Thoughts, Links, and Other Stuff

I've written and deleted about twelve versions of this week's post. So that's how my day is going. To that end, wanna see a couple links about re-imagining your dreams and rethinking what "productivity" means (and tools to help with that!)? 

Sure you do!

I've been thinking a lot about what comes next for getting books out into the world, and this post was a well-timed kick in the pants. While the playing field is by no means level, self-publishing is not a last resort. It's a business decision with advantages and drawbacks like any other. I think a lot of us, myself include, had or have illusions about what it means to be published by one of the "Big Five." But dreams of large marketing budgets and advertising support breaking your book onto bestseller lists can come right along with unmanageable deadlines and limited control over the finished product. Sometimes the meeting of our dreams and reality forces us to make a choice, to hone down what that dream is. Do I dream of readers connecting with my books or do I dream of getting invited to swanky publisher parties at conferences? 

For me, what that meant was an opportunity to really dismantle some of the pre-conceived notions I had about publishing and to instead think about what I wanted my creative writing life to look like. Right now, in this exact season of my life.
— Jess Vonn

(Full disclosure: Jess was one of the first friends I made at NECRWA and I am SO excited to read her books.)

I know I'm not the only one who's been feeling, shall we say, overwhelmed lately. Overwhelm is my goddamn nemesis, emotional or task-based. I've never been officially diagnosed as ADHD/ADD, but there is a lot of overlap between that and how anxiety manifests for me, and a lot of coping strategies recommended to those with ADD resonate with me. So I really appreciated this article that broke down a number of apps and strategies the author has found helpful and also some thoughts on reframing our notion of structure and productivity.

I think reframing these words can be really helpful for folks with ADHD. Rather than creating structures that serve the work (i.e. I have to work quickly to please my boss), it’s better to create structures that serve us (i.e. I want to feel effective and meet my personal goals). Paradoxically, when we set goals that serve us rather than the work, we’re usually better at getting the work done anyway. Who would’ve thought? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
— Sam Dylan Finch

Isn't that a refreshing thought? To have your "productivity" serve you rather than you being a slave to "productivity?" Also will be bookmarking Unstuck. Procrastination with a purpose is like my catnip.

Time for a gratuitous dog pic. Lookit how cute he is! 

Other stuff!

Sunday, check out That's What I'm Talking About for an exclusive Sunday Snippet excerpt from Dark Rooms.

AND 

Stay tuned in the usual places for more details next week, but you'll have a chance to WIN 30 erotic romances, including Dark Rooms, and books from authors like Shayla Black, Jennifer Probst, and Skye Warren. Plus the grand prize is a brand-spankin' (heh, see what I did there) new Kindle Fire. Contest runs August 21-28, links to enter will be posted on Monday!

Links, Reader Hangouts, and Books I'm Loving: A Roundup

Real talk, friends, I'm trying to do this blogging thing on the regular. I mean, I talk a lot, so maybe I can put some of that chatter into a post. Also, blogging is a good distraction from staring down a possible nuclear apocalypse started by two megalomaniacs with itchy fingers. RIGHT? Also, I'm totally supposed to be cleaning my house right now...

Dark Rooms News!

Dark Rooms got its first review this week! The Romance Reviews gave it five stars, making it a recommended read in erotic romance! You can read the whole thing here: http://bit.ly/2hGcuih

Truly, the thing that tickled me most is that the reviewer noted the first negotiation scene and called it "a dream." That stuff is super important to me and to have someone recognize what I was trying to do is...yes. (Evergreen reminder that romance novels are not instructional manuals and even though I'm proud of that scene it is still VERY abbreviated from a what a real-life negotiation with someone you just met would/should look like. *Gets down from soapbox.*)

You can also check out an interview I did with Romantic Reviews here. I got to babble about my lack of a writing process and (some of) the authors who shaped my baby romance writing brain. Also I mention the importance of community for the zillionth time which leads me to...

SBTB Reader Meet-Up

Pic borrowed from here.

Pic borrowed from here.

Reader, reviewer, word nerd, and friend, Suzanne, graciously hosted a Smart Bitches meet-up at her house on Saturday night and it was DELIGHTFUL. It did not hurt one bit that her adorable children insisted on making me birthday cake and singing to me on arrival. Also we inducted my BFF into Romancelandia with drinks, snacks, and conversation that ranged from books to politics to corgis chasing laser pointers and back to books. It's amazing how even for an avowed introvert, hanging with your people can make you temporarily feel like you understand how extroverts derive energy from social interaction. Weird, but true. 

And speaking of community and your people...

A thing I am loving right now is HBIC Nation's Post-Con Workbook. I am god-awful at anything resembling goal-setting, but I found this guided note-taking approach helpful. Less, "where do you see yourself in five years" and more, "remember to pack fresh eye makeup remover next time and spring for the recordings so you don't have so much FOMO angst choosing sessions." And yes, what are you working on in the next six months. Manageable time frames. And hey, I'm sitting here blogging which was one of my goals.

AND LASTLY. What am I reading right now?

We had an interesting discussion on Saturday night about the difficulties of reviewing anthologies specifically, and more generally, the way stories work for some people and not others based on preferences, lived experiences, social and cultural stuff, etc. That discussion was kicked off in part by Rogue Desire. 

I haven't finished it yet (I used to be a super-fast reader, but now I am SO SLOW), but so far, it's SO GOOD. I haven't been head over heels in love with every story, but none of them is dragging down the collection, either. The ebook price is a total steal for eight stories, and the paperback isn't cheap, but it is hefty. And if you can't get enough resistance romance, Rogue Affair comes out November 8 and is available for preorder now.

 

Dark Rooms is OUT NOW! And I have conference brain!

Uhhh....welcome back, y'all! Dark Rooms dropped into the world in the middle of RWA17 and my brain feels broken open but I'm also still so tired because so many people and my lovely editors would shoot me for this run-on sentence but hey, it's in my voice, right? And that's why you're here, right? 

Whew. If I ever attempt to manage both a new release and a major conference in the same week ever again, someone please tell me to sit down, shut up, and hire an assistant for that week. Because unless it's self-published, we don't have a whole lot of say in when our books go out into the world.

SO! Dark Rooms! My babies! In the world! The first chapter is currently FREE on Instafreebie, if you want to check it out. It will stay that way through the month of August. Buy links are up for major retailers over here. (Except Google Play, sorry people like me who use that platform. You can buy the epub and upload it!) 

Wes is probably my favorite hero I've written so far. He came from my brain, but I love him? Is that weird? Do I care? He's just so...good. A dirty, kinky sex-having sweet guy. He'll tie you up and give you good girl spankings, then spoon you after. (Psst! Tops need aftercare, too!)

Aimee is a mess who thinks she has her shit together. Not that I'm familiar with that feeling AT ALL. (Side-eyes self.) The iron grip she keeps on her life is going to get tested, and how. 

DARK ROOMS IS ON TOUR!

Throughout August, Dark Rooms and I will be popping up with guest blogs, author interviews, and sneak peeks. Last week, I wrote about how erotic romance can help us understand our fantasies, on the page and in real life. Go here to check it out.

Today, I attempted to answer the question of whether kink has truly entered the mainstream. Have a look and tell me what you think.

Stay tuned on Twitter and Facebook for more!

OTHER STUFF THAT HAPPENED!

We even kind of matched! We were bummed Kerry Adrienne couldn't be there, though.

We even kind of matched! We were bummed Kerry Adrienne couldn't be there, though.

I got to hang out with my Mated co-author, Shari Mikels at our very first book signing at RWA17! It was super awesome for us both to share that first, and we came home with plenty of print copies to spare. That means giveaways. Stay tuned, friends.

AND Mated was selected by Harlequin to go to their Direct-to-Consumer print program starting in December! That means you'll be able to order a print copy from Harlequin, as well as places like Amazon and Barnes & Noble. 

RWA17 

RWA17 was an amazing time that I'm still trying to process. I took lots of notes, hung out with friends old and new, and even did a brief stint by the pool. I didn't expect to be the sort of person who actually enjoys going to conferences, (Hermits unite!) but there is something to be said for the energy of being in a hotel with 2,000 people who get it, who love the same things you love. There is also something to be said for friends who say yes to skipping that party and hanging out in your hotel room in your pjs instead. Cry-laughing until your stomach hurts is a GOOD. THING. And I will never think about dolphins the same way again.

The friends I've made, and the community I've found, since joining Romancelandia and RWA (shout-out to NECRWA and Passionate Ink!), have been the white chocolate cream cheese frosting on the cake of being a romance writer. Find your people, folks. Find them and hold on tight.

So Much News!

Dark Rooms is off to the copy editor, and will be on its way to you in FOUR WEEKS. Phew! Also if you haven't seen this cover? *Pets abs, fans self.*

But seriously, this story is near and dear to my heart. Wes is adorable, Aimee is bad at feelings...They're a mess. And I love them. That's totally the official blurb, too. (It is not.)

OTHER FUN STUFF!

If you're in the greater Boston/southern New Hampshire/southern Maine type area, you can catch me doing my very first reading on July 13! The event is FREE, but space is limited. Get there early for snacks, wine, and red-faced me trying to figure out what excerpt I can read in front of my mother. 

On July 19, join me and a whole bunch of Boroughs Publishing authors for Christmas in July! All day, authors will be taking over the Boroughs Facebook page with sneak peeks, giveaways, and other fun stuff. I'll be there from 11:00 - 11:30 am. Shenanigans TBD.

And finally, if you're at the RWA annual conference in Orlando, I'll be at the Harlequin signing event on July 28 from 8:30 - 9:30am. Bonus? They're doing a special print run for digital authors, so I'll have actual books to sign! 

OH! AND! We just found out the the Mated anthology has been selected from Harlequin's direct-to-consumer print program starting in December. What the hell does that mean? It means you'll be able to order the anthology IN PRINT from Harlequin and select other online retailers, like Amazon and Barnes and Noble. More details to come, but SO EXCITING.

Stay tuned for more updates like pre-order links for Dark Rooms, Christmas in July shenanigans, details on the Harlequin signing, and other upcoming releases. (You heard me.)

It's My Anniversary

So you'll have to excuse me while I get sentimental. I wrote this a year ago, nearly ten years to the day of when my husband and I met (he asked me to cover his shift so he could go sailing, I said no), and I still believe every word. So, a love letter to my husband, to the romance genre, and to my sometimes difficult to manage relationship between my brain and my body.

Reposting it all here, in its entirety (original here.)

Romance Novels Saved My Marriage. Seriously.

Hey look, it's the old Memorial Bridge! Photo credit goes to our fabulous wedding photographer. (You can message me for her details.)

Hey look, it's the old Memorial Bridge! Photo credit goes to our fabulous wedding photographer. (You can message me for her details.)

 

Sunday marks my sixth wedding anniversary, and almost exactly ten years since my husband and I first met. As anyone who has been a long-term relationship with another human—romantic, platonic, or even familial—knows, relationships take a lot of fucking work. Sometimes when the deck is stacked against you, in the outside world or just in your own head, it feels like the only thing to do is walk away from it. Sometimes it is the right thing to do. But sticking around even when things absolutely suck, when you know it's not irretrievably broken but you have no idea what to do to fix it, is what long-term relationships are made of.

Every single day, I am so glad that both of us were too stubborn (and maybe a little too stupid) to throw in the towel and walk away. Even when it would have made perfect sense to do it.

And now for TMI (look away, Mom). Not all marriages are built the same, but ours is one with romantic love at its heart, and for us, sex is kind of really important. Except that for years of our relationship, I could not have cared less about it. A combination of internal and external factors, not least my struggle with major depression and generalized anxiety disorder, left me with no interest, and worse, guilt and anxiety about that same lack of interest. A fun and exciting cocktail of lady boner killers, if ever there was one.

I tried everything I could think of. I addressed my mental health issues. I got medicated, I went to therapy, we went to therapy together. I struggled to get myself out of my head and into my body. And finally, in a fit of 'what the hell could it hurt' I read a contemporary romance novel. (I'm not telling which one.) And it...gave me pants feels. It felt like a freaking miracle.

Romance novels saved my marriage. Really. Reading romance, aside from being entertaining and filled with sexy fantasy adventures, gave me a vocabulary for expressing what I wanted when it came to real-life sex. I could point to specific passages and scenarios when talking to my husband, and that felt less risky to me than trying to put words to desires that had only ever been nebulous at best.

Romance gave me tools to have agency over my body again. For years, I felt betrayed by a body that just. Would. Not. Cooperate with me. But in reading so many (so many) novels that celebrate pleasure and agency, I found ways to put my head and my body back together again.

I devoured romance across genres and heat levels. I hated some, I love some. I've reread others multiple times, and not just the sexy parts. When romance writers are good, they're damn good. And I keep reading them, not only for the dirty bits, but because at their core, romance novels are about hope. The hope that two (or more) people can connect in a lasting and meaningful way. That love really can conquer all. Even when they're dark, romance novels promise us that we can have a happily ever after. That we deserve a happily ever after, no matter how flawed and fucked up we are. And the world needs more of that right now. More hope, more love, more working to overcome our fears so we can connect with others.

So along with celebrating my anniversary with my husband, I'm celebrating my love affair with the romance genre. Thank you, to all of the writers out there, putting more love and joy and yes, sexy sex out into the world. Thank you for making me one of you, for helping me find my own calling writing joy, love, and sex. For giving me hope.