Amber Belldene

Mystically Sexy Romance…because Desire is Divine

Flash Fiction for the #FirstKiss Blog Hop

Alessandro_Petacchi_Rick Jarvis

I’m excited to join the #FirstKiss blog hop with other authors writing about first kisses caught on video. You can read more about the hop and find links to the other stories on my friend and the organizer Audra North’s blog.

And be warned. I haven’t written much flash fiction, and I failed at keeping it under 1500 words. This one is more like 2000. Sorry. I hope this picture of the Italian cyclist Alessadro Petacchi helps you forgive me. He looks a lot like how I picture Rick in this story.

The Kissing Roxanne Project

“Come on.”  Greg unclipped from his pedals and hopped off his ride. “Why live in this crazy city if you don’t become part of the performance art sometimes?”

Rick propped his bike on the other side of the rack, unable to resist scanning the small and eclectic crowd lining up for the Kiss A Stranger project.

He lived in San Francisco because he could step out his door and ride forty-six miles across the Golden Gate Bridge and back every Saturday.  The city was the art—he didn’t need to watch a performance, and he sure as hell wouldn’t be in one for fun. The mayor kept him tap dancing and the Board of Supervisors was pretty much a shit show. “No way.”

The flock of hip twenty and thirty somethings were dressed to impressed, and surely didn’t smell like they’d just pedaled a half-century.

“Dude,” Greg chided. “You haven’t been on a date in months. You so need to kiss a stranger.”

Rick kicked his heel onto his saddle and stretched his hamstring. “That’s impossible, like needing a kitten.” They were cute to cuddle for three minutes then turned into a pain in the ass, and they sure as hell weren’t essential to anything.

Greg had knelt to fiddle with his bike lock, and he grinned up, all helmet, shades, and teeth. “All work and no kissing makes Rick a grumpy bastard. Consider this an intervention.” He closed his bike lock with a definitive click, attaching Rick’s frame to his own.

Rick couldn’t help but laugh—a cheap trick, downright Machiavellian, but not an outright victory. He could easily do the awkward cleat-walk home and force his buddy to bring back his bike. “Like I said, I’m out. And be careful. If you pop wood, everybody’s gonna notice in those pants.”

Greg’s grin faltered as he looked down at his skin-tight cycling shorts.

Rick took the chance to cast the crowd of stranger-kissers one last glance. A trio of feminine backsides greeted him, three women bent over a folding table, signing papers. Release forms, no doubt, promising they wouldn’t sue if they drew the lot to kiss a sweaty cyclist with an agressive hard-on. They moved toward the entrance and his gaze got stuck on the one in the middle.  Tall, her long straight hair blacker than ink, she walked with the upright posture of a woman who knew people were looking.  The others seemed to be ushering her inside as if they were her entourage.

Damn. Some feral urge seized control of him and demanded he get a look at her. So much for gawking. He was going in there in his sweaty spandex, to kiss some stranger. Hell, he’d do worse, just to see that woman’s face.

He signed the release without even glancing over it.  Inside, a red LED board mounted near the ceiling displayed the kissers’ numbers, like at the goddamn DMV.

He weaved between people until he found her. The view was an unsatisfying profile and she still wore her sunglasses. He shifted to see more, but the room kept filling up, and he lost sight of her. Numbers were called out of order. Forty-two, twelve, sixty-three. Someone repeated it over a bullhorn a few times before he thought to look at his number. Sixty-three.

All for nothing. He’d come in to see her, and hadn’t even managed it. He should bail.

In the crush of people, it took a moment to find the door he’d come in through.  Hordes more people had crowded in. Hell, he’d get out of there faster if he went through with the randomly assigned kiss. He ran his tongue over his teeth. A hint of cherry-flavored energy gel lingered in his mouth. That was something. He unhooked the chinstrap on his helmet and showed his number to the bullhorn guy.

“Right this way.”  The staffer guided Rick down a long hall and into a room equipped with video cameras.

A small woman stood, watching with big eyes. Pixie haircut, trendy clothes, serious mouth. Not bad, if not his type.

He met her under the lights and gave her a little wave. “Hi.”

She turned beet purple and burst out laughing. “Oh God, I can’t do this.” She snorted and covered her mouth, doubling over with a textbook nervous laugh. Someone led her out while the bullhorn guy came to Rick’s side.

“Sorry. She told us when she came in she was having second thoughts. We’ve already posted the next number.”

At least it wasn’t Rick’s skintight spandex that had offended her. In fact, this was perfect. He could just follow her out. “Hey, man—”

The door opened and two women came inside.

Her.

His heart sped up to max, like he was climbing a steep grade without a warmup.

Her friend had hold of her elbow and seemed to point her toward Rick while standing on her toes to whisper in her ear.  Head-on, the woman’s striking face was nothing like he’d expected, more exotic than beautiful. Firm jaw, wide mouth, long and narrow nose. He didn’t want to look away.

“Which one of you is fifty-six?” asked the staffer.

Her, please. A silent plea to the gods of performance art.

She raised her hand.

Thank you.  

She shoved her dark glasses up on her head. Her eyes didn’t focus on him, didn’t focus anywhere.

He, on the other hand, stared.

A long moment passed and he sensed eyes on him, everyone’s but hers. Like he was going to get the crazy-nervous giggles next.  He swallowed down the giddy mix of surprise and excitement like it was a mouthful of his favorite beer. What kind of asshole wouldn’t kiss a gorgeous women because she happened to be blind?

“Hi, I’m Rick.”

She stepped toward his voice and smiled. “Roxanne.”

He moved closer. “Can I show you to where we’re supposed to stand?”

“Thanks.”

“Right here.” He squeezed her elbow and moved to stand opposite, studying her face. Her closed eyes gave nothing away, the muscles around them seeming immobile. He was about to kiss a stranger. She was about to kiss one she hadn’t even seen. “Nervous?”

“A little.” She chuckled and her nostrils flared.  Damn. She probably had super keen smell, or was that a stereotype?

“Sorry I stink. Just finished a ride. Wasn’t planning to come here.”

“Are you in good shape?”

“Pretty good.”

Her arms came up and instinctively he took hold of her wrists, leading her hands to settle on his shoulders.

She smoothed them along the topmost seams of his jersey. “You’re tall.”

He wanted to settle his hands on her waist, but left them dangling at his side, helmet hanging from one finger. “Maybe this is completely the wrong thing to say, but you could touch my face, if you wanted to, you know…see me.”

Her smile fell.

Shit. “Sorry. Can I take it back?”

“No, don’t.” She pressed her palms into his shoulders. “It was sweet. It’s just…intimate.”

“More than a kiss?”

“Yeah, kind of.” And then the fingers of one hand came up to his ear and began a gentle examination, feathering through the hair at his temple, her thumb gliding across his forehead and finding its way along one eyebrow, then down his nose, then up again to touch the bump in its bridge. “I love a strong-nosed man.”

His heart raced like it was striving for a personal best. Her delicate brow furrowed and she brought both her hands to cup his face, tracing his lips with the pads of both thumbs. “Soft,” she murmured. Then she raked her nails against his Saturday stubble and pleasure tingled down his neck and spine, straight to his balls.

Shit. There were cameras, an audience of staffers. This was performance art, with footage that could be used for God knew what.

“You said you weren’t planning on coming to this,” she whispered, her breath caressing his mouth. “What changed your mind?”

You.

“My buddy dragged me in.”

“Well, I’m glad he did, and now I’m going to kiss you.”  She brought his face down to meet her.

Her sweet lips brushed his then pressed firm. Chaste, and yet urgent anticipation coiled through his gut. After a close-up glimpse of her smooth skin, he closed his eyes. It seemed only fair.

He let her take the lead. The wet tip of her tongue licked at him and his mouth watered.  He parted his lips and she darted in, stroking.  He wanted to suck her tongue into his mouth, wanted to shove his own inside her, but he reined himself in and let her play in this shallow, teasing space. Something about the firmness of her mouth told him she was smiling and that cranked the coil of want inside him.  He wanted to be the cause of her smile, wanted to get out from under these cameras, buy her a coffee and learn everything about her.

He nipped at her lip and she groaned, so quiet he might have imagined it. And then her body was there, small, firm breasts flush against his jersey, her pelvis fitting against him, drawing his blood toward his cock.

All at once, she pulled away from his mouth. “Phew.” Her cheeks were pink, her lips swollen.

He wanted her underneath him looking just like that.

She smiled, sliding her hand up his neck to his face as if searching out his own response. “That was a great kiss.”

“Yeah.” Greg had been right. He needed a hundred more just like it. Today alone.

“Thanks.” Gratitude colored the word, and he wanted to punch anyone who’d made her feel lucky to be kissed.

“Are you kidding? Thank you. That blew the top off my skull. I didn’t want to stop.”

“I noticed.”

Great. Now he was mister aggressive hard-on. He stepped back, hoping like hell the chamois in his shorts left the exact shape of his cock to their audience’s imagination. All four staffers clapped. His cheeks heated with the completely irrational feeling of violation, as if their kiss had been private.

Her friend was already walking toward her, ready to guide her out, and giving him an appraising look on the way.

“Can I call you sometime?” he asked.

Roxanne’s mouth fell open. “You’re not supposed to ask that. You agreed on the release form.”

Right. The one he hadn’t read. Damn it. Every single part of him from his gray matter to his gonads wanted a repeat performance. Greg had been wrong about that part. Rick didn’t need to kiss a stranger.  He needed to kiss her.

“I’m Rick Jarvis. I work in the mayor’s office. If you call there, you’ll find me.”

She bit her lip, obscuring a nascent smile. “Nice to meet you, Rick Jarvis.” And then she let herself be guided away by her friend.

He watched her go, wishing for a sign, a glance over her shoulder that meant she might call.  But why would she look back when she couldn’t see? Just like the kiss itself, he’d have to let her take the lead.

At the door she stopped, raised her face and craned her neck toward him.  “I have an appointment downtown on Tuesday. If you happen to be free around lunchtime, I might come by.”

He would glue his ass to his desk chair for the chance to see her again. “Great.”

“I said might.”

That she’d said it at all meant she was very likely coming, and he would make it his project to kiss Roxanne again.

First Kiss Blog Hop Schedule

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I’m excited to participate in the First Kiss Blog Hop with a little flash fiction story!  Thanks to  Audra North for inviting me (btw–I just read her super dark and edgy cyberpunk erotica Out of the Box. Great writing, fascinating themes. I loved it!)

Remember the video where 20 strangers kiss for the first time? Right after it came out, it went viral, and even though it was later revealed that it was shot as an advertisement, the effect was pretty amazing. Attraction is…attractive. So attractive, in fact, that it inspired a group of us got together and write our own version of “20 Strangers Kissing.” Except in this case, it’s over 20 authors, each writing a flash fiction piece about two strangers who share their first kiss on camera. Every day from April 7th through April 14th, participating authors will post their stories to their websites. We’ll also be tweeting out links to the #FirstKiss hashtag on Twitter and posting links to Facebook. We’ve put together an easy-to-use schedule of authors below. But even if you’re not on this list, you can still join in the fun! Have a first kiss short that you want to share? Just tweet out the link to the #FirstKiss hashtag between April 7th and April 14th! We hope you’ll enjoy all the posts, share them with friends, and maybe even be inspired to write your own. Because attraction is attractive!

First Kiss Blog Hop Schedule

Here’s our lineup of awesome authors, including links to their website, Twitter handles, Facebook accounts, and First Kiss posts! Just a note: First Kiss post links (they look like this: FirstKiss-icon-small) won’t be live until the day they’re scheduled to appear.

April 7th

Emily Ryan-Davis

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Mary Ann Rivers

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Rebecca Grace Allen

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April 8th

AJ Cousins

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Alexis Anne

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Audra North

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April 9th

AL Parks

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Amber Lin

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Shari Slade

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April 10th

Mary Chris Escobar

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Piper Vaughn

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Julia Kelly

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April 11th

Karen Booth

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Karen Stivali

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Sasha Devlin

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April 12th

Geonn Cannon

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Jennifer Lohmann

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Lia Riley

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April 13th

Cate Dean

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Petra Grayson

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Cherri Porter

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LM Sparks

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April 14th

Alexandra Haughton

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Amber Belldene

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Stacy Reid

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For those of you who missed it, here’s the video that started it all: 

National Poetry Month

This is just a quick little post in praise of poems. (And even though its April 1, it’s not a tongue-in-cheek one, though I could imagine writing that too.)

I’m not a poet, and I’m not even a great connoisseur of poetry–my tastes run to the simple, the evident, and mostly either the domestic or the religious.

But the poetry I know and love forms the walls around the place inside me where faith and inspiration live, the place of mystery and wonder, the place beyond the literal, where words create, evoke and transform.

Some of my favorite poets are Mary Oliver, Galway Kinnel, Denise Levertov, Ceslov Milosz, and the mystics like Rumi and Hafiz.

I’m also steeped in the poetry of hymnody. The fourth verse from the hymn “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” really struck me today as a profoundly romantic sentiment, that captures the ecstasy of both spiritual and erotic love:

Were the whole realm of nature mine,

that were an offering far too small;

love so amazing, so divine,

demands my soul, my life, my all.

 

Hogwash, Joy, and the Bloody Birth of Stories

This is an essay about writing.  But first, it’s about another kind of creation.

At 38.5 weeks gestation, my twins were estimated to weigh upward of 8 pounds each and baby boy wouldn’t keep his head down.  So I had a c-section.

hogwash

I have some ambivalence about missing out on labor, as if that painful birthing is the essence of motherhood.  That’s hogwash, of course, as all adoptive mothers will say. But its one of the many idealizations we internalize about parenting, and which we can use to abuse ourselves about whether we are doing it right.

Motherhood (and fatherhood) is a messy, creative, profound, painful, joyous boundary exploding chaos, and the birthing is only one moment, crystalizing the beautiful blood bath that brings new life.

It helps me to remember this when I’m writing, or more accurately when Iam revising. When the boundaries between myself and my manuscript fade. When I love it and hate it at the same time.  When I know something is true about a character and yet my critique partners insist they cannot see it and I have to figure out how to show it better.  When I am overwhelmed by the ecstasy of a story, and must figure out how to do it justice with words.  When I doubt myself.  When I think it is done, and then realize it’s really not, and then am forced to admit it’s never really done, just like me, but at some point I have stop and call it good enough and send it off.

scraped kneeAll of this hurts, much like watching your own child scrape her knee, or having to sit-out a tantrum or a screaming time-out, or discovering he or she has a learning difference, or has made a terrible mistake. Parenting is not for the faint of heart and neither is writing.

Some authors believe we shouldn’t talk about this part of writing.  That we should pretend it’s effortless, so that people will trust we are truly gifted.  Others, like Delilah Dawson and Chuck Wendig, are so frickin’ hilarious about the ups and downs of the writers’ life that they are my occasional life raft.

I wonder about readers—do you like to imagine authors sitting at our tidy desks consulting our orderly outlines and confidently typing “The End” while wearing broad smiles? Do you picture evil geniuses, slaving and sweating over laptops and tugging on matted locks of hair? Or do you imagine that we all write differently, based on the characteristics of our books—the winding ones and the crisp ones?  Do you like to know how the sausage is made, or do prefer to stay out of the kitchen and just enjoy the book?

all joyI recently heard an interview with the author of a parenting book called All Joy, No Fun and her thesis struck me as true.  Joy is a deeper emotion than fun or happiness.  It is big enough to capture pain and suffering and sacrifice, as well as bliss, affection, contentment.  Joy is both more bittersweet, and more profound.

The best books leave us with a sense of joy.

I write because something deep inside me demands it. It’s not always fun and it doesn’t always make me happy, but it does always bring me joy.  And as an author, I’d rather be honest about it, because I think it tells you something about what you can expect from my characters and my worlds.

They may or may not achieve bittersweet profundity, but they are written by someone who lives it every day.

 

What the hell I’ve been doing lately. (AKA the Writing Process Blog Hop)

coronatypewriterThanks to my friend Jessica Russell, who was one of my very first writing partners for tagging me in the Writing Process Hop. She helped make Blood Vine richer with fabulous suggestions for deepening the characterization of Zoey, and I’ve learned so much from her.  Her debut novel The Dressmaker’s Duke blew me away with its sensual, beautiful descriptions and lovable characters. And soon you can read it too!

I met Jess in an RWA forum where she posted a blurb for a book about a duke who repaired watches.  Sending her an email to say I loved it turned out to be one of the best decisions in my writing career.  You can hear about her latest WIP here:

http://jessrussellromance.com/

What am I working on?

I’m working on three things at once, a historical paranormal romance set in San Francisco, which I’ve been working on for a long, long time.   It’s cool to have characters and critique partners pushing and demanding I make a book better and better.  Thank the Goddess (the one in the book), I think it’s very nearly done!   And I still owe my Blood Vine series readers a Pedro and Lucas short story which is outlined, but this other books has refused to let me go.  I am thinking of calling that story “Blood Eternal,” and of drinking a lot of port while I write it, because I want it to be decadent, spicy, and very, very sweet!

Blood Vine Series Hardbacks

Once that’s finished, I will start revisions on a contemporary romance starring two Episcopal priests—one of my writing friends called it “The Secret Lives of Priests” although I was thinking more “Sex in the City goes to Seminary,” for the series.  That’s been fun to write, and I’ve worked with some new critique partners on the book, which has provided a chance to grow as a writer.  I still have some major work to do on it before it’s done but I am very excited about that book!

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

This is an interesting question. I think my work is full of a bit more gray area and ambivalence than much of the romance genre. I like a character to be complicated, flawed, and sometimes even temporarily unsympathetic.  So, for example, my contemporary WIP about the priests starts of with the premise that the otherwise very likable heroine told a harmless lie that had major, unexpected consequences.  Most of my readers weren’t troubled, but one dear one was.  And so now I have to consider whether I can make the heroine’s choice more sympathetic by going deeper into her experience, leave it as it is, or whether I should alter the premise of the book. This sort of gray area creativity is hard work, although it’s also hard work to write characters that are unique, interesting, and which fall easily into the heroic conventions of the genre.

If I found that easy, I might try it!

Why do I write what I do?

Very plainly, I write what interests me, about characters that interest me.  I don’t start with a virtue or a theme, but just one idea and see where it takes me.  I’ve tried to write issue-based, or thematic stories, but the characters and the worlds always take me in other directions.  For me, themes emerge rather than inspire.

I also think my writing is infused with my world view, even though the worlds are sometimes paranormal.  Wherever I find humor, meaning, and pleasure in real life—I take my readers to those places, those moments.

A few weeks (or was it months?) ago there was a kerfluffle on the Internet about that writer telling J.K. Rowling to stop publishing and give others a chance, and the primary question her essay left me with was this: Why would anyone want to read a book written by this this author, given what her essay has shown us about how she sees the world? (That is, as a place of scarce success, dog-eat-dog writers, and where adults shouldn’t read Harry Potter, although she never had.)

Sometimes I get blue, or stressed, but for the most part, I am completely in love with the universe and find nearly all of God’s creatures profoundly sympathetic, even the bad guys.  If you want to live for a while in the head of someone who feels that way, you might like my books.

How does your writing process work?

It’s messy and manic and pretty compulsive, to be honest.  I’m not much of a plotter, and prefer to learn things about my world and characters by writing, not planning.  I’ve learned I can really only think about my writing by writing, not via spreadsheets or lists, although I like spreadsheets in other parts of my life :-)

My process in a nutshell:  I draft, I do a quick revision, I ask for initial feedback, I revise, I ask for more feedback, I revise again.  I also make use of text-to-speech for help editing my work.  Listening to what I’ve written engages another part of my brain and allows me to multitask, which is unfortunately very necessary in my busy life as a mom of toddler twins, full-time priest, wife and writer.

I am most happy writing a new story, and right now I am a little nuts because I haven’t put any new words on the page for weeks as I polish this WIP!

Look out Pedro and Lucas!

And now, I’m tagging my friend Marlene Relja now to tell us about her writing process:

http://marlenerelja.com/marlenes-musings/

And here’s my friend Anne Francis! http://wp.me/p2fl3L-wC

And here’s my friend Regina Kammer! http://kammerotica.com/writing-process-blog-hop/

The Grown-Ass Man Blog Hop

grownassman-bannerI’m joining with other Omnific authors this week to celebrate what we love about adult male characters, as opposed to young ones or new adult ones, or those who just act juvenile :-)

Together, we’re giving away a $50 Amazon Gift Card–just think how many books about grown-ass men you can read if you win that!

So here’s what I love about a grown-ass man:

He has a career, passions, a purpose, and responsibilities.  He’s lived, he’s lost, he’s loved. His character is rich, complex, and not without flaws.  He may simply be an ordinary guy, but he knows himself  and he knows what he wants, and that’s enough to make him a hero.

When he meets a woman who makes it through his defenses, we know this connection is not impulsive or adolescent.  We delight in the love interest who can bring a grown man to his knees, and adore her when she shows him love instead. 

Of course every grown-ass hero has his inner obstacle, which he must overcome to be with his heroine (or his other hero), but he probably knows what it is.  The decision to change after years, decades, (or in the case of my vampires) centuries of living a certain way–I find that choice poignant and profoundly romantic.

When I think about my favorite grown-ass male characters, I think about Sebastian Ballister, the notorious Marquess of Dain in Loretta Chase’s beloved Lord of Scoundrels, or J.R. Ward’s Vishous, who I happen to love. It’s funny to me that both of those characters were abused by their fathers, and their internal conflicts revolve around those past traumas. I think I may have a real soft spot for that issue.  A grown-ass man might have a dark past, which makes his survival and successes all the more heroic.

Andre Maras, the patriarch of my Blood Vine series, is a grown-ass vampire, and one of the things I enjoyed most about his character was the many ways he expressed his fatherly care for those in his household–it’s a wide range of dad-like behaviors, from shit talk to grave sacrifice. Perhaps that’s no coincidence, since I began writing the series shortly after my kids were born, and was falling even more deeply in love with my husband as I watched him become a father.

The grown-ass man has a sense of duty. He may be gruff, he may even be a bad-boy, he may pretend to be a loner, but deep down, he takes his responsibilities to others seriously and I love that!

If you want to read about Andre and the other grown-ass vampires of the series, leave me a comment on this post.  I’ll give away the first book in the series, Blood Vine to one commenter.

What I really want to know is, who is your favorite grown-ass hero? Is there one guy that stands out as the most wise, self-aware, mature, or fatherly? If you have one, tell us his flaw too.  And if you’re a writer, I’d love to hear what you find challenging about writing a grown-ass man?

The grand-prize giveaway is hosted on the Omnific Publishing blog and these are the other participating authors:

Autumn Markus, author of The Art of Appreciation

Feather Stone, author of The Guardian’s Wildchild

Jennifer Lane, author of the CONduct Series

Julianna Keyes, author of Just Once

Nicki Elson, author of Divine Temptation 

Rachel Brimble, author of 16 Marsden Place

Some thoughts on being a compulsive writer and a disciplined one.

This morning on Twitter (via Direct Message) I told my buddy Mark I’m almost done with my WIP.  He’d just finished reading another one for me, so he accused me of taking performance enhancers.

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I get asked this fairly often.  How do I get so much writing done? What’s the secret to my productivity?

Lest you think I’m bragging, I don’t FEEL productive! I feel like I’m always chasing my own deadlines and never getting enough done. I’m not one of those people that writes 6 or 10K every day. Rather, I live in envious awe of them. I feel negligent about social media, and marketing, and my business plan is basically “write my ass off, submit, write more.”

But if I’m honest with myself, I am productive. While working full time and being a mom, I seem to be able to write about two full-length novels a year, plus some novellas and short stories.

Part of it maybe about style, and method.  I could tell you all what works for me, but I don’t really think it’s about that. I think it’s a quirk of my personality.

Basically this:

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Some of you may have seen that quilt. It’s in my living room. And also the garden which I planned myself in spite of knowing NOTHING about landscaping or plants, by studying countless issues of Sunset Magazine.

And this:

Screen Shot 2014-02-20 at 9.40.48 AMAnd this:

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Pre-kids, I would spend my entire day off (Fridays, back then) making pasta.  It was DEADLY on my diet.

It also made my husband crazy.  His method of decompressing is to browse the Internet or play video games.  Mine is to do ALL THE THINGS. And sometimes not to bother cleaning up the mess. Two-thirds of the way through that sweater, I’d be picking out the next pattern.  I still have quite a yarn stash at my house.  Maybe I should use it for contest giveaways? There are some knitters out there, right?

Still, I don’t smoke, or wash my hands too often, or obsessively clean my house (some of you have seen evidence of this fact too!).

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Mark said this:

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I’m not quite sure what my version of evil gain would be.  Control of the world’s supply of chocolate? Mandatory reading of romance novels?

I guess Mark’s right, it probably is a good thing I focus on writing. Right now, I’m very content to do my priest job, love my family, and tell stories. My goal is to have a long writing career and to keep reaching readers who like my books (hopefully more and more of them). 

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Well, thanks Mark! And also for that fun little chat. It got me thinking about the pros and cons of being compulsive.

Of all of these compulsions, writing is the best one for me. I think my husband agrees.  I was knitting for myself, or the people I might give something to.  Certainly, the gardening and the pasta making was all for me (DH got very sick of pasta).  They are crafts, like writing is a craft.  My interest in storytelling started out with the same compulsive drive, this time to put words on the page, but with writing my compulsion transformed into a discipline, like an ugly little caterpillar becoming a butterfly.

ButterflyLifeCycle

Sorry. I know.  *sticks finger in throat*

I couldn’t resist :-)

The real difference is, I write for myself AND for readers. I chose my subjects based on my personal interests, because I know I will write the best book that way (Alexis Hall said something similar to this when I interviewed him on Paranormal Unbound). But beyond that, all the deadline setting, the soliciting critiques, the ruthless self-editing, the back and forth with my editor.  The drive–that is about making the best book I can for readers and getting it out there with the hope someone will love my characters and their story as much as I do.

And along the way, I’ve also had to use discipline to find balance, to close the laptop and be with my family, to build in some time for exercise.

And I’ve found just how much my priestly work and my writing go together. I get to proclaim God’s love, and the ways it is experienced incarnationally (in our bodies and in the world) through romantic and erotic relationships. I get to speak out about the importance of women (and men!) claiming our sexuality publicly, and challenging people who use sexual shame to disempower others.

So yeah, God made me a little nuts. But I’m grateful. It’s fun this way, and I get a lot done.

What about you? Are you compulsive? Disciplined? A little bit of both.

 

Why, Yes, That is My Vibrator

xrayscan-gadling-bumper 2

I had an absolutely wonderful time at my first readers’ convention, Coastal Magic, earlier this month!  I had not fully appreciated just how devoted and enthusiastic romance readers are until that wonderful, rainy weekend in Daytona.

One of my favorite parts of the convention was drinking wine and playing girls’ night games with authors, bloggers, and readers in the hotel bar.  The party had been organized by three authors I really enjoyed meeting, C.J. Ellisson, Boone Brux, and Hildie McQueen—sweet, fun, smart ladies.

As the evening was winding down and the stragglers were all seated around one table, someone shared a funny travel tip: don’t pack your vibrator in your carry-on in case it gets opened up by the TSA officers in the airport security line.  We got a lot of giggles out of imagining what the officer would say when he or she saw a Hitachi Magic Wand complete with attachments. The agreement around the table seemed to be it was wiser to keep the appliance in the checked luggage.

But then I started thinking—here we are, a dozen smart, empowered women who like to read and write about sex, worrying that a TSA officer or our fellow travelers will see our vibrators, when, it seems practically everyone at the table owns one.  What are we ashamed of?

So I suggested perhaps instead of hiding the thing, we should just claim it.  “Yep, that’s mine. I highly recommend this model, and it comes with a great warranty.”

Now, I’m all for not getting delayed in the airport security line.  And, I’m also all for privacy.  You may have noticed that while I am outspoken about sexuality—embracing it, enjoying, etc.—I don’t disclose things about my sex life on the Internet.  So, for both of these reasons, I can respect stowing a vibrator in the checked luggage.

But still, I hope all women can claim (privately or publically) their sexuality as a source of pleasure and wholeness.  If one happens to get “outed” as a sexual being, a pleasure seeker, a lover, don’t hide! Claim it!

At Coastal Magic, I talked briefly about erotic and romantic love as a window into divine love, and people told me over and over how much they needed to hear that.  It has a certain flavor when I say it, as a priest.  But the truth is, lots of authors say it better via carefully drawn characters and thoroughly explored conflict.  Every well-crafted story about sex has the potential to say it is good, and holy, and part of being whole.

I learned a ton of things at the Coastal Magic convention about how passionate readers are and how to connect with them better. (For example, you may have noticed I’ve been doing a lot better on Facebook, and yes, I’d love to be friends!).  And I came away even more convicted that writing about sex, just like being a priest, is a great honor, privilege, and responsibility.

So here’s to a day when every woman feels comfortable claiming her vibrator in the airport!

Blood Reunited Release Day!

BloodReunited_cover (2)Wahoo!  It’s here!

Today is the release day for Blood Reunited–the third and final book in my Blood Vine series.

And there are already 10 reviews on Amazon by 5:30 am PST!

Yay!

Today, I’m beginning an epic month-long tour with Bewitching Books.

In the first stop, I’m on my friend Suzanne Johnson’s blog talking writing strong heroines–and by strong I mean ancient vampire warrior queens way stronger than their heroes.  And I’m delighted from the reviews to see just how much people love Uta.

Today, I’m also doing a big release party with Bitten By Books, which is super exciting because Andre Maras interviewed me by phone earlier today. The BBB release parties are always so much fun and there is a $40 gift card.

Several wonderful bloggers have taken the time to post reviews for Blood Reunited.  Here are a few:

Bookfever

Read-Love-Blog

Bitten By Books

Of course, I’m honored and flattered by these reviews, but what really makes me happy is to hear how much people loved this whole series and found the ending satisfying.

 

 

 

And…Here’s Uta (Cover reveal and Pinterest Board)

It’s the big day! Finally, I can show you the cover for Blood Reunited!  If you have been following any of her quotes on Twitter, you may have been curious to see what my foul-mouthed ancient warrior queen looks like.  I adore this cover as much as I love all the Blood Vine series covers.  The art department at Omnific is so amazing!

Check it out here and let me know what you think!
Squee! Isn’t her crown of vines awesome!?! Also, now that the cover is live, I thought it would be fun to show you all my Pinterest research board.  I use Pinterest to consolidate all the images I use to help inspire my sense of place when my characters travel to exotic places, or when I need to carefully describe an item of clothing, or simply don’t know what something looks like and need to be able to explain it.  I’ve purged this board of spoilers, but it might give you an idea of the feel of the book!

And here’s the blurb, if you haven’t read it yet:

Brooding vampire halfling and biologist Bel Maras is determined to create a cure for the wasting disease that plagues his vampire family. His work becomes essential as the Hunters intensify their global and bloody campaign. When Bel’s cure fails, only his ancient and estranged godmother Uta Ilirije can help. But seeing the ice-cold Uta reveals something shocking–she is his bonded mate.

She may be a dangerous warrior, but Uta feels her failures acutely. She has been unable to protect her kind from Hunters, and vampires are dying out. Worse, she tied Bel to her long ago in an accident of blood, then abandoned him for his own good–a choice he has never forgiven. Many days, she is convinced Bel and the vampires would be better off if she just walked into the sun.

Biology has fated them to be mates. Now these old enemies must overcome their past to save the vampires and come to peace with the bond they never chose.

There’s a Goodreads giveaway going on for a signed paperback copy. Go ahead and add it to your TBR! 
Follow Amber Belldene’s board Blood Reunited (Book #3) on Pinterest.
 

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