Monday, December 15, 2014

Santa's New Contract

There’s a chill in the air (it dipped to a nipply 60 degrees yesterday) and everyone at the mall has their elbows sharpened. It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas. Course, if you hang out in department stores, you probably thought that sometime in mid-September.

So, ho-ho-ho and all that.

Unfortunately, the economy has taken its toll on the North Pole. A new contract for Santa has finally been negotiated. He swung by to check in on uncle Ebenezer (he ascertained the relationship because I have nary a decoration anywhere in sight) and asked me to pass along the following information:

To Whom It May Concern:

I regret to inform you that, effective immediately, I will no longer be able to serve Southern United States on Christmas Eve. Due to the overwhelming current population of the earth, my contract was renegotiated by North American Fairies and Elves Local 209. I now serve only certain areas of Canada and the northern boarder states.

As part of the new and better contract I also get longer breaks for milk and cookies so keep that in mind. However, I made certain that your children will be in good hands with your local replacement who happens to be my third cousin, Bubba Claus. His side of the family is from the South Pole. He shares my goal of delivering toys to all the good boys and girls; however, there are a few differences between us.

Differences such as:
1. There is no danger of a Grinch stealing your presents from Bubba Claus. He has a gun rack on his sleigh and a bumper sticker that reads: These toys insured by Smith and Wesson.

2. Instead of milk and cookies, Bubba Claus prefers that children leave an RC cola and pork rinds [or a moon pie] on the fireplace. And Bubba doesn’t smoke a pipe. He dips a little snuff though, so please have an empty spit can handy.

3. Bubba Claus; sleigh is pulled by floppy-eared, flying coon dogs instead of reindeer. I made the mistake of loaning him a couple of my reindeer one time, and Blitzen’s head now overlooks Bubba’s fireplace.

4. You won’t hear On Comet, on Cupid, on Donner and Blitzen . . ., when Bubba Claus arrives. Instead, you’ll hear, On Earnhardt, on Wallace, on Martin and Labonte. On Rudd, on Jarrett, on Elliott and Petty.

5. Ho, ho, ho! has been replaced by “Yee Haw!” And you also are likely to hear Bubba’s elves respond, “I herd dat!”

6. As required by Southern highway laws, Bubba Claus’ sleigh does have a Yosemite Sam safety triangle on the back with the words “Back off”. The last I heard it also had other decorations on the sleigh back as well. One is a Chevy logo with lights that race through the letters and the other is a caricature of me (Santa Claus) going wee-wee on the Tooth Fairy.

7. The usual Christmas movie classics such asMiracle on 34th Street and It’s a Wonderful Lifewill not be shown in your negotiated viewing area. Instead, you’ll see Boss Hogg Saves Christmas and Smokey and the Bandit IVfeaturing Burt Reynolds as Bubba Claus and dozens of state patrol cars crashing into each other.

8. Bubba Claus doesn’t wear a belt. If I were you, I’d make sure you, the wife, and the kids turn the other way when he bends over to put presents under the tree.

9. And finally, lovely Christmas songs have been sung about me like Rudolph The Red-nosed Reindeer and Bing Crosby’s Santa Claus Is Coming to Town. This year songs about Bubba Claus will be played on all the AM radio stations in the South. Those song titles will be Mark Chesnutt’s Bubba Claus Shot the Jukebox, Cledus T. Judd All I Want for Christmas Is My Woman and a Six Pack, and Hank Williams Jr.’s If You Don’t Like Bubba Claus, You can Shove It.

Sincerely Yours, Santa Claus
(member of North American Fairies and Elves Local 209)

*thanks to

I hope you all have fabulous plans for the holidays that involve friends, family, and lots of food. I'll be in Florida for Christmas because I believe Santa can land his sleigh in sand so why freeze my butt off going to the snow. I fully expect to have a completed draft of Outside the Lines bk 2 by the time I get home. (My gift to myself.) Thank you all for an amazing year! I've said it before and I'll say it again: I have the BEST readers! I'm excited to bring you Hot Mobster Sex in 2015! Here's a preview: My gift to you!

Have a happy, healthy holiday and a fabulous New Year! See you in 2015! xoxox

Monday, December 8, 2014

Books I read this year that you definitely WANT!

I read some amazing books this year. So many that I'm having a hard time remembering all of them. But there are two that really stuck with me.

This first one hasn't published yet. It's out on December 31st and I'll tell you it's definitely worth spending your holiday gift cards on. This book was sent to me over the summer to read for a blurb, but life happened and I wasn't able to get to it until October. And then I hated myself for not getting to it sooner. I finished it in a day, then sat there staring at my screen, sort of in shock. It's like watching a slow motion train wreck. I wanted to jump into this book and URGGG!, and AAAAH!, and NOOOO! But alas, I just lamented for weeks afterward. I read other books and still found myself going over this one in my head, trying to figure out how to fix everything. You can probably tell I'm still thinking about it. It is this book
and you really want it.

The other book is by one of my favorite authors. Jay Crownover is a character writer, and nothing pulls me into a story like a great character. One of her best yet (characters, that is) is Shane Baxter. This guy had me right from the start. You can find him here:

The second book in the series, Better When He's Bold, publishes in February, and I'm waiting very impatiently to see what's in store for the rest of the crew.

And, speaking of upcoming books I'm drooling over, there's also There You Stand by Christina Lee that doesn't even have a cover or buy links yet, but is publishing in April, I believe. I will definitely be checking that one out.

What are your "must reads" from this year?

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Hot Mobster Sex! (aka: What's Next From Me)

I finally get to share my news!

(You'll need to click on the pic to read it, or you can find it in Publishers Marketplace if you subscribe.)

Most of my ideas are inspired when a character comes to life in my head and starts telling me their story. This project was different. The concept came out of a brainstorm between the fabulous publishing professionals I've been lucky enough to surround myself with. I'm not usually great at writing other people's ideas, but these characters took me by storm: the brooding heir apparent to the largest crime organization in Chicago; his brilliant business-minded sister, who may or may not be in love with the man who's contracted the hit on her family; his womanizing club-rat younger brother, who might just find himself now that he's out from under his Chicago persona; his youngest sister, who's already made a name in fashion design, only to have to give it up to protect her littlest brother from men who want them all dead. There are some powerful stories of self-discovery there. Plus, lots of hot mobster sex, danger, and suspense.

As always, I owe an enormous thanks to my omnipotent uberagent, Suzie Townsend. I'm super excited to work with my new editor, Leis Pederson at Penguin. I just heard from her yesterday that Outside the Lines is set to publish in October, and the second book in January. In the meantime, I promise much more eye-candy like the picture of my Rob above, and many previews to whet your appetite for my sexy Mafioso. So stay tuned.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Books That Ruined Me

My daughter and I recently had a conversation about the book at the top of this list, and then she asked me what some of my other favorites were. I stumbled a little because I've read so many books I've really enjoyed, a ton I'd recommend wholeheartedly, but they don't really rank as favorites. And then there's the question of how to define a "favorite." What criteria go into deciding rank order?

After our conversation I really gave it some thought and what I decided is that, for me, whether I categorize a book as a favorite is a function of how much a book sticks with me after I've read it. Or, as some have coined it, the "book hangover" effect. I decided to pull together a list of books I've read that have left me thinking about them long after I put them down. That's not to say I loved everything about each of them, so they may not belong on a classic "favorites" list, but they hit me in a way that didn't let me forget them.

So, in rank order of how long my book hangover lasted (as best as I can remember years later) here are the ten books that ruined me.
Side note: I intentionally left out classics as well as blockbusters. (Lolita, Wuthering Heights, and Harry Potter definitely stuck with me for different reasons.)
Side note #2: Click the covers for buy links if you want to check them out.

Where She Went by Gayle Forman
So here's the thing about this book. Adam. I obsessed over him for weeks, prompting this blog post, and also this one. Then, when I finally recovered from my Adam hangover, I sat down and, in the next three weeks, wrote the best book I'll ever write on the wave of angst and grief Adam left behind. Gayle created such an incredibly damaged and genuine character that I wanted to climb through the pages and just be there for him. Maybe it was my frame of mind when I was reading, but I honestly don't think anyone will ever top Adam on my list of favorite characters. For full effect, you'll probably want to read If I Stay first, since Where She Went is a sequel.

Dreamland by Sarah Dessen
This book yanked my heart out, fed it through a meat grinder, then almost succeeded in putting it back together again. Again, this all comes down to characters. Rogerson, specifically. Just like Adam, he is incredibly damaged, and Sarah captures that extremely well in her characterization. Everything, from the way he moves, to the things he says and does, reflect his brokenness. I wanted to shake him and tell him to pull himself together, because somewhere in there, you know there's a decent guy. You'll have to read to see if that happens, but make sure you've got a box of tissues handy.

Graceling/Fire by Kristin Cashore
I'm lumping these two together because I didn't want to take two spots back to back for them, but both left me with a lasting hangover. The writing is phenomenal, and the common thread with all of these books, I'm discovering as I write this post, is the characters. Katsa and Po are so well portrayed, and my favorite sex scene ever in a book happens between them. Archer from Fire is one I pined for long after I put the book down. So well done.

How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
This speculative is so well done that I kept thinking through the plot for days after I finished. And the romance aspect--I'll just say that not too many books leave me in tears, but this one did.

Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma
Keeping with the incest theme (yeah...that romance I mentioned in How I Live Now, well...) I thought about this book for a long time after I read it. This is one that probably wouldn't make my classic favorite list because I found it pretty disturbing at some turns, but it was definitely thought provoking. I came away with so many questions I was (for the first time ever) contemplating contacting the author to ask what she was thinking as she wrote it. Was the romance innocent, or abusive? Was Lochan so socially stunted that he fixated on his sister and persuaded her into the relationship, or did they genuinely just fall in love with each other? Lots to think about here.

Before I Die by Jenny Downham
This is another one that made me cry. I thought Jenny did a lovely job portraying the whole process of dying young. I loved how real both that and the romance felt. It kept the wheels turning for a while after I was done.

Beautiful by Amy Reed
This is like watching a slow motion train wreck. The prose are very different than anything else I've read, but Amy's main character's motivations as she makes a string of really horrible decisions has you right there with her. This is another one that I'm not sure how I really feel about, but it had me thinking about it for weeks.

Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
I just sort of randomly picked this up one day and realize three hours later that I'd finished it. And then wished I hadn't. So, of course, I was incredibly excited to find, purely by coincidence, the movie was releasing on DVD the next day. I raced to my local Redbox and picked it up the next afternoon, watched it immediately...and then wished I hadn't. The beauty of the book is Stephen's main character and his inner dialogue. That, unfortunately, doesn't translate to the screen. But I thought the process of bringing this socially awkward character to life was done incredibly well in the book.

Cracked Up To Be by Courtney Summers
I read this eons ago and still sometimes think about it. Courtney's prose is sparse and she gets right to the point, which I appreciate. I've read some of her other books, and really enjoyed them, but this one left me rolling things over in my mind for weeks. It's a great study in how choices can change your life.

White Cat by Holly Black
I'm usually a pretty tough reader to get anything past. Maybe I was just so involved in the story that I wasn't paying close enough attention. Whatever happened, Holly surprised me in this one. I thought her main character was very well done, and, if you go back through this list you'll find one (okay, two) high fantasy novels at #3, a speculative at #4 and the rest until now are contemporary. I guess that's because in contemporary, it's all about the characters, and I've already mentioned that I'll follow a great character anywhere. In this one, not only was the writing great, but the premise was fresh and creative and held my interest in a way many urban fantasies don't. And it was twisty enough that it kept me rehashing the plot for a long time after reading.

So, there you go. My ten worst hangovers. Hope you find something in there that interests you. Help me find more. What books have given you your worst hangovers?

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Very BAD boys

Let's face it, bad boys have an irresistible allure. We love to read about them and see how love transforms them. But my good friend, Jay Crownover, pointed out that her Marked Men boys are labeled bad boys just because they have tattoos and get around. I think that's the "bad" comfort zone for a lot of us. We could imagine ourselves with a tattooed bad boy.

But could we ever picture ourselves with an actual bad boy--a boy who was seriously bad? Like, criminal bad?

I've always thought those women who start writing to serial killers on death row needed psychological intervention, but I've found myself taken in by two boys who are seriously bad over the last few months.
One is Shane Baxter, or Bax, as he's known on the street. He is Jay Crownover's boy in the upcoming BETTER WHEN HE'S BAD, that releases one week from today. If you've followed this blog at all, you know Jay's boys do it for me, and Rule is one of two boys (along with Gayle Forman's Adam Wilde) who ruined me for all other fictional boys. But I will tell you, Bax is right up there. I might have to make room for all three in my heart. We meet Bax on the day he's released from prison, and immediately I was smitten with him. He's basically made the best of a bad situation, and he makes no apologies for what he's done (or is yet to do). This is one bad boy you will definitely want to get to know.

Another is by my bud, Katy Evans. His name is Greyson King, and you get to meet him in her upcoming ROGUE. (Releasing July 29th.) I will tell you right up front that this boy has a truly black heart. He kills people, plain and simple. He does it in the course of the novel and he's not even conflicted about it. But he's just so damn hot you can't help but fall in love with him right along with Melanie. As bad as he is, I found myself instantly taken by him, and you will too.

Click on the covers to pre-order, because I swear to God, you want to.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Romantic Times in New Orleans! I'm going to be there! Are you?

RT starts next week, and in case you haven't seen the line up of registered authors,
 you can find it here. I will definitely be making a fool of myself fangirling all of these fab authors, and having a blast hanging out with readers and bloggers. I'm also on a Sex in New Adult panel with Abbi Glines, Jennifer L. Armentrout, Jay Crownover and Sophie Jordan on Friday. You guys know my secret of writing all my sex scenes first, so this panel is right up my alley! If any of y'all are going to be there, I'd love if you'd stop by and say hi! I'll have swag, which may or may not include hot boys and candy! Here's where you'll be able to find me (besides at The Dungeon most nights ;p).

5/13 Tues 1-3pm, Garden District Book Shop signing, 2727 Prytania St., New Orleans
With Jennifer L. Armentrout, Cora Carmack, Jay Crownover, Nichole Chase, Sophie Jordan. 

5/13 Tues 8-10pm NA pajama party, Marriott, 2nd floor, Gallery 4
With Jamie McGuire, Abbi Glines, Jay Crownover, Jennifer L. Armentrout, Cora Carmack, and many more.

5/15 Thurs 11:15-12:15, Avon Hats and Tats, Marriott 3rd floor, Salon E
With Kim Harrison, Laura Kaye, Veronica Rossi, Monica Murphy, Cora Carmack Nichole Chase, Sophie Jordan, and many more!

5/15 Thurs 7:10-7:30, Avon Pub crawl, Saints and Sinners (Owned by Channing Tatum!), 627 Bourbon St.
With Jay Crownover, Nichole Chase, Sophie Jordan and many more!

5/16 Fri 2:45-3:45 Sex and New Adult panel, Marriott, 2nd floor, Gallery 5
With Jennifer L. Armentrout, Abbi Glines, Jay Crownover, and Sophie Jordan

5/16 Fri 6:15-7:45 Avon Krewe of Muses (FREE SIGNED BOOKS!), Marriott 3rd floor, Acadia
With Eloisa James, Jeaniene Frost, Jennifer L. Armentrout, Kelley Armstrong, Cora Carmack, Kiera Cass, Nichole Chase, Jay Crownover, Claudia Gray, Kim Harrison, Melissa Marr, Monica Murphy, Sophie Jordan, Laura Kaye, Diana Peterfreund, Aprilynne Pike, Veronica Rossi, Kerrelyn Sparks, and TONS more!

5/17 Sat 11-2 Giant Book Fair, signing books with OMG EVERYONE! Marriott 3rd floor, Grand Ballroom.

5/17 Sat 7:15-7:45 Fan-tastic Day party! It's a party! EVERYONE will be there! Marriott 2nd floor, Preservation Hall

Squee! Can't wait! And I'm staying a few days afterward and checking out some plantations that I missed last time I was there, as well as taking the French Quarter Ghost tour at night, which I heard is good.

Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The lunatic is in my head...

Y'all know I love music. There are some songs that are so good that they always give me the shivers. One of them is Pink Floyd's Brain Damage. Actually, a lot of Pink Floyd's music will do that to me. (I wrote Wish You Were Here into Personal Demons.) I haven't listened to Brain Damage in a really long time, but I woke up with it in my head this morning. Specifically, the line "There's someone in my head, but it's not me." The song was accompanied by a whole cast of characters who I'm just getting to know.

That's what the writing process is to me: people in my head. They start out as strangers, but little by little we get to know each other. They tell me things and have conversations with each other, and I take dictation. Some of them, I really like. Others, not so much. But whether I like them or not, I'm just the poorly paid help with the laptop, so they all get an equal crack at getting their story on the page. (I don't play favorites.)

So, I'm still hanging out with my old friends, but I'm making some new friends too. It's fun to watch these new characters emerge, and I'm dying to hear the stories they have to tell as we get comfortable with each other.

I'll leave you with a question and a song. Question: New stories come to me as characters with something to say. If you write, how do new stories come to you? 

And the song: Pink Floyd's Brain Damage. As always, if you love it, please visit your chosen mode of music purchase and buy it.