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Book Review: His Royal Highness

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Let me just start by saying that this book is downright fun. It takes place in a theme park. The heroine plays a princess and the hero is as close to a prince as it might be possible for him to get.

One of my favorite things about R.S. Grey’s work is that she isn’t afraid to write awkward heroine’s, but not in a clumsy-for-no-reason Bella Swan sort of way. They are bodily so ultra-self aware that they can’t help making a spectacle of themselves, and Whitney is no different. She flies through the story, trying to outrun her responsibilty for her own life by focusing on everything outside herself until confronting her relationship with Derek also brings her face to face with what she’s been avoiding. It was a joy to watch her grow and fall in love.

His Royal Highness is available on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited.

Buy on Amazon

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Book Review: Maybe This Christmas by Susannah Nix

I will be the first to admit that I am not generally a huge fan of Christmas books. I don’t mean to come off as a Scrooge, but I totally am one, so why deny it. Christmas romances, in my experience, tend to be Christmas books with a dose of romance. Maybe this Christmas, however, is a fantastic romance that just happens to take place over several Christmases.

The second I started reading, I was hooked on these characters and their journey from the first page and devoured most of it in one sitting. Well–I read it in the dark while my husband slept. Thankfully, it is a novella and I only stayed up kind of too late instead of waaaay too late. And the book still had all the great things I’ve come to except from Nix’s work: smart characters, fantastic dialog, and a love story worth rooting for.

Maybe This Christmas is on sale today, and it is totally worth the $.99!

Two best friends. Ten Christmases. One happy ending.

When best friends Alexandra and Lucas share a first kiss on Christmas night their senior year of high school, it feels like the best years of their lives are ahead of them.

Then Alex goes off to college, and Lucas stays behind to work at his dad’s construction business in the small beach town where they grew up. Life, as they say, happens. And somewhere along the way these two high school sweethearts find they don’t have as much in common as they once did.

Lucas’s life is on Beaufort Island, and Alex is all about getting away and moving on. So he makes one of the hardest decisions of his life and lets her go.

But every year when Alex comes home for the holidays, fate conspires to reunite the two former lovebirds on Christmas Day. Year after year, through good times and bad, Lucas and Alex meet up, catch up, and reconnect on the anniversary of their first kiss.

Is it too much to hope that one year they’ll find their way back to each other permanently?

Maybe even this Christmas.

* * *








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Read & Write, Chapter One

Pre-Order Read & Wright Today!

Read & Write is the third book in the Try Again series. It is an interconnected stand alone, so if you haven’t read Ethan & Juliet or Sparkle & Shine, never fear. You can dive right in to Colleen’s story on October 29th. Here’s your exclusive first look at Chapter One!

Colleen parked in the farthest space from the entrance out of habit. That she needed to walk the extra steps into the grocery store was ingrained. It was only one of the many habits her mother had expected of her since childhood. The rest she imparted as helpful text messages like an unwanted fitness app. Park as far back as you can. Always take the stairs. Take walks on your lunch break. Always leave food on your plate. Drink more water. Eat more vegetables than anything else. Save sugar for special occasions. 

Her mother lived by those rules. Colleen did not. That Colleen neither kept a journal where she tracked her food intake, nor cared if her calories burned measured more than her calories consumed had always a point of contention between her and her mother. She’d always told Colleen that it was a woman’s job to be conscious of her figure. A woman’s appearance affected her place in the world. For that reason, her mother had always been quick to pick at Colleen’s eating habits at family barbecues and church picnics. She would criticize the food on Colleen’s plate no matter who was listening while Juliet, Colleen’s naturally thin older sister, was allowed to eat as many pieces of pie as she liked. 

Colleen had always been on the round side of thin growing up and had only recently crossed over into being plus-sized. A person could only juggle so much and when she felt like her entire life had been falling apart, a few pounds had seemed the least of her worries.

Now that she was back in Goodland though? It had been the only thing her mother had talked about. In truth, the first few days it had almost been a relief. She could compare step counts and food journals with her mother instead of discussing exactly why her youngest daughter had given up her apartment in Denver and was living in the studio above the garage.

It was only a stalling tactic. Colleen knew that. Because even if being thin was one of her mother’s measuring sticks, it wasn’t one of Colleen’s.

No, what made Colleen feel like as failure as she tripped out of her boat of an old Buick and into the blustery Walmart parking lot was that she’d been asked to resign from her underwhelming day job and just flat out fired from her “just for fun but I really need the extra money ha ha,” barista gig. Which was bullshit. She had not been rude to that guy. She’d called him out on staring at her boobs, which she considered harassment. But when had anybody ever taken the woman’s side in a harassment case? Easier just to fire her and not deal with it.

Luckily, the people at Holy Grounds, the coffee shop where Colleen worked now, thought Colleen moving back home to Kansas from Denver showed good sense. Which was good for, because without the tips she’d made this last week, she wouldn’t be able to afford this trip to the grocery store.

Just like she hadn’t been able to afford much of anything since Derek had moved out last year. Colleen shoved any thoughts of her ex out of her mind. She didn’t have the energy to waste on him right now. 

So, here Colleen was, at twenty-six, kind of, almost, not really living with her parents and working as a barista–again. She’d left her umbrella in a half-unpacked box by the door, so she was also getting slowly soaked by the cold, misty October rain. Colleen pulled her denim jacket tighter around her waist and jogged as fast as her heeled booties would let her run.

The lights were too bright, like noon in July compared to the dank bluish gray cold outside. Colleen had to blink as she spun in a circle, gathering her bearings in the massive store. She hadn’t been in a Walmart since she’d come home last Christmas. 

Colleen had expected to be stopped by every person she met and interrogated about how her life was and what she was up to and how magical Juliet’s wedding had been, and how were the bride and groom? Any babies on the horizon? How perfect was it that their little hometown midwife had found a baby doctor of her own? They were going to be so happy, and when was Colleen going to settle down?

She’d been through the same conversations six times a day at the coffee shop since she’d been back, but Walmart was different. It was big, sterile, anonymous. She could have been at any Walmart anywhere in the world. She didn’t even recognize the elderly greeter by the door who pointed her in the direction of the shopping cart bay.

As much as Colleen was appalled by the idea of Walmart being the only real grocery store in town anymore, she was thankful to be someplace where she could be alone. She didn’t want anyone to remind her about her perfect sister and her sister’s perfect husband and her sister’s perfect house in the mountains and the baby Juliet was going to have in the spring. Colleen didn’t want to be reminded that no matter what Juliet did, she succeeded and no matter what Colleen did, she failed.

She picked out some new kitchen towels and roamed the aisles for the ground turkey. She paused in front of the vanilla Oreos, her hand almost grasping the yellow package before her mother’s voice rang in her head, citing again how much weight Colleen had put on recently. She forced her back straight and her chin up. She didn’t need her mother’s voice, and she didn’t need the damn cookies either. She might be home with her tail between her legs, but she had a plan damnit, and that started by not spending money on extras. 

Saying no felt good. And hey, Katy Perry was playing on the store radio. Colleen bopped along to Katy’s encouragement to be a firework as she turned into the spice aisle. She had brought all the kitchen essentials with her from Denver when she’d moved but had tossed most of her spices. She hadn’t cooked often even though she’d had a gorgeous kitchen with a stainless-steel range and long, granite countertops. She hadn’t had time. She’d spent all her time at work to be able to afford the gorgeous kitchen that she didn’t have time to cook in. Takeout had been so good and so varied in Denver, it hadn’t really mattered.

But in Goodland? The choices were pizza, fried chicken, fast food burgers or the all you can eat buffet. There was the one Chinese place, but Colleen hadn’t eaten there since the summer after her senior year, and she still couldn’t think about that night without her stomach rolling, so cooking it was.

At ten o’clock on a Tuesday morning, Colleen was the only person in the aisle. She was debating whether she should buy the Walmart brand curry spice blend or the name brand kind when she caught a movement out of the corner of her eye. Colleen glanced over her shoulder to see a man and his young son. But then she did a double take.

A man bun? She hadn’t seen a man bun yet. It was so common in Denver, she never would have noticed, but in this sleepy Kansas hamlet, this Norse god had her full attention. He was tall with strawberry blonde hair pulled back in an artfully messy bun. He’d complemented that with a sculpted beard just a touch redder than his hair. Broad shoulders and a muscled torso pulled his black t-shirt tight across his chest. The predictable logo printed over his impressive pecs read Wright’s Gym. Of course he wore a gym logo. Nobody got a body like that without considerable time lifting ridiculously heavy things.

Yup, it was like someone had walked into her mind and pulled out all her favorite attributes then molded them into one gorgeous package. Colleen checked that she wasn’t drooling and tried to turn her attention back to her spice purchases. She’d go for the expensive curry blend. If she was going to eat butternut squash, she was at least going to do her best to pretend that it was takeout from her favorite curry shop back home.

The Norse god and his heir stopped in front of the powdered sugar. According to her eavesdropping, they were making a cake for Grandma, which made Colleen’s ovaries jingle to life. She felt herself edging closer despite her resolve to stay away from anything that gave her mother more cause to complain. Father and son were going to make the frosting from scratch and were debating whether they needed one bag of sugar or two. Colleen wanted to swoop in and give them the best cake baking advice they’d ever heard and then be invited over to help them bake said cake and . . . possibly other things once the kid was in bed, but alas, Colleen had never baked a cake. She wished she had, because this man obviously hadn’t touched sugar in years, and he was likely more clueless about baking than she was. She at least could make cookies. 

She dumped the rest of the spices she needed into her cart, then made her way down the aisle. She paused just on the god’s left to grab a bottle of the vanilla stevia that had to be beyond reproach. And would you look at that? No wedding ring. She offered the man a small, sweet, but apologetic smile for invading his space. He nodded at her, then stopped, cocked his head to the side as something like recognition lit in his eyes. He finished his nod and turned back to his son as Colleen navigated her cart away.

“Let’s get two bags just in case,” he said, and Colleen booked it into the next aisle. That little kernel of recognition had shaken her, and her heart pounded in her chest. Colleen would have remembered if she’d encountered that level of physical perfection before, wouldn’t she? There was really only one person she could think of. One voice with that particular timbre, one man with hair that color, and that height. With a child that age. But she wouldn’t let herself believe it.

Colleen leaned against a support pole in the coffee aisle, fanning herself as she tried to convince herself who he wasn’t. The most damning evidence was his shirt, because he almost had to be one of the Wrights by stature alone. Colton and Court had gone to school with Colleen and Juliet, and they had been tall and thin as telephone poles back then. The Colton Colleen remembered had been boring and obsessed with Juliet. She had always found Courtney more interesting, cute even–before he’d turned out to be a total bastard. But both brothers had moved away for college and never come back, and Wright’s Gym was one of those big franchises wasn’t it?

No, it couldn’t be that Wright.

Maybe he’d thought she was someone else. She was fifty pounds heavier than she’d been high school and had way better fashion sense now.

Colleen looked down at her skinny jeans and brown suede booties. She’d paired them with a sage green tunic that matched her eyes. Because of the rain, she’d worn her denim jacket with the gray triangular scarf Juliet had given her for Christmas last year. She looked fucking amazing–if she didn’t think too hard about those fifty extra pounds. Colleen knew she’d thought about them a lot less before she’d moved home, and her mother hadn’t stopped reminding her about them on a thrice daily basis.

It was part of the reason that she was here grocery shopping instead of at home putting the finishing touches on her freelance website. Because if Colleen had to share one more meal with her mother as she made passive aggressive comments about the amount and type of food she ate, Colleen might commit matricide. And she liked her mother–sort of. She didn’t really want to kill her, but one more comment about butter or white potatoes, Colleen was likely to lob her butter knife right into her mother’s forehead. She was pretty sure she’d be found not guilty by reason of grave provocation, but still, Colleen didn’t want to be sad unemployed chick who’d killed her mother. Nobody would ever hire her to be their social media manager.

Colleen needed work that wasn’t coffee shop work. Colleen refused to be the aging barista who still lived with her parents. That wasn’t an option. Even the apartment over the carriage house was a temporary arrangement. Colleen had given herself six months to get her freelance business off the ground and then she was hoofing it back to Denver just in time for the snow to melt and enjoy the sunshine through her balcony window.

Colleen grabbed a box of organic green tea and smiled as she pictured herself tapping away at her laptop, sipping the tea and looking out the window to see Pikes Peak in the distance, and then writing the best fucking sentence of her life. Of course, in the fantasy Colleen was writing fiction and not web copy, but she couldn’t be too picky about that. No one was going to pay her to write the romance novels she only touched in the dead of night. Everyone needed a social media manager these days.

Ooo. That was a good niche market to target though. Romance authors would probably rather spend more time writing and less time marketing, she could think of two different promotional packages she could offer off the top of her head, and a good brainstorming session could churn out something for everyone at any price point. 

Colleen dug out her phone and started tapping out notes before she forgot. See, she was fantastic at this marketing and promotions shit. She just needed to work for cool people who liked the word, “Fuck.” Turned out the History Colorado, where she’d tried to be conservative and educational for three years hadn’t been much of a fan of the hip, edgy perspective that had got her hired in the first place.

Whatever. She was gonna rock as an indie.

Colleen had just dropped her phone back in her purse when the Norse god and his dark-haired son passed her aisle. The little boy, who had to be seven or eight, pointed down the aisle. “Didn’t gramma say we were out of coffee?”

One huge, rugged hand steered the boy toward the next aisle over. “Not that crap. I’ll stop by Holy Grounds on the way home from work tonight and grab some of the good stuff.”

Colleen’s heart almost stopped. She didn’t hear whether the kid also had an opinion on coffee. She was too busy thinking about how she worked tonight, and how she would be able to convince Thor to meet her in the supply closet for some moka java and a quick grope.

Unless he was who she thought he was, in which case the only option was a swift kick in the shins, and by shins, she meant balls.

And if it wasn’t him, he probably wasn’t interested in her anyway. She looked down at herself again, noticing the tummy pooch and wide hips. Not for the first time, jealousy over her sister’s naturally lithe, lean yoga instructor’s build swept over her. The Norse god probably only went for women like Juliet. Thin. Beautiful. Perfect.

Whatever. Colleen didn’t need him. Didn’t want him. What did she need a god for? She didn’t. Especially not one with a kid. She was so not mother material. That was one thing Colleen would cede to her sister. Juliet could have all the babies. Colleen’s one run in with pregnancy had been more than enough for her. No thank you. Never again.

Sexy Man Bun–who definitely wasn’t Courtney Wright, aka the man who’d broken her heart at eighteen–hadn’t come into Holy Grounds that evening. Not that she had been looking for him or anything. Because she totally hadn’t been. Colleen had been too busy being interrogated by Ms. Wrathbone, the elderly woman who had been her Sunday School teacher up through sixth grade, and who was so desperately curious to know about Colleen’s life in Denver that she stood right beside the register while she stirred extra cocoa into her hot chocolate and smacked her scone.

“Big city wasn’t all it was cracked up to be then, huh?” had been her opening line.

Colleen had shrugged and attempted the same vague answer she’d given to most people who’d asked her about why she was back so far: “Denver was fun, but it was time for a change.” Most Goodland natives had taken that to mean that it was time for her to come home to where she belonged, but Ms. Wrathbone just kept on spitting scone and yammering while Colleen counted out her change.

“Big cities aren’t for soft girls. You have to be sharp to make it out there.”

Colleen did her best to ignore the insult, not sure if she’d just been called fat, or stupid, or both. The old Colleen would have said something smart and cutting, but today, Colleen didn’t have the energy.

Vi, the only other coworker she had that wasn’t eighteen, plunked a latte on the counter next to Colleen. “And what do you know about big cities Ms. W. You’re still living in the house you were born in.”

“My Hal was from the city.”

Colleen frowned, and she felt a little bit of her old self perk up as she remembered that Ms. Wrathbone’s long dead husband had gone to school with her grandfather. Her parents were from a town in west central Kansas that seemed big compared to Goodland, but still only had a population of around 20,000. “Well, I understand Hays was rough back in your day, what with all the gunslingers and the cattle rustlers and the brothels, but there’s plenty of space for savvy curvy girls to make their way outside prostitution these days.”

Ms. Wrathbone’s jaw gaped for a moment, showing the attractive sight of her partially chewed blueberry scone. “Well, I never,” she said, as Vi edged Colleen off the register with a bump of her hip. 

Colleen took up her position at the espresso machine, thankful for the save, though Ms. Wrathbone remained undeterred. She stood by the register, talking over the line of customers looking for an afternoon pick-me-up talking about the last girl she knew who came home from the big city. She’d been pregnant and penniless because she’d been living as a kept woman and her sugar daddy had left her for somebody else. She’d actually said, “Sugar daddy.”

“You can’t trust men from the big city. They’re vain and fickle as a feather,” Colleen heard her say over the grinder. And she rolled her eyes at Vi, but her heart panged in her chest. Colleen hadn’t been a kept woman. She’d worked hard to pay her half of the apartment she’d shared with Derek. But he had been fickle, and her being destitute and depressed had been a direct result of him moving out to date a younger, thinner blonde than Colleen. He hadn’t gotten her pregnant though, so at least Colleen had that point in her favor.

She was still working on forgiving herself for trusting him, and it was made even harder by the fact that he’d somehow gotten wind of her moving. He’d been texting her three times a day for the last week.

Eighty percent of Colleen knew that he was only reaching out because Younger and Blonder had dumped him, but the other twenty percent still stupidly missed him and the fun they’d had together. That had been their pattern for years. How many times had Colleen let him back into her bed? She’d called it a convenient arrangement with her best friend because it made her sound less pathetic, but really it had been Colleen taking whatever scraps of affection Derek spared her. Now she knew better.

“I suppose you know that from experience?” Colleen said, just loudly enough for Ms. Wrathbone to hear over the phlegmy sound of steaming milk. Colleen actually hadn’t known anything about Ms. Wrathbone’s personal life, but the way the woman stuck her nose in the air and turned on her heel, leaving her scone wrapper abandoned on the counter suggested that Colleen had struck a little too close to home.

When the cranky old woman had disappeared out the front door, Vi high-fived Colleen. “Score one for us, City Girl.”

Colleen liked Vi a lot, even though she hadn’t expected to make any friends in town. All her high school friends had either moved away or were busy being married and pregnant with their second or third kid. And really, Colleen had been kind of a loaner in high school. She’d worked with her dad, did her best to fit in at youth group, but spent most of her time hiding behind books so nobody noticed how much she didn’t fit in at all. 

It hadn’t been until that summer after her senior year that Colleen had really felt seen by anyone. When it had been Courtney Wright how had seen her.

“The girls and I are heading out to Taylor’s tonight around ten. You should join.”

Taylor’s was a country music club in Colby where everyone went line dancing. It had been the place to sneak into in high school, since it was eighteen and over. Colleen had only been once, and it had been awkward and lonely. She’d grown up listening to country music, since that’s what her parents listened to, but she’d been more into Pulp and The Killers. Anything intense and glittery.

And besides, Taylor’s had been a fifteen-dollar cover when she was sixteen. It only had to have gone up since then. If she couldn’t afford a three-dollar package of vanilla Oreos, she definitely couldn’t afford a night out with drinks.

“Maybe in a few weeks,” Colleen said.

Vi gave her a sympathetic look, but only said, “I’ll hold you to that.”

Vi was only a year younger than Colleen but working her way through school part-time. She still hung out with the newly-of-age drinkers. Colleen could drink. She was able to knock back whiskey with the best of them. When she was in a mood, she ordered top shelf bourbon neat and drank the man who had put her in that mood–usually Derek–right under the table. 

Just another reason Derek had never been good for her. 

“I know you will.” And really, Colleen wouldn’t mind going out, even if it was country music. She preferred writing until the dead of night then collapsing into bed with her head so full of her characters that she dreamed of them, but she wasn’t beyond needing a girl’s night every now and then.

She’d been working so much her last few months in Denver that she hadn’t hung out with any of her friends. And that was the kicker about break ups, all the friends ended up choosing sides, and all hers had chosen Derek.

Since heroes in romance novels were always better than men in real life, Colleen asked. “Did you read that book yet?”

“Holy shit,” Vi said, and Colleen’s face broke out into a devious smile. She loved this part of getting friends hooked on romances. She’d loaned Vi one of her favorite slow burns a couple of days ago.

“You finished it didn’t you?”

“I stayed up until midnight reading, before I got to my psych homework. The textbook wasn’t nearly as exciting.”

“I have the next book, if you’re interested.”

“No. Yes. Well. I need to study for my test on Friday. But after that?”

“Absolutely.” Colleen and Vi high fived. The satisfaction of getting someone hooked on reading carried her through the rest of her shift. 

She was mopping the floor after close when a jolt of satisfaction stopped her mid-wring. If she went with her idea of promoting indie romance novels, she’d be doing one of her favorite things: introducing readers to books they loved. 

Colleen smiled to herself. She’d finally found her niche.

Can’t wait to read the rest? Read & Wright releases on October 29th, 2019. You can pre-order your copy today from Amazon, Kobo, Nook, or Apple and have it land on your ereader first thing that morning.

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Book Review: Applied Electromagnetism

Out Today!

I was lucky enough to receive an Advance Reader Copy of this book, and I am so excited to tell you about it. Between The Bride Test and this book, I was in such a reading slump. I just couldn’t get into anything. I read books, but almost everything I picked had at least one part where the prose was thick as knotted tall grass, and it was like the author (and the editors) didn’t realize how much it was slowing down the action. I don’t mind high knees when I’m working out, while I’m reading, I want it to be easy as strolling through a park on a warm spring day.

I was not disappointed at all.

I’ve ready Nix’s other books. She’s one of my favorite indie authors, and this book did not fail to deliver. The chemistry between Adam and Olivia is off the charts. Their connection is so genuine that I wasn’t even disappointed when all the naughty stuff happened behind closed doors–and I usually prefer my books steamy. Nix finds just the right mix of heat and momentum. The reader is carried right along with Olivia and Adam on their journey to accepting one another without skirting around their physical desire for one another. It’s a beautiful balance.

Five Stars

A business trip with the office hottie turns into the road trip from hell.

Adam Cortinas may be gorgeous, but he’s made it clear he can’t stand Olivia—and the
feeling is one hundred percent mutual. Too bad, because in order to bring the company’s new power plant online, they’re stuck with each other for the next week. When their travel plans go horribly awry, Olivia finds herself stranded in the middle of nowhere with Adam, AKA the bane of her existence. 

He’s in her space and in her head. All the forced proximity is driving Olivia insane.

That’s the only explanation for these FEELINGS she’s suddenly having. 
But it doesn’t change anything. They still hate each other.


Applied Electromagnetism is the fourth full-length novel in a series of standalone rom-coms about women in STEM, and the follow-up to 2019 RITA Award Finalist Advanced Physical Chemistry. Each book in the series features a new couple with their own HEA and can be read in any order.

Grab Your Copy: Applied Electromagnetism (Chemistry Lessons Book 4)

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Book Review: The Bride Test

Five Stars

I loved this book. I could not put it down.

Part of why I loved The Bride Test was that both Khai and Esme are engaging, beautifully wrought characters from start to finish. Esme is tenacious and as tortured as she is determined. Khai is as charming and endearing as he is maddening in his lack of self-awareness. The characterization rolled itself into a gorgeous roller coaster of a love story that had me buckling up for the next big hill.

But that’s not what I love about the book.

No, the part that has be raving is how the story played the two characters perceptions off one another throughout.

Esme is navigating life in a new country. She is trying to create a new life for herself while juggling her budding relationship with Khai. While Khai’s self-limiting ideas always leave him feeling a step-behind. Esme imagines Khai working in a closet, because his house doesn’t reflect the way she imagines someone who works on the top floor of a high rise looks like, while Khai tells himself he’s addicted rather than in love.

But the ultimate, best part of the book is that Esme shows up in California, not knowing what Autism is. When Khai tells her he’s autistic, she listen to Khai in a way that no one but Quan does, because she has no misconceptions of what autistic is. She sees Khai first, which is what creates space for the two to fall in love.

A satisfying romance from start to finish!

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Moving Out

If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you’ll know that we’ve been in the process of moving, basically since Sparkle & Shine came out six weeks ago.

And we’re not done yet.

It’s a very long story, but suffice it to say that the house that will someday be our forever home isn’t ready for us yet. BUT, we have finally moved out of our other house. We’re crashing with family for awhile, but it’s all movement toward the goal, which is a house in the country with the boys.

Our dining room the day we moved in. We had breakfast on the floor.

We lived in the house we moved into for more than five years. I was pregnant with Felix at the time. He was born in that house. I wrote all of my books in that house. It was the only place Felix and Rufus had ever lived.

And it was time to move on.

I had thought I would be sad to leave the place that had seen so much of our lives unfold, but honestly? I was just ready to move out. The work of moving, destashing, and cleaning had eclipsed everything else I had going on–which, admittedly, was a lot–so that I felt constantly overwhelmed and like I would never catch up.

The dining room on moving out day acted as a staging area for what needed to be loaded up next. It wasn’t empty until the very end.

Don’t get me wrong, there is still even more work to do out at The Farm, and I’m sure going through all of the boxes and finding places for everything (even if that place is the donation bin) will probably still consume most of my waking moments, at least my efforts will mostly be focused on settling in and making space rather than feeling like the suffocation of a narrow escape.

The house wasn’t the right place for us anymore.

It’s only two days later and Brock and I have already talked about what a relief it is to be out.

Now it’s time to settle into new routines–with the kids for summer–with work–with writing–with settling in to the next phase of the move.

There’s still so much left to do, but it’s in laying the foundation for the rest of our lives.

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Sparkle & Shine is Live!

You can finally read the second installment of the Try Again Series. I poured so much of me into this book, and I can’t wait to find out whether you still hate Rich, or if you’ve fallen just a little bit in love with him too.

Grab your copy from your favorite retailer below:

Buy Sparkle & Shine today

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Sparkle & Shine Cover Reveal!

Cover Reveal might be my favorite part of launching a book. I love unveiling the face of the story I’ve been working on so hard. The only way I could love this more is if I could have somehow wrangled Nicolas Cazale to play Rich for it.

Maybe in a couple years.

But seriously? This cover captured exactly what I was looking for, but saying why would be SPOILERS, so let’s just all admire the sweetness of it. And the balloons! I am so in love with the balloons.

Pre-Order Your Copy Today:

Release Day Reminder Email

Pre-Orders are available on Kobo, Nook, and iTunes now, or you can buy from Amazon on release day. In the meantime, follow me on Instagram for more teasers and sneak peeks leading up to release day next month.

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Sparkle & Shine, Chapter One Preview

I feel like I have been talking about this book for ages, but I’m not one of those people who pretends their book is a secret until it’s out, so since I started this journey with Alex back in November 2017, I have been so pumped to bring it to you. Not gonna lie, writing the first draft of this story was one of the major reasons why I decided to self-publish. I couldn’t imagine sitting on this draft for years waiting for an agent to like it.

The book has changed a lot since then. It’s changed a lot since January for that matter, but I couldn’t be more excited to share the first chapter with you today. Read to the end for links to release day sign-ups at my Sparkle & Shine pinterest board! And check back next week for the cover reveal!

Chapter One

Jab, cross, jab. Slide right. Uppercut. Back. Left hook.

Alex ran through the sequence three more times as she pummeled the bag. Her trainer watched with his arms crossed over his gigantic man chest. He hadn’t told her once to keep her chin down or her elbows in or her feet wide. When she finished, he steadied the bag then raised one eyebrow and said, “Ring?”

Alex pumped a gloved fist into the air.

She had only joined the boxing gym a year ago, and despite her enthusiasm, the sport had not come easily to her. Stepping and punching at the same had taken Alex weeks to master. Of course, it had also taken Alex two other trainers and innumerable flashes of her middle finger to the other gym members before she’d found Dale.

Alex had only been in the ring a handful of times, even though Dale had been pushing her to join the Saturday sparring sessions. It was something she hadn’t even considered. She was too busy with school and running her own jewelry business to squeeze anything else into her Saturday. She’d think of a new excuse not to come after she graduated next week—if she had any brain cells left.

For now, she was going to pretend she could kick Dale’s ass.

Dale held the ropes apart for her to jump in, then took up a defensive stance. He wasn’t tall, but he was broad, and had to be a heavyweight with all those bulging muscles. In any other circumstance, Alex might have taken a moment to admire those muscles but standing opposite him as he bounced on his toes, Alex’s heart thrummed in her throat.

A hit from this guy would hurt like hell.

She swallowed, and Dale grinned. “That Chinese crap you had last night catching up with you?” he asked with a wink.

Ticking her off was Dale’s favorite way to push her and nagging her about her diet triggered all sorts of other issues. Alex shook off her nerves, and took up her offensive stance, focusing her anger into power instead. Dale’s grin sharpened, and he bobbed side to side, teasing her as she approached him.

“Show me what you got, Stafford.”

Alex made her move, and even though Dale’s blocks were more jarring than hitting the bag, she slid through the sequence just as easily as she had when it had been just her and the bag. She even slid to the right just in time to avoid Dale’s left hook.

“Again,” Dale said.

Alex did it again and again until Dale tripped her up with a surprise uppercut just after she’d dodged his left hook on the sixth time through the sequence. Alex blocked, barely, but the force made her teeth clack together. She had to backpedal halfway across the ring, but Dale didn’t let up. He loosed an onslaught of punches that had her huddled down with her gloves covering her face as she tried to keep her footing.

“Don’t lock your knees,” he said, not even winded by his assault.

Alex hadn’t realized she’d zipped up her legs in an effort to take up less space, she jumped back onto her toes and tried to dance away from Dale, but he was backing her into a corner. Alex didn’t know what to do about it. She was barely keeping her brain from panicking.

“Come on, Stafford, I’m leaving my torso wide open.”

When Alex peeked between her gloves, she saw that he was indeed leaving his left side open every time he threw a punch. He’d deliberately left her an opening and she’d missed it. Alex slid to her right, again avoiding his cross, then hit his open ribs, using more force than usual because she was pissed. She was angry at him for tricking her into sparring, and angry at herself for missing the blatant opening.

Dale, being Dale, danced back, the blow not even making his breath come hard, and they slid right back into Alex’s rehearsed routine until Alex was panting and covered in a fresh layer of sweat. Even Dale had a little glistening sparkle to his skin.

“You suck,” Alex said between breaths.

Dale only shrugged. “You eat Chinese, I’m gonna make sure you put the calories to good use.”

“I was in the studio for fifteen hours yesterday. I had to eat something!” Alex kicked at his shins, but big as he was, Dale was nimble, and jumped back, laughing at her.

“Hey, you agreed to the meal plan.”

“I agreed to your recommended adjustments to my diet. I did not sign away my right to eat junk food forever.”

“You might have dodged that surprise uppercut if you’d had the proper fuel.”

Dale pulled off his gloves and held the ropes apart so Alex could squeeze out of the ring. She socked him in the gut as she ducked down with her gloved right hand, not hard, but hard enough for him to grunt in surprise. “Don’t pin your underhanded tactics on me. I know how you are.”

“Seriously though,” Dale said once he’d joined Alex back on the practice mat, “there is absolutely no reason why you’re not sparring.”

Alex rolled her eyes and followed Dale toward their station. She pulled off her gloves as they walked. They were pink and had sparkles on the piping. They made her smile, even as Dale tried her patience. “Can we have this conversation again after I graduate?”

“And then you’ll be visiting your grandmother, and then your new jewelry line comes out, and then you have your friend’s wedding and after that–”

“You know way too much about my life. Are you stalking me?”

Dale traded her the gloves for a bottle of water and towel. “If you treated me more like a trainer and less like a psychiatrist, there wouldn’t be so much to know.”

“Hey, hitting things is therapeutic.”

Dale downed his own bottle of water in one, and Alex wandered if he’d ever posed for a hot boxer calendar. She’d buy it.

“You probably should be in regular therapy too, you know. It’s not so bad. I know a good therapist.” Dale almost sang the last part, teasing like they were still in grade school.

Alex tossed her towel at him. “Yeah, let your husband drum up his own business, okay?”

Dale shrugged and tossed her towel right back. “You know where to find him when you change your mind.”

She wiped the sweat from her face and said, “Speaking of, I stress baked when I got home last night and brought you some cookies. They’re in my locker.”

Dale frowned and shot her a look that said a lecture on how sugar made her weak was in her future.

She held up both hands. “Don’t look at me like that. They’re macaroons, so they’re mostly coconut with just teeny bit of honey to hold them together.” She held her thumb and forefinger so there was barely any space between them. “Totally meal plan approved, I swear.”

“Then thank you,” his frown tilted up into a near smile as he leaned in to peck her on the cheek. “You’re a doll, Alex.”

She shrugged and patted Dale’s boulder of a bicep. It wasn’t a big deal. As much as she complained about him, Dale had become a friend. And she’d been feeling short on those lately.

“Leave them in the office before you go. And I’ll see you Thursday. Six A. M. Don’t be late.”

“We still on for dinner with Ben on Friday?”

A terrifying look of glee stole over Dale’s face as he rubbed his chin. “Of course.”

Dale was a little too excited to meet her boyfriend.

Alex shook her head and turned toward the locker rooms. One of the benefits of being one of the only women at the club was not having to wait for a shower or share the mirrors as she got ready for her day-which was going to be spent in her studio at school-again. She only had four more days to finish her final collection before her senior show, and after that, it was graduation.

She wasn’t new to jewelry making. She’d been working with beads and stones and wire since she was sixteen but hadn’t tackled full blown metalsmithing until she’d gone back to school more than a decade later. Alex was still working on perfecting her bezel settings, which made how they featured prominently in her final project all the more nerve-wracking.

Alex showered, but didn’t bother with her hair or makeup and changed into black yoga pants and a gray gym t-shirt. She knew by the end of the day she’d be covered in dust and metal shavings and whatever grime had accumulated in her school studio over the last nine months. She did make the mistake of checking her messages, and there were a lot more than she expected there to be at eight o’clock on a Tuesday morning.

Gran had already called for their twice weekly chat. She’d left a voicemail saying she hoped Alex was out of bed by now and not sleeping off a hangover like a cretin. Juliet had also called even though it was an hour earlier in Colorado.

Juliet had once been Alex’s best friend, and maybe she still was. They talked almost daily, and while Juliet had made the eleven-hour trek from Colorado to visit Alex a couple times, Alex had never gone to see Juliet in her new home. Alex been too busy with school and her ever expanding jewelry business, and any free time Alex had, she visited her Gran.

Besides, Juliet was happy in Colorado. She had Ethan and a job she loved, she didn’t need Alex anymore. Alex had known how to take care of Juliet back when she’d been in school and working with a single-mindedness that hadn’t left room for necessities like eating or sleeping. Alex had cooked most of their meals and paid most of their bills and had a best friend to drink wine with and to dance with and complain to in return. Even when the reason Alex was complaining was because Juliet had woken her up at dawn to do yoga and “greet the sun,” she’d love having Juliet around.

Alex wasn’t sure what to do with this happy Juliet. Her voicemail was one run-on sentence about the baby she’d just caught, and how she’d just picked out her wedding favors, and could Alex help her by putting them together? Her friend’s needs had changed so much, and Alex wasn’t the one who met them anymore.

Alex wanted Juliet to be happy. Of course, she did. And Alex liked Ethan a lot. It was just, living so far apart from each other, and being in such different phases of life, talking to Juliet always made Alex feel a little obsolete. Like maybe the whole Maid of Honor thing was more of a nod to what Juliet and Alex had been to one another before rather than representative of who they were together now.

Drifting apart was solely on Alex’s shoulders though. Everything changed the moment Alex had slept with Rich. It had been a stupid thing to do, she’d known it at the time. There were some things you didn’t do, and sleeping with the guy your best friend had almost married was pretty much first thing on the list under Thou Shall Not Murder.

Sleeping with Rich might have been forgivable offense if she’d only done it the one time. But the affair had gone on the entire summer. At the time, Alex had told herself it didn’t matter. Juliet had just started dating Ethan, so Rich was fair game–and it wasn’t like Alex had been looking for anything with Rich. She’d started it to keep Rich’s attention off Juliet and then it had snowballed from there. It hadn’t that Rich was the definition of tall, dark, and handsome. His olive skin and dark, wavy hair and sharp jaw practically felled most women who looked at him too closely. When he’d turned his whiskey colored eyes on her, maybe she’d lost her senses a little bit.

If pressed, Alex could admit that she’d been lonely, and having an attractive man pay attention to her instead of her friend had been flattering. She didn’t have excuses. Was the sex good? Phenomenal. Was Rich a douchebag who’d cheated on her best friend repeatedly? Absolutely. Should Alex have run in the opposite direction as fast as she could? No question.

But she hadn’t.

Instead, she’d taunted him. Alex had flipped her hair and flirted and dared him to make a move, all the while asking herself what could it hurt?

She should have been telling herself don’t go there. Then she should have been saying get out while you can, but it had taken your best friend can’t even look at you before Alex had ended whatever sort of quasi relationship she and Rich had started. By then, it had been too late, everything had already been ruined.

Alex didn’t want to think about that anymore. She’d spent most of the last three years trying to work past the fallout and prove to herself that she was a good person. Yes, she’d made some mistakes, but she deserved to be happy too. It didn’t matter that she wasn’t there yet.

Alex slid into her car and plugged her phone into the speakers, telling it to dial her grandmother as she made the thirty-minute commute to the University of Kansas in Lawrence.

“It’s about time,” her Gran said instead of, “Hello.”

“Good morning to you too, Gran. How are you feeling?”

“I’m fine, just like always. Where have you been?”

Gran hadn’t been fine. She’d been sick over the winter, first with the flu, then she’d had pneumonia bad enough to put her in the hospital. She insisted she was better, but there was a new wheeziness to her grandmother’s voice, and it worried her.

Her Gran wasn’t young. She’d had Alex’s mom late in life. Alex’s mom had been thirty-five when Alex was born and with Alex turning thirty later this year, her grandmother was in her nineties.

It wasn’t like Alex expected her grandmother to be around forever, but she was also the only real family Alex had left. Crotchety as she might be, Alex loved her for stepping up and taking care of her when Alex’s own mother hadn’t.

“I’m only a couple of minutes late. And I was at the gym, you know that.”

Gran liked to nail down how Alex spent her days–not that Alex told her Gran everything–but it was just how she was. She wanted to know, and Alex didn’t mind. It was nice to talk to someone about everything, even if it was mundane most days. Alex told Gran about sparring with Dale at the gym, and her plans to meet Ben the next day for dinner.

“Has he agreed to come see me yet?” She asked, interrupting Alex’s musings on whether they’d go out or grab some takeout and watch a movie since they were both bound to be exhausted from working their final projects.

Alex suppressed a groan. The answer was no, Ben didn’t want to drive all the way down to Pittsburgh, Kansas just to visit a ninety-three year-old lady on the short break he had between finishing this semester and teaching over the summer semester, but Alex didn’t know how to explain that to her grandmother, so she settled on, “I’m working on it. Probably my June trip, or the July one if that doesn’t work out.”

“I need to meet your young man,” he grandmother said.

“I know, Gran, but he’ll be at graduation. Is Elise still able to bring you?” Elise was her grandmother’s neighbor. Like Gran, Elise was widowed with grown children, but Elise was only in her seventies and while the two old women were friends as far as Alex could tell, Elise acted mostly as Gran’s chauffeur.

“Oh, I’m not going to bother Elise with that.”

Alex furrowed her brow and signaled to pass a semi that smelled like cow manure. “But I thought Elise wanted to come. She was excited to see Allen Fieldhouse and visit the bookstore downtown last time we talked.” Because yes, Alex did call Gran’s neighbor. Sometimes that was the only to make sure she knew the truth about how Gran was doing. It was how Alex found out her Grandmother was in the hospital at all last February, since Gran had called and pretended there was absolutely nothing wrong.

“Well, now she has to watch her grandchildren that weekend, and I’m not riding in a car with those demons for three hours.”

“They can’t be that bad, Gran.”

“They’re the spawn of Satan, I bet my life on it.”

Alex had to bite her lip to suppress her giggle. “Fine, I can pick you up Saturday, and bring you home on Monday if you like.”

“You don’t have time for that nonsense. I’ll be fine right here.”

Gran was right. Alex didn’t have time to drive back and forth to Southeast Kansas next week, but if it meant Gran could watch her graduate, she’d make time to do it.

“That doesn’t matter, Gran. I’ll figure it out.”

“No, you won’t. You’ll concentrate on getting your schoolwork done and spending time with your friends.”

“But I want you there.”

Gran muttered something under her breath that sounded a lot like the kind of words she would have washed Alex’s mouth out with soap for saying. When she was done with her whispered curses, Gran heaved a sigh into the phone. “Alexandra, I’m not coming. I don’t want to climb up and down those hills and be in a crowd of people all day. I was trying to be nice about it, but there it is. I don’t want to go.”

Alex sucked in a breath as tears sprang into her eyes, even as her grandmother fought off a coughing fit. Gran wasn’t coming to her graduation. She didn’t want to come to Alex’s graduation, just like everybody else.

That was fine. It felt like someone had stuck an ice pick through Alex’s chest, but she would be fine. With everything she’d been through, she’d always been fine in the end. And really, this wasn’t even that big of a deal. So her grandmother wouldn’t see her walk. Neither would her mom. And she couldn’t ask Juliet to come so soon before her wedding. She would have content herself with Ben being there.

The longer Gran’s coughing fit went on, the pain of rejection dulled in favor worry over Gran’s health. Coughing like that wasn’t normal, was it?

“Gran, are you alright?” she asked when the coughing ceased.

“I’m fine, child. I choked on my coffee is all.”

But Alex didn’t think that was all, and mentally added calling Elise to her never ending to-do list.

I won’t be doing a pre-order on Amazon this time around. HOWEVER, if you would like a notification on release day, you can sign up for an email reminder There will be a pre-order on Kobo, Nook, and iTunes, and I will share that link next week along with the cover reveal.

If you’re looking for more Sparkle & Shine, you can grab the preview of the first three chapters when you sign up for my email list, and get first dibs on cover reveals, blurbs and excerpts, and heads ups on sales. You can check out my Pinterest board and my Spotify playlist for the book as well, and see what was going on in my head while I wrote.

Thank you for reading!

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5 Tips To Hit Your WordCount Goal Every Day

Last week we talked about SEX SCENES, but this week I wanted to keep things a little more broad. Though you all know I’m a working romance author who loves to help other romance writers, I wanted to talk about something that ALL writers struggle with daily.

Gettin those words on the page.

Whether you’re a planner or a pantser, here are a few ways to hit your #wordcount #goals everyday.

How to hit your #wordcount in five easy steps:

  1. Get some sleep! This one isn’t going to be popular, because we all strive to be members of the #5amwritersclub, and if you get out of bed at 4:30 and be coherent enough to write by five o’clock in the morning that probably means you went to bed before 9 pm. If you’re scrimping by on four hours a night, it’s no wonder you have trouble focusing. I too stare blankly at my laptop screen when I would rather be sleeping.
  2. Put Your Phone in Another Room. It’s way easier to scroll through your Instagram feed than it is to write, and chances are, your phone is also getting low on battery. Plug it in to charge somewhere else while you tackle those words. Snap the photo of your writing desk when you’ve triumphantly hit that word count!
  3. Choose an Achievable Goal. Yes, we all want to be able to write 5000 words a day, but for most of us that isn’t practical because we still have full-time jobs, families, hobbies, and you know, basic needs to meet. Set the bar low if you have to. 500 words a day is still 500 more words than you had yesterday, and 500 more than you would have had waiting for your chance to write 5000 and then not getting any. As I’m typing this, my goal is currently 750 words per day. This is low for me, I prefer 1500, but it’s the season I’m in. The important thing is that I’m still writing.
  4. Be Flexible. This is how I meet my word goal most days. I almost always draft in google docs, that way I have access to my work in progress no matter where I am. At my desk I have a fantastic self-saving word processor set to automatically backup to my desktop and the cloud. And when I’m waiting in the school pick up line, I can tap out a couple hundred words on my phone. It’s usually full of typos, but it still counts!
  5. Use a tracker. Make a paper graph. Create a spreadsheet if that brings you joy. Download an app, whatever you do, keep track of how much you write in a way that’s satisfying for you. My favorite is using Nanowrimo’s goal trackers. (Under My Nanowrimo). Even if you don’t Nano, it’s worth creating an account just for those. They are completely customizable, and watching those little bar graphs stay above par is what keeps me motivated to get my words in every day.

    My biggest issue is staying flexible enough to fit in words when I can when all I really want to do is hide in my office where no one can bother me.
    What keeps you from getting words on the page each day? Tell me about it in the comments.