Fictional Condoms and The Condom Effect. A Rant.

There is nothing cute/romantic/sexy about condoms. They’re kind of gross. And they smell (a fact I really don’t need to be reminded of while reading, thank you very much).

Condom Character with question markI don’t want to wait for the hot, strapping hero to tear into a foil packet and roll it on his swollen manhood any more than his heroine does. But, by God, if he doesn’t stop to put one on, I wonder about him. Not to mention the heroine beneath him, legs spread and morals TBD. For a reader, it’s a total catch 22. And for a romance writer, it’s damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

This is further complicated by the book’s tense. If it’s past tense, it doesn’t bother me so much. In my zany brain, past tense equates to a retelling of sorts, and such details aren’t necessarily, well…necessary. But I read present tense as real time (even if it really isn’t), and if a condom isn’t used, it sticks out to me like a sore, throbbing, burgeoning…thumb.

Condom Character with hand standing poseIn the first five chapters of my book, condoms play a big enough roll to necessitate their own Wiki page. I can’t even begin to tell you how many hours I’ve spent debating the damn things. With my betas. With my friends. Even with my husband, who at this point reads the word “condom” and is ready to set my manuscript ablaze. His exact words while reading my latest edits were, “Enough with the condoms already!” Dude. I’m trying. I swear.

It should be simple, right? Just stash one in my hero’s pocket and be done with it.

Condom Character is standing with folding handExcept…it’s my heroine who first instigates sex, so shouldn’t she be the one with a condom?

AND THERE IT IS. I give my heroine her very own box of Trojans and the next five scenes topple over like falling dominoes. One little change and Frankie and Darian’s sexual future is altered, thus The Condom Effect.

Suddenly my days become less about writing and more about condom logistics. I worry about who has them and how many they have. Where they’re located at any given time. Is water going to be involved?

Oy vey. Am I overthinking this? Probably. I overthink my breakfast.

In a perfect world, Darian would have a Red Room of Pain and a file cabinet full of lab results at his disposal to offer Anastasia Frankie, who I should have written as a twenty-something “virgin” on birth control. But alas, it’s not a perfect world. It’s a safe sex world. And we’re all just reading in it.

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Peace, Love, and SXSW


It’s March, and locally, as well as in the far-reaching grasp of the music industry worldwide, it’s time for South by Southwest (SXSW).

In a nutshell, SXSW is a collection of MUSIC, FILM, and INTERACTIVE festivals and conferences. If you’re in one of these industries, it’s a great way to be discovered, and if you’re a fan, it’s a great way to discover.

SXSW is held annually in Austin, Texas and lasts ten days. Today I’m focusing on the music festival which lasts seven, and myself, which lasts three.

I don’t want to bore you with the details, but if you’re unfamiliar, click here and scroll down for a short synopsis. Basically, what you need to know is that thousands of unknown bands seeking representation perform at parties (or showcases) in every nook and cranny of the downtown area. Some parties require a badge and some don’t. Some offer free drinks and some don’t. I suggest saying NO to the badge and YES to the free drinks.


SXSW and I go back to my mid twenties when I was working for a CD manufacturer in Austin. My husband and I had a condo downtown (prime SXSW real estate which I’d later learn is rent-able for over a thousand dollars per night during the festival!). One of my company’s clients, a band out of Jacksonville, managed to book a showcase but not a hotel. They slept on our living room floor.

It was late afternoon on a Thursday. The guys were in the living room tuning their guitars, strumming a few chords, and singing a few versus. I’d just gotten out of the shower. Wrapped in a terrycloth robe with my hair in a turban, I sat at my vanity while the music picked up outside my bedroom door. Then came the voices, lots of them, and a chorus of instruments at full volume. I managed to get one eye sufficiently lined and shadowed before a full-on concert erupted on the other side of the wall. Without giving my appearance a second thought, I sprung from my chair and threw open the door. My living room was full of people. Standing room only. What began as lazy downtime had shifted into an impromptu showcase for a major record producer. In my living room.


Several years later, my husband and I drank our weight in free Mai Tias and chased Glen Hansard from party to party until our efforts were halted at a badge only showcase at Antone’s. The line stretched for blocks, and there was no way I was going to wait hours just to be told my badge-less ass couldn’t get in. Still, I wasn’t about to give up, and I had just enough rum swimming in my veins to forge ahead. I grabbed my husband’s hand and dragged him around the side of the building to the stage door where two gate keepers (at the time, I was sure I’d seen four) were in the middle of a heated argument. My husband was mortified because I was convinced I could talk my way in.

“I’m his biggest fan. I know every song. Did you know he has a hole in his guitar like Willie Nelson? Have you seen the movie, Once?”

It happened in a blur, but before I knew it we were being shoved through the door and ushered to the stairs. The two (possibly four) gatekeepers resumed fighting, their voices fading as we climbed.

“I can’t believe you did that! What the hell were you thinking?”

“Are you kidding? That was a true fan. That’s what SXSW is all about.”

“Uh no, dipshit. It’s about bands getting…”

That’s the last thing I remember.

Over the years, we’ve encountered some changes, but some things remain. Like Frankie, we continue to favor restaurants to food trucks. We always plan to end the night at a wristband only showcase, but our feet carry us to Pete’s Piano Bar instead. We still spend weeks researching bands, parties, and freebies for our annual SXSW spreadsheet. And we always, ALWAYS carry our tried and true Justin Bieber backpack.

South by Southwest has been a part of my life for decades, but as the opening setting of my book, it has become a part of my heart. Something happens to me when we make that left onto Caesar Chavez. I’m not just there to catch live shows and hunt free drinks anymore. I’m there to visit old friends, imaginary friends. Friends I can’t wait for you to meet.

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All Hail the Book Boyfriend

titleFebruary is the month of love, and in that spirit, I’d like to pay tribute to one of the things I love the most: BOOK BOYFRIENDS.

If you’re a romance enthusiast like myself, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Those impeccably penned heroes who keep you glued to the page, reading late into the night, ooh-ing and ahh-ing and ohmygod-ing.

Everyone has their tropes of choice. Most of my friends go gaga over the alpha male (Travis), and if he’s a billionaire (Gideon), bonus. Some are suckers for the dangerous anti-hero (Caleb), or the womanizing rock star (Kellan). I prefer the boy next door (Nick), broken if possible (Gabriel), with a side of single dad (Cory).


What propels an average book hero to BOOK BOYFRIEND status? That depends on the swoonreader, and what makes her swoon. BOOK BOYFRIENDS are designed to be perfect (or perfectly imperfect) and perfection in romance is subjective. Take Kellan Kyle for example (the womanizing rock star mentioned above). Everyone loves him…except me. He’s hot; I can’t argue that, but he’s also hot for his best friend’s girl, and the second he acted on it, my swoon-o-meter reset to zero. I don’t get him at all. But you know who I do get? Caleb (the dangerous anti-hero mentioned above). For whatever reason, I fell hard for Caleb. Sweet, kidnapping, abusive, sex slave trafficking Caleb. See what I mean? Subjective.

9991076-177826928_20-s1-v1.pngFor the most part (sweet, kidnapping, abusive, sex slave traffickers excluded) BOOK BOYFRIENDS never cheat. They would never even consider it, and if you happen to find one in bed with a naked woman, you best believe there’s an explanation (Reed).

BOOK BOYFRIENDS are always gorgeous. Even with messy hair and ill-fitting clothes (Jacob). Even when they haven’t taken a proper shower in three years (TJ).

BOOK BOYFRIENDS always say the perfect thing. They may say a lot of bullshit first, but eventually, they get there (Colton).

BOOK BOYFRIENDS have magical morning breath and lickable sweat. They never fart or belch. They tend to come fully accessorized with cars, houses, jobs, defined abs, and certain desirable…ahem…talents. They’re great with kids, they love to cuddle, and they always smell amazing. Always.

And best of all, the sun rises and sets with their heroine. She can be an awkward, clumsy, scarred, flawed, wary, cynical, needy, jealous, slightly neurotic, penniless Plain Jane and she’s still perfect (or perfectly imperfect) to him.

To Nick, Cory, Erik, Gabriel, Jesse, Sam, Henry, Will, Elliot, Caleb, Alex, Jonah, Theo, Noah, Ben, Ryan, Angelo, Matt, Trent, Nate, Conner, Evan, Francis, Anders, Chris, Brett, Damien, Brooks, Beckett, Cole, Colton, Miles, TJ, Jacob, and especially Darian… I HEART YOU.


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My Review of The Amityville Horror…Sort of

I don’t even know where to begin. I fear this may be a long, chaotic mess of thoughts, so please bear with me, or skim, or totally ignore.

I’ve always been fascinated with the occult. The Exorcist (both the book and the movie, RIP Mr. Blatty) scared the hell out of me, pardon the pun. It still does. Every. Single. Time. And I love being scared. I love horror movies, haunted houses, Ouija boards (even though my husband forbids them), and Halloween. I love Halloween so much it’s my wedding anniversary.

My freshman year of college, I was a moron. I had an English Lit class where I had to write a basic research paper on anything I wanted. I chose exorcism. Why? Moron.

Fascination is one thing; belief is another. I didn’t actually believe all this stuff; I just liked reading about it. All my research during that semester long assignment pointed to one book, Hostage to the Devil: The Possession and Exorcism of Five Contemporary Americans by Malachi Martin. I was nineteen. This was before the internet and Amazon. I actually had to check books out of physical buildings called libraries. I had to find Hostage to the Devil…and I couldn’t. It had mysteriously vanished from every library within 100 miles of my college. My dad happened to find a copy in some little secondhand bookstore, and when he told the bookseller who it was for and why, the guy actually tried to convince him not to buy it.

But I’m stubborn, and my dad knew, one way or another, I’d find it. He bought it anyway. At the risk of unintentionally reviewing Hostage too, I’ll just say…I kind of wish he would have listened. That book messed me up. I didn’t sleep for weeks. I was on edge. Things happened in my college apartment I couldn’t explain. I managed to turn in an incomplete paper, and my professor took pity on me. He gave me a “B” and told me to get some sleep.

Why am I telling you this? I have absolutely no idea. I guess because it’s been on my mind lately, reading this book, and then yesterday with the death of William Peter Blatty and this oddly timed report on Father Martin.

For at least a decade after that taxing English Lit class, I wouldn’t go near this stuff. But time has a way of minimizing even the most frightening memories, and looking back, I’m convinced I was just sleep deprived and hormonal.

 photo IMG_20170114_132919_211_zps6nccas57.jpg

So here we are. I read Jay Anson’s  Amityville, finally. And not just any old Amityville, but a used battered paperback that looks like it holds its own demons. Was it scary? Not particularly—at least not when compared to The Exorcist. Plus, to be able to read the faded print, I had the room lit up like noon in August. Was it good? Definitely. And for someone interested in the occult, it is, in fact, fascinating. If you look at the reviews, it seems the people who believe the Lutz’s account rate it much higher than the people who don’t. I went into this thinking I’d be impartial; I’d just rate it as a work of fiction and leave it at that. Easier said than done, because the entire way through, I questioned everything. Did this stuff really happen? If they were lying, what was their motive? How do you explain the testimony of respected corroborating witnesses like Father Mancuso and the local police force? It was impossible for me to read this simply as a work of fiction, and to review it, I had to look at it from all angles. The writing, the storytelling. Fact vs. fiction. The phenomenon, the controversy, the legacy. As a whole, it’s kind of brilliant.

Should you read it? If you’re into this kind of stuff? Absolutely! I wanted to go big, thus the creepy looking paperback, but if you really want to be scared…read the e-book version. Alone at night. With the lights out.

Oh, and sweet dreams.

MY 2016 TOP TEN!

When it comes to books, the harder I cry, the higher I rate…usually. My perfect reads have high angst, high swoon, and high heartbreak, and they also end with an HEA…usually.

I LOVE these books in no particular order. Except for the first one. It’s pretty solid at #1.

Suanne Laqueur’s The Man I Love. This is the book that captured me, but the entire series is pure brilliance. You don’t read this series, you experience it, and if you skip Give Me Your Answer True, you can’t fully appreciate the magic that is The Fish Tales. I know it’s hard to resist jumping ahead to Here to Stay, because technically you can, but don’t. Just trust me on this. My review.

Also from Suanne Laqueur, An Exaltation of Larks. I was lucky enough to get an ARC of this one and I devoured it! It’s an epic tale of love and loss told in Laqueur’s wonderfully unique style. Clear your calendar. It’s big and it’s unputdownable. My review.

Full Tilt by Emma Scott. This one killed me, broke my heart into a million pieces, but left me oddly motivated and inspired. Expect a good cleansing cry and some self-reflection. Full Tilt is part of a duet, and you’re going to want to read the second book, All In, immediately following. I apologize in advance…and you’re welcome 😉 My review.


Wolfsong by TJ Klune. My friend Fabi recommended this one, and I’ve been high on candy canes and pine cones ever since. It’s different from anything I’ve read. It made me feel more than anything I’ve read. Every possible emotion—relief and fear, excitement and dread, joy and agony—all at the same time. Its genius is in its simplicity. And yet, it isn’t simple at all. Confused? I thought so. My review.

One True Loves and Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid. The woman is a one stop sob shop. All of her books are amazeballs. ALL OF THEM. But if you are a TJR virgin, I recommend starting with After I Do or Forever, Interrupted before diving into these. Why? I think Reid took a risk with One True Loves, and from what I’ve seen, readers who start here are less likely to “get her.” And Maybe in Another Life is what I call TJR-Light. Don’t get me wrong, it will still knock the wind out of you, but if you’re considering reading her, you’re probably a masochist too. Start with the hard stuff! My review of One True Loves. My review of Maybe in Another Life.

51VkL17UYIL. SX331 BO1 204 203 200

Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum. I bought Hausfrau on my friend Amy’s recommendation. Then, after her incessant badgering (jk lol), I finally gave in and read the stupid thing. Dear God, what on earth was I waiting for? This book is perfection. My review.

Before We Were Strangers by Renee Carlino. I read several of her books this year, but Before We Were Strangers was by far my favorite. It’s classic Carlino, riddled with angsty, swoony goodness. This one hurt me in the best of ways. I didn’t really review this one. I wrote this instead.

Amy Harmon’s From Sand and Ash. Originally, I had Colleen Hoover’s It Ends With Us on this list, but after finishing this one in December, I had some serious thinking to do. Bottom line: From Sand and Ash is perfect just the way it is; I wouldn’t change a single thing, and I can’t say that about It Ends With Us. Plus, it’s like The Thorn Birds set during the Holocaust. “Hello, Robin? Amy Harmon here. I want to write a book for you. What would it take to rip the still-beating heart from your chest? Ralph de Bricassart? Anne Frank? Ok, I think I’ve got something. Stay tuned…”


Never Stop Falling by Ashley Drew. As with most of my favorites, it’s high angst, high swoon, and it chips away at your heart slowly and steadily. But what sets it apart is the OMG WTF moment that sneaks up on you when you least expect it. The heroine is51U82VevACL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_ flawed, which is refreshing, and the hero is one of the best anti-alpha/boy next door heroes I’ve read. It made me laugh as much as it made me cry, and it doesn’t get any better than that.

But, there’s another reason this book is so special to me. It introduced me to its author. Who knew beta reading for some random chick on Goodreads would change MY life? 2016 was a good year for me, and the biggest reason was her. I ❤ you, Scissorhands.

It’s Beginning to “Have to” Look a Lot like Christmas

What a month. Between the never-ending election and my kitchen after Thanksgiving, I’m almost inclined to skip right through December and start fresh with 2017. I doubt I’d miss searching for extension cords and red and green light bulbs. Untangling all those nasty lights I was sure I untangled last year. I wouldn’t miss the calories that’d come from making homemade salted caramel and gingerbread. And the parking. I hate shopping, but the parking? I keep telling my seventeen-year-old she’s not ready for her license, but come Christmas I’m ready to negotiate. “Okay honey, just promise me two things. Don’t kill anyone and drive Mama to the mall.”

Our daughter’s 1st Christmas with us 2008

But, then there’s the yard that looks like a fairy-tale when the lights are untangled and wrapped around the trees. The boring tan siding that’s suddenly washed in red and green. Homemade salted caramel and gingerbread. And spending a whole day with my daughter without fighting because, well…presents.

Most of my friends have had their trees decorated since the day after Thanksgiving, but we aren’t built that way. It takes me days just to plow through the dishes. Even longer to put away my grandmother’s china, the ceramic turkeys, the plastic gourds. It’s been almost a week and I still haven’t erased the menu from my chalkboard. Why would I? Technically, we’re still having turkey and dressing…leftovers. I’m sure my family is beginning to wonder if I’ll ever cook again.

At  the Majestic Theater in San Antonio 2008

We must sound so old, but you try throwing a week-long Halloween party followed by Thanksgiving! Last year we were so spent, we paid our daughter and her friend to put up the tree! Then we made plans to leave town for Christmas just to get out of any additional decorating. Funny thing? The closer it got, the more we dreaded leaving. So, the trip was cancelled and with only a few days left, we decked the remaining halls and planned another feast.

Thanksgiving 2016

This year we’re doing it a little differently. We’re planning to enjoy the Christmas season. The shopping. The decorating. We’re even kind of excited about it. Saturday night we’ll have eggnog and cider and listen to Bing Crosby on the turntable. I won’t complain that Jesus isn’t perfectly centered between Mary and Joseph on the tree. Or that the angel on top is so crooked she looks like she had a few eggnogs herself. We’ll unpack and display the nativities I’ve collected since I was a little girl and laugh at the one with the singing lamb. Within the thickest branches, we’ll hide the “sacred” Christmas egg and (my favorite) the rubber snakes that didn’t manage to get put up after Halloween. Because we’re weird like that. And because it’s our tradition. Our family. Our Christmas.

So, whatever it is you celebrate, even if it’s nothing but the beginning of winter, I hope you enjoy it all month long. Happy Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Holidays, Happy December!



My Review of An Exaltation of Larks by Suanne Laqueur

I have exactly 3 favorite authors. I LOVE them. I LOVE their writing, and I’ll inhale anything they put out there. Anything. If they’ve got old post it notes or shopping lists lying around that t29637128hey want to stick on eBay…sold. I’ve read all of their books, and for the most part, none of them have dipped below 4 stars.

That being said, there is high probability I’m going to love anything new I read from them.

Suanne Laqueur is one of the aforementioned writers, and I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to read her latest work. The fact that it’s her signature style of writing is going to shoot it into 4-star territory right off the bat. Whether or not the book gains a star, loses a star, or stays still at 4 depends on the story itself as well as the execution. It can go either way, but based on my love of The Fish Tales, it’s unlikely it will drop.

It didn’t.

An Exaltation of Larks is not an epic romance like The Fish Tales, but it is epic. It’s a tragic family saga that’s spans three decades.

From the blurb:
Alex, Valerie and Jav meet first in their twenties, with a sudden attraction each finds strange and compelling. When they meet again in their forties, they discover not only is their bond still strong, but their life experiences are strangely similar. All have been shaped by separate 9/11’s, and their unfinished business from the past will change everything they know about love, loyalty and friendship.

Their story is fascinating, sometimes heartbreaking, and real. Their relationships are enviable (and at times, smoking hot) and provide a high dose of romance that kept me swooning.

But, what took Larks from four to five stars wasn’t the romance or even the brilliant writing. It was the feelings it evoked in me from the very first page. Filled with beautiful highs and heartbreaking lows, it captivated me. It also disturbed me, charmed me, broke and fixed me. It exalted me.

I’ve come to the conclusion that reading a Suanne Laqueur book is, and will always be, an involved, emotional experience. It’s not a simple pastime. If you pick up one of her books, be prepared to feel everything.

Her storytelling capabilities are genius. Her writing is poetic. Words spill onto her pages in sentences that make my heart clench and swell, and my eyes water.

I loved The Fish Tales. I miss The Fish Tales. But a few chapters into Larks, and I thought, Well, here you are.

Here I am, it whispered back.

6 beautiful stars!