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.

I don’t usually tell sad stories, but …

Watching my grandparents grow older, grow sicker, and eventually die is that hardest thing I’ve ever done. The memory of their loss haunts me to this day. One night, I was lucky enough to have them visit my dreams. Well, I thought I was lucky.

The dream became a nightmare in which I had to watch them die all over again, trapped inside “the old homestead” where I spent every childhood Christmas and which now belongs to a whole other family. (I can’t even drive  by the house in my hometown without crying.)

Anyway, since I had to live this nightmare, I thought I might as well write about it so the creepiness and despair could exist forever in the published medium. Wow, that sounded sadistic!

Sadism aside, I’m honored to be the For Books’ Sake Weekend Read: “The Weekend Read publishes outstanding fiction by women every Friday. We feature prize-winning stories, stories from published collections, and brand new work by established authors as well as showcasing new, emerging voices from across the globe.”

Here’s an excerpt from “They Lived in the House on Cherry Street.” Be sure to check out the story in its entirety at For Books’ Sake!

I expected nothing but silence and the stale smell of age when I walked through the breezeway and turned the familiar key in the familiar side door lock. Imagine my surprise when I smelled cigarettes and heard the rickety echo of Glenn Miller’s orchestra on a turntable.

The side door led into the kitchen, which was filled with blue smoke, illuminated by early evening light through windows that led to the backyard.

Then, a voice:

“Home at last,” she said. Mom.

The kitchen was as I remembered it: filled with blooming cacti and framed cross-stitch phrases in Italian. Beneath the cigarette smoke, I smelled tomato sauce. My mother stood at the counter, salting pasta, dousing it in olive oil, and stirring, stirring with a wooden spoon.

She must have been in her thirties: carefully curled black hair, red lipstick, a tiny waist, and a simple stained apron that belonged to my father but that she claimed was her favourite.

Mom turned to face me and smiled. She wiped her hands on her apron and opened her arms. “Give me a hug, Sandi. And why are you so late from school?”

We’d burned her decrepit, sick body three days before. She was ashes in the ground at St. Rose Cemetery, where all the Catholics ended up.

One of my knees gave out, so I reached for the edge of the stove for balance. I shouted and pulled my hand back from the heat, which made my mother run to me and yell, “Albert!”

I felt her hands on me—not the paper-thin flesh of a dying old woman but the strong, supple hands of a lifetime cook who kept our Cherry Street house clean and made my bed every morning. Her hands wrapped around my thin wrists and led me to the kitchen table that wasn’t supposed to be there. No, we’d sold the family table at the estate sale.

She pushed me into a chair  and rushed to the sink to wet a washcloth. She pressed the cloth to my hand, and I smelled her perfume: Chanel No. 5.

“What’s all the ruckus, Ella?”

Dad stood in the doorway that led from kitchen to living room—the place where we’d spent over forty Christmas morns. His head was already bald, but his hair was still brown around the sides of his head. He looked strong, the Naval officer he once was, not the wasted sack of bones who died in their bedroom ten years before.

I ignored the cold cloth on my scalded hand and ran to him. He almost dropped his newspaper at my exuberance. He smelled like smoke and Old Spice. He felt warm and soft, full around the middle from all the new-fangled light beer. He stuck his face in my hair and whispered, “Sandi, baby, are you all right?”

I cried, and Mom tutted. “She just burned her hand, silly thing.” She grabbed at me and wrapped the cloth firmly against my palm. “Now, sit down, you two. Time to eat.”

Read “They Lived in the House on Cherry Street” in its entirety at For Books’ Sake.

Got witches? Enchanted: Magic Spark Cover Reveal and Giveaway

It may come as no surprise to you that I love witches. I’m a Halloween fanatic who adores Harry Potter and actually owns a magic wand. When Pen and Kink Publishing editor Cori Vidae asked if I wanted to be part of a series about witches, I was like, YES.

The Enchanted series is three parts:
Magic Spark
Magic Ember
Magic Flame

The first part, Magic Spark, comes out January 9, 2018.
(Enter the giveaway for a free copy on Goodreads HERE.)

My story is called “Destiny’s Dark Light,” separated into three segments. Read all about its witchy wonder …

In modern day Charleston, lonely white witch Cyan Burroughs has waited her whole life to lead the battle against dark witches and eventually meet the man she is fated to love. A tragic trolley accident brings Liam Cody into her life. He is her destiny, but he’s also in love with someone else. Now, Cyan and her magic family must find the dark witch who caused the accident while Cyan fights her feelings for Liam—a charming Irishman with secrets of his own.

So have I teased you enough? Urg, okay. Here’s the cover for Enchanted: Magic Spark!

I’m lucky to be joined in the Enchanted series by Wendy Sparrow and Em Shotwell, two women whose work I greatly admire (and whose Magic Spark stories are fantastic).

It’s too soon for me to give you an excerpt from “Destiny’s Dark Light,” but I will say it’s funny, sexy, and angsty. It features a witchy girl with blonde dreadlocks and a sweet boy with an Irish accent. In Charleston. It doesn’t get more magical than that.

For now, be sure to add Enchanted: Magic Spark to your Goodreads list by clicking HERE.  (You can read about Wendy and Em’s stories, there, as well.) Pre-order links coming in November, but you can enter this giveaway for a free copy. Blessed be!

“Destiny’s Dark Light” aesthetic.

Author Beth Cato on Writing Her First Sex Scene

Author Beth Cato and I have been friends since before either of us had a book set free upon the world. I first fell in love with her Clockwork Dagger series, but I’m now obsessed with Breath of Fire, especially book two, Call of Fire, which just came out yesterday. If you like brave women in a steampunk world, check out all her books.

Aware that writing sex is one of my favorite things to do (and arguably one of my biggest literary strengths), when Beth had to write her first sex scene in Call of Fire, she texted me to tell me all about it. I figured I’d embarrass her further by making her write a blog post about the experience …

Writing My First Sex Scene
by Beth Cato

When my heroine Ingrid Carmichael decided she needed to get it on in my next book, I debated her. “What about tearing apart another building? Or slapping down another misogynistic jerk? I can write those things. Those are destructive fun.”

Ingrid was not to be swayed. My book needed a sex scene. Oh boy.

I have nothing against sex scenes. Goodness knows, I snuck into my mom’s romance book stash often enough in my teens to find out what was really hidden beneath kilts. I just don’t usually write the kinds of stories and books that escalate romance to that level. But Ingrid is a demanding lady. From the start of my first book, Breath of Earth, it’s clear that she’s twenty-five, a woman of color, and enraged at how society constrains and judges her. When she meets bookishly handsome Cy Jennings, she is awed at how he treats her with genuine respect. Talk about a major turn-on!

By the time the second book, Call of Fire, starts, they’ve endured hell together and fallen in love. Some seriously bad people are after Ingrid. Capture or death may come at any time. Ingrid wants to live life to the fullest in the time she has left–and that includes sex.

I skimmed over my bookshelves and examined other writers’ sex scenes on a technical level. Seriously, do this. There’s a science to this stuff, and I don’t just mean the biological aspects. I mean the flow. Rhythm means everything. Romance writers get sneered at a lot, but here’s a fact: sex scenes take some serious skill, and a lot of writers (me included) find them to be very intimidating. It’s an intimate act for the characters, and for the author, too.

My characters already had the chemistry, so really, it came down to finding the right pace to move things along through their nervous chatter and the physical seduction. My editor offered some additional comments to help me smooth out the flow, too.

In the scene, Cy lets Ingrid take charge; I let Ingrid take charge, too. She’s a woman who knows what she wants. I’m not going to get in her way, even if I’d rather write about knocking down buildings instead of stripping off clothes.

Excerpt from Call of Fire:

Ingrid dried herself and tucked the towel around her body as she stepped to the door. “Are you still out there?”

“Yes.” His voice was a low rumble right on the other side. “Did you get out of the tub already?”

“Can you help me?”

Hesitant pressure on the door handle made it twitch, but it didn’t open. “What do you need?”

She leaned on the handle and took a deep breath to steel her resolve. “You.” She opened the door a crack.

“Me, Ingrid?” He peered through the opening.

“You. I’m wondering if you can distract me in a pleasant way for a while.”

Through the gap, she saw Cy blink rapidly, his throat bobbing as he swallowed. “Oh.”

At that encouragement, she pushed the door open. Cy stepped back. He wore an expression of calm rapture as he took in the full sight of her in a mere towel.

Ingrid looked down at herself and wondered what he really saw in her, what he’d seen from the first time they met on the Cordilleran Auxiliary steps. She adjusted the towel over the generous curve of her breasts. Naughty pulp novels made seduction look so easy. A kiss here, a moan there, and next thing the couple knew, suspenders and stays were undone and passion occurred in sly euphemisms.

Truth was, her anxious heart thrummed like a Porterman engine at full power. She was desperately, horribly afraid that he still might balk and refuse her in a gentlemanly way, and leave her ashamed to face him for the rest of forever. Or even worse, that something might happen in the building across the way while they dared to take this respite. That’s how their luck had worked over the past week, like a leprechaun’s curse.

“You mentioned that you’ve thought about this,” Ingrid said. “I hope that it wasn’t just in terms of honor, but about especially pleasant things.” She shakily giggled. “Good grief, I can barely talk.”

“Maybe you shouldn’t speak, then.”

With a single long stride, Cy cupped her jaw and brought her lips to his. His touch sent a spiral of heat straight through her core. The rough skin of his thumb stroked her cheek as he tucked a stray tendril of hair behind her ear. She pulled back enough to gaze into his eyes, her breath rapid.

“I’d like to think I know what I’m doing here, but I’m relying on a score of purple novels that no proper lady should’ve ever read and my own rather active imagination.”

Read all about Ingrid and the delicious Cy (I really have a thing for Cy) in Beth’s newest novel, Call of Fire, now available everywhere!

About the book:

When an earthquake devastates San Francisco in an alternate 1906, the influx of geomantic energy nearly consumes Ingrid Carmichael. Bruised but alive, the young geomancer flees the city with her friends, Cy, Lee, and Fenris. She is desperate to escape Ambassador Blum, the cunning and dangerous bureaucrat who wants to use Ingrid’s formidable powers to help the Unified Pacific—the confederation of the United States and Japan—achieve world domination. To stop them, Ingrid must learn more about the god-like magic she inherited from her estranged father—the man who set off the quake that obliterated San Francisco.

When Lee and Fenris are kidnapped in Portland, Ingrid and Cy are forced to ally themselves with another Ambassador from the Unified Pacific: the powerful and mysterious Theodore Roosevelt. But even his influence may not be enough to save them when they reach Seattle, where the magnificent peak of Mount Rainier looms. Discovering more about herself and her abilities, Ingrid is all too aware that she may prove to be the fuse to light the long-dormant volcano . . . and a war that will sweep the world.


The Best Part of Being a Writer

I’ve spent the past month (longer) preparing for the release of Bite Somebody Else. Last year, it was the same story for my debut, Bite Somebody. I can now say I have successfully launched two novels into the world with the help of my publishing house World Weaver Press and my editor Trysh Thompson. What have I learned?

Launching the book is literally the hardest part of the authoring process.

Sure, it’s fun doing interviews because we all like talking about ourselves (or, in my case, expounding over why Benedict Cumberbatch is my muse). It’s fun doing book signings, especially when you get to rub elbows with author friends and people who’ve known you since you were a fetus. The positive reviews are fabulous. The social media explosion is, frankly, alarming. It’s all very magical, and yet, it’s the most draining, terrifying, and stressful experience of my life because I am a writer and all I want to do most days is write.

You see the conundrum.

In order to be a successful writer, one must take part in book signings (in public AHHH), guest blogs, retweets, advertising campaigns, interviews (on video AHHH), and more and more until you think you’re going to go quite mad. As a population, most of us writer folks are introverts, so this is daunting as hell. But we do it because promotion is one of the biggest parts of being a writer—and the most difficult.

The week of my final Bite Somebody Else signing, I realized I hadn’t written anything creative in a very long time. I was losing my mind. I saw some romance publishers were looking for erotic novellas, so I started writing. I wrote, and I felt sane again. In fact, I felt amazing. I realized writing is the best part of being a writer. Sounds obvious, right? It wasn’t until now.

See, I’ve been writing for years. I always figured the best part of being a writer would be the ego boost of a book launch and the excitement of meeting fans face to face (which is great, don’t get me wrong). I thought that publishing a book would bring me all sorts of joy—and it has—but not the kind of joy I feel when I’m hunched over my computer all alone, laughing at my own jokes.

Writing is a solitary thing. Writers are solitary people. Expecting us to be promoters and social butterflies is ludicrous, but we do it because we have to. The world we live in requires writers to not just craft sentences but craft personas. We need to be out there on social media and at conventions, and we do it—because we must. However, at the end of the day, the thing that brings me the most joy is writing words that become sentences that become paragraphs.

Having now launched two novels, I’ve come to realize the things I always thought would make me happy—fortune and fame—won’t make me happy. Am I rich and famous right now? No, but I’ve had a taste of both at book signings and on release day. It feels good to be appreciated, but compliments sometimes make me want to hide. Ask my editor Trysh: the only thing that keeps me standing and smiling at book conventions is beer. Once I’m allowed to stop smiling, I hide in my hotel room.

I just want to write. I want to sit on my ass every day and tell stories—even if those stories never get published. There is something so fulfilling about creation. (In fact, I’m pretty sure creation feels a lot better than birth.) Writing is the best part of being a writer. What a relief to remember.

Light and Scales: Freaky Friday Fiction

There are people out there who would have you believe love cures mental illness. Find the right guy or girl, and your depression will go away. Your monsters will go away. Fact is, no one can heal you but YOU. Be wary of thinking otherwise …

Light and Scales (Excerpt)
by Sara Dobie Bauer
Featured in Twisted Sister Magazine

You meet him your second day in Charleston. More so, perhaps, you meet his violin. He’s wearing a suit you imagine cost as much as a car. As he speaks to you, he’s still holding his violin: a red piece of wood with scratch marks and a faded veneer. You wonder at the abuse the instrument has taken but soon think these are not marks of abuse but marks of love—of devotion.

You’re in a place called the Charleston Grill. Waiters scurry like albino beetles in white shirts and dark slacks. The restaurant smells of butter and fish but mostly butter.

After the jazz quintet finishes their last set, you find out his name is Graydon Kelly and he would like to take you to dinner. At first, you think you should say no. He has that look about him: the thorn on the rose, the sugared rim of a poisoned glass.

When he shows up to your date, though, you reassess. He’s in a pastel linen button-down and torn jeans. He has on boat shoes, and his curly black hair is a mess. He smells like pine.

“Rosin,” he explains. Something to do with his violin.

He takes your hand and leads you to a table in the courtyard. His left hand is callused against yours. Outside, winding, wrestling fig vines grow up the exterior wall, illuminated by white twinkle lights that mimic the stars. He pulls out your chair and sighs into his seat.

He must notice you looking at him, because he smiles. “I look different when I’m not on stage.”

You fall into conversation, and it’s not the usual, polite, getting to know you babble. Graydon Kelly says odd, irresponsible things like, “You seem like you’re running from something” or “You have an amazing mouth” or the worst, “What do you think of me exactly?”

You only respond to the last comment: a terse, “I’m not sure.”

He walks you home in a rainstorm, leaving you both soaked on the crooked front porch of the yellow plantation house you rent. He smells like rain and marinara sauce with the lingering touch of pine. He tastes like tiramisu.

Later, in your bed, you find him conversational. He makes himself at home. He is comfortable with pillow talk, even with an almost stranger. Again, you doubt your assessments.

He seemed so dangerous in his dark suit at Charleston Grill but so playful in his boat shoes with his messy hair: almost innocent. His comfort in your bed, though, is his tell, his admission. He does this all the time. He makes love to women he doesn’t know because they ask him to, because of his violin and his face and the strange questions he spouts over champagne.

When you ask about a white scar on his rib cage, he tells you his father used to beat him. One day, his father broke his ribs. One poked through the skin. In Graydon’s words, the bone looked like “a stick dipped in marmalade.”

His honesty makes you awkward. You feel a need to share something, too, so you tell him you’ve been diagnosed schizophrenic. He doesn’t know what this means, not really, so you explain to him that you see things sometimes—children in white light on sidewalks; grown men covered in red scales. You tell him things have been better since the medication …

Read the rest today at Twisted Sister Literary Magazine.

Underlanders: When the world ends …

When the world ends, I’ll be sitting on my back porch with a bottle of scotch, toasting the zombies on their way to eat me. I don’t see myself as much of an apocalyptic fighter. (I mean, how do you expect me to live without Netflix?) However, some people are fighters: namely, the people in my new short story, “Underlanders,” featured in Arizona State’s literary magazine Canyon Voices. Here’s a teaser …

“Underlanders:” An Excerpt
By Sara Dobie Bauer
Published in Canyon Voices

Marie found her boys in the library, where they rested in all manner of recline. Tiny sat in the large, leather desk chair, with a book in his hands. The other boys sat on couch cushions and cafeteria seats. Some were on the ground—others stood in corners—but they all listened as Tiny stuttered through the rhyme of “The Raven.”

Marie listened to the words, but she also listened to the sounds of the abandoned hospital at night. She knew what sounds were welcome—the settling of the building, rain against windows, boys shuffling to the restroom. She knew sounds that were not: heavy, adult footsteps; the slamming of doors; inhuman growls. She heard none of these noises, nothing at all, and yet, the stranger suddenly arrived at her side.

He said, “I’ve always loved Poe.”

The boys turned. Shippy was the first to stand up, squint, and point. “Did you hear him talk? He is James Bond!”

Voices surrounded the stranger as he walked to the stacks of books, arranged in messy piles on heavy, metal bookcases that covered the windows and walls. She noticed he walked with no sound.

Yellow stood behind Shippy and shouted, “Can he stay? Will he stay, Mother?” His blond head shined silver.

Marie was too busy watching the stranger to respond. She could see his eyes change. From cold, dark blue, his eyes began to shine. He reached out long, pale fingers and took hold of a battered volume of William Shakespeare. She thought she saw his hand shake, and his eyes watered.

“Where did you get all these?” He put the book under his nose and sniffed.

“People left them behind.”

Then, Shippy ran to the stranger’s side—out of character for a boy taught to trust no one. “Are you really James Bond? You are, aren’t you?”

The stranger ran his thumbs over the picture of Shakespeare’s face. He glanced at Marie before looking down at the boy who needed glasses. “Yes, I am.”

“I knew it!”

The sad hospital library erupted in sound, but Marie hushed them until the room was silent.

“Would you read to us?”

“Tiny, the man needs to rest,” she said.

“No, I …” The stranger rubbed his eyes. “I would love to.”

“Can he, Mother? Please?”

Marie nodded.

“Do we call you Mr. Bond or double-oh-seven or—”

“James is fine.” He put his hand on Shippy’s head as he walked past the boy. Tiny vacated the desk chair and gestured with dusty hands. The other boys returned to their states of recline, but their eyes were bright. Unaccustomed to a new voice, they waited. They were the most patient group of children in the history of Earth, and they remained that way, frozen.

(Read the whole story at ASU’s Canyon Voices HERE. I promise nothing bad happens …)



I needed help being a sexy mom

When I saw the Cwtch Press anthology call for stories featuring erotic moms, I thought, “I should write something!” I have no idea why.

Let’s face it: I’m not a mom. I don’t have children. Yes, I have dogs, but I have no idea how to be an actual mother. I don’t know what it’s like to be pregnant or give birth. I respect women who are moms, but I could never do it. I’d be a horrible parent, because I would realistically have to say things like, “What do you mean, I can’t tase my kid?”

And yet, I did write a story about a lonely mom who’s just given birth to her first baby and happens to develop an obsessive crush on her UPS man.

“I Need Your Package” is fun, sort of silly, and sexy … but the first draft was wrong. As I said, I don’t know what a woman’s body feels like post-pregnancy. I needed experts.

I owe so much to my first readers all the time but for this story in particular. I had a couple real life moms who read “I Need Your Package,” told me everything that was wrong with it, and told me how to fix it. I won’t name you gals here because you might not wanna be associated with my smutty self, but you know who you are, and I ADORE YOU. You are the super heroes. You’re selfless and loving and much stronger than I will ever be.

In homage to Mother’s Day, here’s a teaser from my short story, featured in the If Mom’s Happy anthology from Cwtch Press. Buy your copy HERE today. A mom in your life will thank you!

Excerpt from “I Need Your Package”
By Sara Dobie Bauer
Featured in If Mom’s Happy (Cwtch Press)

Hannah once saw her deliveryman carry a big screen television under one arm. Another time, it was a dining room table from IKEA. You’d never guess, looking at the guy. He was tall and slim but not bulging. His long appendages probably helped, as did his sense of balance. He could stand on one foot like a yogi in tree pose—big box leaned on top of his thigh, scanner in the other. Like a ballet dancer, he jumped off porches and back into his big, brown truck. Hannah could hear that truck coming from three blocks away.

Dayton usually stopped at Hannah’s house around 11 AM. At 10:30, she successfully coaxed the baby into a nap. She made sure her blonde hair was in a respectable ponytail. Changing out of her robe, she put on a sweater that flared at the waist and jeans that didn’t look too “Mommy.”

If only she were so in tune with her own child.

Baby Neely had been mostly her husband’s idea. They’d discussed having children early in their marriage, but their careers got in the way. Hannah reviewed books for a mainstream women’s website; her husband worked early hours, often on the road. Then, at the age of thirty-six, it just sort of happened. Neely happened.

Hannah heard the rumble of Dayton’s truck and felt the way the sound vibrated in her chest. She scampered to the door and pulled it open, its old hinges squeaking just enough to wake Neely, who started wailing upstairs.

“Shit,” she whispered but pasted on a smile when Dayton jumped gracefully onto her porch with three separate yellow envelopes under his arm.

“Good morning, Hannah.” He winked one of his hazel eyes.

“Morning.” She gawked up at him and hoped her irises weren’t in the shape of hearts.

The scanner beeped as he ran it over the label of each individually wrapped book from publishers who desperately wanted her opinion. “Did you want me to f*** you on the porch next time?”

Her hand flew to her chest. “I’m sorry?”

“Did you want me to leave these on the porch next time? I don’t want to wake the baby.” The late autumn sun reflected off his short, auburn hair. His presence mimicked the fallen leaves in her front yard: those green-gold eyes, hair almost red, and slim fitting brown uniform.

“No, it’s fine. She just needs to be fed.”

“Oh, right.”

Did he glance down at her chest? Hannah had the urge to grab the back of his head and shove his face against her breasts. Then again, how sexy was a padded nursing bra?

“Well.” He handed her the packages. “See you later.” His smile was crooked and went up much higher on the right than left.

Hannah watched him go. Well, she watched his ass go until he hopped into the front seat of his truck and turned the ignition …

To read the rest (and learn more about Dayton … meow), buy your copy of If Mom’s Happy today and celebrate Mother’s Day with some sexy stories. Click HERE to purchase, and much love to all the hard-working moms out there!

Burnout: When you just need to freaking STOP

In her book, Furiously Happy, Jenny Lawson writes about something called The Spoon Theory. She says that each day, we’re given a certain number of spoons. Each spoon represents something you have to do, whether that’s shower or work or eat. Every time you accomplish something, you give away a spoon.

Well, I have run out of spoons, no matter what my dishwasher says.

I began to notice the spoon shortage last week as I prepared for my trip to Tucson where I would be the Mental Health Awareness Week featured speaker at University of Arizona. I didn’t have that much to do really, and yet, everything felt HUGE.

For instance, when I realized my swanky dress I’d bought for the event still had the “you stole this” thingy attached, I lost my mind. Actually going to the store to have the evil magnet removed felt like climbing a mountain. In heels. With an elephant on my back. An extra fat elephant. An extra fat elephant eating chicken wings. You get the idea.

I still had a few spoons left, true, but they were relegated to:
Drink beer
Watch the BBC
Cuddle Jake

Every other task? No spoons for you!

The spoon shortage included my writing. I quit working on my new novel because I realized my brain was too fried to plot or develop or care. Every bit of creativity I have right now is going toward prepping and promoting Bite Somebody Else. Even sending We Still Live to new agents is on hold. Okay, yeah, I wrote some Sherlock fan fiction yesterday, so assign a spoon to Smut. (I always apparently have a spoon for Smut. I think one is actually labeled “Smut.”)

At first, I battled with my lack of spoons, but if my mental health speech in Tucson last week taught me anything, it taught me that it’s okay to crash, especially if you’ve been working hard. Too hard, in fact.

In the weeks leading up to Tucson, I would wake in the middle of the night sweating and in the midst of a panic attack. My neck and jaw pain was so bad I started making weird stretchy faces in public to try to lessen the pain. (Picture Jim Carrey in … anything.) My brain was fuzzy to the point of forgetting things, all sorts of things.

The word we’re looking for? Burnout, baby.

Author burnout is bad. You awkwardly apply alliteration in all assignments. Your paragraphs closely resemble a Jackson Pollock painting. You accidentally use the phrase “heaving bosom” and don’t even blink. Which is when you just need to STOP. Not forever, but for a little while.

I think this applies to life, too, not just work. (Nobody wants to start literally looking like a Jackson Pollock painting.) Sometimes, you need to step back. Make a vague excuse about “spoons,” and no one will want to ask any questions. Have a martini. Stand on your head. Stare at pictures of Benedict Cumberbatch laughing. Whatever it takes to slow down the ever-churning engine that is your mind and just stop for a little while.

Perhaps collect additional spoons.

Saturday, I leave for the famed Bite Somebody Pilgrimage to Longboat Key, Florida, and I’m not working a lick. My spoons will be labeled:
Get a tan
Drink rum punch
Laugh your ass off
Swim in the moonlight
Read some smut (See, there’s always a spoon for Smut.)

When I get home, I won’t be quite so burnt out anymore. Maybe I’ll even do a little tinkering on We Still Live or the as-yet-untitled Witch Project. Or maybe I’ll coast on a Bite Somebody Else wave for a while. Who knows? It’s hard to plan my spoons that far in advance.

For now, I’m on a break. I deserve a break. Do you?

(Extremely fitting photo of me by Paul Andrew Portraits.)

KINKED contributors: What makes a great sex scene?

Ben glanced at his college friends, and finally, finally, took her hand and pulled her around the corner of a women’s clothing store.

Mr. Manners was pleasantly un-mannerly in private. He pushed her back against the wall and dove for her lips. She was ready, open-mouthed and hungry. She pulled hard on his hair and wrapped one leg around to the back of his, which gave her better leverage to stick her tongue in his mouth. His hands cupped the bottom of her ass, and she moaned when pelvis found pelvis. They separated momentarily, both panting.

“I live two blocks from here,” Angie said.

He leaned down and sucked at her painted shoulder, which made her head fall back and hit the building.

“Jesus, your mouth.” She pulled his lips back up to hers. “I love your mouth. Come home with me, Ben.”

He moved back enough to still be touching her but to be able to look at her, too, and again, those blue eyes found her tats as he licked his bottom lip.

“What?” she said.

“Can I confess something?”

Angie shrugged.

“I have a little fetish for tattoos.”

She chuckled, dark and deep. “Mr. Manners likes a bit of ink?”

“Ben, let’s go!” someone shouted from the street, and he looked in the direction of his friends.

“Uh-uh,” she said, latching onto the back of his head. “No. You’re coming home with me.”

“Can’t. Don’t even know you. Could be a serial killer.”

She rolled her eyes.

“You wouldn’t believe how many court cases start like this. Two people, drunk, making bad decisions.”

“This is a good decision.”

She really enjoyed the view of his furrowed brow, teeth chewing at his bottom lip. Then, his eyes popped open. “Be my date to the wedding.”

“You want to bring an inked-up sex shop girl to a Yale lacrosse wedding?”

“Yeah. Definitely.” He nodded, grinning.


There it is: a taste of my new short story, “Painted Red,” featured in Pen and Kink Publishing’s KINKED anthology. Every tattoo tells a story, as evidenced by the characters and relationships explored in KINKED. Many of those ink-based stories are sexy, so I asked a few of my fellow contributors: What makes a great sex scene? Here’s what they said …

“As a reader, it’s definitely the ability to put my imaginary self in the scene. If I’m analyzing what worked after the fact, it’s usually pacing, word-choice, and generalizations that leave room for my imagination to slot me into the scene. Especially if it’s one comprised of elements I’ve never personally experienced (for example, M/M). I like a certain level of specificity and frank language, but too much specific detail can bounce me out of a sex scene faster than anything. If I’m thinking about mechanics, you’ve lost me. Therefore, as a writer, I look for that sweet spot of details and generalizations and I depend on my beta readers to tell me where I’ve gone off the rails.”  Renee Dominick, author of “Through Glass A Stranger”

“For me, a good sex scene is organic. When it doesn’t follow a natural progression for the characters, when it was obviously the entire point of the story, that seems to be when it is more ‘smut’ than ‘quality sex’ for me. The scenes that resonate with me, that linger in my mind and tease the edges of my memory long after I close the book, are the ones that feel inevitable by the time you get to them. The heat between two characters has built and smoldered over the course of the story and when it finally bursts into flame for those characters, you have been smoldering along with them.” – Danielle Davis, author of “The Courier”

“I need to know how they wound up in bed together, which is a fancy way of saying I need character development. Show me the magnetism, the sexual frustration, perhaps the conflict between two characters that leads to great sex. I’m here for the ride, so give me one (pun intended, of course). Without understanding why characters want to hook up with each other, it’s like walking in on people getting down; it’s abrupt and devoid of context or invitation. Isn’t it so much sexier when you’re invited in instead and you know the players?” Tiffany Michelle Brown, author of ”Begin Again”

“What makes a great sex scene? In a word: details. If you’re going to write an actual sex scene rather than fading to black (which is perfectly legitimate and far preferable to a bad sex scene), don’t leave things to the imagination. … Paint a clear picture. Put me in the head and body of one of the characters. Make me feel what they’re feeling. If your sex scene can’t do that, re-write or ditch the effort in favor of a fade-to-black. There will be far less eye-rolling and pent up frustration.”  – Nicole Blackwood, author of “Sae-ri”


Want to see what these lovely ladies have come up with for their sexy stories? Pick up your copy of KINKED today. Every tattoo tells a story … and those stories should be read.


Angie and Ben … quite literally, in fact 😉