Monday, December 29, 2014

It's release day for Best Man for Hire!

So I have a new book out today!

I just realized that's the fourth time I've typed that sentence in 2014, which makes me feel simultaneously proud, exhausted, and tingly in my swimsuit area.

The latter is probably just my natural state of being.

At any rate, Best Man for Hire is the third romantic comedy in my Front and Center series with Entangled Publishing, though you don't have to read the books in any particular order. You can start with Best Man for Hire, since it's priced at only 99-cents during release week, or you can see if Amazon is still running the 99-cent sale on the first book, Marine for Hire (they were last time I checked).

In other words, you can currently buy two books in the series for less than you'd pay to watch a full-length porn in one of those video booths at an adult arcade. This way you don't have to worry about touching the doorknob or hearing creepy noises from the booth next to yours, and isn't that better?

So anyway, here are a few behind-the-scenes details about Best Man for Hire:

  • Those of you who've read Marine for Hire may remember that story was set on Kauai, while Fiancée for Hire (the second book in the series) took place mostly in Mexico. We're back on Kauai again for Best Man for Hire, which may or may not be an indication that I use my writing career as an excuse to visit my parents at their home on Kauai at least once a year.
  • There's a scene in Best Man for Hire where my heroine sustains a painful centipede bite on her butt cheek in the midst of a sexual escapade. While I've never had that specific experience, I did have a rather terrifying incident where I donned my bathrobe to discover a centipede lurking in the sleeve. I avoided being bitten by tearing off my robe and shrieking like a lunatic while dancing around my parents' hallway in my birthday suit. You're welcome for that visual.
  • There's another scene where my heroine tells the hero an embarrassing childhood story about throwing up in her underwear at school. That story comes straight from the pages of my own middle school experience, and you can read all about it here.

I guess I should tell you what the book is about instead of blathering on about bug bites and vomit, huh? Here's the blurb:

Anna Keebler makes a living being unconventional. A wedding planner who specializes in more…unusual ceremonies, Anna’s client list includes everything from nudists to paintballers to Little Red Riding Hood enthusiasts. So when her photographer up and quits during a wedding blitz in Hawaii, Anna makes an unconventional decision. She hires a hot Marine to be her new photographer. 
Little does she know, Grant Patton is the best man in one of her weddings. He’s so perfect he’s practically a Boy Scout—if Boy Scouts were big, ripped Marines with gorgeous gray eyes, and good at, oh, everything. Especially sex. In fact, his only flaw seems to be that he hates marriage as much as she does. But Anna suspects the sexy Boy Scout routine is a cover, and if he wants this thing between them to be about more than sex, Grant must reveal the dark past he’s fought so hard to hide…

So there you have it. If you're intrigued, you can plop down 99-cents this week and read the whole book for the price of a condom in a gas station bathroom. If you're not intrigued, that's okay, too. Just try not to touch anything in that porn booth, okay?

Monday, December 15, 2014

Why you can’t take a romance author to the doctor

I’ve had neck trouble for as long as I can remember. While it’s never bothered me enough to do much for treatment, an upcoming insurance switch—combined with turning 40 in August—prompted me to book an appointment a few weeks ago.

They referred me to a reputable neck and back clinic known for targeted physical therapy and impressive results, and I knew I was in trouble before I even finished the paperwork.

Poor penmanship and an ill-timed hiccup caused me to put an odd space between the letters as I scrawled the word “therapist.” Concerned I’d start things off on the wrong foot, I approached the receptionist with the paperwork clutched in one hand.

“Just so you know,” I told her, “I didn’t mean to write ‘the rapist’ here. I’m not implying anything untoward about the staff.”

She blinked at me, then stared at the form. “I—um—I’ll let them know.”

My non-rapist therapist turned out to be a friendly woman who started things off with a series of questions about my hobbies and career.

“A romance author?” she replied when I told her. “Really? That’s fascinating.”

“Kind of,” I admitted. “I write romantic comedy.”

“What does that mean, exactly?”

“It means I write funny smut,” I explained. “I like to write things that simultaneously make you giggle and tingle in your swimsuit area.”

I thought that was a pretty apt description worthy of ending up on a business card, but she just looked at me oddly a moment before consulting her clipboard.

 “OK then, it sounds like you’ve had neck pain for quite awhile,” she said. “Was there any inciting injury?”

“Not that I can recall.”

“Let’s go through a series of movements and you can tell me if you have difficulty performing them. Ready?”

I nodded, which—for the record—was not a difficult movement. But when she began to bob her head front to back in a rhythmic fashion, I fought the urge to giggle.

“Can you do this?” she asked.

“Absolutely,” I said, thrusting my head back and forth with great enthusiasm. “You’re not the first person to ask me that today.”



“OK then,” she said, ceasing her head bob. “Any difficulty swallowing?”

I grimaced, trying hard not to snicker. “You’re setting this up for me, aren’t you?”

“What do you mean?” “Sorry.” I cleared my throat. “Nope, no trouble swallowing.”

She scribbled something on her clipboard, and I squinted to see if I could make out the words “sexual deviant” anywhere in her notes.

“Let’s talk about sleep positions,” she said.

“Let’s!” I agreed, always happy to discuss any activity that takes place in bed.

“Do you like to be on your back, on your side, on your stomach?”

“Yes!” I said, then reconsidered the question. “Wait, you mean for sleeping?”

I admitted that I usually start out on my back or side, but somehow end up flopped on my stomach with my hands tucked under my hips. She explained that particular position is one of the worst things I can do to my neck, and that I should make every effort to stay on my back or side.

“We don’t want you to wake up with any weird kinks,” she said.

“I’m a romance author,” I pointed out. “I’d be out of a job if I didn’t wake up with any weird kinks.”

We finished our first session without any further incident—save one small snicker when she asked if I had any objection to restraints—and I left with three more appointments scheduled in the coming weeks.

I’d like to say I’ll be on my best behavior for future visits. But what does that really mean, anyway?

Monday, December 8, 2014

Does your love language have you tongue-tied?

Our longtime pet-sitter pal is college student who recently put out a call on Facebook:

I am writing a paper about love languages and I need 4 couples to take a quick survey for me about you and your partner's love language.

I'm pretty sure the fine print in my romance author contract requires me to respond affirmatively to such requests, so I told her my husband and I would be delighted to do it. I even did my best to maintain an air of professionalism by not pointing out that we're always delighted to do it.

Within an hour, she'd messaged us the quiz. She instructed us to take it separately and not share our responses with one another. We were in the middle of dinner at the time, so we spent the next 30 minutes giggling and shielding our papers in the crooks of our elbows while we took turns refilling each other's wine glasses.

The questions centered around how we prefer to express and receive affection, and options ranged from "tell me I'm hot" to "buy me stuff" to "grab my butt."

I might be paraphrasing here.

It came as a surprise to absolutely no one that we both ranked physical affection as our top thing to give and receive. It's possible we were groping each other under the table while we filled out the quizzes.

After we submitted our answers, our pal replied with a few follow-up questions, including one that read, "If love is like an empty gas tank, is your partner filling up your tank by speaking to you in your love language?"

I snickered as I typed my reply. "Oh, yeah. He fills me up, all right. Wait, what was the question?"

So much for my facade of professionalism. Still, it was refreshing to see how closely aligned our responses were in terms of how we like to show and receive affection. As both a human and a romance author (which aren't always the same thing) I recognize that misunderstandings in this realm are as common as heaving bosoms.

When you write romance novels, your job isn't to spend 350 pages showing how two people get together. It's to spend 350 pages keeping them apart, but convincing the reader (and the characters) that they should be together.

Keeping them apart requires some sort of major conflict. It can be fairly obvious, like woman with a well-warranted desire never to date another military man, paired up with a Marine sniper disguising his identity so he can protect the woman and her twins while serving as their nanny (that's Marine for Hire in a nutshell). It can be also be two people with very personal reasons for pledging never to fall in love or marry (pretty much the backbone of both Fiancée for Hire and my upcoming Dec. 29 release, Best Man for Hire).

It's also common – both in real life and in romance novels – to have mismatched love languages as the cornerstone of conflict. Surely you've seen it before? One person is convinced that love means showering a partner with affection and quality time, while the other believes in showing love by working long hours to provide financial stability. While neither is "right" or "wrong," it can be downright disastrous when you're not aligned.

Which is one reason I'm pretty grateful my husband and I don't seem terribly tongue-tied when it comes to our own brand of love language.

"It seems you guys speak multiple love languages with each other," our pal reported a few days later when she compiled her research. "Both of your top 4 scores only varied within a point or 3."

Indeed. Sometimes it all comes down to how well and how often you score.

So what's your love language of choice? How do you prefer to show or receive affection? Please share!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

On tangled lives and ornament hooks

We spent a glorious weekend palming balls to make sure they were hanging right and contemplating the best way to lift up the skirt and get the kitty off.
We had to lift up the skirt to get the kitty off.

In other words, it's Christmas tree time.

As we got out the boxes packed with ornaments and lights, it dawned on me this is the fourth Christmas we've spent together. The guy who started out as my gentleman friend is now my husband, and I still giggle sometimes when I use that word. It makes me feel like a second grader huddled in the school library looking up words like "intercourse" and "areola" in a battered dictionary. I'm pretty sure I'm getting away with something deliciously naughty, but I'm not certain what it is.

This funny feeling is evident when I look at the two large plastic totes that hold our ornaments. There's a purple one and a green one, and I remember exactly how we came to own them. It was a week after that first Christmas together, and our relationship was like a precious and fragile ornament we wanted to swaddle in a protective layer of bubble wrap.

Because exactly one year before that, I was in the midst of a devastating divorce that reached the pinnacle of awfulness around the holidays. Three years before that – in a completely separate, but startlingly similar set of circumstances – my gentleman friend went through the same experience. To say we both bore holiday battle scars would be an understatement akin to suggesting I'm mildly fond of having my stocking stuffed.

So there we were at the end of our first Christmas together, feeling deliriously in love, hopelessly optimistic, and understandably guarded. We shared an address and a Christmas tree and a plan to stay together for the long-haul, but we also shared a healthy dose of cynicism. When it came time to pack up our ornaments for the season, we bit our lips and stole nervous glances at each other.

"Do you think it's okay to store our ornaments separately?" I asked.

His relief was palpable. "I'm glad you said something. Yeah, let's not combine them. Not that I'm not all-in with this relationship, but–"

"I know," I said, resisting the urge to make an all-in joke. "Believe me, I know."

And I did. We both knew the heartbreak of divvying up Christmas ornaments and automobiles, pets and plates. We were fresh and hopeful and cautious and raw. We had the urge to guard our hearts the way you handle a hand-painted eggshell adored with glitter and dangling from gossamer ribbon.

That's a funny analogy, because guess what we made that first Christmas together? We blew the guts out of a dozen eggs as we sat clustered around the dining room table with his two children and the two 27-year-old housemates I'd taken in to help pay the mortgage after my ex left. Our odd little six-member family decorated those pristine white shells with cheap paint and sub-par art skills. We made poop jokes and pipe-cleaner snowflakes, and at the end of it all, we lost track of who created what. Our artwork and our lives got mixed up together in one lovely, tangled mess.

Which is pretty much what those boxes look like now. Sure, there's still some division between his keepsake ornaments and mine, but we do it less out of an abundance of caution and more to remind ourselves where we came from. The rag-tied camel I packed out of the Sahara Desert is tucked beside the ornament my new stepdaughter made from gold-painted macaroni back when someone besides me got to call her daddy "husband."

Is it messy? Absolutely. Is it scary? Sometimes. Is it wonderful? Without a doubt.

Isn't that what love is?

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

10 things I'm grateful for this Thanksgiving

I've seen a lot of folks on the interwebz sharing lists of things they feel grateful for this holiday season. It's given me the urge to jump on the big, throbbing bandwagon, mostly because I wanted the excuse to type that phrase.

Kenny and Luna. Because we didn't already
have enough cats in our house.
In no particular order, here are 10 things for which I feel extremely grateful this Thanksgiving:

  1. Batteries (and devices in which to put them)
  2. Kittens. Especially the ones that fit in my purse.
  3. A nice, earthy Oregon Pinot Noir in a Riedel wineglass made just for Oregon Pinot (yeah, that's a thing).
  4. A new husband who decides the 44-monthaversary of our first date is not only cause for celebration, but a good reason to stage a one-man concert in our living room, complete with candles, flowers, wine, and a serenade of songs he performed just for me. OK, the dog got to listen, too. 
    My private concert celebrating 44-months of togetherness.
  5. Tall boots, fleece-lined leggings, and the fact that I never have to wear pants if I don't want to.
  6. The fact that 2014 will be the first year since 2007 (the date I made the choice to leave a well-paying corporate job with long hours, gradually moving down the ladder in terms of pay and time-commitment to the part-time job I've held for the last four years, all with the hope of furthering my writing career) that I will finally, finally make or exceed what I used to earn when I had a regular full-time job. The writers among you will understand that's kind of a big deal. The non-writers might scratch your heads and go, "wait, you mean authors aren't all killin' it with the big bucks?"
  7. Two amazing stepkids who seem genuinely impressed (or at least do a good imitation of being impressed) when they spot one of my books on the shelf at a local retailer.
  8. Cast iron skillets (my new culinary obsession)
  9. Parents, cousins, siblings, in-laws, out-laws, co-workers, publishing colleagues, friends, and random strangers who've been a constant source of love, laughter, and support throughout my life.
  10. Readers. Hell, even if you don't read my books, I'm grateful to everyone who routinely picks up a book and gets lost in the pages. You keep the publishing industry going and the human race functioning in a thoughtful, creative, connected fashion. 
Entangled Publishing loves readers, too, which is why
they're offering a killer Black Friday sale on a bunch
of their titles (including my book
Marine for Hire for only 99-cents.
Click here for details.
I'm probably forgetting a few things, which I'm just going to go ahead and blame on item #3 above. So what are you most grateful for this Thanksgiving? Please share!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Why does this keep happening to us?

One of the most common questions I've fielded since my author career took off is when I plan to quit my day job.

After I stop laughing, I usually point out that my duties as the part-time PR and communications manager for my city's tourism bureau include taking journalists out for beer tours and snowshoeing, or sampling hamburgers all over town so I can write about the best ones. To get me to quit, they will need to drag me from the building by my hair.

Last spring, the marketing team at a nearby luxury resort invited me to bring my family for a weekend visit. They wanted to make sure I was knowledgeable enough about the resort's amenities to describe them to visiting journalists. As you might imagine, this was a great hardship.

To say this place was beyond my regular budget is akin to suggesting it might be outside my authorial comfort zone to write books about quantum chromodynamics and the interactions of subnuclear particles.

On our second night there, my gentleman friend and I were checking the kids in at the activity center when a well-dressed couple walked through the door. Gliding across the beautiful tiled lobby in a cloud of expensive perfume, the woman remarked to the concierge that they were headed to the poolside bar for a cocktail.

"I'm sorry, ma'am," the concierge informed her grimly. "That bar closed thirty minutes ago, but both restaurants are open with fully-stocked bars and expansive mountain views."

The woman gaped at him. Then she turned to her husband with a plaintive wail. "Why does this keep happening to us?!"

There was a moment of silence while everyone in the lobby digested her words. Even the woman herself seemed to realize what a pungent cloud of  privileged melodrama she'd just released into the air.

She gave an uneasy laugh. "I mean, we came by last night and it wasn't open, and then–" she stopped, sensing she'd lost her audience. "We'll go try the lodge." They hurried away, her high heels clicking across the lobby. 

My gentleman friend turned to his offspring. "See that, kids? That's what entitlement looks like."

The teachable moment extended beyond the children. In the six months since then, it's become a catch phrase in our household. Whenever one of us is poised to descend into a pit of pointless, hand-wringing, self-despair, someone will break out the histrionic wail.

"Why does this keep happening to us?!"

It's a reminder to keep things in perspective. To remember that whether you've burned dinner or stubbed your toe or mistakenly deleted the sex scene you spent all afternoon writing, at least you have dinner or toes or sex scenes.

Not everyone is so lucky.

It reminds me of this video campaign that circulated a year ago featuring impoverished, third-world citizens reading a variety of first-world woes. If you want a little perspective about the difficulties in your own life, take one minute to check it out.

Is there anything that routinely helps you to take a step back and gain a new perspective on the things you might perceive as major problems? Please share! 

Monday, November 10, 2014

The magical secret to writing productivity

In the years since my romantic comedies started hitting bookstore shelves, I’ve had a lot of people ask my secret.

When I confessed my preferred sex lube or the location of each tattoo on my body, they realized they needed to ask more specifically about my writing secrets. Do I follow a strict schedule? Use special software? Sacrifice virgins by throwing them into an active volcano?

The answer is yes, no, and where the hell am I going to find virgins?

Bindi, the magical plot dog.
But I do have a secret tool that makes me a stronger, more competent writer, and I'm going to share it with you now: I have a magical plot dog.

I know, I know....some of you are skeptical such a beast exists, but I can prove it's true.

The way my aforementioned writing schedule works, I have a couple full days each week devoted strictly to writing. I have specific word count goals for those days, and I can get pretty testy if lunchtime rolls around and I'm nowhere near the mid-point on the day's goal. So testy, in fact, that I've been known to turn to my dog, Bindi, with an apology.

"I know I said we'd go for a w-a-l-k at lunch, but I'm stuck on a sticky plot point and I'm way behind and I've gotta meet this deadline," I'll tell her. "Can we skip it today?"

And my dog will look at me, shake her head, and reply. "You idiot. First of all, I learned to spell walk about five years ago. And second of all, don't you know that taking me for a walk is exactly what you need to get unstuck right now?"

The thing is, she's right. She can spell walk, though she can't actually talk. Well, not unless I've had too many glasses of wine.

But she also has a point about the writing. Just last week, I was tangled up in a plot snarl I thought I might never escape. I'm on deadline with a book that absolutely, positively must be finished by the Monday before Thanksgiving or my editor will cut off my thumbs and sew them to my forehead. Despite what you might imagine, that sort of stress is not conducive to good writing.

When lunchtime rolled around with no solution in in sight, I did something dumb. I didn't skip the walk – hey, I'm not that dumb – but I did decide to multi-task by calling my mom for a quick chat. And as much as I enjoyed our visit, I came back to my writing desk, sat down, and stared at the screen.

Nothing happened.

I turned to my magical plot dog. "What the hell? I still don't know how to write this scene."

Bindi sighed and shook her head. "You're a moron."

"Oh yeah?" I fumed. "Well you lick your butt."

"You're just jealous."

Again, she probably had a point. Not about the butt-licking, but the fact that I should know better by now. A walk with the magical plot dog is a sacred thing. You can't spend the time chatting with a friend or fiddling with your phone. You have to let your mind wander freely while the fresh air and nature have their way with your fumbling author brain.

There's real science behind this concept. According to a study titled Creativity in the Wild: Improving Creative Reasoning through Immersion in Natural Settings, "Attention Restoration Theory (ART) suggests that exposure to nature can restore prefrontal cortex-mediated executive processes.... Consistent with ART, research indicates that exposure to natural settings seems to replenish some, lower-level modules of the executive attentional system."

Or you can just say you've got a magical plot dog. Whatever.

I shut down my laptop that evening with no solution to the plot snarl and a word count that was lower than what I'd hoped for. The next morning, I got up early to walk the dog. I left my phone at home, and by the time I reached the end of my street, I'd figured out the whole damn scene.

For the record, the dog might not be a mandatory part of the process. If you don't have your own canine companion, it's possible a mere walk around the block could have the same effect. Just a few minutes of fresh air and escape from the tethers of technology can work wonders on your brain. It's the solitude and the change of scenery that makes the magic happen.

Just don't tell my magical plot dog, okay? She'll get pissed. 

Monday, November 3, 2014

The pleasure lesson I learned on my honeymoon

Things are a bit different when you marry at 40 and it's not the first rodeo for either of you. You may not spend the honeymoon having sex while swinging from the chandelier, but that's only because you've already learned you get better traction from a fully-adjustable door-mounted pleasure swing with padded back support and optional bondage cuffs.

My gentleman friend and I were lucky enough to honeymoon in Belize for ten days following our September wedding. While I make no comment about how we spent our time in the boudoir, there's one important life lesson I brought home to savor long after I'd shaken the sand out of my bikini bottoms.

I developed a taste for English-style tea with milk and sugar back when I was a wee lass who got her thrills looking up "penis" and "intercourse" in the grade school encyclopedia. My mom would take me out for "lady time" to an English café in Salem, Oregon where we'd sip tea and nibble cucumber and salmon sandwiches while pretending to be refined and dignified.

My fondness for black tea laced with milk and sugar continued into adulthood, but something got lost along the way. Over time, I transitioned from sugar to an artificial sweetener, followed by a switch to some sort of all-natural sweetener that tastes vaguely like rotting fruit. The milk, too, fell by the wayside after an allergy test revealed I had a mild intolerance to it. While I still savored my tea every morning, it was a watered-down version of what I loved as a kid.

That all changed on my honeymoon. Our oceanfront suite was stocked with black tea and an electric kettle, but the only sweetener to be found was real sugar. There was an array of powdered creamer, but a quick trip to the corner store saw it replaced with a pint of whole milk.

How I drank my tea (and did some writing)
every morning of my Belize honeymoon.
Since I'm an early riser in contrast to my gentleman friend's night-owl habits, the morning hours became a treasured little pocket of time I used to work on the book I'd recently been contracted to write on a fairly tight deadline.

(Sidenote: Yes, I know it's f**ked up to bring a laptop on your honeymoon so you can work. It's even more f**ked up when the book you're working on was partly inspired by the divorces you and your new spouse experienced prior to your union. In my defense, I love what I write, and I love this book in particular, so getting up and working on it each morning was almost as enjoyable as crawling back into bed afterward to wake my other half).

So back to the tea.

Every morning, I rose early and pulled on a pair of cotton shorts and a tank top. I brewed a mug of tea, added milk and sugar, and padded barefoot out to the balcony where I'd spend the next hour sipping my brew and hammering out a new scene with the backdrop of turquoise waves lapping at the shore. Everything about it – the writing, the tea, the scenery, the fact that I didn't have to wear shoes or a bra – was exactly what I always fantasized about when I imagined becoming a romance writer.
I wasn't kidding about the jellyfish. Here's the mark to prove it.

Of course, reality beckoned in the not-so-distant future. There were day jobs and pets and power bills and all the trappings of real life waiting at the end of our ten days in paradise. We headed home with fresh tans and fresh knowledge of what happens when you're twined together in the ocean with your legs wrapped around your new husband's hips and you happen to brush up against a jellyfish.

But the most important lesson of all was in the tea. Or rather, the fact that I enjoy my tea so much more without the gritty dollop of almond milk I added because I worried a tablespoon of milk might upset my stomach, or the nasty-tasting fake sweetener I used because somewhere along the line, I decided I didn't deserve those extra couple calories each morning.

Tea with milk, sugar, and my favorite mug
(courtesy of author Chuck Wendig)
These days, I drink my tea with real milk and real sugar. I wake up in the morning thinking about it, and I savor the ritual of steeping that teabag and blending in just the right amount of sweetness and light.

The lesson goes beyond a mere fondness for better tasting tea. It's a reminder not to stray too far from the roots of what made me love something in the first place. It's a kick-in-the butt that let me know it's okay to enjoy little indulgences that might add a calorie or a pound, but also add flavor and substance and pleasure.

So here's to honeymoon lessons. I raise my mug in a toast to all of them – the big ones, the small ones, and the ones that leave you breathless and smiling two months later.

Monday, October 27, 2014

It's six weeks late, but wanna come to my wedding?

It's official.

I'm one of those lame-ass bloggers who posts consistently for awhile (every weekday for 2+ years!), then cuts back to a couple posts a week, then sorta vanishes from the universe (2 months since my last post).

I notice I mentioned the number "two" three times in that last sentence, which I swear wasn't deliberate. But now that I see it, I can say that probably had a bit to do with my absence from the blogosphere. While Gweneth Paltrow was consciously uncoupling, my gentleman friend and I were consciously coupling.

Very consciously.

When two people who make a living with words decide to tie the knot, everything from the vows to the wording of the ceremony requires careful consideration.

Then you forget all the words anyway, because you're too busy chopping onions for the reception feast and hauling cedar planter boxes filled with the wedding flowers you decided to grow yourself.

In any case, our perfectly imperfect wedding was wonderful and sweet and everything we ever wanted. Since I wasn't able to invite most of you, I offer you the next best thing. If you've got 18 minutes to kill, grab a glass of champagne and sit back to watch our wedding video:

In case you're wondering, we really did kick things off with "Eye of the Tiger" preceding the ceremony. Also, that song playing when we walk down the aisle? That's my gentleman friend performing his twist on Ben Folds' "The Luckiest."

For those who hate watching videos (*raises hand*) or those who don't have 18 minutes to spare, I'll at least throw you a bone (*snicker*) with a transcript of the vows.

While we decided to write our own and did some of our initial research and brainstorming together, we opted not to share our vows with each other until the ceremony. We were surprised by how well they fit together, which seems like a good sign, don't you think?

Tawna's Vows:
Craig: I pledge to be your loving friend, paddleboarding partner, dog-walking companion, kitchen cohort, naked alarm clock, wine tasting co-pilot, and wife. I vow to always hold you in the highest regard to be a source of empathy, laughter, hot meals, and other hot stuff. I will lend you strength for your dreams, cherish your unique quirks and talents, and always remember that love means saying “I feel differently” instead of “you’re wrong.”
Cedar and Violet: I promise to continue to love you as my own family as I officially become your dad’s wife and a member of your elite parenting team. I pledge to take you out to skip rocks and squish mud between our bare toes, to float the river in the middle of a workday (though maybe not during a lightning storm this time). I vow to continue introducing you to weird foods for Fear Factor Friday, to occasionally embarrass you with boob jokes, and to do my best to make you smile at least as often as you do that for me.
Craig, I vow to never stop encouraging us to try new and strange things. I’ll spend every day of my life appreciating you for your contagious humor, your spontaneous serenades, your beautiful hands, your beautiful mind, and your beautiful heart. I will support you through the good stuff and the not-so-good stuff, through my incessant chatter in the mornings and through your need to watch cat videos on YouTube at 3 a.m. I pledge to treat you with caring, compassion, and respect, even when you curse my undisciplined dog or give me stinkeye over my neurotic need to plan and fret about every insignificant detail of our lives together (including this wedding).
Most of all, I promise to love you always. Let’s grow old disgracefully together.

Gentleman Friend's Vows:
Tawna, I take you to be nothing other than yourself, loving you for who you are and for what you add to my life and to the world at large. I choose you as my wife, in spite of your bad driving, your chronic worrying, and your incessant chatter first thing in the morning while I’m still trying to figure out who the hell you are. I offer my imperfect self to you, relying on my strengths and my love to support you and all your dreams, to respect your unique quirks and talents (and there are many), and to listen when you need to be heard… unless I’m cognitively incapable. I’ll even ask you on occasion, “Is there more?” I believe in you and I trust what our future will bring us.
I promise to remain a loving and supportive father to Cedar and Violet and your loving and supportive partner in parenthood, so we may foster a home that is compassionate to all its occupants—human, cat, dog, or pets-yet-to-be-acquired—a home full of unconditional love and jokes that make us nearly pee ourselves and/or blush. You are an outstanding role model for the kids.
I pledge to love you tirelessly through the perfect times and the lame-ass times, and through all the changes we’ll encounter, forever giving thanks that we found each other. I promise to be a source of empathy and to care for you always, even when you wake me at 6 a.m. asking for help plotting out a sex scene in one of your books. I vow to sing songs for you, wash the dishes, reach things on high shelves, and touch you with these hands.
Most of all, I promise to love you, always. I am proud to have you as my wife. I am the luckiest. Let’s grow old disgracefully together.

I could go on and on about the symbolism in our rings, or the adorable toast my 8-year-old stepdaughter surprised me with, but how about we just move on to one more piece of business?

You might have to click that to make it show up in a readable size, but yes, that's an announcement from Publisher's Marketplace about a new book deal. That's the other thing that's been keeping me kinda busy these last couple months, and will continue to do so as I scramble to make my November deadline.

So that's what's new with me. What's new in your life? Please share in the comments! And pass that champagne, will ya?

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Monday, July 28, 2014

Win an awesome necklace and free pubic lice

Last week I told you how I accidentally wrote myself into my new book, Fiancée for Hire.

I figure I've already earned myself some loony bin points for that, so I may as well go all out and start wearing articles of my heroine's clothing. This lacy thong is surprisingly comfortable.

Those of you who've read Fiancée for Hire in the last week know Kelli wears a special necklace bearing a paw print charm and a pearl that belonged to her grandmother. It looks sorta like this:

I just tried to take a picture of myself wearing it and ended up with a series of cleavage shots not suitable for sharing on a blog. Also, note to self: put on a bra to write blog posts.

Anyway, Kelli loves her necklace and so do I. We love it so much that we want to give one away to a reader. Here's how you enter to win:

  1. Post in the comments here or email me at tawnafenske at yahoo dot com telling me you purchased Fiancée for Hire. You get one entry for that. I won't make you prove it, but I'm pretty sure the universe will strike you with a raging case of pubic lice if you lie to an author about buying her book.
  2. Leave an honest review of the book on Amazon or Barnes and Noble. You get another entry for doing this. Again, tell me in the comments or send me an email about it. Did I mention the pubic lice?
  3. Are you on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, or some other social media platform that's too cool for me to know about it? Take to the interwebz and give a shout-out for the book. You get one entry for doing that, but we'll make it two if you include a buy link so lazy people don't have to work too hard to find the book.
Tally up all your entries and tell me about it in the comments or an email. I'll draw a winner on Monday, August 4.

Oh, and if you really want the necklace but don't feel like jumping through all those hoops, the amazing LuLish Design created a handy page where you can just buy the damn thing for $25 with free shipping. Here's a link.

And here's a non-cleavage shot I finally managed to take after putting on a bra and a shirt and holding the camera out instead of shooting straight down at my flesh dumplings. Never let it be said I won't go the extra mile for you guys.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Reason #7806 I probably need therapy

Today is release day for my new book, Fiancée for Hire. It's only 99-cents all week, and can I confess something to you about it? 

I desperately, urgently want this to be my first book to hit the USA Today or New York Times bestseller list.  I've never publicly said that about any of my books for fear of jinxing myself, but I figure I'm turning 40 in a few weeks and this is my chance to put my ultimate birthday fantasy out there in the universe.

So why this book?

Here's where I have to make another confession:

Several months ago, I sent an early draft of Fiancée for Hire to my agent so she could review it before I sent it along to my editor. Amid her notes about assorted typos and character issues was the following paragraph:
So during the Williams Sonoma registry discussion (hilarious, btw), all of a sudden it hit me why I love this so much and love Kelli – she's totally you!!!! I feel like I'm usually good at spotting lines etc. where I hear my clients speaking in their own voice instead of the character. Certain phrases or whatever that they use. And of course this scene felt so you. But then I realized Kelli is totally you!!! All of it!! With the animals and the sex jokes etc. She just feels the most like you of any character I think you've ever written. To me at least. In a good way. :)

The moment I read that paragraph, I pushed back in my chair and sat blinking at the computer screen, too dumbfounded to do anything else. Holy shit. She's right. I wrote myself into my own damn book.

Is there a special kind of therapy for that?

Dr. Emily, my real life veterinarian (who
bears a striking physical resemblance to Kelli).
Obviously, I'm not suggesting I'm a short feisty, curly-haired veterinarian (though for the record, Kelli's physical appearance is the same as my veterinarian in real life). To the best of my knowledge, neither my vet nor I had a sad childhood growing up in foster care. 

I'm also not suggesting my perfect love match is a stoic former Marine with control issues (though for the record, I'll admit there are echos of my gentleman friend in Mac's bedroom talk – sorry, honey). 

But you know how you talk about characters having a certain "voice?" Yeah. Kelli's is mine. Or mine is hers, I'm not actually sure.

Did I mention the therapy thing?

Just to give you some examples, here's a classic Kelli monologue from the opening scene in Fiancée for Hire when Kelli gets tired of being polite to a customer trying to hit on her at her veterinary office.

Kelli jerked back, cherubic smile faltering. “I may look like a Cabbage Patch doll, but you should know I have a pump-action shotgun, a black belt in karate, and a vibrator that doubles as a jackhammer,” she replied, her voice still soft and bright. “If you’re not out of my office in ten seconds, I will demonstrate all three on you, starting from the bottom of the list and working my way up.”

Here's another excerpt of a conversation between Kelli and Mac's sister, Sheri (Kelli's best friend):

“My brother has spent his whole life making himself an emotional iceberg so his feelings don’t get in the way of his ability to protect people," Sheri said. "It’s kind of an art form with him.”
“Beats the hell out of papier-mâché,” Kelli replied, shifting a little in her lounge chair as she filed that insight away in her mental Rolodex. “Anyway, things are going well. Great, I mean. Really great. Mac is amazing.”

God, she sounded like an idiot. On the other end of the line, Sheri was quiet.

“You’re not falling in love with him, right?” she asked. “I mean, you’ve always had a thing for my brother, but I thought it was just lust, and—”

“Don’t worry,” she said, licking her lips and infusing her voice with her normal, lighthearted  perkiness. “I only do lust. Not love. That’s why I’m here, right?”

“Right.” Sheri didn’t sound convinced, but she was a good enough friend to let it drop. “Mac called last night. He sounded a little rattled. You must’ve done something to shake up his image of you as sweet, demure, and wholesome?”

Kelli laughed. “I jerked him off in his closet, then let him finger me in a restaurant.”

“That’ll do it. All that within the first forty-eight hours?”

“All that in a two-hour span. I’m nothing if not efficient.”

So there's a little taste of Kelli, which I suppose means I'm giving you a taste of me. Is this getting creepy for anyone else? I probably need to end this post now.

Well, after making one last plea – Fiancée for Hire is only 99-cents all week, and that link right there will take you to where you can buy it for your Kindle, Nook, iPad, or any other eReader on the planet. If you've already bought it for yourself, it makes a lovely (and cheap!) gift.

I promise to use a portion of the royalties for therapy.