Archive for Writing-related posts

First Kiss Flash Fiction!

I have a confession to make. I’m a flash fiction virgin. Before I got invited to participate in this blog hop I’d never written flash fiction before and had only read one or two. The premise—write a short piece based on the First Kiss video that went viral last month (click here if you happened to miss it)—was too tempting. Even though the video was later revealed to be part an advertisement, I loved the idea behind it. Strangers meeting for the first time, getting paired together to kiss on camera? Sounds good to me. I’m a sucker for a first kiss. First kisses are among my favorite scenes to write (and among my favorite personal memories). When you’re done watching Oliver and Abbey share their first kiss don’t forget to click on the above logo so you can check out the amazing list of super-talented authors participating in this hop!

First Kiss Flash Fic…

Oliver’s Twist

I should be nervous but all I can think about is how the Altoid the short blonde girl handed me in the ladies room is burning a hole through my tongue. Curiously strong my ass. I’m not curious. I’m horrified. I also don’t see a trash can. What am I going to do with this thing? My eyes are starting to water. That’s not going to look good on camera. And no one’s going to want to kiss the crying girl. Fuck. All I wanted was fresh breath. Now I’ve got a mint coup going on in my mouth. The mouth I’ll need to use in less than five minutes if the giant clock above the sign-in desk is correct.

“Number eight.” The tall skinny guy who took my head shot at check-in is tapping me on the shoulder.

Tucking the mint into my cheek I turn toward him. “Yes.”

“We need you over here. Your partner’s ready.”

Partner. Oh God.  Now I’m nervous. And my mouth is still in the minty version of hell. I follow Skinny Guy, keeping an eye on his dark green Chucks so I don’t lose him as we weave past other people. Still no trash can in sight. How can there not be a trash can? He stops and I can see the guy he’s standing next to. His back is turned. Dark hair. White T-shirt. Thin but muscled. Great arms. Not too big but well defined. Narrow hips in classic faded jeans that look like they were made to be worn by him. And an index card in his hand with the number eight on it. My number. That’s my guy.

There’s no other option. I pretend it’s a Valium and swallow the killer Altoid. An icy streak tumbles down my throat and I swear I can feel it radiating its freakishly cool heat inside my stomach. But maybe that’s just more nerves. Number Eight has turned around and is scanning the crowd.

Skinny Guy points to me. “There she is. Okay. You two stay here. Everyone else is partnered up. Let me check that the crew is ready and we’ll shoot.”

Number Eight’s eyes meet mine and for a second I can’t breathe. Blue eyes are not my thing. But these blue eyes? I’ve never seen anything like them. Silver grey flecks and swirls inside the deepest, clearest royal blue. Like Murano glass. I didn’t know eyes could look like that. I can’t look away.

“Eight?” He tilts his head to read the paper in my hand as he waggles his card between his fingers. Long, strong fingers. Those are my thing. I love men with expressive hands and long fingers are always a plus. Now I’m doubly mesmerized. Eyes. Hands. And the burn in my mouth has finally begun to fade. A little. Now it’s just a cool whisper every time I inhale, which I’m not doing much because I’m barely breathing at all.

“Yeah. I’m eight.” That’s what I’m opening with? Not my name or ‘how’s it going?’ or anything else semi-intelligent or friendly. No. I announce I’m eight like I’m a third grader who’s just been approached on the playground rather than a grown woman about to kiss the handsome stranger with perfect gemstone eyes and gorgeous hands and hair. Oh God. He’s got really nice hair. My fingers rake through my own messy brown locks before I can stop them. It’s my nervous tic. Only this time it doesn’t calm me, it makes me want to run my fingers through his hair. It’s black and shiny and just long enough that I wonder what it looks like when he gets out of bed…. But I don’t dwell on that because Skinny Guy is now talking really loud and everyone else has gone silent.

“Okay folks, we’re ready. There’s a crew set up in each corner of the room. We’ll start with couples one, five and eight. The crew will do a countdown so you know they’re rolling and the rest is up to you. Questions?”

Nothing I can ask out loud.

Blue Eyes has his hands tucked into his front pockets which makes his T-shirt bunch in a way that’s kind of adorable. It also accentuates how broad his shoulders are in comparison to his hips. He smiles, a little crooked, then makes a small laugh and glances down at the floor before meeting my eyes again. He’s as nervous as I am and it’s somehow comforting.

He takes a step closer to me and, like an idiot, I step back. I can’t help it. My instinct is to keep personal space between myself and people I don’t know. He chuckles. “Sorry,” I say and cover my face with my hands, raking my hair back again.

“It’s okay.” He reaches forward and tucks a strand of hair behind my ear. “I’ve no idea what I’m doing.”

That’s when I hear the accent. He’s British. Thank you God. Thank you blonde in the bathroom. Thank you hellish Altoid. My stranger not only has sexy hair, eyes and hands, he’s got a beautiful voice. James Bond’s voice. Double Oh my God.

Skinny Guy’s voice booms and I can’t help but startle. “And ready in five, four, three.” He holds up two fingers then one and I know we’re being filmed. My heart switches places with my minty fresh stomach. “I’m Abbey.”

“Abbey.” My name coming out of his mouth sends a ripple of excitement through me. He steps closer and this time I don’t step back. He tucks my hair behind my ear again but this time his hand lingers at the base of my head, his fingers lightly stroking my neck. “I’m Oliver.”

My hands go to his chest and I can feel his muscles tense beneath the soft cotton. Nerves? Instinct? Attraction? His thumb makes gentle passes up and down my neck that make my eyelashes flutter. “Nice to meet you, Oliver.”

His eyes stay fixed on mine and their blue heat starts to melt something deep inside me. Inching closer I slide my hands toward his neck. His other hand cups my face and my pulse skips wildly. Thick dark lashes obscure the blue as he tilts my head. Full brows, razor thin nose, cheekbones—did I mention the cheekbones?—all blur together  as soft lips graze mine then pull away then touch again. His nose brushes mine then his head tips to the other side and his mouth closes in, firmer this time. Once. Twice. Then he does it again. That perfect nose edges mine as his head shifts back the first way and now he’s kissing like he means it.

My hands slide around his neck and he pulls me closer. He bends his knees as I go up on my tiptoes and our bodies align as we move in toward each other. Strong fingers trail down my spine to my waist, clutching at the fabric of my dress and making it ride up the back of my thigh just enough that I shiver from the tickling sensation.

His head shifts and this time his tongue flicks out against my lips. Just a teeny bit. Like a question. I smooth my hand up his neck to his chiseled jaw, tracing my fingertips over his features, so I can see him again in my mind. A second flick repeats the inquiry and my mouth springs open. Our tongues meet, warm and sweet, and I sink my fingers into his thick dark hair, which I now know is soft and silky. A small sigh rumbles in the back of my throat and I wonder if it made a sound anywhere but inside my head. Oliver presses against me harder and his fingers grip at my waist. His muscles bunch beneath his shirt and I know he heard me. Heard me and liked it.

Oliver twists once more, angling his mouth in a way that makes me dizzy and for a second I forget that he’s a stranger, that there are cameras watching, that we’ve never done this before. In that second it’s as natural as breathing and I fill my lungs with him. His tongue spirals slower and then he’s back to soft kisses, our lips barely brushing. He presses his forehead to mine as he stands upright, still holding me. My hands are still curled in his hair but I ease my grip and slide them down his chest as we inch apart.

“Lovely,” he says, looking into my eyes, lips curving into a devilish smile. His gaze darts to the ground before flickering back up to mine.

A giggle bubbles out of me and my cheeks heat as I replay the kiss in my mind. I guess he likes mint.

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FREE READ! A Christmas excerpt from Meant To Be

There is a Christmas chapter in MEANT TO BE that captures the spirit of Christmas and the budding friendship between the main characters, Daniel and Marienne. It’s always been one of my favorite scenes in the book and that’s why I’ve decided to share it as my holiday gift to all of you.  To read the story, CHRISTMAS COOKIES, click here.

To read the rest of Daniel and Marienne’s story you can purchase Meant To Be and its sequel Holding On at most major book retailers.

Amazon     Barnes&Noble     AllRomance     TurquoiseMorning

(And if the read makes you hungry for the cookies, click on the various recipe links throughout my blog so you can make some of the recipes mentioned on the pages of Daniel and Marienne’s Christmas tale.)

Happy Holidays!

xoxo

Karen

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Grandma Rose’s Marmalade Cookies

Welcome to the HUNGRY HEARTS HOLIDAY HOP!
We are so excited to CELEBRATE FALL with mouthwatering Thanksgiving recipes and delicious EXCERPTS from today’s hottest food-loving ROMANCE writers! Hop around and fill out the Rafflecopter form on each author’s site to enter our Grand PRIZE Giveaway: a Harry & David Crater Lake GIFT BASKET Classic!
In addition to the Grand Prize, one SWAG pack will be given away on Amanda Usen’s blog on each day of the hop. Visit each day for an AUTHOR spotlight and more FALL GLEE.
When the seasons change, our hearts fill with GRATITUDE. Life is grand, isn’t it? Hop with us and share your love of all things food, fall, and THANKS-giving!
To see all the awesome participants in this hop, click below!

Now, about those Marmalade Cookies mentioned in the title of this post….

My novel Then, Again is a foodie romance that is dedicated to my grandmothers and all the wonderful food-related memories they gave me while I was growing up. This recipe is one of my favorite cookies. My grandmother, Rose, used to bake them at holidays when I was a child then later sent them to me in care packages while I was away at college. It’s a simple recipe but I bake a lot and have never come across any other recipes that duplicate the taste and texture of these treats. Honestly I don’t even like marmalade but somehow in these cookies it’s wonderful. Try them. Enjoy them. Share them with your family and friends. Taste a bite of my memories.

Marmalade Envelopes
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
¾ cup white sugar
½ cup unsalted butter
2 eggs
Small jar of orange marmalade (I use Smuckers brand)
Powdered sugar

Sift together flour, baking powder and salt.
Melt butter and add sugar. Stir until combined. Mix in eggs one at a time. Gradually add flour, stirring slowly until a loose dough is formed. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.
When ready to bake:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Sprinkle flour on counter top or rolling surface. Scoop out a large spoonful of dough and roll out using a lightly floured rolling pin.  The dough is fairly delicate and becomes softer as you roll it, so go carefully, be sure to flip it over and flour the surface beneath it each time you flip.
Roll dough to between 1/8 inch and ¼ inch thickness. Use a sharp knife or pizza wheel to cut the dough into squares about 2×2 inches. Place a small spoonful of marmalade in the center of each square and fold the corners in toward the center. Pinch the dough shut at each corner so you wind up with a little sealed pouch.  You may reroll scraps as you repeat the process with all of the remaining dough.
Place each cookie gently on an ungreased cookie sheet approximately 2 inches apart (they will spread while baking).  Bake until just starting to turn golden at the corners (roughly 8-10 minutes). Let sit on cookie sheet for a few minutes then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.
Once cool sift powdered sugar over the top to coat. Store in an air tight container.  When ready to serve you may sprinkle with additional powdered sugar to freshen the look.
Makes approximately 3 dozen cookies.
Don’t forget to visit the other blog stops on this hop and click to enter rafflecopter! Enjoy! and Good luck to all!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Lucky 13 Trick or Treat Blog Hop!

Want a chance to win some fantastic prizes to heat up the cool Autumn nights? Join me on the Lucky13 Blog Hop!

My novels run the range from sweet and sexy to sweet and smoking hot so you have a chance to win one of each, among other prizes. DECADENCE is my most recent Ellora’s Cave release. It definitely falls in the smoking hot category because it’s all about a couple reigniting the passion in their marriage—and the do! They really, really do. And most of the story takes place on a single fall day. Autumn has always been my favorite season (beautiful colors as the leaves change, apple and pumpkin picking, dressing up for Halloween, starting the fireplace up again) but I get the feeling everyone would pick fall as their favorite season if it guaranteed them a day like Eric and Jessica have in Decadence.

Here’s the blurb…

In eight years of marriage, Eric Carlson has never forgotten to kiss his wife Jessica goodbye—until this morning. As Jessica runs her errands, all she can think about is the missing kiss. When Eric calls to tell her he thinks he left the toaster oven on, she rushes home, annoyed and afraid her house may be burning down. Instead of smoke and flames she finds Eric, looking hot and sexy as hell as he prepares fresh waffles.

Eric knows he and Jessica have been drifting apart. He’s bought the hot new product everyone’s talking about—the Spice Rack, guaranteed to spice up your love life. The jar he opens advises them to “Spend a decadent day indulging all your senses.” With the whole day ahead of them, a fridge full of tempting treats and the house to themselves for a change, that’s exactly what Eric intends to do—in the kitchen, on the washing machine, wherever the mood strikes. And Jessica’s got a super-steamy surprise for him too.

To be entered for a chance to win an e-copy of Decadence, leave me a comment and let me know YOUR favorite thing about fall. (One winner will be chosen at random—open internationally!)

For a chance to win my sweet but still exceptionally sexy foodie romance, THEN,AGAIN enter the main BLOG HOP drawing for the TREAT prize package.

THEN, AGAIN is also a seasonal love story as it takes place during a summer spent at the beach.

Here’s a peak at the blurb…

Sometimes you have to lose it all to find what you really need.

Photographer Kay Turner is dealt a double whammy when she flies home for her grandmother’s funeral to find her boyfriend with another woman. Now with two losses to mourn, she retreats to her newly inherited beach house to clear her head.

Everything at the beach is familiar: the sounds of the ocean, the scent of her grandmother’s perfume—and the irresistible smile of James Margolis. The man Kay spent her adolescence pining for is every bit as charming as she remembers.

James always thought of Kay as “a nice kid”, but he feels something very different for the woman she’s become. Especially when he asks if she’d be willing to part with some of her grandmother’s recipes for his new restaurant—and they wind up sharing much more than culinary secrets.

But as their relationship deepens, Kay finds herself caught between the demands of her dream career as a travel photographer, and a chance for happiness with the one man she’s wanted for a lifetime.

Product Warnings: This foodie romance contains sensual scone baking, a heroine who discovers one bad apple hasn’t spoiled her appetite, and a delicious hero you can’t help but crave. Blend well, serve hot.

Be sure to take a look at the list of awesome authors below so you can follow the Hop and enter all the contests. Stop at each of their blogs and see what they’re giving away plus get more chances to win the grand prize! And don’t forget to fill out the rafflecopter entry form! Good luck to all. I look forward to reading your comments below and giving away a copy of DECADENCE to the lucky winner. Happy Fall!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Coming November 5 – Leave The Lights On!

I’m very excited about the November 5th release of Leave The Lights On, a contemporary romance from Samhain Publishing. Here’s a peek at the blurb and cover!

When love throws you a curve, swing for the fences.

Parker Wood’s dreams of becoming a professional baseball player are shattered when he’s injured in a devastating car crash. After two years in hospitals and physical rehab facilities, he’s ready to move back to his childhood home and take over the family landscaping company. The house and business are his, now that his father has passed.

Sophie Vaughn has suffered through a hellishly public divorce from a husband who couldn’t manage to stay faithful for two months of marriage. Determined not to let her personal drama impact her successful wedding and party planning business, she buys her parents’ old house, hoping the comfort of familiar surroundings will help her heal.

When Parker and Sophie discover they’re neighbors once again, it’s as if time has stood still. Their friendship is quickly rekindled, along with the decade-long crush neither of them ever admitted having. Then the heat between them exposes a long-held secret that threatens to tear them apart…unless they can detach from their painful pasts and move forward—together.

Warning: Contains sultry summer nights, steamy pool-side encounters, and you’ll never look at a jar of peanut butter the same way again.

Pre-order now!

Amazon     Barnes&Noble     Samhain

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Now Available in Paperback!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MEANT TO BE and its sequel HOLDING ON are now both available in paperback! You can purchase copies at most major online book retailers.

Amazon   Barnes & Noble Turquoise Morning Press

Reviews/Quotes:

“The characters are charismatic, their fears and trust issues are palpable, the lust is like molten lava…hot and dangerous, and the love is so darn endearing that it will make you sigh with pleasure.” ~BlackRavens Reviews 5 stars; Recommended Read

“I don’t know if there is a ‘talented writers gene’ that sets some apart from others; but if there is, then Karen Stivali has it. If you want to read a book that will make you grin, laugh, love, forgive, understand, and lust, then I highly recommend Holding On.” ~Literati Literature Lovers 5 or 5 stars

I love when I read a sequel and like it as much as the first one. I couldn’t have asked for a better story for Marienne and Daniel to show what it’s like after the Happily Ever After ending at the end of Meant to Be. The beauty of this story is the way the author develops her characters and their relationships and gives you a true sense of how people would react and interact. Karen Stivali is a superb writer in contemporary romance.” ~Guilty Pleasures Book Reviews 5 of 5 stars; A True Gem

“Sigh. That’s what I always feel like doing after reading one of Miz Stivali’s novels. I just want to sit here, with my hand over my heart, and sigh. And smile. Because there is something so innately sweet and heartfelt about her characters and their love. I loved Marienne and Daniel in Meant to Be and I think I may love them even more in Holding On.” ~Romantic Book Affairs

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Coming 12/12/12 – FELT TIPS – The Erotic Office Supply Anthology!

You’ve probably been hearing rumors for over a year now, well they’re finally coming true. FELT TIPS, the world’s first office supply themed erotic anthology for charity will finally be available to the public!  This collection of erotic short stories is edited by Tiffany Reisz and contains steamy, lusty, office-supply filled tales penned by an incredible collection of authors. All profits will go toward charities that provide school supplies to underprivileged children and work clothes for adults looking to re-enter the work force. Want some quick, hot reads? This is the place to find them! To check out all the stories including my naughy short, HARD AT WORK, be on the lookout for info on where to purchase FELT TIPS. In the meantime, here’s a sneak peek at the cover. Enjoy!

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Cover reveal for THEN, AGAIN – Coming May 2013 from Samhain Publishing!

I’m delighted to reveal the cover for my upcoming contemporary romance THEN, AGAIN which will release from Samhain Publishing in May 2013. Stay tuned for the blurb and further details of this romantic beach story!

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Losing My Romanticon Virginity–Ellora’s Cave Style!

The Karens at Meet and Greet

A wise friend recently told me that he didn’t like to use the word “losing” in regard to virginity as losing implies something you accidentally no longer have whereas, in good situations, virginity is something that is actually given away freely. That certainly applies to my virgin status at Romanticon. I’ll admit, much like when I “lost” my actual virginity, I thought I knew what to expect, but in reality I didn’t have a clue. I figured it would be fun—most conferences are at least a little fun—and I knew I’d get the chance to meet a lot of people who I’ve been chatting with online for a long time, which is always great—but I still had no real concept of what my first Romanticon experience would  be like.

I have a very vivid imagination. It comes in handy a lot. When I’m bored. When I’m planning a party. Certainly when I write. Even my imagination couldn’t have come up with a more fabulous experience than the one I actually had at Romanticon this year.  Not even close. Best. Deflowering. Ever.

The Karens with new Alpha Caveman, Nick!

Some of you may know that in addition to my general tendency to worry about travel (I hate flying and it often wreaks havoc with my ears) and others may know that I’m currently being treated for Lyme Disease (which means I have to be on an annoyingly strict sugar free and gluten free diet for the duration of treatment and means that I have fluctuating bouts of flu-like symptoms and joint pain as my body heals). None of that is conducive to traveling, so I had some legitimate concerns.

I shipped a bunch of things ahead (swag, costumes and food I can actually eat). I arrived in Canton after 11pm on Wednesday night and shot an email to Valerie Plucinski around midnight, just telling her I’d arrived and asking where I should go to pick up my boxes in the morning. Within fifteen minutes I heard a knock at my hotel room door and opened it to find Val, in her PJs wheeling a dolly with my two boxes. She didn’t want to risk me going hungry overnight so she brought the packages straight to my room. Val is awesomeness embodied. That is literally one of the nicest things anyone’s ever done for me (thank you, Val!) and it got Romanticon off to the most positive start I could imagine.

One of my favorite things about all conferences is that I attend them with Karen Booth, my amazing critique partner, sometimes co-author and frequent anthology buddy. Not only is Karen B tall, blonde and blue-eyed while I’m short, brunette and green-eyed, but she’s a Southern belle while I’m a Northern gal, so we don’t get to see each other too often. The twice a year conferences we’ve gone to have doubled as our girls’ getaways.

Northern gals heating up Book Fair!

Karen and I started this getaway the night we arrived. I’d traveled with the lovely Frances Stockton (a fellow Northern gal) and we three shared a limo from Cleveland to the McKinley Grand. I think our driver was a bit intrigued to hear that he had a car full of romance authors. No sooner did we arrive than we met two authors I’ve “known” online but had never had the pleasure of meeting in person—the fabulous Sidney Bristol and Voirey Linger. Karen and I both share two publishers with Sid and Voirey, Ellora’s Cave and Turquoise Morning Press, so it was doubly awesome to finally spend some face (and boob) time with these wonderful women.

Sid and Sasha

The next morning Karen and I woke early and met up with the lovely Sabrina York. A fellow special-needs diet writer, Sabrina had rented a car and graciously offered to take us on a field trip to buy some gluten free food. Loaded up with apples, cheese, gluten free bread and some new mascara (hey, I have other needs, you know) we returned to the hotel and wound up having a lovely lunch chat with Kelli Collins. Karen and I had had the pleasure of briefly meeting Kelli at the RT Booklovers convention in Chicago six months ago. We were about to introduce ourselves again but that wasn’t necessary—somehow Kelli remembered both of us and said our names before we even had the chance. Talk about making authors feel like they matter. I’m in awe of how she manages to know everyone and keep them all straight. It’s just one of many ways that Kelli is an amazing woman.

Karen and Voirey

Karen and I knew that we were going to be signing paper copies of Long-Distance Lovers (our co-written novel and both of our first full length novels to appear in print). What we didn’t know was that our handsome hunk of a cover model was none other than newly crowned Alpha Caveman Nick. That night at the meet and greet we not only had the undeniable pleasure of watching Nick move (and I don’t think anyone can disagree that watching Nick move is pleasurable) but we got to meet and chat with him. He’s as sweet and charming as he is fun to look at. It’s no surprise that he’s from Dallas, the land of handsome, sexy Southern gentlemen. In fact it’s no surprise that a full 1/3 of the Cavemen hail from Texas. Is it something in the water there? And if it is, can someone ship some of it up North for us, please?

The Karens with Nick

I can’t possibly name everyone I got to talk to that night, but a definite highlight was that Karen and I finally got to meet our crazy-cool editor, Jillian Bell. It’s so nice to be able to put a visual with the woman who’s helped me edit more sex scenes than I can count—and the woman who offered me my first ever publishing contract (thank you, Jilly!). The rest of the evening was spent laughing, chatting and posing with Cavemen (one nicer and hotter than the next) and other amazing authors.

The Karens and Jilly being photo bombed!

Karen and I had been looking forward to seeing super-sexy Sasha Devlin again (we’d met at the RT Convention) and she was even sweeter and funnier than we remembered. We were also thrilled to finally get to meet Piper Trace, who is somehow even sexier and more hilarious in person than she is on Twitter. The four of us closed down the bar that night analyzing plot ideas, dissecting storylines, and comparing sexy boobs and sexy butts—just a normal Thursday night, right?

Sasha and Piper, all chromed up

Everything beyond that night has become a blur of busyness. Breakfasts, lunches and dinners with more fabulous authors and fans than I can possibly recount. Dancing ‘til all hours. Laughing so hard I’m amazed I never snorted anything out my nose. I got to take a lap dancing class with Shoshanna Evers and Cait Miller. I met the supremely sexy Syneca, who has designed all three of my smexy EC covers. I’d be bragging and name-dropping if I listed all the other fabulous people I got to meet—suffice to say there was awesomeness everywhere and I enjoyed chatting with everyone more than I can say.

Syneca with the super cover she made for us!

The Karens glammed up for the Last Dance!

Among the highlights of the conference were the insanely well-choreographed dance performances by the ever-talented Cavemen, the themed evenings where everyone was decked out in spectacular costumes and stunning outfits, the awards ceremony and incredibly touching tribute to the beloved Angelo and the book fair.

Book fair was nothing short of incredible. To see an enormous ballroom crammed full of readers who were there because they read and love our books was extraordinary. I get a lot of questions from people about the content of my books. In addition to writing erotic romance for Ellora’s Cave I write contemporary romance for Samhain and sexy women’s fiction for Turquoise Morning Press. There are two things all of my books have in common, they’re all love stories, and they all have sexual content. It’s how I write, it’s what I write and I’m proud of that.

I write about relationships and I try to keep my stories as realistic as possible….and real people in relationships have sex, so it’s in my books. It’s that simple. I never want to offend anyone with the content of any of my stories, but I so often feel like I’m being judged for what I write. Not how well I write it, but the fact that I “go there”. There’s no closed-door sex in my books. It saddens me that some people look down at that.

Being at the book fair at Romanticon I had to laugh because there were readers who stopped and asked “So, what are your books about?” and when I told them they were sweet love stories with steamy sex some of them said “Okay, I prefer the kinkier stuff, but my friend here likes your kind of stuff.” Instead of feeling bad, Ellora’s Cave makes you feel good (about being a little bad). That’s invaluable.

There were a few stand-out moments for me during the signing. Signing the first paper copies of my book Long-Distance Lovers and sending readers up to get Karen Booth’s autograph on it too. Having my kickass cover model Nick stop by and sign copies for me. Being told by a reader that she’d read everything I’ve written and wanted to buy the paper copy anyway. And, the most unexpected highlight, having a reader stop by and tell me that when she saw my name on the list of authors in attendance she was so excited because she’d loved my (recently released) women’s fiction, Meant To Be, and couldn’t wait for the sequel. I’m so happy that I got to speak with her and sign a cover flat for Marry Me for her. I worry about reader reaction to my writing in different genres and having someone appreciate both kinds of stories was so validating. (Thank you, Eileen, you made my day!)

Photo shoot with sexy Cavemen!

Oh yes, and let’s not forget the photo shoots. Dear God, the photo shoots. When I read in the program that there were photo shoots I assumed that meant we’d get to watch while the Cavemen posed for cover shots. I had no idea they’d be posing with the conference attendees. I am notoriously reluctant to have my picture taken, ever, under any circumstances, but this conference was such a safe, encouraging, empowering atmosphere that even camera-shy me stepped out (way out) of my comfort zone and I did a shoot. I was lucky enough to have Nick there to talk me through and,with Rodney in my line of sight laughing and telling me “you’ve got this”, I managed to giggle my way through.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Speaking of comfort zones. I love to dance and haven’t been able to for months (see above Lyme disease woes) but the music and surroundings at Romanticon were too enticing to ignore so I wound up on the dance floor every night. As much as I enjoy dancing I’ve never been a lap dance lover (no pun intended, well, okay, maybe a little bit of a pun intended) and I’ve certainly never been one to bump and grind with men I don’t know. Once again the safe, warm ambiance of this conference changed all that.

How much sweeter can these guys be?

I’ve been asked by several people who’ve seen the photos from Romanticon “Wow, what went on there?”, “Don’t people’s husbands mind?”, even “How could you do that?” I wish I had an answer eloquent enough to do justice to an explanation. Writing is fun and we all do it because we love it, but writing is also hard, stressful, never-ending work. You’re never “done” with any project, there’s still editing, or promoting, or waiting for reviews, or responding to comments, or blogging. It’s an amazing, fantastical job, but it’s still a job. We Ellora’s Cave authors write (amazing, steamy, mind-blowing sex). A lot. We spend a good deal of our time creating characters and exploring their sexuality. Well, guess what? We get to be sexy ourselves once in a while. Besides which, we’re a damn smart group of women and if we were doing anything shameful or inappropriate we sure as hell wouldn’t do it in a room with a few hundred people who are all holding cameras.

Anyone who thinks that Romanticon is sleazy or slutty clearly hasn’t attended the conference. There’s nothing wrong with a talented group of women, a sexy bunch of avid readers and a dozen to-die-for cover models spending a few days celebrating, laughing, talking, dancing and having an overall blast together. Did I get a lap dance from Caveman? Hell, yes. First one of my life. And it was more fun than I could have imagined. Not just because my dancer, Nick, has an awesome body and moves to match, but because I was comfortable doing it—something I never would have imagined possible.

Sexy? Yes.

Nervous? No.

What’s the difference between this and going to any old strip club? Tons of things. Less stripping, for one—these were men in pants (pants they looked super sexy in, but pants nonetheless). These also weren’t strangers. My lap dance came from someone I’d talked with several times (not to mention that he’s my cover model). It wasn’t threatening—there was a clear level of respect. I was surrounded by people who were being supportive (hell, I was pushed into the chair) and didn’t for one second feel like I was being judged or doing anything in the slightest bit wrong or inappropriate. It was just another let-your-hair-down, live-a-little moment.

I don’t get enough of those in my everyday life where I have a million responsibilities on top of all my writing commitments.

I’m beyond thankful to Romanticon, its planners and its attendees for giving me the opportunity to pack so many wonderful new experiences into a few short days. I left with new friends, incredible memories and feeling more relaxed and revived than I’ve felt in a long time. Priceless.

 

I don’t know who’s giggling more, me or Karen B as she takes pics!

Until next year….Cheers! And here’s some more random awesomeness in case you haven’t seen enough.

 

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Time to Indulge… with the Indulgent Hop!

 

These days everyone seems to have a to-do list a mile long. Whether it’s work, family, volunteer commitments or all of the above, we’re all stressed. What better way to unwind a little than the occasional indulgence? Something to make us forget all the have-to stuff and focus on the want-to things, even for a little while.

I consider myself lucky that I write fiction, because for me writing itself feels a bit indulgent. My characters get to do all sorts of things and I get to escape into their worlds whenever I write them. I love that. And, as an added perk, if I don’t feel like writing I always have dozens of books on my to-be-read list, many by authors who are friends. When I need to escape even my own characters I turn to theirs and it’s like a mini-vacation. It doesn’t hurt that my friends write some of the sexiest, steamiest, most thought-provoking fiction out there. Nothing takes my mind off my own life faster than immersing myself in something by Tiffany Reisz or Margaret Ethridge or Karen Booth, and (bragging now) sometimes when I’m really lucky I get to read their stuff before it’s even published! Then it really feels indulgent. I love being the first to know something!

Of course that’s not to say I don’t indulge in things other than reading and writing. My second biggest indulgence is, without question, food. Whether it’s a fresh batch of cookies or a big bowl of homemade chocolate frosting eaten in my PJs in the privacy of my home, comfort food eaten in jeans at my favorite local diner, or a decadent multi-course meal savored at the hottest upscale eatery while dressed to the nines, food is definitely a pleasure that takes me away from my troubles.

What are your favorite indulgences? A day of shopping? A trip to the spa? A batch of cookie dough? A naughty night (or day) with your significant other? A book to lose yourself in? TELL ME in the comment section and one winner (chosen at random) will receive his/her choice of my novels (e-book only, contest open internationally, over 18 only, please).

To check out what some other awesome bloggers have to say about indulgent behavior click here —it’s a great way to get new ideas on things to indulge in AND there will be more opportunities to win prizes!

Speaking of prizes, there is a GRAND PRIZE being offered for this blog hop! One lucky winner will be chosen to win a $100 Amazon or Barnes&Noble gift card (winner’s choice). To enter click on this link: a Rafflecopter giveaway –GOOD LUCK! And don’t forget to leave a comment!

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