Monday, January 22, 2018

In-house Critique Coming Up: FIRST KISSES!

We've done it before, and we're doing it again!  In honor of Valentine's Day (a mere 3 weeks away), we're going to have another FIRST KISS critique round.

A first kiss scene is self-explanatory--it's the scene in which your lead romantic couple finally kisses--or almost kisses (which can be just as delectable!).  Now, just because most of us have experienced a smooch or two doesn't mean our kiss scenes are flawless.  So here's your chance to get your characters' first kiss before some critic eyes to make sure it's sizzling just the way you want it to.

(Or not sizzling.  Because let's face it--some first kisses are disasters.)

Here's the deal:

  • Send your 250-words-or-less FIRST SCENE scene, preceded by a 50-words-or-less LEAD-IN.
  • THE LEAD-IN IS IMPORTANT - it lets us know where we are in the story (*see below).
  • All genres EXCEPT erotica or erotic romance will be included.
  • Submissions will open on MONDAY, JANUARY 29 at NOON EST.
  • Submissions will remain open until MIDNIGHT (12 hours).
  • The bot will choose FIFTEEN ENTRIES at random to be posted on the blog.
  • Winning entries will post for public critique on THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 1
*EXAMPLE OF LEAD-IN:

Tina and Blane have been trapped in the elevator for four hours.  He's been reading a novel in the corner while she's been trying to find a way out.  Finally, she can't take it any more.

To sweeten the pot:

Authors PIPER DRAKE and HOLLY BODGER, who are both very good at (writing) kisses, will be on hand to offer their critique.  You don't want to miss this opportunity!

Post your questions below--and get your smooches ready!


Friday, January 12, 2018

Friday Fricassee

Happy Friday, dear hearts!

So I keep having all these wondrous plans for the blog, to offer you at the very least an in-house critique round, and at best another Secret Agent contest (in the works!).  But I've been in my revision hut, so the blog is one thing I need to set aside while writing.

Of course, it's all very exciting, because this is my first deadline!  My editor has asked for this revision by February 1, and so far I'm tracking well.  (I think I must be one of those weird people who likes deadlines.) Admittedly, I was a bit tense when I first learned I'd have only 5 weeks to finish.

But I found my stride.  And I'm actually fairly close to being finished.

I've had help, though!  I was blessed to meet Peter Salomon for coffee the day after Christmas, and he uttered words of writerly wisdom to me:  "Just finish one little piece at a time.  Don't look at the whole thing."  Yeah, that sounds logical and apparent, right?  But I NEEDED TO HEAR IT.  Because I was on the brink of freak mode, and I'd lost sight of the proverbial forest.

Peter rescued me.  Thank you, Peter.

Also, my sister has been COOKING MEALS FOR ME.  I can't even.  Twice each week, she's brought me yummy food so I wouldn't have to cook every day.  She knows I hate cooking and she knows that I have to focus on getting these revisions done.  I've thanked her a hundred times, but probably she doesn't realize just how deeply thankful I am--how much her kindness has freed me to write without excess angst (a.k.a. cooking angst CAN I HAVE AN AMEN?).

I'd be remiss not to also mention that my dear husband bought me a new MacBook Air for Christmas.  I've named her Olivia, after the main character in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, and she has made my life easier!  Genevieve, my retired Air, was on her way out.  Aside from my only-working-half-the-time E key, I was having serious memory issues.  I planned on running her into the ground, but Eric decided I needed a new laptop as I embarked on my first official revisions.  He calls it a "business expense", but I call it a thoughtful gift.

So, that's me, really!

Thanks and hugs to those who have subscribed to my author newsletter.  If you haven't taken a peek at my new website, please stop by!


And, yes, when you subscribe, you'll receive a FREE AUDIOBOOK, which I wrote and narrated.  (Yes, I love being married to a guy with a recording studio.)

THE WISHING SEED is a fairytale-in-verse for the young and young at heart.  Here are the opening verses:


THE WISHING SEED by Jillian Boehme

In the once-upon-a-time-ness of a land you’ve never seen, 
Where the streams were clear and bubbling and the forests thick and green, 
Stood a cottage in a clearing at the bottom of a knoll, 
With three shabby little windows and a roof that had a hole. 

 ‘Twas the home of Ethan Trowler and his family as well – 
Papa, Mama, seven brothers, and a baby, Annabelle. 
It was crowded, it was noisy, and the furniture was spare, 
But the Trowlers kept on smiling – they had love enough to share. 

Every morning, little Ethan, while he waited to be fed, 
Dreamed of eating cheese and oatmeal with his one, thin slice of bread. 
But the pantry shelves were empty and the flour bin was low; 
“When it’s gone,” thought Ethan, “What will we eat then?” He didn’t know.


And, finally (whew!), I'd also like to invite you to FOLLOW ME ON INSTAGRAM.  Because PHOTOS!  (And not just pictures of books.  I mean, there are those.  And I love books and pictures of books.  But it's much more interesting to look at other things, too.)

So keep your eyes open for an in-house crit SOON, as well as an announcement for Secret Agent submissions (not quite as soon--you have time to get ready!).  And have a glorious weekend!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Encouragement From The Past

So Facebook can be annoying sometime with its "one year ago" reminders, but it can also be delightfully helpful.

Today, a link I posted 4 years ago showed up, leading readers to that day's Friday Fricassee--an offering of encouragement.

It struck me, because there I was, talking heartily about NEVER GIVING UP, with no idea how many years still stood between me and my first published book.  The words are timeless, though, and meant for all aspiring authors.  So I'm reposting them here for you.

Because you know that I am never going to stop saying DON'T GIVE UP!


-----

FRIDAY FRICASSEE, January 10, 2014

To encourage you today:

I am the poster child of Things Don't Always Happen Quickly.  An example of what is far more often the case with agented authors--it sometimes takes longer than you would have imagined for your dreams to come true.

Don't give up.

It took bestselling author Jim Butcher 5 years (yes, 5) to finally sell, after he'd finished his third book  (yes, his third).

C.J. Redwine went through 2 unsold manuscripts with her agent before the third one finally sold (Defiance).

{Fill in the blank} had to wait {fill in the blank} years before {fill in the blank} sold.

You get the idea.

So, yeah.  Don't give up.

Don't give up if you're still trying to get an agent.  It took me 5 years.

Don't give up if you're agented and you still haven't sold anything.  I'm still doing that thing.

Look, I've got a great agent.  I love him.  And he and I now share a history of "bad timing" and "saturated market" and  "editor fatigue" and "her writing is wonderful, but..." and "send me anything else she has written" and, simply, "this isn't for me".  Selling a book is about so much more than having a great story.  Naturally, that's frustrating.  But that's the way it is.

So we press on.

If I'm honest with myself, I like where this has brought me.  I like feeling like an experienced warhorse.   I like that I am able, in a way I wasn't able 3 years ago, to disentangle myself from my work.  Not that I don't have bad days; not that I don't feel the frustration sometimes.  But something is different now.  I am--dare I say it?--sanguine.

I'm more excited about my current project that I've been since I first signed with Josh.  It's hard to explain the feeling of "rightness" this one has.  The feeling that I've taken everything I've walked through and produced something that has transcended it all.

And I'm working on a final edit right now.  Final, as in final-edit-before-going-on-sub.  (Well, unless darling Josh wants to nitpick again.  He's a crazy-good editor, but I may have to throw a little hissy fit at some point.  Maybe.)

Of course, I have NO IDEA WHAT WILL HAPPEN NEXT.  But that's not the point.  The point is, I'm here, and the journey continues.  And I'm not giving up.

Not giving up.

I love my craft.  More than ever--in fact, probably for the first time in my life--I am intensely aware of how STORIES live inside me.  How I think in stories.  Share myself in stories.  Perceive things as stories.

I like this about myself.  I like that my journey has brought me to this place of self-discovery.

So you see, there's more to this journey than just getting published.  So much more.

Don't give up.

Continue to be teachable.  Continue to grow.  Continue to write.  At some point, if you feel like you're going down the wrong path, then, by all means, turn left at the crossroads.  Or turn right.

But if your vision remains the same, then keep going.  There are no promises of quick success.  There is no sense of fairness in how quickly the author next to you sells, while you pine away.  There is no easy road, except for the (very) select few.  And I'm not sure the easy road is always best, anyway.

Keep writing, keep dreaming, keep trying.

Don't give up.


Monday, January 8, 2018

Introducing the Jillian Boehme Web Site

I'm a little excited about this, everyone!

Thanks to my darling husband's many hours of work, my author web site is up and running and ready for your eyeballs!

You can now click on my author pic to the right, or click on the Jillian Boehme tab above, and you'll arrive at jillianboehme.com.





Naturally, I've got a newsletter for you to sign up for.  And I'm SUPER excited to let you know that I'm giving away a FREE AUDIOBOOK to everyone who signs up for my newsletter!

I wrote THE WISHING SEED a number of years ago, and there is, of course, a story behind it.  At the time, I was an avid reader of editor Cheryl Klein's blog, and one day I left a rhyming comment beneath one of her posts.  She liked it so much that she told me she'd love to read any submission of mine that was a rhyming children's book.

Piece of cake, thought I.  For whatever reason, verse has always come easily to me, so I thought I could whip out a little story in no time.

I couldn't have been more wrong!  It was painstaking to both create a solid story arc and write it in perfect meter and rhyme.  Lesson learned!  But I did it, and I sent it to Cheryl, as she had requested.  It wasn't for her, but she was kind enough to send along the names of two other publishers she thought might be interested in it.

They both passed, and THE WISHING SEED was tucked lovingly away among my other works.  After a while, I sort of forgot about it.

Then, when I was trying to come up with a special gift to offer my newsletter subscribers, I came upon THE WISHING SEED, and I was struck with the idea of creating an audiobook--just for you!

Fortunately, my multifaceted husband has an entire recording studio upstairs, so he was happy to make the recording for me.  (He gets so much credit!)

So, yes, THE WISHING SEED is written by me and narrated by me.  It was a lot of fun, and I hope you enjoy the fruit of my (our) labor.

(Also, speaking into a microphone in front of a pile of pillows and trying not to make a single mistake is fairly anxiety-producing.  I don't know how people do this for a living!  Though probably they don't have piles of pillows in professional studios.)

WELCOME TO MY WEB SITE, EVERYONE!  :)

Friday, December 29, 2017

Friday Fricassee



This.

Behold this wondrous Christmas gift from my daughter Maggie (an aspiring author whose writing I love, and who has been my champion and biggest fan from Day One).  I may have cried a little when I opened this on Christmas morning.

Every word in the cloud is related to my writing journey.  She apparently spent days trying to make sure she didn't forget anything (and, of course, she forgot things, but it doesn't matter even a little).  Titles, coffee shops, character names, and anything else related to my writerly life is nestled here.  You'll see "coffee", "wine", "music", and even "Cape May" (my favorite place in the world, and therefore my favorite place to write).

If the last 12 years of my life were heart-shaped, this is what it would look like.

The support from my family over the years--and especially now that I'm on my way to my first published novel--is immeasurable.  For as important as my professional support system has been, my at-home, I-love-you-when-you're-grumpy team is equally valuable.

My mom has spoken endless words of affirmation over me through the years.

My husband bought me a new Macbook Air for Christmas (totally spoiled me, and I know it).  No more dying E-key!

My offspring have provided me with chocolate and coffee shop gifts cards, because THEY KNOW.

My sister has started bringing food over and throwing it in the freezer to relieve some of my cooking burden while I work on this revision.

You guys.  IT DOESN'T GET MUCH BETTER THAN THIS.

And yes, I've got my first official editorial deadline, and I LOVE IT!

Well, I also hate it.  BUT MOSTLY I LOVE IT.

For years, I've trained myself to write to a deadline, and now it's paying off.  Honestly, there hasn't been a single time I haven't met my self-imposed end dates.  I've treated them as though they were imposed upon me by someone else, because I knew that some day that's what my life would be like.

And here we are!  Elayne has requested the revisions be complete by February 1, and I intend to deliver.  (Hence the food in my freezer.)  The timing couldn't be more perfect--an entire week and a half of PRACTICALLY NOTHING BUT WRITING before January's schedule kicks in on the 8th.

Well, okay.  I may be doing one or two other things, like cleaning out my closet and possibly spending a quiet New Year's Eve with some dear friends.  But mostly?  I'm writing.

And eating Christmas cookies.

More than one of my published author friends has assured me that, though the pub date feels so far away, the time will actually fly.  I'm starting to believe it!  The journey continues to be exhilarating, and I'm thankful I can share it with you.

Also, HEADS UP:  My shiny-new author web site will be launching the first week of January.  I'm VERY excited about this, and I hope you'll join me for this latest unveiling.

In the meantime, HAPPY NEW YEAR!  Thank you for celebrating with me this year; I have been so blessed by your support and good cheer.  Keep writing!  Keep believing!  You never know what 2018 may have in store.

(And Maggie?  I love you.  And some day, I'll be giving you a word cloud, in celebration of your own debut.  For real.)

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

WHAT ARE THEY UP TO NOW? Featuring Peter Adam Salomon



Today's author: PETER ADAM SALOMON

Here is Peter's SUCCESS STORY PAGE.


QUESTIONS FOR PETER:

1. What role did your participation in a Miss Snark's First Victim contest or critique round play in your ultimate success as an author?

Technically I never even entered a contest or critique round. I had just ‘finished’ revising a YA Horror manuscript and was beginning to consider the whole ‘querying’ concept. I hadn’t even written a query letter at that point. All I had was a list of agents and agencies I was interested in and the thought that I should probably sit down and write a query letter.

While that was going on, there was a new MSFV contest but since I didn’t feel ready I figured it would be wiser to sit that one out and enter the next one.

Then, you unveiled the agent. Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency was at the top of my dream agent list. Unfortunately, they’re not open to submissions and, since I hadn’t entered, I’d just blown my chance to get my brand-new manuscript to her.

This is where I still sometimes think I’m dreaming. You posted a lovely note from your ‘Secret Agent’ that she was so impressed with the quality of your contestants that she’d open for submissions to anyone who put MSFV in the subject line.

I didn’t even have a query letter to send her. I just threw something together and emailed it as quickly as possible, thinking ‘so many people were going to email her that I’d better be quick.’ So, I basically didn’t even edit my query letter, just sent it off.

An hour later, she wrote back asking to see the whole manuscript. A week later, she wrote back asking to talk on the phone. A week after that, she wrote one more time offering representation.

It might have then taken well over a year for that novel to sell, but Flux liked that query letter I threw together so much that seven years later it is still the blurb for the book on Amazon and other booksellers.

2. Tell us what your journey has looked like from your MSFV Success Story until now.

What a strange adventure. It has been a paradigm shift and life-altering in so many ways. I’ve had a poem performed on the BBC by the creative geniuses behind the music for Dr. Who. I’ve been nominated for a Bram Stoker award, the highest honor in my genre. I’ve mentored some brilliant teen writers and seen them experience their first taste of success in the industry. And I have made so many dear friends. It’s hard to believe, sometimes, that any of it is real.

I’ve had my oldest dreams come true. What more can I ask for?

3. What has been the best part of your experience as an author? What has been most difficult/challenging?

There’s something amazing about being interviewed or signing autographs and all those trappings of being an author.

But, the teaching, mentoring, helping other writers? That’s where the magic is. This community of creative artists, striving together to make the world a better place, one person, one act, one word at a time. It’s an amazing thing to be a part of.

I’ve been mentoring teen writers for a few years now, after spending a couple years as a judge for different competitions and awards. That’s been the best part. When one of the teens I mentored made her first professional sale, that was pretty incredible.

The most difficult is the fact that everything starts all over again. All the waiting and revising and hoping and praying and dreaming that goes into that first sale also goes into the next one. And the one after that. I’m still waiting for that third sale, and the same doubts are there from the decades I spent as pre-published. I work all the time to remember how fortunate I am to have two novels and three poetry collections published in the last 5 years. And work just as hard, if not harder, on whatever comes next.

4. What's your latest offering, and where can we find it?

For poetry, 2017 saw the release of my third collection, PseudoPsalms: Sodom, which is available wherever poetry is sold (mainly Amazon since poetry isn’t exactly a best-selling kind of thing). Even after publishing two novels, I still think of myself as a poet first. I’ve been writing poetry since I was in elementary school, and only started writing fiction in college.

I also will be re-releasing my first poetry collection, PseudoPsalms: Prophets, soon, (also available on Amazon, etc) since the publisher went out of business making the collection go out-of-print.

5. Please leave us with some words of wisdom for all aspiring authors.

Whenever I’m asked for words of wisdom I cringe inside. I’m just not so sure how wise I am. Then, being serious for a moment, I tell everyone the same thing: write, read, write some more, read some more. Then edit. Edit a lot. No, edit more.

But most of all: love the process. Love every single moment of it. Love the creative passion driving you to write. Love the drudgery of revision that you feel will never end. Love it no matter what.

Because there’s going to be a lot of it. You’ll edit and revise and do it all over again and finally land an agent and the first thing they’re going to ask for are more edits and revisions until finally you sell the book and, you guessed it, the first thing they’re going to ask for are more edits and revisions.

So, you might as well learn to love the process. You’ll be doing it a lot.

Then write more. Read more. Revise more. And love it all.

Especially that moment your phone rings and you hear the best word in the English language: ‘Sold.’

You’ll love that moment the most.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

WHAT ARE THEY UP TO NOW? Featuring Piper J. Drake

Today's author: PIPER J. DRAKE

Here is Piper's ORIGINAL ENTRY ON THE BLOG (entered as PJ Schnyder) from an August, 2009 Secret Agent Contest featuring Emmanuelle Alspaugh Morgen. And here is the WINNERS POST from that contest.

Here is Piper's SUCCESS STORY PAGE.




QUESTIONS FOR PIPER:

1. What role did your participation in a Miss Snark's First Victim contest or critique round play in your ultimate success as an author?

Ms. Alspaugh provided valuable constructive feedback in follow-up to my 1st runner up win and 30 page request. The novel, Heart's Sentinel, was written as PJ Schnyder and became my first sale to Decadent Publishing. It went on to publish in both digital and print formats.

Participation in the Miss Snark's First Victim community helped me to receive constructive feedback. It helped me learn to pick out recommendations or critiques that resonated with my intent for my book and incorporate them. This skill has served me well for every book I've written since.

Now, I still participate in contests and critique rounds when I can because I strongly believe in paying it forward and I also believe the more we provide good critiques, the better we are at self editing our own work.

2. Tell us what your journey has looked like from your MSFV Success Story until now.

As PJ Schnyder, I went on to sell more paranormal romance and science fiction romance to Decadent Publishing and Carina Press, a Harlequin digital-first publishing company. I also co-wrote The Ministry Initiative steampunk role playing game and short stories for the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences. My books went on to win the Golden Leaf and the PRISM awards and my podcast of A Swan in Siam won the Parsec Award as part of the Tales from the Archive Vol 2.

In 2014, I was asked to reboot as Piper J. Drake, writing romantic suspense. It took a lot of courage and careful planning, which paid off in the form of a 3-book digital deal with Carina Press and then a 3-book print deal with Hachette Group, Grand Central Publishing's Forever imprint.

My True Heroes series made the Nielson Book Scan bestselling lists and has been featured two years in a row as a success in my genre by Nielson at their book summit. In 2016, I signed another 3-book print deal to continue the True Heroes series.

My digital format Safeguard series with Carina Press has been chosen for Harlequin's Direct To Consumer program and will be available in print from online retailers starting in January 2018.

While I plan to continue to write bestselling romantic suspense, I am also working on science fiction and fantasy while I plan for the right time to bring those stories back into my brand.

3. What has been the best part of your experience as an author? What has been most difficult/challenging?

Best Part: Seeing my books out there for readers to enjoy never gets old. It is my joy.

Most Difficult/Challenging: Balancing my writing schedule with my very demanding day job has been incredibly difficult. The biggest challenge is maintaining the balance because I love both my writing career and my day job career. I could not do either one nearly as well without the other.

4. What's your latest offering, and where can we find it?

From my True Heroes series, Absolute Trust is available online and in bookstores.

From my Safeguard series, Contracted Defense is available online at e-retailers everywhere.




5. Please leave us with some words of wisdom for all aspiring authors.

I've given this advice consistently for years and I still believe in it wholeheartedly: Surround yourself with nifty people who continually inspire you and challenge you to continue to do the next nifty thing.

Monday, November 27, 2017

One Young Writer


My niece will be 14 next month.  She lives and breathes ballet, and I'm thrilled that she is now studying at the School of Nashville Ballet.  She's also a gifted baker, a dependable childcare giver, a decent photographer (photo cred for the pointe shoe shot) and a lovely young woman.

And she writes.

Writing is one of her more recent pursuits, but like everything in her life, she isn't going at it halfway.  I knew she'd begun writing, but even her mom wasn't allowed to see anything she'd written.  When my grown daughters both shared with me that their cousin had let them read some of her stuff, I was determined to dig my little claws loving fingers in.

Fortunately, she bent, and shared with me the first chapter of her WIP.  To say that I felt honored is an understatement; garnering the trust of a 13-year-old is no small thing.  We all feel a bit "undressed" the first time someone reads our work, yes?  And these emotions are especially heightened in the young teen years.

You can tell my niece has what it takes.  And you can tell that she has read a lot of books.  Truth:  reading lots of books really does affect the depth and quality of your writing.  If you aspire to be an author but you never take the time to read novels, then you will never truly become the writer you want to be.  So, yes, my niece's reading habits are reflected nicely in her writing.

Her setting is historical--the "prairie" years of the United States--and she already has a great sense of how to create tension.  Is she ready to query agents?  Of course not.  Her work is raw, young, undeveloped. But SHE IS WRITING.  Her characters have emotion and believability.  She instinctually knew that she needed to create an inciting event that would propel her protagonist into the story arc.  With an instinct like that, this girl will go places.

Here's what struck me most of all:


Yep.  Those are STICKY PLOT NOTES ON HER CLOSET DOOR.

What 13-year-old does this?  As soon as I saw this photo on her Instagram, I knew I wanted to write a blog post about my niece.  When I was 13, I had lots of story ideas that I started to write, but never finished.  I didn't even know what it meant to "plot a story".  Thanks to the Internet and the wealth of resources out there for writers, my niece is already way ahead of the game.

This is very much her personality as well, so I'm not completely surprised to find that she works out her stories so meticulously.  But still.  SHE'S 13.

I don't know.  Maybe I was just a slacker, but I find this attention to detail extraordinary at this age.

(Yeah, I'm doting a bit.  But I never gush about things that don't truly inspire me, so it's not blind dotage, I assure you!)


She's even got the find-a-pleasant-spot-to-write thing down.  This is a "work station" on the back deck of her home.  I'm pretty sure I'll be having coffee/writing dates with this gal at some point!

I love--I absolutely love--to fan the flames of passion in young people who write (or who do anything else that I also do, like music).  If anything reaffirms my own undying devotion to the art of writing, it's finding and affirming that same flame in someone less one third my age.  I'm so delighted to see my niece wholeheartedly pursuing this!

Need a pick-me-up?  Find a young writer and pour yourself into them.  You'll both benefit!  And you may just find yourself squealing and doting over someone with a fresh mind and an eager pen who wants, perhaps, to be just a little bit like you.

You have much to give, dear writers.  Go forth and give it!




Thursday, November 16, 2017

Drop the Needle: Critique Guidelines

Okay, folks, here we go!  Let's see how well we do with sexual tension.

(There are 11 entries instead of 10 because several people ran into technical difficulties while trying to enter.  I took their entries and put them in manually, and since there were fewer than 10 entries this time, I just took everyone's.  I mean, why leave out one person? :) )

Guidelines for Critique on MSFV:
  • Please leave your critique for each entry in the comment box for that entry.
  • Please choose a screen name to sign your comments. The screen name DOES NOT have to be your real name; however, it needs to be an identifiable name.  ("Anonymous" is not a name.)
  • Critiques should be honest but kind, helpful but sensitive.
  • Critiques that attack the writer or are couched in unkind words will be deleted.*
  • ENTRANTS: As your way of "giving back", please critique a minimum of 3 other entries.

*I can't possibly read every comment.  If you ever see a comment that is truly snarky, please email me.  I count on your help.

Drop the Needle #11

Title: Rewriting History
Adult Contemporary Romance

Camilla and Ellis meet again after an errant kiss and a two-year separation.

Camilla reached for her wallet to pay for a much-needed cup of tea. Only her bag wasn't there.

“S***.”

“How about you add her order to mine? I’ll take a cappuccino, please.”

Ellis Jones materialized at her elbow pushing a crisp twenty across the counter. She swallowed hard while her stomach did a little flip.

“Thank you. Again. Seems you’re destined to come to my aid.”

Ellis nodded. “Was it sprained?” He peered at her sock-covered foot. Under his gaze, each of the Hello Kitties scattered across the toe seemed to shrivel up from embarrassment. She wanted to do the same.

“Mildly.”

They moved away from the counter. Ellis slowed to match her hobbled gait.

“I’m Ellis, by the way.” His eyes were even bluer than she remembered.

“Camilla Tanner.” She watched his face carefully but the expression never changed. Something in her sank a little. He didn’t remember.

“Where are you headed?”

“I have a Public Policy presentation in a half-hour.”

A tapping overhead drew their attention. A frantic Sunny leaned over the railing tapping his wrist. ‘Hurry up,’ he mouthed.

“Team member,” Camilla added in explanation. “If I don’t hurry, there’ll be fighting over the slide fonts again.”

“Never underestimate the power of a good font.”

“Ah, but which one? Arial or Calibri?”

“No contest. I’m an economist, we scoff at Calibri.”

She swore his lips quirked. Oh, two could play this game.

“Really?" She tilted her head. "I’m more of a Baskerville girl myself.”

“Baskerville? As in hounds?” Ellis laughed, and she nearly melted. “That’s not a real font. You’re joking.”

“It is!” She grinned and tucked her hair behind her ear. “But, I am.”

Wide-eyed and smiling, he looked so boyish. And adorable. Camilla stared at the floor to hide her s***-eating grin.

Drop the Needle #10

Title: A THOUSAND YEARS TO WAIT
Young Adult Fantasy

Reina and Quinn’s group has just escaped a surprise attack as they traveled through a mountain pass. After hard riding, they have set up camp for the night. Quinn and another companion have suffered mild wounds and Reina, as Healer, is tending to Quinn. 

I continued to hold the cloth to Quinn’s face as my eyes fell upon the dark stains on his tunic.

Finally, I asked, “What happened? To what chaos did we leave you?”

Quinn did not immediately respond. Instead, he reached a warm hand up, closing it gently over mine as he pulled it down and cradled my palm in his.

“Do not ask to know the details of death, Reina,” he said, his eyes dark.

I opened my mouth to reply, but was unable to find a suitable response. Did he think me too weak to hear of death? Did he think I’d never seen it myself? It was true that most of my experiences with death were due to illness and old age, but I had seen blood, I had seen pain, and I knew what waited in the end.

“Ah, settle, Reina,” he said upon seeing the fight in my eyes. “’Twas not an insult against you.”

I did not hesitate this time. “What am I to think?”

He covered my hand with both of his, rubbing a calloused thumb lightly against my palm. “You’ve too much life within you to hear of death. I would sooner steal the song from the meadowlark than dampen your light with talk of darkness.”

Wide-eyed, I found my lungs reluctant to fill with air. “What talk is this?” I managed in a whisper.

Quinn dropped my hand.

“Antony,” he said loudly. “You’ve a wounded arm. Let Moreina tend to you.”

Drop the Needle #9

Title: Will Not Fade Away
Adult Women's Fiction

 A.J.(Audrey Jane) met Reid while on her journey cross-country to locate her missing son after a volcanic eruption. Reid is a mysterious man fighting his own past demons. A.J. is on the road of healing, while juggling widowhood and parenthood to an autistic child. They’re sharing a hotel room at this stop. Reid wakes from a nightmare. He lifted our locked hands and placed one on his chest.

Dear God.

Perhaps it was my need for soulful resuscitation and human intimacy. Perhaps it was my vulnerability. Or perhaps I liked him.

…a man who had proven himself enough to earn a ticket on our trip…a kindred spirit who had wiggled his way into my heart the slightest…an attractive man who stirred my once dusty desires off and brought them bursting to the surface…

He pulled me toward him, and I allowed it. His kiss was warm, heavy, and slow. It was g****** intoxicating and I drank it in like a parched desert cactus. The stubble on his chin brushed my face. Tender lips caressed mine in a simple, sexy, non-intrusive way. Our hands remained interlaced, one set on his cheek, one set on his heart. God, oh, how I had forgotten what desire was like. His mouth was inviting and stirred me.

He removed his hand from mine on his cheek and drew it to the base of my head, urging me closer for a deeper kiss. His touch tickled the fine hairs on the nape of my neck. He tasted like chocolate and sleep. Before it went too far, he pulled away and stared at me, only inches from my face, dark eyes swirling with sentiment, a slight smirk upon his lips. I exhaled. He held my gaze for a long could-hear-the-clock-ticking-in-my-head moment, and then he fell on his pillow, closed his eyes, and was asleep.