It’s not too late!

The authors of If the Fates Allow have wound down our virtual blog tour, but it’s not too late to visit and see what we had to say. Posts are linked below and every visits provides an opportunity to sign up for our rafflecopter giveaway: $25 gift card to Interlude Press or an e-book copy of If the Fates Allow.

Nov. 24: Lilah Suzanne visited Joyfully Jay to talk about pet adoption at the holidays

Nov. 28: I joined 2 Chicks Obsessed and mused about holiday baking and traditions

Nov. 29: Killian Brewer visited Parker Williams and talks about the necessary ingredients for a perfect holiday

Nov. 30: Pene Henson stopped by Book Reviews Express to share the importance of location, especially for those in the queer community during the holidays

Dec. 1: Lilah Suzanne talked to the folks @ BFD Book Blog about less traditional holiday experiences.

Dec. 4: Pene Henson joined From Top to Bottom Reviews to talk about the deep bonds within the queer community

Dec. 5: I made an appearance on Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words to talk about the importance of inclusivity at libraries, especially small town libraries.

Dec. 6: Erin Finnegan visited Diverse Readers and considered the holiday trope of curmudgeons.

Dec. 7: Killian Brewer was up again to talk to the folks at Bayou Book Junkie and how Christmas traditions informed his characters in his short story “Gracious Living Magazine Says it Must Be a Live Tree.”

Standing Under the Mistletoe Tour – where we talked about our favorite romance activity: kissing.

Dec. 4: Killian Brewer @ Happily Ever After/USA  Today shared his favorite literary kisses via fairy tales, and of course, The Princess Bride

Dec. 5: Pene Henson was at Book Smugglers talking about her favorite literary kisses and what they meant to her as a reader.

Dec. 6: Erin Finnegan joined LGBTQ Reads and continued her theme of grumps and curmudgeons and how the perfect kiss can set them on the right course.

Dec. 7: Lilah Suzanne visited All About Romance,  and talked about the rom com and how they feed her stories–and the ultimate kiss.

Dec. 8: And finally, it was my turn, joining the amazing people at The Mary Sue to talk about one favorite literary kiss–that lasts the entirety of the book.

THIS WEEK we’ll be visiting our own Interlude Press site to read excerpts from our stories. You don’t want to miss that!


Holiday Baking

The book tour for If the Fates Allow is underway! I can’t believe it comes out tomorrow!

Today, I visit Two Chicks Obsessed to talk about holiday traditions, specifically baking traditions. The conversation can include all holidays—the December favorites aren’t exclusive in their traditions of sweets to share. And, as mentioned at Two Chicks, the variety of baked goods traditions are as vast as the families that celebrate.

In “Shelved,” my short story in the If the Fates Allow anthology, our narrator, Karina, talks to her new friend at the library about her Uncle Tony. She sees them both as lonely and in need of holiday companionship. In “selling” her Uncle Tony to Wes, she mentions his amazing pasticiotti—an Italian holiday specialty of miniature custard-filled pies. They’re not a complicated recipe, but they are time consuming and a bit labor intensive—at least for this lady who narrows her holiday baking to batches and batches of cookies.

My first encounter with the treat happened about thirteen years ago when my friend, Lisa, announced she was going to make “pusties” for the holiday. I had no idea what she was talking about and she wasn’t much on words to explain them. To her, they were a way for a daughter who couldn’t cook to save her life to show her love and affection to her father. He had named pasticciotti as his favorite dessert, that no one made them as well as she did. That year, she rolled up her sleeves and asked me, a much more experienced and comfortable cook, to come help.

I had no idea what I’d gotten myself into. When I got there, her kitchen looked like a flour bomb had gone off in it. Scraps of dough littered her kitchen table. Streaks of flour covered her coal black hair. Vanilla custard cooked on the stove, chocolate cooled in the refrigerator and in the midst of this chaos, she grinned. Like a loony old witch who had cast the most sneaky of spells, she smiled, so completely pleased with her accomplishment.

She didn’t say ‘hello’ or ‘good god am I glad you’re finally here’ but, “put some chocolate in those shells over there.” And I did. We filled the vanilla pies. When we topped the pies, the chocolate got a dough “button” on top to differentiate them from the vanilla. It took us longer to clean the kitchen than it did for the pies to bake. And then, it was time to taste…

To me, they were okay. But Lisa moaned when she bit into that first bite. When her eyes twinkled ,I took another bite. Suddenly, it had more flavor. Her dad is a stoic man, one as kids we’d avoid because he never seemed to like any of us. But the only words she uttered after she ate her pie was, “Dad will love these.”

It wasn’t too many years later that I faced my first Christmas without her. She had passed that spring from diabetes complications, and I missed her in ways I’m still, nine years later, trying to put into words. That Christmas, in an attempt to reconnect with her, I found a recipe for pasticciotti. I ordered pustie tins from a store in New Jersey and set out to make the Italian treat.

My kitchen didn’t fare much better than hers had. But, like hers, the pies were divine. I packed up half of them and made my way to her parents’ home. I expected overly welcoming Mom and stoic Dad. Instead, Mom was quietly kind—thrilled I remembered the button—and Dad was… quiet.

And then he bit into one of those pies. He smiled. He bit again. He made a noise and he looked in my eyes—something in my 32 years of friendship with his daughter, I never experienced—and he said, “These are perfect,” and then, “I miss her so much,” which really was, above all, what we had in common.

We talked about Lisa. We talked about Christmas. We talked about their grandchildren—Lisa’s nieces and nephews—and we talked about what food they’d make for the holiday without her. “I didn’t think I’d ever have these again,” her dad said. They were her treat. Her specialty.

I’m so grateful I could bring a bit of her to their first Christmas without her. I’d like to say I’ve made them every year since, but I only tackled them one more time. It’s on my agenda for this year. As are peanut blossoms and shortbread cookies. And fajitas. I’ll report back with my results and a recipe. (I want to make sure it works before I post it. I can’t find the one I used before!)

Because food brings us together, it rounds out the traditions and throws its cast well beyond the confinement of a generation.

What are some of your holiday food traditions? Who makes them? Who loves them more than anyone else?

Share your stories with me here, on twitter, facebook, tumblr, or instagram. I’ll compile them and post them here—anonymously if you wish. On Dec. 8, 2017, I’ll randomly select a winner for a free copy of If the Fates Allow and a set of pustie tins.

Two more opportunities to win:

Enter the goodreads giveaway for a chance of one of three copies.

Or… $25 IP Gift Card + Multi-format eBook of If the Fates Allow goes to one Grand Prize Winner. Five winners receive the multi-format eBook:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Pre-Sales Begin–If the Fates Allow

Over-the-top decorating bugs, rekindled romances, grief and healing, rescued love, and my story: romance inspired by books and a very persistent librarian. The stories are all waiting for you in Interlude Press‘ upcoming holiday anthology available now for pre-sale.

Enjoy stories from not only me, but also Lilah SuzanneErin FinneganPene Henson and Killian Brewer. I’m honored to be side-by-side with these talented and award winning authors.

Order links are on the sidebar. Keep an eye out for giveaways and blog posts from all five authors.

Where have you been?

Right here, I promise. I’ve been right here. I hope you’ve been to exotic wonderful places this summer, exploring the sea and the land, reading fantastic stories and refreshing your soul. I’ll be doing that next month, but for the summer, I’ve been here working on another story for you.

It’s been a bit of a battle and I’ll discuss and dissect that in another blog post. I’ve found it to be somewhat fascinating how creatives create. And don’t. Or stop themselves. And restart.

But for now, I want to tell you about a short story that will be out this holiday season. Shelved will be one of five stories in Interlude Press’s upcoming holiday anthology, If the Fates Allow, joining the likes of Lilah Suzanne, Erin Finnegan, Pene Henson and our favorite southern gentleman, Killian Brewer.

Shelved is told by Karina Neff, a young librarian-to-be, who spends her college holiday working at her local library and daydreaming about the perfect Christmas. When a new patron asks for her assistance in building his resumé, a sweet, fun friendship is formed, and she is set in motion to make this perfect Christmas happen. Wes would be the perfect match for her newly single and oft curmudgeonly Uncle Tony, the local barber.

Karina quickly learns that “perfect” has a broad definition, and that love at Christmas isn’t just for others–it can be her dream too.

I whipped up this little graphic for a monthly instagram meme while I was writing Shelved. Meet Wes, Tony and Karina.

I’m proud of this little story; it was fun to write and a real joy to tell the story through Karina’s eyes. But before it comes out, we need a cover. And that’s where you all come in!

Take a look at our two cover options, and head on over to our Survey Monkey poll and vote. Retweets, facebook shares, reblogs of Interlude’s cover choice posts will earn you a chance at one of three copies of the anthology.


And while you’re thinking about holidays, how about some early Christmas shopping? A number of Interlude Press’s print backlist, including Chef’s Table, a sweet and savory romance between two searching cooks, is at a whopping 50% off! Head on over and grab a few early gifts.

Beyond the Romance: Kids

Why in the world would someone of basic wisdom include children in a romance novel?

Let me take a second to look at my life, which has had a romantic element with the same person for the last 34 years. Huh. Children have been a part of it for over 27 of those 34+ years. (Also, stop with the math. I’m old. I know.)

The point: kids can factor in. And it can still be romantic.

Why? Because romance isn’t life, it’s a part of it. And for some of those who fall in love, children are a part of it. And because I write real-life romance. Children can be a part of real life.

Which, interestingly enough, is also why a good number of people don’t want the little rugrats in their romance novels. “I deal with the trials of parenthood all stinking day; I don’t want it where I go to escape my day-to-day life.” Fair enough. I’ll let you in on a secret: I don’t typically read romance novels with kids in them either.

But, writing kids? That I love to do. I love to explore kids’ behavior and adults’ responses to those behaviors. I love to pick the brains of smart kids and kids, like Adrian in Beneath the Stars, who have experienced a life-altering event. They see the world differently, many of them. There is a depth to their insight, an honesty to their emotions, and sometimes, a chaos in balancing it all to society’s tough standards.

And that’s what Adrian brings to the table. He’s wise. He’s silly. He’s temperamental and creative. Because the foundation his mother provided him before her death, he trusts quickly and shares generously. I’ve had a few comments before and since Beneath the Stars’ release–a five-year-old wouldn’t ever say…

Yeah. They would. They do. I had a four year old son, who upon breaking his big toe, greeted the doctor with, “I broke my metatarsal!” I had never used that word in my life. I have no idea where he learned it or how he knew that was, indeed, the bone he’d broken. I can’t tell you how many doctor appointments ended with our family physician saying, “Good luck,” in reference to my childrens’ ridiculous vocabulary. Certainly they’d say…

And so, I wrote Adrian. In addition to drawing and soccer and missing his mom, he knows his dinosaurs. We visited the Field Museum in Chicago last month. The entire time we viewed the dinosaurs, I imagined Adrian’s running commentary. Then, while standing at the stegosaurus display, a little boy, at the most five years of age, approached with his father. Dad got a lesson on the stegosaurus: his full name, the era he existed, his diet, on and on. He wasn’t reading the placard; he knew this information like he knew his own name. He pronounced the multi-syllabic words properly, coherently. He took dad to the next and to the next and taught his dad some serious Mesozoic lessons.

I’d imagine Adrian isn’t great at math, and I have a hunch he’d struggle with friends along the way. He’s been the center of adults’ worlds for most of his life. But, he’s a kid whose story deserved to be told. I always side-eye the statement, especially when beginning to note a book with kids in it, “I hate kids.” Hopefully anyone reading here knows it’s not appropriate to say (or think), “I hate ____ [insert any ethnicity, race, body-type, age, gender, religion].”

Why is it okay to hate kids? Why is it okay to determine for them what they are capable of (within reason)? They’re human. They’re people. From time to time, they belong in our stories.

I’ll be in Atlanta next week for the Romantic Times Convention. If you’re in the area, come see me at the book fair on Saturday, May 6 at Hyatt Regency Atlanta from 11 – 2. I’ll be at the end of row 3.

Also, take a pit stop in the RT Bazaar where you can enter to win a Beneath the Stars gift basket full of goodies–including a BTS sketch pad to connect with your inner child and create some of your own visual therapy like Adrian. I’ve included more fun things for grown-ups too. If you can’t make it to Atlanta, I’ll be holding a giveaway of a similar basket upon my return. Keep your eyes peeled here, on facebook and twitter.

Uptown (Funk)

This past weekend, my husband, son and I drove up to Chicago to see Hamilton and Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Between the shows, we took a chilly afternoon train up to Uptown, where Sid lives in Beneath the Stars. I had hoped to explore the neighborhood a bit more with a walk out to Montrose Beach, and a bit of meandering for restaurants, etc. but the day was bitter, bitter cold and Sid’s walk from the Red Line to his apartment was about all we could take.

Speaking of the Red Line, the bottom right picture is the view from his station. His apartment is the first shot, and the paintings are from a building across the way that seemed to sum up the atmosphere of the neighborhood–warm and friendly, even in the bitter cold.

Sid stood in front of his apartment building, a brick block that looked like the one next door and the one across the street and the one two buildings down. When he’d first moved in, he accepted its blandness. The neighborhood’s diversity brought it to life with beautiful people, beautiful food, and great nightlife—a life he had to admit he hadn’t taken the time to enjoy in entirely too long.

In amazing news, my second novel, Black Dust, received a nomination in romance with Foreward Reviews for their Foreward Indies awards. In celebration of this and ELEVEN other nominations, all nominees’ books are on sale for 25% off through 3.19 at Interlude Press.