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?