Guess what? Campus Cravings is being retired on January 1st (last chance to get all the stories as one low-priced bundle!), and I am re-releasing WINNING BRACKET as a stand-alone story complete with BRAND NEW bonus epilogue story. WINNING BRACKET & the bonus story WINNING WEDDING will be out January 13th at all major retailers. It will be 99 cents for ONE WEEK ONLY, and then 2.99 after that.  If you are a reviewer and would like to request an ARC, click here! Here’s my gorgeous cover from Dar Albert & Wicked Smart Designs:


My Head May Explode in 2015 (and other good news!)

My 2015 is starting to look a little crazy. The good kind of crazy. First, #PortlandHeat launches in the Spring.

 BakedFreshDeliveredFast2 Served Hot.ebook


Served Hot is coming 3/3/2015. I love this cover almost as much as I love this book. I can’t wait to kick this series off.  Baked Fresh arrives 4/14/2015. This baker-with-a-heart-of-gold story is a friends-to-lovers tale, and I know I shouldn’t play favorites, but this couple… Delivered Fast is coming on 5/26/2015. I don’t want to say”wrapping up the series” because I’m really hoping to sell a book 4 at some point! (And each book totally stands alone. I have very minimal interaction between the different sets of heroes. They can be read in any order!)

In August, TREBLE MAKER is coming your way. My a cappella singing reality show LONG book otherwise known as #kinkyvirginhero finally found a title and a home with Kensington!

Also coming in 2015: My shorts from the Campus Cravings and Unconditional Surrender bundles will be released on their own with bonus epilogues. I already commissioned covers for them and I’m excited to share once I have a better idea of the release dates.

And if it finds a home, #ChristmasCamper may come out in late 2015 to cap off the year. It’ll be going out on submission soon, so fingers crossed!









Sex Positivity Blog Hop: In Praise of Imperfect Sex

spbhbadge (2)  I’m so glad to be a part of the Sex Positivity Blog hop! I’ve had a good time catching up on the other posts in the hop, and there’s a lot of great discussion happening!

I was doing some re-reading of my keeper shelf books recently, and I realized something: almost all of my keeper shelf books have at least one awkward, imperfect sex scene where things don’t go according to plan. I guess you could say I’m a connoisseur of awkward smut 🙂

There’s a lot of societal pressure for sex to be perfect, especially first time sex. Songs, movies, a lot of books, and even porn make it seem like if you’re with the right person, the heavens will open up and sing every time. In Hollywood romance-land, things never go badly. But real life is full of awkward fumblings and stubbed toes and uncooperative zippers and inopportune interruptions.

Sometimes too, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that if we can’t get it “right,” that sex isn’t worth having–if we aren’t perfectly showered and groomed, if the house isn’t quiet with mood music playing and candles lit, if both people aren’t perfectly rested and hurdling towards simultaneous orgasms, we might as well wait for the perfect moment.  In other words, if we can’t be having Hollywood style ideal sex, why bother?

And this is where my keeper shelf of awkward smut comes in. I celebrate the writers who keep it real and who remind us that sometimes fabulous sex has a very shaky start. Sometimes you meet “the one” and the first time isn’t all that. Sometimes people are tired or in bad moods or sick with the flu. Real life is full of ringing phones and waking babies and setting off car alarms by accident. Sex is full of funny, squicky, cringe-worthy, beautiful moments. And what I love is fiction that reflects that and indeed, celebrates it.  Life is short and we should seize joy wherever we can–even when it comes in a less-ideal-package, there is still beauty and purpose and meaning to be found.

Some of my favorite novels with endearingly written imperfect sex include Cara McKenna’s Ruin Me and her Unbound (pretty much everything she’s written could be on this list too. She’s the reigning queen of awkward smut. ) Heidi Cullinan’s Dance with Me is the perfect example of practice makes perfect and how what’s right for one couple can take some time to figure out. AM Arthur’s Stand By You is also full of this message as her two heroes figure what works for them. Lisa Henry and JA Rock’s Brandon Mills vs. The V-Card has the best, most realistic first-time scene ever. Daisy Harris’s David’s Selfie manages to make the flu downright sexy.

What are some of your favorite awkward sex scenes or scenes where things go haywire? Do you like realistic love scenes or do you prefer more idealized escapism? And that has its place too! I have a whole different part of the keeper shelf devoted to earth-shaking, transcendental love scenes. And sometimes the perfect book has BOTH. Sometimes even in the same scene! If you’re a writer, which do you enjoy writing more?

Remember to check out the rest of the hop!

#NaNoWriMo Tips: How I Write 50K in a Month

Over the course of 2014, I’ve written 50K in a month more than once, but this comes after a decade of trying and usually failing to do #NaNoWriMo and I thought it might be helpful if I used my experience to talk about why I failed to meet my goals in the past, and what I’m doing differently these days.  I’m going to share  what works for me, but remember, each person is different and your path to success may look very different. FIND YOUR PROCESS AND ROCK THE HECK OUT OF IT.

  1. Set High Daily Word Count Goals. For years, I did the whole “Divide 50k by 30 days” thing every November. And every Thanksgiving, I found myself way behind and giving up on the whole enterprise. These days, I set a weekly goal of 10k (October had 5 weeks! Bonus words!), but more importantly, I set a daily goal of 3k. That sounds like a lot, but as long as I hit that goal four days a week, I stay ahead of my weekly goal. This is important because life has a way of mucking up word count goals–writing as much as you can on quiet days gives you a cushion for the crazy days when you get 250 words and call it a success.
  2. Write Every Day.  Those 250 word days? They’re essential to the process of keeping the creative channel flowing. I keep a notebook with me at all times–half a scene scribbled while my kid is at swimming practice or in the car while my husband drives is still forward progress. On crazy days, the only words I might get is the rough outline of a scene before I fall asleep, but those words can set me up for a big word count day the next morning.
  3. Make words your priority. Get the document open before you do anything else with your day. Try to knock that first 500 words out of the way before your coffee, before checking social media or email. The first 1,000 words of the day are ALWAYS the hardest. Always. Get them done early and the rest of the words will come that much easier.
  4. Sprint. Do #1k1hr or Write or Die or one of the Sprint Groups on Facebook or simply just push yourself against the clock. If you only have 15 minutes, challenge yourself to 15 minutes. Don’t wait for a 1 hour block if that’s not how your life works. The key is to get the words down without stopping to edit or second-guess yourself.
  5. Plot and keep plotting. This is particular to me, but every hour I spend plotting saves me weeks of struggle. It took me years to find a plotting method that works for me, so don’t give up if you want to plot but haven’t found your method yet. Re-access your plot constantly. Always know what your next scene will be before you fall asleep for the day. If writing out of order works for you, try that. It doesn’t work for me, so I always have to stay on top of what comes next. The key is to not lose momentum.
  6. Reward yourself daily, weekly, and monthly. You need to be proud of what you accomplish, even when you fall short of big goals. If you meet a smaller goal, celebrate that. Give yourself little rewards like a new book, extra reading time, permission to watch a movie, painted nails, a fancy coffee, or whatever works for you.
  7. Decide what you can sacrifice & do it.  You can’t do it all. I made this mistake many a November. It’s really, really hard to slide 1-3k words in on top of everything else you have going on in your life. For myself, I’ve almost completely given up TV, news reading, and my knitting time is limited to car trips and waiting rooms. For someone else, maybe social media is the thing that needs to go or maybe you can eat out less, rely more on packaged meals, give up your morning paper–whatever trade-offs are realistic for YOU.
  8. Don’t skimp on self-care. You want to be able to do this more than once right? You want to not burn out! Don’t sacrifice sleep, regular meals, healthy choices, or exercise. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Re-arrange your life as needed, but make it long-term sustainable changes and don’t sacrifice your well-being.
  9. When you get stuck, keep going, but change it up.  You WILL hit a wall where the words don’t seem to want to come. It’s your designated writing time, but the muse seems to be on vacation. You MUST push through this lull even if you only manage 100 words in an hour. Some of my rut busters: Take a shower or a long bath, brainstorming in the water. Go for a walk, focusing on the plot problem. Move your laptop to a different room in the house. Go to a coffee house. Talk the problem out with a friend. Free write by hand. Re-read what you recently wrote. Keep your focus on writing, but don’t be afraid to try new things. BONUS TIP: Have a theme song or signature image for your story. When you get stuck, play the theme song, look at the images you’ve collected. See if that helps.
  10. Find your zone & set out to duplicate it.  Spend a few minutes thinking about the days when you have gotten the most words ever. What was happening? Were you listening to music? What kind? Did you have a plot? Were you writing sexy/scary/angsty/funny scenes? What did you eat that day? Where were you? What time of day was it? Figure out what makes YOU tick. If you write the most per hour late at night in bed while drinking hot chocolate and writing smutty scenes and listening to 80s music, embrace that. Don’t try to force yourself to write first thing in the morning if that’s not your peak time. Instead, figure out how to get more of the good stuff in your life. Take a nap so you can stay up later, or if your peak time is early in the morning, go to bed earlier. And really think about what can happen in your story to make you love writing it more. If you hate writing long descriptive passages, DON’T WRITE THEM. Worry about adding more description in your edits. If you love writing love scenes, ADD MORE LOVE SCENES. You can always cut some later, but write the story YOU WANT and the words WILL come.

This is what works for me. What works for YOU? Whatever you do, I wish you the best of luck and lots of WORDS!

How I Became a Scrivener & Plotting Convert

(NOTE: There’s a list of resources on plotting and Scrivener at the end of my lengthy tale :))

A long time ago, in galaxy far, far away (Oregon, circa 2005) there was this girl who boldly proclaimed that she would NEVER be a plotter. She had just finished her first book (it took her two years to write it, but she was all brimming with false confidence after typing those magic words “The End”). After all, she told stories to herself all the time–what use did she have for something like structure? All she needed was TIME for her characters to tell her their stories to completion.

[Insert evil laughing here]

And I know it works like that for some people. They sit down at the computer and the story unspools, and they are productive, bestselling authors with a process that works for THEM. They write a first draft, and maybe it’s golden. Or they have a process where the first draft comes relatively quickly and then they spend a long time on edits, and edits are where they do most of their structure, and it works well for them. Whatever works for the individual author is all that really matters.

But the thing is, pantsing was NOT working for me. I wrote five books in nine years and I had quite a collection of unfinished three chapter starts. All five of those books never sold, and all had serious structural flaws that require the sort of gut level rehab that has landed them permanently under my bed.

just a little emotional

Then in 2012, I decided that a book a year (or longer) was not going to get me sold and that I was tired of crying my eyes out over huge plotting issues discovered in the critique process. So I took several online classes on plotting, trying to find a structure that would work for me. The “W Plot” with Karen Docter changed my writing life forever, and I wrote 4 books in 2012, 3 of which sold.

happy dance new girl

In 2013, I worked on the book-which-would-not end and somewhere around draft number five, I read “Save The Cat” and used a “Beat Sheet Calculator” to attack the structural issues that were plaguing my earlier drafts. That final massive overhaul landed me my editor and agent and gave me  a new plotting tool.

From late 2013 to present, I’ve written five books using screen writing tools, most notably beat sheets and Alexandra Sokoloff’s Writing Love book. My process evolved from post-it notes on a large “W” diagram to using digital notecards with Trello and detailed outlines with Workflowy. I usually spend 3-4 solid work days plotting before I start drafting.

Enter Scrivener for my latest WIP. I was skeptical. I tried an early version of it years ago and it just didn’t make sense for how my brain worked. But my process had changed, so I went in with an open mind. I watched the tutorials, which are awesome and I really recommend them, but  I thought it might help some newbies if I talked specifically about how I got started & did my plotting prior to drafting.

First, I started with a blank scrivener “novel” project, but I immediately did away with the sample “chapter” and “scene.” I only think in terms of scenes when I plot-Chapters happen during drafting, chapter breaks often moving around a lot over the course of a draft. So I went in to “Corkboard mode” with a single scene in mind–my opening image. I gave it a title. Then I added cards for my midpoint scene & black moment & final image because I had ideas for those turning points. Again, at this stage, I just gave the cards titles. Then I went between my existing cards and added scenes as I plotted–Act I break/First Turning point/Descent to Black Moment/Grovel/resolution etc.

As I plotted, I started adding more to the synopsis portion of cards as I learned more about where my story would be heading. As I plotted and did research, I stuck that information in the research section. I usually stop a certain point of plotting and do some serious character work. Scrivener has character interview templates which are handy, but I have my own checklist I prefer using the questions in “Writing Love” so I looked at past plotting notes and made my own character note sheets.

Once I had the character notes, I used “split screen” to have the corkboard and character notes open at the same time, and fleshed out my synopses and scenes more, adding more scenes based on what I had discovered about my characters and their GMC and their arc.

I ended up with around 21 scene cards. I know that I’ll actually end up with far more scenes in the final draft, but this was a great point for me to start drafting, and I simply add more notecards as the draft evolves. And as the draft evolves, I’m adding “folder” cards for chapters, but only started doing that once  I had around 6k and could see where the first two breaks might occur. Don’t worry about chapters at all if you don’t want!

I am mainly drafting in “scrivenings mode” which lets me see the whole document at once, jumping onto the next section as I finish a scene. (I finish a scene, click the next notecard to refresh myself about where I wanted to head, then go back into scrivenings mode). As I draft, I’m using the “outliner mode” from time to time to see the overall direction I  want to head, and to do things like add labels for POV and labels for status (to-do versus first draft) and to see how many words are in a given scene, but I really didn’t worry about those features until I really needed them, if that makes sense. I.e. I changed label colors to reflect POV characters once I decided that would be helpful to me as  I went forward, but I didn’t need it to plot–I don’t always know which POV will get a given scene until later in the plotting stages.

So there you have it.  That’s how I became more of a plotter and how I transitioned to Scrivener for this current draft. Here are some resources for you:

Happy National Coffee Day!

It’s National Coffee Day, and I’m celebrating with an exclusive excerpt of my coffee romance, SERVED HOT, coming March 2015 from Kensington. Can my barista hero, Robby, get his favorite customer, David, to see him as more than just “the coffee guy?”  Here’s a sneak peek at Chapter One:


My nooner was late. Well, technically, David was my 11:50. Without fail, ten minutes before twelve every work day, David P. Gregory bought a vanilla latte from my coffee cart in the Old Emerson building in Portland. I only knew his name because he used his debit card to pay, and I knew the time because of the old-fashioned, massive brass clock directly across the atrium from my cart.

I knew David banked at a local credit union, knew that he worked somewhere that required a tie, knew that he had a smile that made his mouth crinkle up at the edges when I handed him his coffee, and knew that he was an excellent tipper.

What I didn’t know was whether or not he was straight. We’d had this weird dance for months now—he’d arrive for his coffee, stilted and uncomfortable, relax into a bit of small talk while I made his drink, and then he’d take his coffee to one of the metal tables out in the atrium to have with the lunch he packed in a blue bag. I liked watching him eat because he gave it his entire focus—no smart phone or gadget, no newspaper or book, no folder of work. A few times I’d caught him looking back in my direction. But his gaze never lingered and either my flirting while I served him was more subtle than I’d thought or he was simply immune.

Today David was late. Unexpected disappointment uncurled in my stomach, souring my caffeine buzz. It was a good day—a steady stream of customers at my cart and bustling business for the pizza place and the vegan sandwich bar on the other side of the atrium. The hundred-year-old office building had been renovated to include a few small eateries in the newly added skylit atrium. Plenty for me to look at, but my eyes kept returning to the double brass doors that opened onto Ninth.

David pushed through the heavy doors at 12:45 just as I was finishing up a caramel soy latte for one of the Goth girls who worked at the jewelry place across the street. I hid my smile behind my espresso machine. Eager for it to be his turn, I tapped my toes against the linoleum.

“The usual?” I figured it would freak him out if I mentioned I’d noticed his lateness.

“Hmmm.” He studied my specials sign. I’d glued a chalkboard panel inside a silver frame from a secondhand place on Hawthorne and put the whole thing on a silver-painted easel. Classy on the cheap.

Today I had a half-price tuxedo mocha—white chocolate with dark chocolate swirls. David had never paid any attention to the sign before, but today he gave it a long stare, consideration tugging his mouth back and forth. God, I loved his mouth—full pink lips, a hint of stubble on his upper lip like he’d missed a spot shaving.

After a few seconds, he shrugged, broad shoulders rippling the fine cotton of his dress shirt. “Yeah. The usual.”

“Sure thing.” I grabbed the cup for his small vanilla latte.

“Wait.” He held up a hand as I started to ring him up. “Iced. It’s sweltering out.” He’d rolled up the sleeves of his crisp white shirt, revealing muscular forearms and a heavy silver, antique-looking watch.

“Meaning it’s eighty-five degrees in Portland and everyone is freaking out. You know . . . it’s good to try something different once in a while.”


Can David change his regular order to include a side of sexy? You’ll find out in March!

Release day review! Sweetwater by Lisa Henry

SweetwaterSweetwater by Lisa Henry

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was lucky enough to get an ARC of this book. I’ve read other titles by Henry, and her prose here is simply amazing. She doesn’t just tell the story, she *inhabits* it. The mood, the tone, the pacing–all of it is spot on. But this is not an easy book to read–Elijah both makes some terrible decisions and has some pretty terrible stuff done to him. It’s a five star read for me because the beautiful prose made this like watching a Deadwood episode–uncomfortable but in a really, really splendid way. However, some readers may not like the Grady/Harlan triangle competing for Elijah and easily triggered readers may have difficulty with some of things Elijah suffers. They might prefer trying one of Henry’s great, lighter titles. For the rest of us, the Deadwood and Breaking Bad and Shameless fans and lovers of dark, unpredictable heroes, this book is simply a gem.

View all my reviews

Review: Harlequin Boxed Set

Harlequin E Contemporary Romance Box Set Volume 3: Falling from the Sky\Maid to Love\When the Lights Go Down\Start Me UpHarlequin E Contemporary Romance Box Set Volume 3: Falling from the Sky\Maid to Love\When the Lights Go Down\Start Me Up by Sarina Bowen

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a great boxed set–four very strong romances with alpha heroes and spunky heroines, but what sets it apart are some really unique pairings. Rebecca Avery totally turns the baby-of-convenience plotline on its head in a very adorable romp. Amy Jo Cousins has a natural gift for banter and that’s very apparent here–I loved her piece and would LOVE to see it as a movie as I kept laughing out loud and wishing I had a girlfriend to elbow and say “did you see what he just did!” Not to mention how much fun it would be to cast Maxie and Nick . . .

Sarina Bowen’s Falling From the Sky absolutely blew me away. OH. My. Word. I wish I did GIF reviews because here is where I would stick one of a dude peeling his jaw off the ground. This is the sort of book I’ve been wishing someone would write for YEARS. I kept gripping my eReader too tightly, afraid the story wouldn’t live up, but it totally did. It’s a gritty, realistic look at a hero with a spinal cord injury wrapped up in a sweet and sexy package that doesn’t come too easily. There are no miracle cures here. Realistic representation of disability in romance is passion of mine and Bowen absolutely hits it out the park here. This novella is easily in my top five books of 2014. All four books in this set are easily worth the price on their own–together they are a terrific value and bargain.

View all my reviews

Campus Cravings Is Out Now!!!

Yay!!! The boxed set I’m in with some fabulous other authors is live!!!

limited time 2.99 cc bundle


Here’s the book’s page on my website, but I’ll stick the buy links here as well:
Add to Goodreads Buy on AmazonBuy on ARe    smashwords-button

This Call Story Brought to You By Social Media

Portland Heat Coming Soon

One of my favorite things is writers’ call stories. I also love birth stories and wedding stories–basically give me a narrative about a big, life-changing moment and I’m all over it.  But as a writer, I particularly love call stories because they gave me hope that my day would come. So for all those taking the long slow road, I salute you. Way back in 2005, I finished my first book and attended RWA Reno. I went to the Kensington publishing signing and got stars in my eyes–and a rejection letter a few months later. Fast forward to 2014. I was still plugging away and searching for a home for book #9.

When I landed my amazing agent back in January, we set to work getting #kinkyvirginhero ready for submission. But during my agent query wait, I’d written #coffeeshopguys and after seeing me post about the WIP, my agent said to go ahead and send it on even though we hadn’t heard back from the first round of submissions yet.

So I sent her SERVED HOT and a synopsis and she tweeted how excited she was to get a barista hero.  AND I DON’T HAVE A SCREENCAP. Which makes me SAD. Because what happened next?


Peter Senftleben of Kensington SAW the tweet and replied that she should send him the MS right away.


And I don’t have those tweets either. Probably because I was too busy trying not to FREAK. What happened next was a flurry of Sary reading the manuscript, me making Sary’s awesome suggestions, and us working up series proposals while we waited to hear back from Peter and some of  the editors who had #kinkyvirginhero

Then Peter asked to see THAT book too and my freak factor reached Def Con 9000 as we waited to hear . . . .


Sary called me to tell me that Peter wanted Served Hot . . . and being me, I started babbling and thanking her before she got the rest of the news out. He wanted the whole series!

AND . . .

#Kinkyvirginhero (who should have a new, real name very soon) and HIS series.

Seriously. This is where I put a muppet flail gif because I just can’t not.


I seriously wanted to shout the news from the Burnside Bridge in Portland I was so excited.

But I couldn’t. Because contracts and boring stuff like PATIENCE.

So I waited.

And waited.

And Sary did the AWESOME agent thing and worked on all the details. ALL THE DETAILS. She is superwoman.

And finally, all the details lined up and I got to squeal all over twitter and facebook. And without social media, this deal would never have happened.



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