Say My Name – A Review

This review includes spoilers

My 2018 reading project takes me to the library weekly for another handful of romance books. One of the four I grabbed last weekend was this novel by Allegra Huston. Please don’t read further if you haven’t yet read this book, because I’m going to talk about details.

Apparent in the first few pages was this book’s noncompliance with standard romance fare. As the story developed, that first impression solidified. For one thing, the author’s skill with language and flow set it apart from average fiction. Delightful reading full of luscious description and mysterious character development.

I don’t quite agree with the library’s decision to classify this a romance. Maybe that’s good because that category might gain it more readers than if was shelved as literary fiction. But that’s the feel of it—literary.

Yes, it’s erotic but only here and there. That was the main deviation from the romance norm. Even Regency romances with all their corset stays manage to convey intense physical desire and the ripping of clothes pretty much on a page-by-page basis. Say My Name? Not so much. Rather, this novel includes a lot of navel gazing by this woman who changes so much in the course of the story.

The premise is that a middle aged severely under-developed woman meets a man twenty years younger who manages to wake her up in all possible ways. The story doesn’t hang on that however, but rather on her discovery of an antique viola da gamba with a bashed-in back. Turns out the young man is a musician and their mutual interest in the instrument drives the plot alongside their mutual attraction.

Then there’s the largely absent husband of said woman, a tormented soul flailing around trying to discover himself while, in the process, continuing to walk all over her. There’s a point near the end where he gets what’s coming to him, a triumphant moment for any woman who ever wanted to take a two-by-four to a similar man. So thanks for that, Ms. Huston.

The novel is set in the present day. For me, the drawback in reading this was my disbelief that any woman of our times could possibly be this inexperienced, this utterly out of touch with herself. I suppose it’s possible—anything is. But that particular aspect of her personality, which happened to be a major factor in how the story unfolded, really kept coming back as I read.

Are there really housewives out there who silently cook, clean, do laundry, and put up with a completely disinterested aloof husband? For all those years? On what planet? I mean, there are television shows, movies, novels, wine, and girlfriends to help you out if that condition applies. Who simply curls up inside herself never questioning that life might be better? Are there people out there who never listened to rock ‘n’ roll? Never heard The Doors sing “Break on thru to the other side…”?

But okay, I’ll set that aside for a minute while I talk about the younger guy. Mmmm, he’s scrumptious. Tall, dark, and handsome with green eyes that never let her go. Bold, ready to take her the minute they meet. But wait—I never hear him say what exactly it is about her that draws him like a moth to flame. Why does this fabulous young male so sought after by an endless herd of young attractive women decide he has to have a woman twice his age?

He thinks she’s beautiful. He likes that she’s cloistered inside herself. Maybe it’s his heroic urge to free her from all that swaddling and help her breathe in the air of life as an independent strong adult female. If so, his prescience is kind of staggering.

There are several places that drifted off the page for me, one of them her dive into sculpting and then her crazy idea to create a dildo in the shape of a tulip. This makes NO SENSE! How such a shape could be inserted is one painful question, but then how could it possibly be pleasurable while riding along inside her is another. For me, the story also fell off a cliff in the last scene of their sexual intimacy when he convinced her to swallow a Quaalude and then she wakes up to the vicious actions of one of his former girlfriends. I mean, why? Non sequitur.

Throughout the book, which I lingered over just to savor the language, I kept thinking this had to be something of an allegory. But what? What possible metaphorical meaning could there be behind an older woman and younger man joining in a bizarre love affair?

I haven’t figured it out, so if you have a clue please let me know. My thoughts so far are that if the author had any such intent, maybe the characters represent different parts of ourselves, she the intellect with its obedience to rules and patterns and habits we all craft to give our lives structure, structures that become a prison of sorts keeping us locked in step with what we’ve been doing for too long. Maybe he’s the art, the muse, the music and poetry and wild uninhibited rush into the unknown that –if we allow it into our lives—can awaken us to the terrible awful joy of being alive. That’s sex for you, a mechanism that takes us out of the ho-hum daily grind and, at least potentially, pops us up on top of a cloud where light shines brilliantly all around us.

Maybe that’s just me. In my writing, my objective is to show how sex serves a transformative role for people caught in an unhappy life. Sex is a doorway, an opening to the inner self—if we let it. That’s why I remain so frustrated with people/society who continue to be uncomfortable with open sexuality in literature. That said, the author here doesn’t linger on nipples and clitorises and neither does she actually ever present the word ‘cock.’ That’s another clue that this isn’t ‘romance’ in its standard iteration.

I’m happy that Ms. Huston created this story. As I read, I kept getting the feeling that it’s based on a real life experience in more ways than one. It seems older than our present day, mostly because the woman is so repressed, almost Victorian. But then, the present day is when we might be most likely to find a young man like this, dissolute and unstructured and so determined to pursue his reality in unconventional ways. I won’t soon be able to forget it.

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Dare to Ask — FREE READ for your Valentine Treat

 

The minute they rolled into the fueling bay, Emily knew she never should have brought Sheryn along. But the gas tank hovered near empty, and the two of them were on their way to a showing at the new Springloft apartment complex, and Sheryn needed the training. Emily cursed under her breath as she stopped near the pumps and Sheryn started bobbing and weaving to peer out the windows.

“Oh, shit, I see what you mean,” Sheryn enthused, squinting her eyes as the attendant came toward the car.

“Well, don’t say anything, or I’ll throttle you.”

“Can I pant?”

“Shut up,” she hissed through clenched teeth.

His body moved inside his uniform like a well-oiled machine, all ridges and curves and hard planes of muscle that should be illegal. He leaned down at Emily’s open window and gave one of his most charming smiles. She resisted the urge to say or do something rash.

“What can I help you ladies with today?”

“Oh…” Sheryn began.

“I need gas,” Emily quickly interrupted. “And my windshield keeps streaking.”

“We can take care of that,” he said confidently. “Fill it up?”

“Oh. My. God,” Sheryn whispered.

Emily threw her a hate glare. “Yes, please.”

He held his head at a cocky angle as he walked around to the gas cap. Emily waited, completely distracted. A tapping sound on the back window. He pointed, reminding her to flip the opener.

“Damn,” she muttered.

“You should just ask him,” Sheryn said. “What the hell? Just quit thinking about it and ask him. I sure as hell would. God, look at that.”

He had gathered paper towels and a spray bottle and leaned across the hood to scrub the windshield. Muscle and veins corded his forearms and hands. Emily felt faint.

“I’m going to ask him,” Sheryn continued.

“Don’t you fucking dare.”

“Seriously? Do you have some kind of claim?”

“No, but if you’re going to get in the middle of this, it better be when I’m not around.”

“Then ask him. Or I’ll ask him for you.”

“No, absolutely not.” Emily resisted the urge to punch her dear friend.

“I am. Seriously.”

“No.”

“Okay, you asked for it.” Sheryn rolled her window down.

“Sheryn!” she hissed. “Stop!”

“No.”

“Okay, I’ll say something.”

“Not just ‘something,’ ask him out.”

He grinned from the front of the car and it crossed Emily’s mind that somehow he was hearing all this, that maybe the heat vents channeled their voices out through the front and he heard every word. She broke out in a sweat.

“Damn it, Sheryn, I’m never taking you with me again. Anywhere.”

“Am I fired?” Sheryn grinned. “His name is Chris, right?” She leaned her face to the window. “Chris?”

He came around from the pump, wiping his hands.

“Damn you,” Emily cursed, imagining kicking her—literally—out the door.

He leaned into Sheryn’s window. “Did you need something else?”

“Emily wants to ask you something.”

The bitch smirked and gave Emily a thumbs-up as he came around to the driver’s side. Her heart drummed in her ears. All the times she had thought of doing this very thing, all the clever come-ons, flirts, seductive glances, and none of it, absolutely not one shred, remained within the reach of her mind.

“What do you need?” he asked.

Oh fucking damn. “I need…”

“I’ll say it if you don’t,” Sheryl mumbled under her breath.

“I wondered what you were doing after work,” she said in a rush.

He straightened. Emily knew it. This was where he laughed in her face and told her to get a life, lady. Something like that.

“Whatever you’re doing,” he said.

Her head snapped up. Did he really say that? His muddy green eyes watched her like she would say something else. She had nothing to say. Actually couldn’t talk. Since when did she revert to thirteen? She considered just driving off without paying and never coming back.

“Okay,” she managed in a hoarse voice.

“I get off at four,” he said. “And the gas is forty-three dollars.”

She handed him the debit card and watched him walk inside. Her hands gripped the steering wheel so hard it hurt. She didn’t look at Sheryn. “I could kill you.”

“Oh, get over it. You’ve got a date now. How bad is that?”

“You’re a meddling bitch, and not my friend, and when this blows up on me, I’m going to kill myself right after I kill you.”

Sheryn was still laughing hysterically as they drove away.

~~~

Read the entire novelette FREE at Smashwords !

Adrian Velasquez — A Short Story (Part 1)

At the sound of his voice, Rachel spun the chair around. Adrian Velasquez. His dark gaze always caught her off guard. He was wearing a gray-black suit, damn him, with a white shirt open at the throat that dazzled against his Latino complexion. Not for the first time in his presence, her stomach quivered.

“Did you ever hear of knocking?”

He eased his suit jacket open and parked himself in the chair nearest her desk. With a half grin and sideways glance, his hazel eyes undressed her. Shit. Nobody should be this good looking. He looked at the ceiling for a second then shook his head.

“One question,” he said.

“The same one?”

He stood up and rested his fists on the desk, his eyes riveting her gaze. “Are you afraid?”

Her breath caught. Hell yes, she was afraid. His whole body emanated tension. Everything about him made her sick with need.

“Not afraid,” she said, feigning boredom. “Same old same old.”

His expression toyed with amusement and something more as his eyes flitted to her breasts and then back to her face. “You have no idea,” he said with a grin.

“I have an idea,” she snapped. “It’s a terrifying vision. Now I have listings to sell and so do you. Work, remember?”

“Soon,” he said. “You’ll answer my question.”

She glared at him until the office door closed behind him. “Shit,” she muttered under her breath. Should she report him for sexual harassment? Was she overreacting to normal male flirtation?

She threw herself into her chair and tugged on her short dark hair so hard it hurt. She’d never met a man who could destroy her as completely as Adrian Velasquez. So why couldn’t she stop playing his game?

~~~

The day dragged by. By four-thirty, she needed a drink so badly she could almost taste the tequila on her tongue. Thank god it was Friday and thank god the Manchester Lounge was only a half block away. She stuffed her water bottle and iPad in her bag and let the office door swing shut behind her. The place had mostly emptied already, typical for a Friday when any and every excuse known to mankind hovered on employees’ lips as they grabbed a head start on the weekend.

A small throng of restless people waited for the elevator. She knew before she looked that Adrian had followed her out. The man didn’t miss anything.

A voice like dark chocolate purred at her ear. “Did I mention how lovely you look today?” he said. “You do the ice princess thing very well.”

Gooseflesh erupted down her arms. “Is that some kind of compliment?” she retorted.

“Of course,” he said, rocking back on his heels with a smug smile. “Also the truth. You are a very attractive woman.”

“Same old?” she said.

A cocked eyebrow was her only answer. The elevator opened and she found herself squeezed between Adrian and the back wall as the conveyance lurched through its descent. His broad shoulders blocked her view, straining the seams of his expensive suit and making her mouth go dry. He purposefully held himself inches away, saving her from the crush of annoyed people packed into the small space.

Well, thank you very much. As if she hadn’t negotiated crowds in elevators all her life. As if she needed him. As if he wasn’t fully aware that his musky scent filled her nostrils and sent waves of need down her belly. Yes, thank you, Adrian.

The elevator spilled its contents into the lobby and people streamed off in all directions. Rachel hurried along without looking back. As she shouldered through the wide door, she slipped on her sunglasses and turned purposefully toward the Manchester.

Christ, tequila. Now. Please.

What was it about him that made her panic like this? That made her body hum and her pulse race and her mind focus like a laser on nothing but him. What he would do next. What he would say.

The cool air of the Manchester, faintly scented with the smell of whiskey and cigar smoke, hit her face in a gust as she pushed the heavy wooden door open. Bits of conversation and familiar strains of Getz-Gilberto met her ears. Her eyes adjusted to the dim room before she spotted an open booth at the back wall.

A moment’s peace. That’s all I ask. She slid into the cool leather seat and briefly rubbed her forehead. Why did she let that man get to her like this?

It wasn’t like she was a trembling virgin straight out of girls’ school. There had been men. There had even been love, enough ‘romance’ to teach her the hard lessons of life. As in, steer clear of players like Adrian Velasquez.

“Ma’am?” A waiter leaned toward her as he slid a napkin onto the table.

“Margarita straight up, easy on the sweet.”

She knew he had a past. How did someone leave behind that kind of history—gangs, drugs, street fights?  He kept his tattoos well covered, but she’d seen him with his sleeves rolled up. Dark curled lines disappeared under the white cuffs. Her nostrils flared as she imagined the rest–the chest, the shoulders, smooth skin stretched like wet silk over straining muscle.

This! This was exactly what she couldn’t do.

Soon after he started working at Compass Realty, she couldn’t keep from asking Christine, the agency owner and sorority sister from college.

“What in the hell is going on?” she had asked, dripping creamer into her coffee.

“He’s amazing,” Christine confided. “Fantastic sales record. Yeah, he’s from the streets, but he knows the business. And you’ve got to admit—he’s got presence.”

“Is that what they call it?”

Christine chuckled. “Keep a lid on it, girlfriend. He sells property, and that’s good for us. The clients want him.”

Unfortunately, so did she. Somehow his dark past only made him more desirable. In her weaker moments, thoughts would take over as she envisioned how his body looked without clothes, working out, gleaming with sweat, all sleek lines and cut muscle.

She imposed her strictest self-discipline. Yeah, like that was working. It was as if she had stepped off the train at some deserted station in the middle of nowhere and Adrian was standing there. Waiting.

A frosted margarita glass slid onto the napkin in front of her. She flashed a ‘thank-you’ smile at the waiter and lifted the salted rim to her lips. The citrusy burn swept over her tongue and scorched an icy path down her throat. Some of the tension in her neck relaxed. She sagged back against the soft upholstery and let her gaze drift over the room.

Typical Friday afternoon crowd, mostly white-collar types glad to have the next two days to themselves. A few men in work clothes, maybe construction. Laughter. She closed her eyes, trying to climb down a few notches.

As if spellbound, she opened her eyes to looked directly into Adrian’s intent stare. Had he followed her? Maybe, maybe not. He could have planned to come here all along. Lots of the people from their building came here.

He stood by the bar with a half smile and a taunting expression on his handsome face, his jacket eased open and the ‘V’ of his open shirt neck drawing her eyes like a magnet. Her blood pressure burst through the top of her head. Heat burned her cheeks.

She couldn’t look away. She had to look away. The longer she stared, the more cocky his grin became.

God, please let me look down. She focused on the drink where she gripped the glass stem so tightly she thought it might snap. How would she know when he stopped staring? How would she turn him away if he showed up at her table?

What now? What the fuck now?

Okay, this was ridiculous. She didn’t have to do anything she didn’t want to do. Adrian wasn’t a magician. He couldn’t force her. She had a mind of her own.

This was about her, not Adrian. Her not admitting the obvious. She was attracted. But that didn’t mean she had to act on it. She had reasons not to indulge in every little fantasy scene her sex-starved brain conjured up. Responsible mature reasons.

Her eyes flicked again to Adrian. He sat on the other side of the room, a spot with a clear line of sight to her table. While she watched, helpless to tear her eyes away, he lit a cigar and sucked, caressing the thickly rolled tobacco with his lips.

He knew exactly what he was doing with that slow sensual motion. Her panties moistened as if he had licked between her legs. She drowned her quiet moan with another gulp of her drink.

A group of people intervened, taking a table and blocking her view. Released from his hypnotic stare, she fiercely stared at the table before digging out her phone, praying for a text, anything that could occupy her attention.

Sanity would be required here. A reasoned plan of action. She would finish the drink then leave.

“Mind if I join you?”

Chills ran down Rachel’s back at the sound of his voice. Her gaze traveled slowly up Adrian’s body. His thighs strained the tailored lines of his expensive slacks. That damn white shirt nearly blinded her. He’d taken off his jacket and rolled up his sleeves. Veins laced over the tendons at his wrist and forearms. Tattoos.

Jesus.

“No, by all means, take a seat. I don’t see you enough at work, so why not be annoyed by you in my private time as well?”

He laughed and eased into the booth across from her. The man moved like a fucking panther, languid and taut at the same time. His eyes burned into her as his hands toyed with his short tumbler. He stroked the rim with one long finger as if he touched her. Daring her, his gaze roamed over her breasts.

Sensation ripped down her neck. Her breasts swelled and her nipples hardened to painful knots, pressing the front of her tailored blouse. Moisture pulsed between her thighs. Her heart pounded in her ears as the image formed of him over her in bed.

She must be out of her mind to play a game of chicken with this man. He would win. Was she ready for that? What happened to safe?

She lowered her eyes to her glass and took another drink. The waiter appeared and disappeared before she registered on what had been said. She felt Adrian’s careful gaze, watching her like prey. He’d been stalking, waiting, watching, and here she was, cornered. A smile quirked the corner of his mouth.

“Adrian, Jesus Christ,” she said. “Save that killer seduction thing for your girlfriends. Surely you have a dozen.”

He laughed, sincerely amused. “See? This is what I love about you. Are you jealous? You spit and hiss like a kitten. But I know how to make you purr.”

“Get over yourself.”

“You think I’m only flirting?” he asked, raising an eyebrow. He clearly enjoyed seeing her flustered. Her face was on fire, a combination of his game and the liquor. It infuriated her that he could provoke her so easily. He snapped a lighter to tip of his cigar and mouthed the thick shaft as he inhaled. “Think I’m trying to seduce you?”

“Ha!” she said. “I don’t know what the hell else you would call it. I’m here trying to relax after a hellish week and you show up, uninvited, and start making suggestive comments,” she huffed. “I’ve seen all this before.”

“But not mine,” he said in silken tones.

She gaped at his blatant remark, belatedly remembering to close her mouth and think. Part of her—the sane part—wanted to leap up and run out of the building. The other part, unfortunately the part currently in control, wanted to rip off her blouse and hold her breasts to his mouth. The situation had suddenly changed into something charged and dangerous.

And he knew it, damn him. His smile formed deep dimples in his cheeks. He reached for her hand, covering it with his own and suggestively stroking the inside of her thumb.

Without warning, he leaned up and pulled her toward him over the small table, sliding the tip of his tongue against her lips. She gasped, her mouth parting slightly to give him entry. Her head reeled, wiped clean of every thought, every caution, she had made.

“Oh, god,” she groaned against his mouth.

Her eyes widened as she looked at him. She threw herself backwards into the booth and held the back of her hand against her lips as if she could erase the electric shock of his touch. “Forget that,” she stammered.

Smile gone, his eyes darkened and locked on hers. “We’re going,” he said abruptly, standing up.

A strange paralysis took over, partly residual shock waves from the touch of his mouth, partly the languor of alcohol making its way to her bones.

Say something. Say ‘no,’ say ‘wait.’ Make excuses.

But she didn’t say anything. She let him lift her elbow as she stood. She watched him throw money on the table. Her breath burned out in short gasps as she trotted out of the Manchester, her arm in Adrian’s grip.

On fire. Drunk on need so deep she couldn’t find the bottom. Drowning in everything Adrian.

His stride along the sidewalk forced her to practically run to keep up. She needed to stop before things went any further. Before she did something she would regret.

But she didn’t want to stop. Nothing mattered but Adrian and what he silently promised to do to her. What she wanted so much she could practically taste him.

“Where are we going?”

“To get a room,” he said.

“No.”

He stopped and pushed her against a department store window. Fashionably dressed mannequins stared down. People hurried past. Adrian’s hand slipped behind her and pulled her hips against his groin. “You want me,” he said thickly. “We need a place where I can give you what you want.”

“What I…” Rachel struggled for words. The pressure of his body made her ears roar. She swallowed nervously. “I don’t…”

“Yes, you do,” he said impatiently. “Come on.”

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

You choose! Lead in to Ending 1 or Lead in to Ending 2

Ending 1

He steered her to the front desk of the downtown Marriott, slid his card across the marble counter, and in moments, escorted her to the elevator where he waited, without speaking, until the doors opened on the eighth floor. She tried to reason with herself, but reason wasn’t what she wanted.

Later, she would think about all the opportunities she had ignored, a chance to walk away, to say no. Later, she would remember the low throb between her legs that said she had no choice.

He led her into the room and put out the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign. His hands gripped her shoulders as he lowered his mouth to hers. His lips gently brushed hers and her knees weakened.

Chica,” he murmured. “What I will do with you.”

OR

Ending 2

She pulled her elbow out of his grip. “No, Adrian. Maybe someday I’ll be ready for this, but not today.”

As she turned to walk away, the expression on his face burned into her memory. Disappointment, yes. But something else, something that might have been the face of a very young man heartbroken in his first love affair. Briefly, his eyes had conveyed a message of more than desire, more than conquest.

The heels of her pumps beat a sharp rhythm on the sidewalk. Her lips formed a hard straight line. None of that could be real. She was reading into his expression, putting thoughts and feelings there that didn’t exist in reality. It simply wasn’t possible that he had any kind of emotional investment in her.

How could he? Why?

A strong hand grabbed her arm and spun her around. Anger and something else blazed in his eyes.

“You think you know me? You don’t know me, chica,” he said. “What have I ever done to make you afraid? Have I hurt you, threatened you?”

She jerked away. “Yes, Adrian, you’ve threatened me with your lurid suggestions and constant attempts to seduce me. Haven’t I made myself clear?”

“You give me your words, but your body speaks louder. If you’re afraid to admit what you feel, are you also afraid to have dinner?”

She shook her head, discarding retorts as fast as they formed.

“Dinner, Rachel,” he said, his voice softer.

~~~

Coming soon — Part II of Adrian Velasquez

**This is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters and incidents are either a product of the author’s imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

David’s Dilemma

 

He’d never been much of a planning type. For one thing, plans pretty much had a habit of blowing up in his face. He’d planned plenty of fabulous mansions he’d build with his music wealth. A ranch in Montana. A Lear jet he’d have painted red to advertise the band’s name. Plenty of parties with the best of the best chumming up to him, J.J., and the rest. Plenty of bullshit ideas that just got farther away the more he planned them.

Like the songs he’d planned. Somewhere back in L.A., probably burned to an ash by now, was the dog-eared list he kept on a yellow legal pad. Song ideas he’d get to as soon as he had time. As soon as the mood struck him. Phrases, chord progressions. The paean to his sister he never could write. Memories of his grandparents.

His love of good whiskey—well, that had made it into a few songs. But never quite enough, or clearly stated enough, to encapsulate the intense pleasure that came with the warm creep of intoxication while more of the fragrant amber fluid gently swirled in his glass. He had a clear memory of the grip of his hand around that small sturdy glass. The sweet aromatic smell filled his nose. His mouth watered.

If he was going to fucking spend the last of his days in this desert, why the fuck couldn’t he at least enjoy drinking?

~~~

This is an excerpt from my latest novel, Refuge in His Arms. The story follows Mackenzie Kilpatrick and David Evans, two strangers caught up in two simultaneous natural disasters. As they escape from Los Angeles in the midst of a massive earthquake, they quickly discover another more devastating event will impact their future for days or even years to come. Making things worse, each of them struggles with personal issues as well as the developing love-hate relationship between them.

In this story, David has to face down his alcoholism. Writing about addiction isn’t something I’ve done before, although I’ve seen addiction in real life more times than I’d like to admit. It’s a horrible illness, and I admit that I still have a hard time seeing it as such. My tendency is to believe that addictive behavior is a choice someone makes, even if it’s a choice not to be responsible for what he/she does.

Whatever my personal take on addiction, the character of David has traveled far down the road in his struggle with alcohol. In the story, he’s faced with a terrible choice, whether to fight for the woman he thought he’d never love or to give in to his deep thirst for a drink.

All of us, at one time or another or even multiple times, want nothing more than to escape from the pain and difficulty we face. Intoxication is one way to make that escape. Inevitably, the intoxication wears off and whatever pain or difficulty we hoped to escape from is still there, sometimes even worse than before. It’s a human dilemma that will never be erased from our common experience, either as an addict ourselves, or as an enabler, or as a grieving bystander.

I don’t delve too deeply into the topic of addiction. That’s not the purpose of the story. But I do hope that I’ve created a character in David who portrays the struggle so many sensitive and creative people experience in facing the acute pain of life.

Writing is Growth

When I started writing erotic romance, sex was the focus. Glorious uninhibited sex scenes with all the descriptive words that made the action come alive. (Heh–no pun intended) For a person like me emerging from a very conservative, religious family, this was a breakout moment.

Now, looking back, I’m not completely thrilled with the result. Oh, don’t get me wrong—the sex scenes are smokin’. But that’s simply not enough.

Stories of any kind are about people. And people are more than sex. While I managed to create compelling sex scenes, I didn’t manage to create compelling life scenes.

So I’ve decided to dive into revising a couple of my early novels with a greater focus on the personal struggle facing the characters. I’m adding scenes that show how they deal with adversity. I’m showing how they grow in the process of facing difficulties, how they develop more self-confidence or come to grips with challenges both internal and external.

This is a thrilling process, delving into the character with greater willingness to sit at my desk and think about them to let their personalities take full form. Before, although there were strong storylines and situational drama, there wasn’t as much depth to the characters as they needed. I’m letting myself feel them now, where they came from, what they worry about, care about, more than the person with whom they’re having sex.

My previous mindset about all this was that sex was the key motivating element. Sex was the transformative event that broke the character from his/her previous point of view and propelled them into a new paradigm. Yes, this is important.

But it’s not enough to be the main thing. I admit it kind of breaks my heart to say that because I’ve always seen sex as having the potential to do exactly that. It still does have that potential, but it’s like a really lovely slab of chocolate cake. It doesn’t make a meal.

It’s exciting to dig deeper and important enough that I can justify taking the time to go the next mile with revision rather than plunging into yet another new story. This learning process about creating stories with rich character and complex plot lines is an important one for any author.

Writing is a multi-phase, multi-layered endeavor. Creating something meaningful out of thin air isn’t an easy pursuit, and it is as much about looking deeper into oneself as it is about thinking up story details. After all, inside our minds and our life experience is where our stories come from. I’m happy to see where I stand on the long road toward ‘great.’

And yes, ‘great’ is my goal!

Happy writing in the new year, everyone.

Christmas Special!

Cara Carson only wants one thing, and it isn’t a man. Her new business, Cara’s Kitchen, is all she cares about. Her recipes are perfected and the old house remodel is underway. But on this raw March morning, the contractor isn’t returning her calls, there’s a bulldozer mired in mud on the side lot, and the man operating it has managed to destroy the old willow tree she wanted saved. Furious, she charges across the mire to demand answers and finds her feet stuck and then her heart flailing after the bulldozer operator has to come carry her out.

Morgan Woods never believed in love. Until now, it’s been easy to take and leave women. This woman shouldn’t be any different, except something about her pouty pink lips and her blazing hazel eyes sails past all his defenses. His business-partner dad is sick and his businesses are struggling, but he never wants to let this woman out of his arms.

Can two broken people love again?

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Christmas Special!

5 days only! Full length novel reduced to 99¢. Don’t miss it!

The year is 2056. Fire rages unchecked across the American countryside. Water rationing is a way of life. A new plague creeps across the land, an insidious degradation of cell function called Brown Death.

Lu Haverson stumbled across a cure for this malicious killer when he joined forces with Rae Stewart at her House of Rae, a pleasure house serving women. He loves bringing women the height of sexual pleasure, but even more he loves Rae. But he and Rae can’t seem to get past their jealousies and power struggle.

It’s the pleasure energy generated at the House, not only the flagship operation at Kansas City but in Rae’s chain of houses across the nation, that fuels the restorative powers that heal Brown Death. That’s Lu’s mission even if things never work out with Rae.

But now she’s brought in this young buck, Josh Carter, a new hire who seems anything but eager to serve the House’s female clientele. Lu’s instincts tell him there’s a lot more to this kid than what’s on the surface, and he makes it his mission to find out more.

Rae resents the hell out of Lu’s suspicions. She knows a hit when she sees it, and there’s nothing more appealing to the House clientele than a potent young man so full of himself as Josh. Plus she personally finds him irresistible and is determined to introduce him to the world of erotic pleasure.

Trained since childhood to carry out the Brotherhood’s mission, Josh hardly cares what this Lu guy thinks. If he has to sacrifice his moral standing to satisfy his boss Rae, he’ll do it. The mission is the important thing, the mission to destroy her and her House.

Available at this super-discounted price through December 15!

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