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2016–The Year in Review

2016
From the loss of Bowie, Prince, Alan Rickman, and Carrie Fisher (among so many others) to the political disasters of Brexit and Trump, I think we can all admit that 2016 kind of sucked on a macro level. I had two procedures (one major) on my spine and continue to have chronic pain, but at least I’m (mostly) out of a wheelchair now.

However, it’s wasn’t all bad.

Recommended Reads

I wanted to read more than I did in 2016, but I still have some year end recommended reads that I’ve reviewed this year. I’ve joined the Goodreads 2017 Reading Challenge. Follow my progress and add me as a friend here.

  • I loved Lez Talk: A Collection of Black Lesbian Short Fiction, edited by S. Andrea Allen and Lauren Cherelle. It includes two stories by one of my favorite authors, K.A. Smith. Read my rave review here.
  • Forbidden by Beverly Jenkins was so amazing, I ran out and read a ton more of her books. There aren’t a ton of authors of color in mainstream romance, and she’s possibly the best of the best. Not only are her stories well plotted, she does her homework on the history as well. My review here.
  • Basically anything by Kait Gamble (I reviewed five of her books here, but I read even more) but if I had to pick a favorite, it would be Sins in the Sand. By the way, she just published a new book, Faking It, which I’ve bought and am looking forward to reading.
  • Basically anything by Alisha Rai (I three of reviewed of her books here, although I’ve read even more) but my favorite is Glutton for Pleasure.
  • Finally, one of my favorite reads of 2016 was Tamsin Flower’s serial novel, Alchemy XII. It opens on New Year’s Eve and continues month by month through December. (I was a beta reader for this series, and I loved every minute I spent with Harry and Olivia.)

Big Publication News

(Check out my Published Works page for a complete list of purchase links if Amazon Kindle isn’t available in your country)

 

Capturing the Moment

under-the-mistletoe

My first solo title, Capturing the Moment , and my first anthology, Coming Together: Under the Mistletoe were published and both have received great reviews!

 

Other Publication News

  • Intrepid Horizons, edited by Jessica Augustsson, included my story, Dumped. Blurb–A Unicorn’s (former) Virgin is left out as bait for a dragon, but things don’t go exactly as planned.
  • Rogues, edited by Delilah Devlin, included my story, Plunder.  Blurb–Sparks fly when the Caribbean’s most fearsome pirate falls under the spell of a sexy spitfire who’d rather send him to Davy Jones’s locker. I am working on a full-length novel version of this story, which will hopefully be published in 2018.
  • Coming Together Under the Mistletoe, edited by me, included two of my stories Kid Comet and an updated version of Baby it’s Hot Outside.
  • My essay An Expat Fourth of July was published by Long and Short Reviews.

 

Other Stuff I Wrote

  • Flash Fiction (for Wicked Wednesday) Dream or Nightmare
  • Flash Fiction (A Wicked Wednesday Top 3 story) Off Limits
  • Flash Fiction (for Wicked Wednesday) Keep the Shoes On
  • What I did for Lust, will be included in the upcoming anthology, Prompted.
  • Kid Comet, the third in my North Pole Chronicles series, was in Under the Mistletoe.
  • I further updated Baby it’s Hot Outside, was in Under the Mistletoe
  • For Love of Snow White was submitted
  • I expanded my first published story, Renewal, and submitted it
  • Lab Rats, was rejected (nbd, how publishing rolls)
  • Forbidden Territory was rejected (nbd, how publishing rolls)
  • I expanded Love is a Virus, and it was rejected (nbd, how publishing rolls)
  •  I wrote the first draft of the full length novel version of Plunder. (It sucks–all first drafts suck)

2017

My writing goals for 2017 are to finish Plunder and to write 5-10 short stories, including at least one more installment of the North Pole Chronicles.

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Review: Evergreen and Poinsettias by Kassandra Lea

Evergreen and Poinsettias

Submissions for my anthology close today, and I unintentionally set myself up with a short and sweet Christmas story to get me off on the right foot when planning my reviewing calendar.

If you’re looking for a sweet, short Christmas romance, this is a good choice. Brylee slips and falls one day, and finds herself staring into the eyes of the most handsome man she’s ever met. Will their chance meeting end with a simple thank-you wreath from her flower shop, or is it the start of something more?

I found myself identifying with both Brylee and her sister. Brylee is shy and a bit lonely. Her sister keeps assuring her that true love exists, reminding her of how quickly she went from meeting to wedding her husband. I spent many years kissing frogs, but like Brylee’s sister I went from meeting to marriage in an extremely short period of time (and have been married, happily, for a decade).

Lea reminds us that love may find you in the most unexpected of places.

Brylee Mariotte is hoping to get a boyfriend for Christmas, and when she meets Liam Casey, it looks like she might just get her wish.

It’s the magical holiday season again and, like everyone else, flower shop owner Brylee Mariotte can’t help but get swept up in it. Of course, the phrase ‘happiest time of the year’ only makes her loneliness worse. As she watches the happy couples, she starts wishing and hoping for Santa to bring her a man to call her own, and not just for the holidays. She wants the real deal—someone for the long haul.

When the dashingly handsome Liam Casey offers her a helping hand, Brylee begins to think that miracles might just exist. The bookstore owner’s touch lights a fire deep inside her, one she thought would never get burning. But what if Liam isn’t as into her? Or, even worse, what if he’s already married?

With a little touch of evergreen and a whole lot of Christmas magic, Brylee may just get her man.

Evergreen and Poinsettias can be found at your favorite e-book retailer, including amazon.

 

Review: Hunt Her by Elle Q Sabine

Hunt Her

When I decided to read Hunt Her, I expected I was settling in for a Vampire book. Which I was. Sort of. Sabine blends Vampire lore, Irish tales of the Sidhe (familiar to most fantasy readers as fairies), and even some Angelic mythology, throws it in a blender and comes up with something entirely new. To put the cherry on the sundae, the “vamps” are actually human women necessary for a vampire’s survival, and his very sanity.

I think this is one of the book’s biggest strengths. As someone who has been reading fantasy for three decades, I am in love with the story of the Sabine’s vampires and how what I think I know about many different groups is both right and wrong. However, as someone who has been reading fantasy for three decades, I often had to stop, force myself to step away from every assumption I have about words like “vampire” and “sidhe’ and let her do her world building. That isn’t a weakness in Sabine, but if you are also a long-time fantasy reader, you need to be open to letting Sabine change up the tropes.

I liked the relationship dynamic between Valor and Meghan. They have a dynamic that allows for Valor’s alpha personality, and Sabine ensures that Meghan is no pushover either. Meghan has a mysterious backstory that unfolds in tandem to her search for her brother and her relationship with Valor. She isn’t going to let Valor’s arrival derail her search.

This is the first in a series, so we have many more books to come to help continue to flesh out her world. I hope the second book deals at least in part with an ending plot point of Valor’s general finding his vamp and her wanting nothing to do with him. I want to see more of them.

Her life on hold for a decade, Meghan’s ready to take it back and move forward. Valor is ready too. The Vampire Master won’t let her disappear, not ever again. Meghan doesn’t understand the dreamwalker who comes to her at night. After years of sleeping medication to subdue nightmares, she is unprepared when the handsome stranger who stood guard over her childhood returns to her dreams. Now that she’s grown, he’s intent on possession and seduction. When he shows up in her life, real and not a dream, she’s horrified . . . and enthralled. But life isn’t waiting around for Meghan to play out the traditional script of meeting, falling in love and living happily ever after. Desperate to reclaim some part of her childhood, Meghan leaves behind the man who wants her in search of her long-lost brother. But Valor is not a man who is willing to be left behind, not again. The years he spent unable to find Meghan-not knowing if she was happy, healthy or even safe-were difficult enough. He’ll find Meghan and bring her into a world she doesn’t even imagine exists, and he’ll find a way to keep her at his side-forever. Because he’s not just some man Meghan met in a library. Valor isn’t a man at all.

Hunt Her is available as an e-book and paperback everywhere, including Amazon.

Author Spotlight: Kait Gamble

kait_gamble

When Kait Gamble emailed me her guest post, her excerpt was so hot I immediately pre-ordered Sins in the Sand, and several other books. At this point, I am such a fan of Kait’s that I can’t spotlight just one book.

In order of how I read them

Breaking Rossi's Rules

The first book I read by Kait was Breaking Rossi’s Rules, which features Anika, otherwise known as the Ice Princess (her family owns one of the biggest Jewelry Companies) and Luca, a billionaire with a mysterious past.

Anika is complex. Her “ice princess” façade is a coping mechanism. When Luca knocks on her hotel door, expecting someone else, they’re both intrigued. Her ice melts for Luca, and she believes that maybe they could have more than a weekend fling.

Luca inhabits the skin of a billionaire as if he were born to it. But he has a past that few know.

When they come together, Anika melts for him until she catches him doing something unforgiveable.

Anika and Luca have great banter and better chemistry, the locations are described well, and the pacing of the book flows well.

Sins in the Sand

The day that Sins in the Sand downloaded onto my kindle app (I pre-ordered) I started reading at 11 or midnight and didn’t finish until nearly sunrise. I have no regrets.

Kendra is a new employee of the Totally Five Star Dubai hotel. She’s getting used to the quirks of dealing with the highest of the high-end clientele, when the most extreme request she’s ever gotten comes directly from her boss. Kendra bears a striking resemblance to a reality star who was supposed to be appearing at a charity event that evening. Kiki has flaked, so Kendra is asked to stand in, and is assured that they have taken care of ensuring that the “winning bid” will be rigged.

What no one counted on was that competitive billionaires Dmitri and Nikos would shatter the highest rigged bid in an attempt to make this dinner date another contest between to the two of them. Kendra’s desire is ignited for both of them, and when one dinner date turns into a week of playing Kiki, Kendra knows she’s playing with fire.

Kait has written two different, yet equally melt your panties alpha men in Dimitri and Nikos to the point where as a reader I would’ve volunteered to take Kendra’s place. (j/k) The sex, as a threesome and individually with each of the men, was hot enough to live up to the promise.

The reader is taken along with Kendra on a whirlwind ride, and we empathize with her fear that her relationship with these men will shatter when they know the truth, and her confusion over falling for both men.

What happens when the truth comes out? I’m not telling. I will say that this is my favorite Kait Gamble book yet.

Fuel to the Fire

Jackie and Logan were insanely in love. Until they broke up.

When a friend’s wedding brings Jackie to St. Lucia where Logan is working/standing in for a missing groomsman they run into each other again.  The old chemistry is just as strong. Yet something is off–it’s obvious to the reader early on that something fishy went down with the break up as each blames the other. What really happened?

Lots of risky public sex and the rekindling of their romance bring Logan and Jackie to a moment where they need to talk about the past to have a future. That’s when the bride drops a little morsel that sends Jackie running away again.

Just who, or what broke them up?

The public sex is exciting, and Logan and Jackie’s connection pulls at the reader. You’re rooting for them to get together long before you understand why they broke up.

Cuffed

Cuffed is a short story about YouTube stars Scarlet and Jackson getting cuffed together as a publicity stunt staged by a third You-Tuber, Rex. Rex says he won’t uncuff them until they give him some good footage. Neither Scarlet or Jackson expected to enjoy being cuffed together as much as they did.

My only complaint is that I’d love to read more stories in this world.

Ignite Kait Gamble

The last story I’m going to review today is Ignite. This is the second in a series, but works well as a stand-alone as well.

Natalie and Sebastian have been friends since high school. As Sebastian has worked his way from pretty girls in high school to supermodels as an adult, Natalie has always been just his friend. They dress in the latest fashion, while she’s happiest at home in short and a t-shirt, as a computer programmer. When Sebastian has a business deal with a conservative couple, he asks Natalie to play his wife during a trip to Thailand.

Their act drops barriers that have existed for years. But when the trip is over, will Natalie be the latest in Sebastian’s string of conquests.

I really enjoyed this book. I felt the connection between Natalie and Sebastian, and I was rooting for them all the way. My only complaint, which is also a compliment, is that I wanted more.

 

 

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Recommended Reads: So Right by Rebekah Weatherspoon

so right weatherspoon

***This is a sequel. Go here for a review of the first book in the series, So Sweet***

I absolutely loved the first book in this series, So Sweet, and I rushed to the kindle store when Rebekah announced So Right had been published.  Heads up I’m going to talk about some spoilers. If you don’t like spoilers, click the back button.

Kayla and Michael’s story continues in So Right with the adoption of two puppies, the purchase of a Miami basketball team…and a completely bungled proposal.

basketball

The last two are the central focus of the book. Michael has always loved basketball, and was on the verge of buying a team in the first book. That deal fell through, but a scandal means that the Miami team is suddenly open for sale. Miami had never been on the table, and the changes create tension between Michael and Kayla. The purchase also shines a spotlight on their relationship, including media buzz critiquing their relationship (interracial, big age difference) and criticizing Kayla for not being skinny. (There’s a moment where she’s presented with a basketball jersey clearly meant for the skinny type of woman the team’s PR was expecting).

prenup

The other, bigger, source of tension between our lovebirds is that Michael proposes by giving Kayla a prenup. She’s shaken and incredibly uncomfortable with this. Not because of the pre-nup, per se, as much as it is about the fact that Michael didn’t do the romantic proposal first. He just went straight to that. Kayla has trouble finding her voice to get into it with Michael over this, and their relationship is off balance for much of the book because of it.

 

The reasons I got into these spoilers were because while I loved So Right, I feel like the ending was rushed and things were resolved too easily. The publicity around them as a couple and Kayla’s distance over the manner in which Michael proposed were really rich topics that I think Weatherspoon could have done more with. I think that Michael’s flaw felt real, and that it was an issue worked. But I wonder if that’s something that we’ll see come up again because like after one argument everything was fine.

It’s so refreshing to see a plus-sized heroine who doesn’t get magically thin, and who is unapologetic and confident. Giving her the obstacle of public scrutiny is something that, as a plus sized reader, I want to see her deal with further, and I hope we see more of that in the next installment.

That said, I really enjoyed So Right, and am eagerly awaiting the next chapter of Kayla and Michael’s story.  4/5 stars

Odds and Ends

I am unfortunately dealing with medical drama, and will be on and offline unpredictably over the next two weeks (at least). I will try to pop on here to do fast posts like today, though, as often as possible. When I’m having “good” days, I’ll probably write a few posts in advance and schedule them to try to provide content as much as I can

With that in mind, here are a few snippets..

 

Capturing the Moment

Oleander Plume interviewed me over at her blog. Come check out our conversation to learn what I always have near me when I write, and what my ideal writing space looks like. I also share three travel stories when things didn’t go quite as planned. Share your travel misadventure and win a free copy of Capturing the Moment.

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Before I moved to Singapore, the only things I knew about it were that gum is illegal and they caned an American kid named Michael Fey in 1996. Here’s your chance to ask me questions about life in Singapore. I’ve been here six months, and I think that could make for a fun blog post.

RoguesRogues is now on sale.

so right weatherspoon

I just read So Right and I thought it was a delightful follow up to So Sweet.

Recommended Read–Lez Talk: A Collection of Black Lesbian Short Fiction

Lez Talk

When I heard that one my favorite authors, K.A. Smith, was going to be in a new anthology, I couldn’t wait to read it. I pre-ordered Lez Talk, and was super excited when it appeared on my Kindle.

Lez Talk: A Collection of Black Lesbian Short Fiction is comprised of sixteen stories that defy easy classification. There are stories of sadness and pain, of love and sex, and even of magic. One of the editors, S. Andrea Allen writes in the introduction that

We say in our call for submissions: “We operated under the assumption that lesbian is not a dirty word.” At a time where a disavowal of any type of stable identity is at an all time high, it is important for us to focus on writing that celebrates Black lesbian identities and amplifies the diversity of Black lesbian experiences.

Allen and Cherelle did a standout job. The stories were ordered in a way that I wanted to keep reading, rather than feel fatigued. The variation in themes kept the anthology from being repetitive (which is always a danger). I finished the anthology last week, and I’ve been talking it up like crazy. As a bookworm, I know of no higher form of praise.

While I like most of the stories,  there were some standouts that deserve extra applause.

K.A. Smith has two stories in the anthology. Darker the Berry and Two Moons. In Darker the Berry, what looks like a supermarket pickup and casual sex turns out to be so much more complex than it first appears. I told K.A. that I would love to read a novel set in the Two Moons world because in such a short, lyrical piece, she does some intriguing world-building. K.A. is a member in my “never disappoints” club–I know that if I’m picking up an anthology or independent work by her, I will never be disappointed. (Click here for my review of Get At Me and Gina’s Do-Over).

S. Andrea Allen’s story, Pretty, resonated strongly for me. It begins “Everybody said she was pretty, for a fat girl.” I don’t think that there is a plus-sized woman who hasn’t heard that dig. I blinked back tears at the end of the story for that, too, was a moment I identified with. Her second story in the anthology, Epiphany, is the story of a love gone toxic. What do you do when you need to leave a relationship, but can’t see the way out? I walked away wanting to read more by Allen because in both stories, I became emotionally invested in her character’s stories and their outcomes.

Eternity Philops nearly broke my heart with The Other Side of Crazy. Delilah’s girlfriend Sam is cheating on her. Again. She waits for Sam to come home, but she doesn’t. Delilah ends up seeing Sam ]kissing a girl. The resolution of their story is gut-wrenching. Of all the stories in the anthology, this is the one that I’ve most revisited, emotionally, and continue to think about.

La Toya Hankins’s One More weaves the story of Toni’s first few decades of life. We bear witness to her first flickering crush in childhood that ends in shame, to her mom threatening to pull her financial support in college unless Toni renounces being gay, and the eve of her wedding. We see glimpses of the journey her family has taken on the road to accepting and celebrating Toni for who she is. Everyone except her mother. It hurts to be judged. It’s doubly painful when one’s mother–the person society tells us is supposed to love us no matter what–is the one doing the denying and shaming. Hankins deftly tells the story without allowing it to ever dip into melodrama, which it easily could have in the hands of a less skilled author. Bring tissues.

I would really love to see this become an annual anthology, or the first in a series.

Buy Links!

Amazon

Kobo

BLF Press