Dear Mr. Chalamet: When I was 22 …

I wasn’t going to say anything, but … I’ve been cheating on Benedict Cumberbatch with a 22-year-old since January. THE SHAME! And, seriously, I wasn’t going to say anything, but there’s been an abundance of irrationality surrounding said 22-year-old recently, and I can’t keep my mouth shut.

If you’ve seen Call Me By Your Name (or paid attention at all to the previous award season), you know the name Timothee Chalamet. No? Well, here he is:

He’s freaking beautiful, okay? And intelligent and endearingly awkward in interviews and extremely talented. He speaks FRENCH, for Christ’s sake. He was at the Oscars for Best Actor, the youngest nominee in that category in almost eighty years. Ever since watching him play precocious Elio in Call Me By Your Name, I’ve been a fan, which is easy considering he’s active on social media: a universe where Benedict is noticeably absent.

Due to Timothee’s social media activity, we fans know things. Since we’re all obsessed—men and women of all ages alike—we play detective and figure things out. The paparazzi have been annoyingly helpful, too. Thanks to them (and Timothee’s Instagram), we know the following:

  1. He partied hard at Coachella.
  2. He’s been hanging out with rock stars like The Weeknd and Nicki Minaj.
  3. He was recently spotted making out with a blonde chick in France.

I applaud the guy. I mean, shit, he just lived through award season, winning thirty-three big trophies for his role as Elio. He wore designer suits and walked every red carpet and smiled and smiled and shook hands and … I’m exhausted just thinking about it. He deserves to take a few months off to party, because—lest we forget—Chalamet is twenty-two.

Instagram capture of Timothee from The Weeknd’s party palace at Coachella.

Some fans have responded harshly, worrying about what drugs he might be doing, the sex he might be having. Worrying that he’s going to trip and hurt himself. People are screaming, “He must be protected!” Right. Okay. Time travel with me, would you?

When I was twenty-two, I was still in college. I was consistently getting drunk and dancing with strangers in bars. I didn’t have a job lined up after graduation. I slept until I literally had to go to class and did laundry once a month maybe. I lived on pizza and beer. One night, my girlfriends and I even had a contest to see who could kiss the most dudes in one night. I won with seven.

Some fans have seemingly forgotten what it was like to be a freaking kid. Granted, Timothee is an Oscar-nominated kid who might get another nod this year for his role in Beautiful Boy, but he’s still a child. (A sexy adult child, but you know what I mean.)

People—media included—need to cut him some slack. We’ve seen it happen a million times before: young actors getting all messed up and ending up in rehab by thirty. Do I want this sob story for Timothee? No. But maybe part of the reason young stars end up screwy is because they never get a chance to be kids and just have fun. They don’t deserve the pressure of being held to a higher standard. They’re just growing up, going through the same motions as all of us.

As Timothee has said in interviews, the male brain doesn’t fully develop until twenty-five, but young stars are under intense scrutiny, which I imagine is terrifying. God, I shudder to think what my life would be like if I’d had cameras pointed at me in college! I’d probably be in jail.

Should young stars be expected to hide in their homes, spending their nights reading philosophy while avidly not enjoying a cocktail? Hell, no. My advice to Timothee Chalamet: have fun, man! When you’re not working, party with cool people and experience life. Get laid! Get drunk! Post ridiculous dancing videos on Instagram. You might be alarmingly successful right now, but work hard, play hard.

I feel so blessed for the life I’ve led, experiencing fully every age. When I was twenty-two, I lived it up. (I still live it up.) I hate to see anyone forced to grow up too fast. It’s important to enjoy being young. Enjoy being thirty. Enjoy being forty! You get the idea. So everyone just chill and let Tim be Tim. (I still love you, Benedict.)

Am I a slut?

One of my favorite Sex and the City episodes is “Are We Sluts?” In it, heroine Carrie Bradshaw (and her three crazy friends) come to question their own sexual prowess based on strange bedfellows, a burglary, and an STD. I’m not getting into the details here, because you should really just watch the episode. It’s fabulous. I’m more addressing this question to myself: am I a slut?

Now, I realize that sounds sort of crazy. One, I’m married, so if anything, I’m a monogamous slut—which, in my opinion, is the cornerstone of a strong marriage. I’m more concerned with certain recent developments in my wardrobe. Last night is a good example.

With Jake out of town, I went barhopping with some of his twenty-something coworkers. Before leaving the house, I put on something “comfortable.” For me, “comfortable” was skin-tight Express jeans and a midriff halter-top. While curling my hair and staring at my own thirty-five-year-old reflection, I had the first tiny inkling … Sara, do you dress like a—gulp—slut?

I dress young for my age. I know this. Some days, I wear see-through shirts and six-inch heels to the  freaking grocery store. Ridiculous. Then, last night, I had a ten-minute internal battle with myself before I suddenly, coherently decided I’m not a slut; I’m just happy.

Hear me out. Currently, I’m yoga-obsessed. I don’t eat much meat anymore, and I’ve given up the majority of dairy and gluten. (Do I still drink whiskey and smoke cigarettes? Duh. I’m not a nun.) I recently went to buy the above-mentioned Express jeans, and I chose a size six. The sales boy actually glared at me—a visual “Bitch, please”—before handing me a size two. I can’t freaking believe I now wear a size two.

All my life—no matter my weight—I have felt like an awkward, chubby girl. Don’t roll your eyes; I realize this is all in my head, but my head is a very important part of my body. For months at my yoga studio, for instance, I was nervous to talk to my teachers because I thought I wasn’t worthy. I was the clumsy, thick girl, since for most of my life, that is how I’ve identified in my personal perception.

Now, I’m thirty-five and in the best shape of my life. With the help of exercise, healthy eating, my perfect husband, and maturity, I’m happy and confident in my body—which brings us back to the slut thing.

Do my clothes sometimes cling a little tightly? Do my tits sometimes loom a little large? Do I show my tummy and shake my ass in bars? Well, yeah. Because finally (finally), I’m happy with the way I look and comfortable—chuffed even—with who I am, and I don’t care who sees. My style has changed so much over the years, but I think my clothes are finally me—the me I have always wanted to be.

This isn’t political. I’m not reclaiming the word “slut” and making it into a pride statement. Honestly, this isn’t even about you. This is about me, damn it, comfortable in my skin after thirty-five years of worrying that I look bloated. With thirty-six looming in June, it’s prime time to say I’m not a slut; I’m just me.

I watch horror movies when I’m sad

There’s something so soothing about cannibalism. While recently watching the brilliant French film Raw, I totally spaced out on bloody images of a nice girl chewing on human flesh. With the addition of a well-mixed Cosmopolitan (it’s not a during-dinner movie), I put my kicks up and relaxed. Something I’ve done very little of lately.

As a writer, we all have bad days. I’ve had a bad month. Granted, I have so far spent much of 2018 creating. By end of March, I was burnt out. I thought going to Florida for the annual Bite Somebody Pilgrimage might help. A week spent doing nothing while sitting on the beach only made things worse because it made me notice how happy I felt not producing.

Currently, I stew in a state of discontent. Life feels slightly off, like a glitch in the matrix. I’ve even had trouble reading, comparing myself to every author and feeling like I’ll never stack up. I have yet to bang my head against a desk, but I’m close. At least if I’m unconscious, I won’t obsess over all the work I’m not doing.

Jake was out of town two weekends ago. Our empty, old house reminded me how much I love scary things—which was when I remembered a friend had suggested Raw. I paid a visit to old favorites, too, like Woman in Black, Neon Demon, and Poltergeist. I turned my back on my usual genres and started reading Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot. (True, I took a fluffy break to watch Alexander Skarsgard play Tarzan, but well, who doesn’t want to watch that?)

As close friends know, I watch Rocky Horror Picture Show when I’m really depressed. Something about being trapped in a spooky castle surrounded by spooky people during a champagne sex party really brightens my mood. When I speak about mental illness, I often mention my love of horror films: “No matter how bad things are, at least I’m not being chased by an ax murderer.” True—and probably why I’ve been fully immersed in the horror genre for weeks.

I’m struggling. I’m semi-drowning. A perpetual state of discontent is not a good state. My mom calls my writing a “gift.” My devotional this morning pretty much said the same. I am happiest when I’m writing, so why am I avoiding my favorite thing at all costs?

True, the “business” gets exhausting. The constant promoting and selling and pitching and rewriting and … ARG! I gave a presentation recently about “The Write Life,” and I explained to my audience that actually sitting down and writing—creating—is a surprisingly small part of the writer’s job. The birth of something, its initial inception (that blessed first draft) is the best part of the gig and, arguably, the smallest.

Which makes me want to watch every Halloween movie ever made and drink a dozen martinis.

I’m tired. I’m disgustingly discontented—and yet blessed because I have so many new releases in the coming year that are going to be amazing. Despite all the good stuff, it’s human nature to gravitate toward how messed up we’re feeling. Which I think is okay, really, as long as we don’t fixate on how messed up we’re feeling.

Dunno, guys. If I don’t feel the itch to create something new soon, I’m going to go right mad. I relate most to Mary Shaw in Dead Silence. I don’t like kids, and I already have the dolls.

The Unexpected Infatuation: Sexy short story out today!

Obsessed with this gorgeous cover by Rue Volley.

He caught my gaze. “Do you realize how much you watch me?”

I frowned. “Of course I watch you. You’re handling what you call national treasures.”

He blinked his large, dark eyes and continued to work without further comment until he discovered a book he must have considered of particular import, because he shouted with excitement and ran to me. Papers ruffled as he threw a dusty tome on my desk, but instead of recounting its prominence, he leaned so close, I felt his breath on my neck.

He whispered: “You can do more than watch if you like.”


As part of their “Hot Singles” series, Encompass Ink released my erotic short story today! Read all about “The Unexpected Infatuation:”

In Victorian England, middle-aged Thomas Warwick lives a dull, sheltered life with his wife until his uncle dies and leaves him everything—most notably, an astounding library. The young James Reynolds is hired to catalogue the immense collection while on Christmas leave from Cambridge. 

It starts innocently enough with gentle touches and careful smiles. However, it’s not long before James inhabits every waking thought of the conflicted Lord Warwick. Hounded even by lustful dreams, Thomas can’t help but tumble into infatuation. Thankfully, James is only so happy to catch him.


Reviewers have been super sweet to this story!

“Would love to read more about Thomas and James. Romantic and easy to fall for.”

“A quick, sexy read with a bookish ambiance and so much regency goodness. I highly recommend as a pallet cleanser after anything filled with drama.”

“An enjoyable read with sizzle. More James please.”

I hope you have fun with it, too. Buy your copy on Amazon today, and be sure to add it to your Goodreads list!

(Hmm, yes, I’m picturing James Purefoy as Thomas and Timothee Chalamet as the delightful young love interest. Cheers!!)

Bite Somebody is FREE!!

Thanks to the magic of Instafreebie, you can read the first eleven chapters of my bestselling vampire rom-com for free starting right now! (Let’s face it; you didn’t actually want to work today, did you?)

About Bite Somebody:

“Do you want to be perfect?”

That’s what Danny asked Celia the night he turned her into a vampire. Three months have passed since, and immortality didn’t transform her into the glamorous, sexy vamp she was expecting but left her awkward, lonely, and working at a Florida gas station. On top of that, she’s a giant screw-up of an immortal, because the only blood she consumes is from illegally obtained hospital blood bags.

What she needs to do–according to her moody vampire friend Imogene–is just … bite somebody. But Celia wants her first bite to be special, and she has yet to meet Mr. Right Bite. Then, Ian moves in next door. His scent creeps through her kitchen wall and makes her nose tingle, but insecure Celia can’t bring herself to meet the guy face-to-face.

When she finally gets a look at Ian’s cyclist physique, curly black hair, and sun-kissed skin, other parts of Celia tingle, as well. Could he be the first bite she’s been waiting for to complete her vampire transformation? His kisses certainly have a way of making her fangs throb.

Just when Celia starts to believe Ian may be the fairy tale ending she always wanted, her jerk of a creator returns to town, which spells nothing but trouble for everyone involved.


Claim your free eleven-chapter excerpt of Bite Somebody on Instafreebie!! There’s even a little box you can check to subscribe to my mailing list, which will keep you updated on upcoming releases, reading suggestions, and random weird news. Come on, join the SDB Cook Kids Club!

CLICK HERE FOR ALL THE GOODIES:

And, hey, if you’ve already devoured the entire Bite Somebody series, feel free to pass this along to a friend who might also like ridiculously awkward blood-suckers in Florida! The freebies are unlimited! And remember: Only bite the people you love.

 

The Naked Photo Shoot

It’s not what you think … Back in January, I visited family out in Tucson, Arizona. My brother and I hit up the gay bar, and I got a little wild (as one is wont to do at the gay bar). In the hungover morning, I posted a silly selfie wrapped in a sheet. Photographer Bill Thornhill, who’s obviously quite mad, messaged me immediately and said, “I want to shoot you like THAT.”

What he meant was: shoot me with almost no makeup, no hairstyling, and pretty much just out of bed at my house. Considering most of my photo shoots are so theatrical, it was a pleasure sitting around, drinking coffee with Bill while the camera captured moments that were just … me … laugh lines, freckles, and all.

I give you “The Naked Photo Shoot:” naked in that we’re being completely honest and, frankly, just having a good time. (All photos by Bill Thornhill Photography. Many thanks to Bill, who I am blessed to know.)

 

Saying goodbye: The end of Enchanted

“I should have told you about the paintings,” Cyan said. “Earlier.”

Liam chuckled and shook his head. “No. I think working up to that was probably a good idea. It’s kind of offputting when a girl you don’t know has, like, fifty paintings of your face.”

“Do you feel like you know me now?”

“Of course I know you. I might need therapy for the rest of my life because of it, but I know you.”

Cyan sipped her tea and held tightly to the small cup as if it might protect her. “Do you think you could ever love me, Liam?”

He closed his eyes and pressed his thumb and forefinger against his eye sockets. His forehead wrinkled, and his breath turned shallow as if his own ribs threatened to suffocate.

“Is that a no?” she asked.

He opened his eyes. She couldn’t be sure in the dimness, but she thought they looked wet, red around the edges.


Oh, the angst! It’s so weird that today, today, today … the final book in the Enchanted Trilogy marks the end of an era. I have spent the past two years with Liam and Cyan, and it is so strange to wave goodbye. I know, it sounds super dramatic, but if you’re writer, you understand: our characters are real people, and today, I say farewell to two of my favorites. Read all about part three of my novel, “Destiny’s Dark Light:”

The love story of Cyan and Liam comes to its enchanted end. With the identity of the dreaded dark witch revealed, both Cyan and Liam must find ways to deal with the ramifications. War approaches at an ever-increasing pace. Dark witches and white will soon battle on the streets of Charleston. Still, Cyan remains focused on the man she’s come to love. She is destined to protect Liam, but how can she keep him safe and save the world when her powers are barely under control?

I have to thank the boss lady at Pen and Kink Publishing, Cori Vidae, for trusting me with this three-part opportunity to write about witches and romance. Without her faith in me, this story never would have happened. Many thanks also to Pen and Kink publicist Elesha Teskey for making me look so good (and even sound mildly intelligent in interviews). Finally, thanks to my creative sisters Em Shotwell and Wendy Sparrow for joining me on this incredible journey.

It’s time for me to leave Charleston and head back to the real world. Do Liam and Cyan get their happily-ever-after, or will their love story be twisted as their destinies? Find out in the final installment of Enchanted. Get your copy today!

Photo by Bill Thornhill.

Am I on fire or just burning out?

Photo by Chris Loomis.

Best friend, writer, and editor Trysh Thompson has been warning me for months about “burnout.” When a creative person creates too much, we crash.

Over the past three months, I wrote the final 30K word segment of the Escape Trilogy. I wrote the Bite Somebody screenplay.  I wrote a 10K word Sherlock fan fiction. I have so far celebrated the release of parts one and two of the Enchanted Series in January and February (the third coming in April). And as of Friday, I rewrote an entire 55K novel called We Still Live over the span of 18 days … and then, had to attend a three-day geek convention to promote my work.

Monday night, after sending We Still Live to my famed first readers, I panicked. Dunno why really. Would you like a taste of my hysterical text messages?

“The more I think about it, the more I think my rewrite sucks and I’m kind of having a panic attack and should just be a stripper because I’m a horrible writer. Jesus, what’s wrong with me? Seriously, I feel sick.”

“I’m in crisis. Can’t even read right now without fixating on how every writer is apparently better than me. Feeling highly talentless and impostery right now.”

Photo by J. Dell.

Yeah, that is just a smidgen of what my closest friends have been dealing with. But is this burnout, or is this basically what happens in the mind of every writer, everywhere?

Do you know what I did yesterday? (I hope not, because if you do know, you’re a stalker.) I went to a fancy lunch place with my friend Ingrid, had a total vocal-vomit fest, and downed two, yes TWO, huge IPAs before dragging her to a dive bar for round three. I fell asleep last night listening to my favorite Debussy, Chopin, and Puccini tunes because the idea of picking up a book made me sick. Words have become the enemy.

So is this burnout? I have no idea. I just know it’s unlike me, especially as I prepare my line edits for the Escape Trilogy to be released by NineStar Press this July.

My brain is a fuzz ball of angst and confusion, maybe partially due to the beers of afternoons past. Or perhaps it’s time to step away and not write for a couple days? See what happens. Will the muse return, or will I spend eternity staring at walls?

When “career stuff” is going well, we assume we’ll feel a sense of peace, but let’s face it: the better the “career stuff,” the busier we are. I’m not complaining about the early success of 2018, but I will say I am overwhelmed and probably need to step away from creative writing for a little while.

Luckily, the famous (infamous) Bite Somebody Pilgrimage to Longboat Key, Florida, is in two weeks. There, I can unwind and think about nothing but cocktail hour. I think I’m ready. In the meantime, take a look at your own job and make sure you’re not burning the proverbial two-sided candle. It’s hell on the bar tab.

Good witch or bad witch? Choose sides in Enchanted: Magic Ember

PART TWO of the Enchanted series is out today from Pen and Kink Publishing!

The love story of Cyan and Liam continues in Enchanted: Magic Ember. Due to the violent arrival of a dark witch in Charleston, Cyan’s powers awaken. She is the foretold white witch, fated to save the world, but her skills must be honed with the help of her powerful family.

Liam fears the loss of his beloved Zoe while feeling strangely connected to Cyan. His entire life is turned upside-down when wicked witches involve him in the forthcoming War. The search for a dark witch intensifies, as do questions surrounding Liam’s past.

Enchanted: Magic Ember also features stories from Wendy Sparrow and Em Shotwell!



She glanced at Liam. “There’s this old prophecy in the Celtic Book of Shadows. It speaks of the rise of a dark witch and also a light witch, who will save the day. It’s the Dorcha versus the Loach in a great War.”

“The Dorcha is bad. The Loach is good.”

Cyan nodded. “The prophecy is obnoxiously vague, but we do know the lifelines of the Dorcha and Loach will transect.”

“How does it go exactly?”

She seemed hesitant to tell him, as though revealing some grand secret, and perhaps she was—some secret of witches.

“You don’t have to tell me.”

“It’s all about murder and death.” She wrapped her arms around her knees. “Before I was born, my grandmother foretold that I was the Loach, which meant the Dorcha was alive somewhere, as well. My father suspects the dark witch who flipped the trolley might be the Dorcha, which would explain why my powers have arrived.”

“What do you mean, arrived?”

“I didn’t have any powers until the accident. In fact, the first spell I ever cast was to get rid of your headache.”

“I don’t understand,” he said.

“Part of the prophecy states the powers of the Loach won’t show up until the Dorcha makes an appearance. Their powers feed off each other.”

“And what of this War?”

“The Dorcha wants to cover the world in darkness. The Loach has to stop him.”

“Kill him.”

She nodded.

“Good,” Liam said.

Cyan stared. He wondered if he’d said something wrong but then realized he didn’t care. He’d be willing to kill this Dorcha himself—if he thought he stood half a chance against a man who could flip an entire trolley with the power of magic.


Be sure to read Enchanted: Magic Spark before picking up your copy of Enchanted: Magic Ember. You really don’t want to miss PART ONE of Liam and Cyan’s story. Then, in April, the big finale with Enchanted: Magic Flame. It’s getting very witchy around here!

Buy your copy of Enchanted: Magic Ember on Amazon today! Click here:

Call Me By Your Name: A Powerful Writing Lesson

As I write the Bite Somebody screenplay, I’m constantly doing “research.” Recently, my research included seeing Oscar-nominated film Call Me By Your Name and then reading the book.

Mind, blown.

If you don’t know, Call Me By Your Name (nominated for Best Picture) is the  story of Elio and Oliver, two young men who fall in love over the course of a summer in 1980s Italy. Elio is seventeen; Oliver is twenty-four. In the film version, Elio is played by Timothee Chalamet (at 22, the youngest Best Actor nominee since 1944). Oliver is played by Armie Hammer.

The movie messed me up in a good way. Watching it is a visceral, emotional experience … although it was semi-awkward watching CMBYN in the theater, surrounded by middle-aged heterosexual couples. Chalamet and Hammer do not hold back in the sensuality department. In fact, despite its lack of nudity, CMBYN is possibly the sexiest movie I’ve ever seen.

The book, written by Andre Aciman, was so much darker and more disturbing. I chalk this up to the power of movie magic. In the book, we are in Elio’s head the whole time. We are there as his infatuation with Oliver grows. We are there for his eventual heartbreak. We are present for both emotions in the film version, as well, but the book takes it to another level because we don’t hear Elio’s thoughts in the film; we see only his actions.

What an excellent reminder for me as I wrestle with the Bite Somebody screenplay. My novel is all from Celia’s perspective, so—like Elio—we’re with her through every moment of self-doubt. In the screenplay, I have little more than dialogue to work with. I am forced to simplify, as was CMBYN screenwriter James Ivory (nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay).

Simplify, simplify is exactly what occurs when Ivory translates the book into film, which worked wonderfully. Ivory cuts characters and lengthy scenes, and it’s his artistic decisions that (for me) make the movie so much stronger. Yet, he also managed to make some characters more important (like Elio’s parents and Marzia) with resounding success.

And the dialogue? Bless me, baby Jesus, I can’t even … Astounding! There’s one scene in particular in which Elio and Oliver circle a fountain and Elio tells Oliver he’s a virgin but literally never says anything about virginity. For real, I can’t even. Watch:

Don’t get me wrong, Aciman is an outstanding author. I’d like to slurp some of his sentences with a spoon. And yet, the film … Young Timothee Chalamet is a marvel as Elio. Rarely have I fallen in love with a character so quickly. He and Armie Hammer have sizzling chemistry, even as they navigate messy kisses and boyish wrestling. The two actors (both heterosexual BTW) grew very close in real life over the course of filming, and it shows.

Elio is just more likeable in the film—sweeter, softer—and although, yes, he does have sex with a peach, Ivory cut some of the more unsavory scenes from the book. Scenes so disturbing that I cringed. The most disturbing thing about the movie was that Hammer is so much bigger than Chalamet. I worried the cute, little guy might get hurt.

Chalamet: ” a skinny, little nugget.”

Ivory also chose the perfect place to end the movie, and well, SPOILER!!!! (Skip the next paragraph if you’re worried.)

In the book, we jump forward in time and watch Elio age and never get over Oliver. In the film, Elio and Oliver say goodbye when Elio is just seventeen. Sure, the final movie scene is just … sob … but there’s a glimmer of hope that Elio will someday have another great love. Maybe he’ll even meet up with Oliver again. We don’t know what will happen, and I love the openness of the film’s conclusion. It doesn’t feel as definite as the book. It’s not so damn tragic.

Seeing Call Me By Your Name and reading the novel was fun, albeit emotionally daunting. What an amazing learning tool on so many levels. For one, I usually believe books are better than film versions. Wrong in this case. I also witnessed what sorts of things to streamline in a screenplay and even what moments make a character likable. I owe a lot to both James Ivory and Andre Aciman for their unique brilliance. This movie deserves awards, and what an inspiration for a fledgling screenwriter!