Huge thanks to Tamsen Parker and Rebecca Grace Allen for organizing the Valentine’s Rewind Blog Hop!
I’ve written a follow up story to Amuse Bouche which was first published by Ellora’s Cave in March 2011, and was republished last October as part of Sweet Heat: Collected Stories, Volume 1 (on sale at all retailers for $1.99 until the 15th!). I hope you enjoy this peek into Tommy and Liana’s life together!
Tommy slowly lifted the icing tip away from the small iced cake, letting a stream of chocolate fall in a straight line down the side. A second later, he looped two more ribbons across the top and set the bag down. A glance at the clock told him he had twenty minutes before Liana was due home. He placed the plate of petit fours in the fridge to help the decorations set and wiped down the counters.
All he had to do was keep her out of the fridge for the night. A monumental task, but he was up for it. He grabbed his phone off the charging stand and sent her a quick text for the first stage of his plan.
He could picture her grumbling as she read it, but he knew she’d do as he asked. As he headed out of the kitchen, he tossed the rag into the sink. He ran down his mental to do list and prayed the night would run like a well-oiled machine and not like a night in the kitchen when full plates fell on the floor, roasts burned instead of seared, and the Times restaurant reviewer was in the front getting coughed on by the waiter who should have damn well known to call in sick.
Stopping in the middle of the loft, he realized his mind was running off track which didn’t help with his blood pressure. He closed his eyes and drew in a few deep, measured breaths as the therapist Liana had forced him to go to had taught.
Focused on the tasks before him once more, he took a quick shower, dressed in the clothes he’d laid out earlier, and straightened up his bedroom. He’d thought about being schmoopy and carpeting the bed with wine red rose petals, but since she was banned from the kitchen, the first place Liana would go was there to drop her stuff. Instead, he strategically set out candles in the living area. Not enough to raise her suspicions, but he removed a couple just to make sure.
Right on cue, he heard a key in the front door. “Hey, babe. Everything okay?”
He grinned at her as she pulled her hat away from her hair, running her fingers through the wild curls. Walking over, he pulled her chilled hands into his and kissed her. “Everything’s good. Tonight’s for relaxing.”
She smiled against his lips. “It’s Valentine’s Day and we both had promo events today. I was hoping we could get some cooking in tonight.”
“Maybe later. I’ve ordered dinner and it should be here in half an hour. Why don’t you drop your stuff in the bedroom and I’ll throw on a movie.”
She opened her bag. “I stopped for one. Here.”
When he saw which one, he smacked a kiss against her lips. “Have I told you that you’re the best?”
“Not in the last twelve hours. Back in a moment.”
He popped the spy movie he’d missed when it had been in the theaters into his player and turned on the TV. When Liana came back out, the previews were playing. They settled onto the couch, his arm around her back and her head resting in the hollow of his shoulder. The opening credits had just finished when the buzzer for the front door went off. He paused the movie and went to answer.
“What dishes do you want to use?”
“Stay there. I’m serving you tonight.” He would never tire of the exasperated looks she shot him when he tried to do things for her. “Valentine’s Day. You know, the day where I’m supposed to wait on you hand and foot?”
“Like you don’t try to do that every other day of the year as well.”
“How about actually indulging me on this day, then?”
“Fine. Hurry up so we can get back to the movie.”
He tipped the delivery woman and brought the dishes into the kitchen, and plated them. The executive chef at the restaurant he’d ordered from was a buddy of his, so there were a few extra touches included.
Back in the living room, Liana was lighting a couple of candles that she’d moved to the coffee table in front of the couch. “I figured we might as well have some mood lighting.”
He pressed a kiss to her forehead. “You read my mind.”
Setting the plates down, he unfurled the included napkins with great fanfare and laid one down on her lap. She laughed. “Are you practicing for being a waiter again?”
“Only for you.” He sat back down next to her and held the remote up at the TV. “Ready for dinner and a movie?”
She picked up her plate, saluting him with her fork. “I am.”
He restarted the movie and began tucking into his own dinner. After they’d finished their meals, they curled into each other again for the remainder of the show. When the end credits finished rolling, he slipped his arm out from behind her. She stretched her arms over her head. “Another movie?”
“Dessert first. Back in a moment.”
In the kitchen, he pulled the champagne out. Wrapping a towel around the cork head, he thought he managed to silence the tell-tale pop. He poured it into the waiting flutes, and then removed from the fridge the plate he placed in there earlier. He tidied the presentation, and then grabbed the box he hidden in the silverware drawer, putting it into his back pocket. The champagne and plate of petit fours went onto a serving platter and he carried it all into the living room.
Liana sat up in her seat. “Tommy, what did you do?”
He set the platter in front of her. The petit fours were arranged in the shape of a heart, and she reached out a finger, stopping only a millimeter from the bottom point. He got down on one knee and pulled the box from his back pocket, opening it in front of him. “Liana, you bring a sweetness to my life I’d never thought to experience. Will you marry me?”
Tears formed in her eyes and she held her fingers up to her mouth. His heart stuttered as the silence lengthened. Sweat beaded at the base of his back and his knee began to creak. Fear began overwhelming his brain, and he started to push up, until she reached out and grabbed his arm. “Yes, Tommy. I’ll marry you.”
All of the air in his lungs rushed out and he damn near passed out. She wrapped her arms around his neck and whispered the words again in his ear. “I’ll marry you.”
Thanks for revisiting the world of Tommy and Liana with me! As soon as I get home from the day job, I’ll check in and respond to any comments. The next stop on the hop is Jeanette Grey. Be sure to comment on each story to be eligible for the massive giveaway at the end. Thanks for joining us for #ValentinesRewind! ♥
I’d like to welcome special guest, Lynne Silver! Lynne is a friend of mine from the Washington Romance Writers, and was one of the featured authors at the WRW Readers and Bloggers Luncheon back in October. She’s appearing here as part of the Lady Smut blog tour. Lynne’s latest series feature a group of heroes in the DC area and the third book, IN DEEP WITH THE FBI AGENT, releases January 12th. You can find Lynne at her website, on Facebook, or join her newsletter. I asked Lynne some questions, and an excerpt follows!
A. What was your favorite aspect of research, or interesting tidbit you came across, for your Alpha Heroes series?
Nothing stands out as an interesting bit of knowledge, but I will say that every time time your email inbox pops up with a message from the FBI, you do shiver a bit. And then you say, oh yeah, I WANTED that email.
B. You have a fireman, a Secret Service agent-turned-bodyguard, and an FBI agent starring in this series. Did you have a favorite? If so, who and why?
Don’t tell my firefighter or secret service agent this, but I have a total crush on Sam Cooper, the FBI agent from In Deep with the FBI Agent. Mostly he’s a computer geek who works on the Cyber Action Team. So he’s a hacker working for the good guys. I go for brains over brawn every time.
C. Washington, DC features prominently in the series. Do you have any insider tips for visitors to the US capital?
Oh, no, don’t get me started on my city. We’ll be here all day. Insider tips are to explore lots of the neighborhoods of DC, not just the Mall. If on the mall, eat at any of the food courts in the museums EXCEPT for the Air & Space museum. That’s just the worst. Nightime is the best time to view the monuments. Don’t miss the Korean war memorial. Do go see the National Building Museum- best gift shop in DC. And remember to walk left, stand right on any metro escalator or risk being tackled. And most, most important…PAY ATTENTION to the roads signs. Many roads (Rock Creek, Connecticut Ave) switch directions during rush hour. I don’t want to hear you were in a head-on collision.
D. What do you love best about writing romance?
I love the romance writing community. It’s super supportive and filled with amazing strong women. (and some awesome men)
E. What are your top three recent reads and why?
Bourbon Kings by JR Ward, Cure for the Common Break-up by Beth Kendrick, and Walk through Fire by Kristen Ashley.
F. What’s your favorite Thanksgiving dish?
My mom’s stuffing…mmmm…
She stood on one foot at a time to pull off her heels then balanced as she slid on the white ankle socks. “There’s a look for you,” she said with a grin, knowing a short, tight black skirt was not that cute with socks, but her competitive nature demanded it. She wasn’t going down without a fight, and a girl needed proper footwear.
“It’s a good look,” Sam said, with a husky bent to his tone. Casey caught the direction of his glance and noticed he was staring at her legs intently.
“Yo, eyes up here,” she called and purposely leaned forward on the high-top, knowing her cleavage would be in direct line of sight. Sam followed orders, moving his gaze from her feet toward where he meant to stop on her face, but he got distracted by the boobies.
Excellent. This game was in the bag. As long as his brain was halfway on her tatas, he’d be useless.
Only Sam wasn’t like normal men, damn him. He caught on to her game almost immediately and his eyes narrowed. He stepped closer and held out his hand.
“Help me?” he said. “Roll up the cuff once.”
She swallowed and eyed his tan, muscular forearm. It was as if he’d read her internal checklist of turn-ons, and strong forearms with a sprinkling of hair was at the top of her list. Challenge accepted. It was on. She stood and reached for his shirt cuff, making sure to brush every inch of bare skin visible along his wrist as she folded the cotton over. She maintained eye contact with him, not looking to inspect her handiwork, but watching his Adam’s apple bob.
“Next arm,” she murmured and let her fingertips run across his palm, down to his wrist to roll up the next sleeve.
“Thank you,” Sam said and turned to get his ball for his turn.
“My pleasure,” she said, emphasizing the word pleasure.
He tossed the ball with graceful form, too graceful for someone who claimed never to have played the game before. She was going to have to up her moves. After Sam stepped out of the way, it was her turn to get her red ball to toss. She made the most of retrieving the ball by waiting until Sam was a few feet behind her, and then she bent at the waist, making sure to aim her ass in his direction. From her position, she called, “Oh, my bad. I picked up the wrong color.” She stood, swiveled, got the correct ball and then bent again, smiling into her chest at his barely disguised groan.
Before she tossed her ball, she gave him a sly look. “I forgot I have the red balls, while yours are blue.” She released the ball with precision owing more to her cockiness than her athletic prowess and then sauntered back to where Sam was awaiting his turn. “Your move.”
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Romance author, Lynne Silver, writes the popular Coded for Love series and other hot contemporary romance novels, such as Love, Technically. Before writing romance, she wrote fiction of a different sort, drafting press releases for technology corporations. Washington DC is her home (non) state, where she resides with her husband and two sons. She is represented by literary agent, Jessica Alvarez of Bookends LLC.
This past Thursday, I was over at The Bookpushers talking about newsletters and why I personally like them. If you comment via the Rafflecopter system on what *you* like to see in them by tomorrow evening (the 15th), you’ll be entered to win one of five sets of the Sweet Heat series (1, 2, 3). On December 8th, I’ll have guest posts at both Wicked Lil Pixie and Deanna Raybourn. I’m still deciding on what to write about, so if there’s anything in particular you’d like to hear me talk about, leave a comment below.
On the Saturday, the 28th, I’ll be hosting Lynne Silver here as part of a blog tour organized by Lady Smut to celebrate connections made at the Washington Romance Writers Luncheon back in October. Now, Lynne and I have actually been friends since I moved to DC four years ago, and I’m looking forward to talking with her about her new Alpha Heroes series from Grand Central’s Forever Yours line.
Finally, I’ve joined Instagram!! This actually took some doing as I’ve been trying to join for a few months now and could not figure out why it wouldn’t let me sign up. Let’s just say that I’m sideye-ing some connections made between various accounts of mine and alter ego’s that I’m pretty sure I didn’t actively connect. However, I did the necessary workaround last night and got myself set up. I’m looking forward to posting pictures from an upcoming family trip (sans family members actually being in the pictures), a knitting project I’m working on as part of the Maryland Romance Writer’s fundraising auction, and a foodie project that a few other romance writers are also participating in! I will also try to post some pictures of holiday decorations in and around DC 😀
The Sweet Heat: Collected Stories series is all finalized and all three volumes (1, 2, & 3) have been submitted to the various vendors for uploading and pre-orders. If you are a reviewer and would like a copy of any or all the volumes, you can request them via this form. Thanks so much for your interest!!
Sweet Heat: Collected Stories, Volume 1 is now available for pre-order! It releases on Tuesday, October 13th, but you can order it now from Amazon, Kobo, Google Play, and iBooks. The base price is $3.99, but some of the retailers are offering a discounted price. I am *so* excited that these stories will be available for sale again. I’ll be sending out a newsletter when it releases, as well as when Volumes 2 and 3 do, so sign up now if you want the head’s up.
I hope that if you’re in the DC/Baltimore area this weekend, you’ll come visit the Baltimore Book Fest. There are *tons* of authors of all genres and celebrity, and it’s all happening around the Inner Harbor. In fact, my family is totally getting a kick out of the fact that at certain times (depending on how many authors are listed before me), my picture has been sitting smack next to the honorable Senator from Arizona, Mr. McCain (he’s currently one row below me…add one more author before me, BBF!!!). It’s probably the closest I’ll ever get to politics (other than STRONGLY urging you to exercise your right to vote). Frankly, other than participating on the two panels I’m on at the Maryland Romance Writers tent (YAY!!!!!), I’m really looking forward to the fair food 😀 Mmmmmmm…funnel cake!
Today I’m participating in the #GetItTogetherHop along with today’s other attendees: Jennifer Lohmann, Alexis Anne, Erin Satie, Sandy Williams, and Ophelia London. You can find the list for the participants during the rest of the week on Alexandra Haughton’s or Lindsay Emory’s blogs. This
may did turn into a treatise as I have many ideas on organization (and maybe a wee fetish for office supplies), but as with all of my advice, this is what works for me. If you’re a writer, I hope you get some ideas. If you’re a reader, I hope you enjoy this look into my life as a writer. Experiment, take what works for you, and discard the rest. If you get to the bottom of the post, there’s a special surprise including a contribution from moi!
This is where I’m most fluid. I love notebooks. Adore them. And I like playing with pens. My mother was the one who told me I had to try Stabilo’s fine (point 88) marker pens. I come by my love affair honestly. As you can see, I’ve got a collection of notebooks, some filled with notes on writing and other things that catch my attention, and some waiting to be populated.
As you can see, some of the notebooks are dedicated to certain sets of ideas, like the brown one for the Sweet Heat Collections (join my newsletter to be notified when they release!). That included project planning notes, marketing ideas, listings of which stories should be included in which volume, and more. The RWA 2015 notebook didn’t get as many notes written in it as I thought it would, but I’ll be bringing it to chapter meetings and may jot notes into it as I listen to the recordings.
I’m a big believer in paper planning for myself for the sheer fact that my memory seems to be keyed to muscle movement and space. If I forget something, I retrace what I was physically doing when I had the thought to jog my memory, and it often works. I buy paper calendars every year because while they do lie fallow for some months, there are other months where they save my butt. I’m continuously experimenting with various systems to sort out one that works best for me. My number one finding: it depends on my mood. As with pretty much everything else in my life like reading, eating, and knitting 😀
I’ve recently started planning a trilogy of books to go on submission with to an agent, and hopefully publishers. In order to keep physical things I come across in relation to the planning together, I got this really cool accordion file from Staples. It’s part of a special designer line from Cynthia Rowley, and I couldn’t resist the design:
Which is really the key to finding a system that helps you keep your idea organized: it’s fun for you. I’m going to use this accordion file because I enjoy looking at the pattern. I’m going to use the notebooks in ways where I can play with pens, but also help me visualize what’s stuck in my head when it comes to the story. In order to make sure I don’t miss any highlights that I need to hit when writing the first book, this is the planning tool I’ve come up with in the series notebook, followed by the hero/heroine worksheet for the trilogy:
Notice, I haven’t even gotten into the digital side of things. Alter ego is the queen of Pinterest when it comes to this body (she’s got multiple boards dedicated to Food). I would probably use it more, but the way Pinterest is set up, it’s not easy to switch between accounts the way it is with Twitter and alter ego demands access to her recipes on a regular basis.
This is a harder nut to crack as I live in a studio apartment. I have to appropriately divide up my space between my office, my living area, my workout area, my supplementary cooking/food prep area (because my kitchen is too freaking small), my storage area, and my sleeping area. I would offer up more pictures, but I’m not the neatest person on the planet. What I have been doing recently is purging as much non-essential, and non-used stuff as I can. It’s not going as quickly as I would hope. However, I have transformed one of my smaller bookshelves into Kelly Support Central. It’s where I house office supplies like paper (I still print out manuscripts for at least one editing round), receipts and financials, research books, and promo materials. I’m liking the way it’s turned out!
Organizing my time is a vital part of my mental health process. For example, I began drafting this post over a week before its posting date because this particular week is an insane one schedule-wise for alter ego and she would probably be laughing hysterically if the post was still waiting to be written last night.
The biggest challenge to me is carving out time to write. For my last semester of high school, I managed to work out my last semester’s schedule so periods 1-3 were my year-long classes, periods 4 & 5 were gym classes (yes, two gym classes my senior year), period 6 was a class that I aced with little thought, period 7 was lunch, and period 8 was study hall. At my school, juniors and seniors were able to leave early if they had eighth period study hall, and if you were lucky enough to have seventh period lunch, you got to leave even earlier! Which means, I mentally checked out every day after 3rd period. I believe in being an efficient slacker. Oxymoronic maybe, but it’s how I work best. I’ve managed to get myself to the point where I am able to draft at least 10,000 words in a day. My high point was a little over 12,000 words. This is a full day of work. I have a day job, which means that this schedule is only possible on weekends or when I have a day off of work. However, if I schedule myself to write 10,000 words each day on the weekend, I can have an 80,000-word first draft (and boy, is it ever a dirty draft) in 4 weekends.
This allows me to loaf off after work on weekdays when I need to or work on administrative stuff if I have energy. Being able to write this much in one day required me to train up the way you would a marathon. Which meant a couple of years slowly increasing my output level, getting comfortable in my process, and building up my stamina for multiple hours of writing while avoiding burn out. This schedule can fluctuate depending on the project, but knowing what my writing pace is and can be is invaluable in allowing me to figure out my writing schedule around my day job life and my personal life. I need to have a balance between the three, and, for now, this is what works for me.
I can, and have, gone months between writing the first drafts of projects, let alone edits. This is okay. Some people work best by writing every single day. Good for them. Do that if that’s your process! It’s not mine. The last time I tried to work that way, I went into a depressive episode. I need spans of time when I’m not writing even when I’m working on the first draft of a project. It helps me to refill the energy well.
The biggest take away I’ve learned this summer is that I need to be kind to myself. When it comes to organization, that means I need to stick with what is working for me and abandoning things when they don’t jibe with my style. One organization method working fabulously for someone does not mean that it will work for me or for you.
My tip: organize your life around what makes you happy even if that means not being organized 🙂
Because this turned into a treatise and I barely scratched the surface of my thoughts on the topic, I’ve decided to turn it into a series of posts. I’ll link all of the posts from this one if you want to bookmark it and check back 🙂
Part 2 – The Emotional Impact of Organization
A number of the #GetItTogetherHop participants have contributed items to a set of group giveaways. If you’re interested in entering, follow the Rafflecopter instructions. I am contributing signed copies of Best Erotic Romance 2014 and The Sexy Librarian’s Big Book of Erotica and a mini swag bag filled with a stylus pen (I’d take a picture, but they’re currently in mailroom limbo) and an “I ♥ Uppercase Hotties” button. Good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
The Emotional Impact of Organization
When I was writing the original Sweet, Sweet Organization post for the #GetItTogetherHop, I was also in the process of cleaning my apartment for my mom’s impending visit over Labor Day. In some ways, cleaning off my desk was the easiest part of that process (as of this post, I’m still in the middle of it). It’s something I do regularly, for me. I find that having a mostly clear desk makes it easier for me to write. If only because I have the space to rest my arms and laptop/iPad.
If you’ve read the #GetItTogetherHop posts, you’ll see a common theme of how organization methods both reduce and create stress and impact mental health. This is definitely true for me. Having a clearer desk gives me more mental space as well as physical since I’m not feeling as crowded. Every piece of paper sitting on my desk chatters at me to be dealt with. And I generate a crap ton of paper for as much as I live my life in an online environment. Certain things, like my check book, also have a designated space they occupy. If they are not in that dedicated space when I need them, like to pay rent, I get more anxious and bitchier the longer I can’t find them. Ask my family how many times I’ve bitten off their heads when I haven’t been able to find something because it’s not in or near the last place I remember seeing it. Half the time it *is* near the place, but hidden under something.
Let’s talk about moving and storage for a little bit. Mainly because I went home last weekend and was forced to deal with, or at least acknowledge, the majority of things I had left in storage in various locations with my family. Moving is not pretty. No matter how organized I am, and I am thanking whatever deities there are that I thought ahead enough to label many of the boxes that weren’t see-through, moving turns me into an emotionally battered bitch. I hate subjecting my family to that, but they continue to volunteer to assist despite this. Dad and I were reminiscing over my last full day in Iowa. Not. Pretty. The problem is all of the decision-making you have to do. You have to touch every single tiny ass object and make a decision about it. Does it go with you? If so, where do you pack it? Does it go in the trash? Recycling? Can you sell it? Should you give it to someone? So many questions. And I fret over each and every answer. Fretting is your enemy when you have so much to go through even when you think you have budgeted yourself enough time. I had a month to go through my things in Iowa. I used that month. It was nowhere near enough.
At one point on Monday, while standing in my parents’ garage looking at what was sitting in there (and my parents’ garage is not finished, so that’s another issue), my mom asked me something and the only thing I could tell her, warn her really, was “I’m feeling very overwhelmed right now.” All of these boxes were staring at me, demanding my emotional energy. And this was after I’d spent four hours on Friday culling about eight banker’s boxes of books out of my book collection sitting in my dad’s storage unit. The question my family kept asking me was “what do you want us to do with it?” I kept wanting to say, “did you not see everything I threw out/decided to get rid of in some manner?!?!?!”
The final kick in the emotional can was when the used book store I went to offered me only $40 for the eight boxes of books. $5 per box. If I could have, I would have boxed up a good half of those books so I could give them to someone, FOR FREE, who would appreciate the treasure trove I had built up over the years. But I didn’t have the space, nor the time, to do that. Luckily, both my parents saw how fragile I was at that point, and didn’t speak much about it. A little unexpectedly, I started crying as I wrote this bit because I’m still grieving the loss of that collection. And this was something I had been planning on doing for almost a year. It’s because I know that collection was special, and I couldn’t treat it the way it deserved because of the time and space constraints forced upon me.
That is the emotional toll of organization. It’s all about managing your time and space. Being organized in a way that works for your situation can be a very good thing. Having outside constraints force you to be organized in a way that is not ideal for you can suck you down quickly. I am glad to have lightened my mental load with not owning as much stuff, even though I didn’t see it on a regular basis. I wish I could have been able to better control the dispersal of the most meaningful part of that “stuff” in a way that was emotionally healthier for me. If you want to be more organized, whether with time or space, I think the key is to find a system that minimizes the amount of decisions you have to make. It should help relieve the stress in your life, not contribute to it. Good luck!
I’m happy to announce that I will be republishing my backlist stories under the series title “Sweet Heat”. I’m planning on three volumes that will be published over the course of Fall 2015. One volume, likely the last one, will be updated next year when the exclusive rights to the last of my previously published stories reverts back to me. I will be pricing these collections at $3.99. I’m playing around with the idea of offering a one to two month introductory price for each of $1.99. I’m interested in your thoughts on the pricing of previously published material, so leave a comment below, email me, or tweet me! I’d very much like to make these available internationally, but I need to do some research into the VAT issue as I don’t want to run afoul of regulations.
If you are interested in being notified of when these collections are available, join my newsletter. I’m instituting a thank you program for newsletter subscribers. For every 100 subscribers, and with every newsletter, I will randomly draw a name to win a $10 gift certificate to your online bookstore of choice–provided they offer gift cards or equivalent.