that I came across Smashwords and publishing a book with them was not difficult.  Amazon I found later is actually easier.  Over the years I have managed to get four publishers to take some of my manuscripts – Blushing Books, Phaze Books, Global Publishing Group and eXtasy Books, as I had hoped that my eBook sales would improve with their backing!

  • How would you characterize your stories? As romance, erotica, or something entirely different?

I like writing romance, but I have to add in the sexy bits to make the story more complete and convincing, so as a result I include explicit sex in my novellas.   I don’t call that erotica.  I don’t use swear words or violence in my stories.  I am sorry but gooseberry bushes and storks with bundles in their beaks doesn’t work with me – besides that misses out all the romance, courting and passion!

  • What draws you to this genre? Have you written in other genres?

I’ve always been concerned that historical novels write about the rulers, but seldom about their families.  I’ve found many portraits and sketches, even frescoes, about beautiful ladies but often their names are missing – so I add in their wives and family life, which is largely from my imagination.

Writing historical romance was an immediate lead into contemporary romance, but I had to use areas of the world that I knew, as I had lived and worked there.  This also applied to the characters and heroines that I invented, so that as a result many are of Asian origin.

  • City Boy/Girl or Country Mouse—and why?

Ponies and dogs were an integral part of my life as a boy, and my work has always been with animals and farmers.  So I usually set my stories in rural areas as I know them better.  Cinemas were a complete novelty to me, and I did not see TV until 1953, which then I was a very small black and white grainy screen.  World Service Radio was much better and different.

  • Are you a punster or a plotter?  Do you outline extensively or write your story as you go along?

I usually put together the overall plot in my mind, and often I get up in the middle of the night to do that!  I usually prepare a spread sheet of the plot and the characters, and then start writing.  Frequently the characters take over and form and even change the plot as I write, and for one story I had to change a tall thin blonde into a sturdy well built lady, with mousy hair, but with an attractive dominant character.

  • Research: love it or hate it?

I really enjoy research, but it does take up a disproportional amount of time.

  • Editing: love it or hate it?

I appreciate the work and responsibility of an Editor and even their advice of story content and character description.  I’ve only had one occasion to cloud my judgment when an Editor queried a statement of fact!   I am sorry but this made my blood boil, after all I am the author, and I had clearly established the facts before I wrote.  I tend to think that her “advice” was a matter of political opinion, which was quite topical at that time.

  • How much do you think that a good blurb and good cover art figure into the success of a story?

Great covers are invaluable.  The three novels in this Box Set are the result of a friend telling me that my cover for one looked a bit “home-made”.  The artist who made the three replacements has been telling me that the covers are my brand and should present the story!

Blurb is entirely a different matter.  Without a doubt there are Key Words that should be inserted in the blurb, and I wish I knew what they are. 

LOVE IN THE AIR

Excerpt:

It was very early morning when the flight arrived in Taipei, and Charlie walked with Sue-Ling to the Arrivals Hall.

“Wait a minute,” she said and disappeared into a shop.

“Here,” she said a few minutes later, “something from Taiwan so that you remember me!” and she laughed.

He handed him a small locally made toy farmer.

As she was standing close to him he kissed her forehead, and she blushed, but made no effort to go away.

“Bathroom,” said Charlie, and Sue-ling took his bag and said, “I’ll wait for you,” which was kind of her.

She watched him walk away, and made a mental note.

Tall, she decided, probably six feet, brown wavy hair, slim build, intelligent and with a lovely smile.  She guessed he’d be late thirties.

She knew he wasn’t married as he’d told her during the flight, as she’d told him she was nearly thirty and single, but she had also said there was an old boyfriend waiting for her at home.

Charlie, for his part, thought about this charming and attractive lady he’d met on the flight.  She was quite tall compared to other Taiwanese ladies, kept her black hair shoulder length, wore thin gold ring earrings, and was still very slim. But with winter clothes covering her he could not tell anymore.  Still she did have a lovely smile with sparkling dark brown eyes.

Sue-ling was waiting for Charlie, and she gave him her bag as she in turn went to the ladies washroom.

“Wrong way round,” thought Charlie, “I should have asked her first!” And he admonished himself, and when she came back she was a bit deep in her own thoughts.  They walked on together.

“You have to go that way, but I’m going over there,” Sue-ling indicated the overhead signs, “Oh yes, here’s my mobile phone number so if you give me a ring sometime, and then I’ll have your number,” and she handed him a small card.

“Good-bye Sue-ling,” said Charlie, “thanks for your time and help on the flight.

Sue-ling smiled and on tip toe kissed Charlie on his right cheek, and she walked away.

Charlie followed the signs leading to the Departure Hall, but was still thinking about her.

He dialed her number in his mobile phone, and it rang;

“Is that the attractive lady I met on the flight from Vancouver?” he asked into the phone.

“No, sorry, I can’t see her around here,” she replied, “but I’ll give you a call if I do.”

LOVE IN THE RAIN

Nobody loves like an Irishman!

By a sheer stroke of bad luck Henry gets caught in a tropical storm whilst he’s swimming in the sea.  He sensibly gets out of the water and finds shelter in a beach house, and a few moments later is joined by an equally sodden rain drenched lady.

Felicity is cold and wet and she has nothing dry to wear so she asks Henry to hold her so that they can both benefit from their body warmth until the rain subsides.

The story is set in South East Asia, and culminates in modern day Singapore, but the note above is only the start of a very long story…

LOVE IN THE BOONDOCKS

Kim has just been divorced by an uncaring husband who was more interested in her money than herself.  She finds work as a Primary School teacher in several remote villages, where she meets Dave who is working with farmer families in some of the same villages.  She finds him attractive and “sets her cap” at him.

Fortunately she speaks English so she manages to meet Dave in several locations before meeting him one evening in his small cottage, on the pretext of getting a lift to a village.

You, the reader, will have to find out what happens next…

LOVE IN THE AIR

Two passengers find some common ground on a flight from Vancouver to Taipei.

Charlie meets Sue-ling on trans-Pacific flight to Taipei after flight delays due to bad weather, and then further delays mean a long stop-over in the transit area at the airport.

Charlie decides to stay at the Airport Hotel where he can get a shower and rest a bit, and is helped by Sue-ling who joins him as she too is delayed by the weather. 

Their in-flight conversation becomes more than friendly, as they have to wait for their flight connections, and a mix-up in the hotel bathroom exposes more than just her skin as their relationship develops.

There is now a Box Set for these three Asian Love Stories

Adam Mann has written over thirty romance stories.  In many cases the heroine comes from Asia, but this is partly because that is where he has been working in remote areas for over thirty years.  Adam admires the resolve and determination of these ladies from Asia even in challenging and problematic circumstances.

Most of his stories are partially derived from his personal experience, and also based in locations that he knows as he’s lived and worked there.

He freely admits that his imagination makes up a good proportion of each of the stories.  He’s often found that romance is not always where a hard working boy meets good looking girl and they live happily ever after.  Most of his characters are a bit more battered in their lives before they meet, so their circumstances and incentives are much more clearly defined.

Most of Adam’s stories are about twenty thousand words, so not very long, and cheap to buy at Ninety Nine cents and easy to read.

Adam Mann is the pen name for romance books written by Mike Lord.

 

https://facebook.com/author/adammannauthor.com

https://www.amazon.com/author/adammannauthor.com

http://www.adammannauthor.com

https://twitter.com/AdamMannAuthor/status/686929540254322689

https://www.smashwords.com/?ref=ButterflyBooks

 

 

Please read and enjoy this story.

 

 

 

The Language of Romance Novels: Sweet and Sensual vs Hot and Steamy?

I’m in the process of making up a bunch of promotional posts in advance for a fest I’m doing in July, and one of the prompts was “Sweet and Steamy or Hot and Heavy?”

Which got me to thinking about the kinds of things I like in my romances.

I live for the slow burn romance. I want to watch the characters get to know each other, overcome obstacles (personal or otherwise) to be together, work for the reward–which is usually a sex scene but not always. Sex can take place at any point in the story, but I tend to prefer the slow burn where the characters lead up to it over time. I also enjoy it when sex doesn’t prove to be the magic solution to their relationship issues–that it frequently complicates things before the characters get it sorted out. As both a reader and a writer, it’s part of the payoff for being invested in the relationship.

But I was a bit bothered by the terms here: sweet vs hot. Or sometimes it’s ‘clean vs spicy’. These are terms the romance industry uses to help readers determine how much sex is in their stories, and most of the time, that subtle warning system works for me. Kind of like how I know what to expect when I go see a Star Trek movie in terms of violence and sex (which is why I’m a HARD PASS on a Tarantino-directed R rated Star Trek Movie. No Just. Ugh. No.)

“Clean” to denote a romance where the sex takes place behind closed doors/off-stage makes me stabby. I resent the implication sex is somehow dirty if depicted on page. “Spicy” makes me stabby too. It’s feels like a euphemism because we’re not grown up enough to say the ‘naughty’ words. Mind you, I understand why authors feel compelled to use these terms–it’s because even if the audience doesn’t explicitly know what they mean with reference to the story, the meaning is implied well enough that they can guess.

“Sweet” is marginally better. It’s clear where the industry is going with this–a one-word term to instantly identify the heat level of a story to a reader–especially since heat levels mean different things to different people. Sweet doesn’t mean there can’t be any sex at all during the story (though sometimes that’s the case). It’s just when it does occur, it takes place off-screen. There are times when that’s exactly the kind of story I’m looking for, and it’s nice to know nice to know in advance what you’re getting. Likewise when I read a blurb for a Regency romance that states the heroine is a widow, it’s pretty much a given there will be sex between the main characters. As long as there isn’t a bunch of teasing with long, complicated reasons as to why the characters never have sex at all, I’m okay with the fade-to-black scenes. If the characters are demonstrably showing passion for one another but that passion never takes place–either on screen or implied–then I tend to get a little cranky. Unfortunately, “sweet” as a term to describe stories with no on screen sex makes me think of a vapid, usually blonde heroine who hasn’t a clue–or else a story so full of saccharine it makes my teeth ache to contemplate reading it.

But recently I’ve read some wonderful stories that could have technically described as sweet, but the lead-up to the closed door was so romantic, so passionate, so sensual that I didn’t miss the actual sex at all. And yet “sweet” is hardly the term I’d use to describe these stories. The scenes were as hot as any graphic sex scene I’ve ever read–right up to the point where the door was closed and we return the following morning.

Are there better terms out there? I wonder because my own feelings toward the sex scenes I’m writing is evolving. Paranormal romance is a genre that tends to demand a lot of sex scenes, in some cases, the more raw and “hot” the better. Being a slow burn kind of gal, I include much less sex than some readers expect. I lean more toward the sensual than “hot”. But I suspect those lines blur for many readers, as do writers, too. Sometimes sensual becomes hot and vice versa. If a story is described as “sensual”, will readers know what to expect?

Which is why writers tend to fall back on industry descriptors. But if you’re wondering, I go for sensual every time.