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Heather McGovern

Writers Who Lunch

Writing is a pretty solitary pursuit and, mostly, I enjoy this part of “authoring.” At my day job, people are constantly asking me for this, emailing me for that – tons of communication for 8 hours a day. I enjoy the not talking-ness of writing. However, if you attempt to author alone, you’ll quickly go crazy from the pressure, confusion, millions of questions that arise, and the stumbling in the dark that comes with publishing. In short, you need people. Writer people. But sometimes this is tricky.

I attend ~one conference a year, but one conference isn’t enough interaction. My chapter meetings mean more than 4 hours of drive time, and I have a child at that, “I will participate in a variety of activities that require my attendance every Saturday” age. Thus, I can’t make most meetings.

The solutions to this issue aren’t ground breaking, but they are worth recognizing in case anyone out there is in a similar boat. Allow me to present:

Writers Who Lunch

No matter where you are, geographically or in your career, you too can be a writer who lunches. All you need is another writer within about a 20 mile radius and a place to eat. Then, you get together every 4 to 6 weeks, share all that you’ve learned lately, solve the world’s problems, or just vent for an hour. It’s up to you.

Just last week, I met up with Laura Trentham and Fran Fowlkes for our January lunch. I think we’ve been doing this for 2 years now. (Two years?!?! How has it been two years?) Topics included everything from deadlines to deodorant, agents to ad campaigns. Lunch lasts about an hour and a half, and that little stretch of time is vital.

The Quarterly Meet Up

I have these writer friends who insist on living either far away from me or way far away from me. It takes more planning and effort, but we do our best to get together in a variety of ways. In February, some of us will attend When The Heart Dreams in Charlotte, NC. (Are you going? You should go!) In the spring, we’ll either meet up for shopping or a trip to the salt mines (not even kidding).

This summer, there’s the RWA National Conference in Orlando, Florida, where I hope to see my way far away from me friends (*pointed look at way far away from me friends*), and this fall there’s…well I don’t know. I’m not that organized. But there will be something!

How do you and your writer people stay in touch? Any fun suggestions for the at-large, super busy writers out there?

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Amazing Finds That Have Nothing To Do With Writing

For me, this autumn has been…well, it’s been. As much as I love this time of year, I’m glad to see September and October go. (Bye already!) My job and personal life became way too busy and stressful for me to spend much energy on writing. I managed to send off the edits for Book 3 of the Honeywilde Romance series (Whoot, whoot!), and read through a manuscript I wrote a year and half ago to tag aaaaaaaaaaaaall of the places that need work, but that’s it. Slim pickins on the writer front, but I realized sometimes that’s okay. Sometimes you need to handle your life and refill the well, or there’s no point in writing at all.

In the absence of authoring awesomeness, I discovered a few things that filled my well and allowed me to cling to my love of the season. EMichels already posted about our mini-escape to the mountains. I highly recommend the occasional getaway for maintaining sanity. But below are a few simple frivolities that put a smile on my face during a time I was constantly grinding my teeth:

  1. Halloween in our new home.

halloween

Halloween has been my jam since I was in high school, but having a lovely new house in a kid-friendly, Halloween-obsessed neighborhood MADE my October. Seriously, y’all. Much monies were spent on the yards in my neighborhood. Inflatable dragons, anima-tronic ghouls and goblins, entire grave yard scenes, neighbors sending secret “Boo!” gifts to your door step, and hosting cookouts and parties. Even my child was like, “Mommy, we moved to the right place!” We totally did. This year was the best Halloween ever!

  1. Wornontv.net

arias-tiger-dress-blazer

Ever watched a TV show and some episode pops up with your favorite character wearing a t-shirt or dress that makes you think, I need that on my body!  I’ve seen a lot of cute stuff on the small screen, but figured that was Hollywood. Normal people can’t own anything like that. Wrong!  With Worn On TV you can pull up almost any TV show and find the item or ensemble you covet. I found that tiger graphic skater dress and the funky necklace that Aria was wearing on Pretty Little Liars.  And plenty of shows buy from ModCloth, Urban Outfitters, H&M, Anthropologie, Aeropostale, even Target – so regular people can afford the adorable plaid leggings and studded sweater that Spencer wore when <spoiler>. Please, can we take a moment for these plaid leggings? Are they not perfect for this winter? I shall have!

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One caveat though. If you love something from a long ago season, chances are good it’s no longer available.

Finally…

  1. Pretty Little Liars

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As is evident from the previous item on my list, I’ve discovered this bit of television crack and I. Cannot. Quit. 6 Seasons await you on Netflix, with the final season starting in April 2017. Half teen soap opera, half Hitchcockian ode to Mean Girls everywhere, Pretty Little Liars follows 4 high school besties after their queen bee is murdered. Someone is threatening them, and threatening to expose their every lie, secret, and bad deed. In Rosewood, PA, every thing is pretty, except all the murder. Nefarious characters lurk around every corner, creepy dolls abound, sanitariums have a waiting list, and killer Halloween episodes rock each season. Oh, and sometimes the girls go to school and have real people problems. It’s engaging and addictive, but not something that will keep you up at night, emotionally overwrought from the brutality. (I’m looking at you, The Walking Dead!) So that’s my awesome finds this autumn. Here’s to an easier November! I won’t see you again this year, so I hope you and yours have a wonderful holiday season!

Kisses -M 😉

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Pumpkin Cream Cheese Bars

This rotation, we’re supposed to blog about easy meals for the writer on deadline. But it’s Autumn!!! I want to write about pumpkins. PUMPKIIIIIIIIIIIINS!!!

pumpkins

This is the one time of year I love to bake because it’s time for pumpkin flavored EVERYTHING!!!

I’m trying out a few dessert recipes this year, in order to decide on Thanksgiving’s after dinner treat and for our neighborhood Halloween block party. The other day I modified a recipe from Pinterest and made Pumpkin Cream Cheese Bars. Oh. My. Pumpkin. They’re so good!!! Here’s the simplest recipe ever, go forth and share the Pumpkin spirit throughout the land.

McGovy’s Pumpkinnnnmmmmmmmm Bars

2 cans Pillsbury Crescent Dough

1 can pumpkin puree

1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

1 8oz pkg of cream cheese

6 Tbsp of sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

tbsp cinnamon

1/4 cup butter

Lightly spray a 9 x 13′ baking dish with cooking spray, and roll out one can of crescent dough. In a mixing bowl, blend together your pumpkin, cream cheese, pumpkin pie spice and 2 tablespoons of sugar. Evenly spread this delicious mixture across the dough. Unroll the other can of dough and place on top. Melt your butter and stir in 1/2 a cup of sugar and a tablespoon of cinnamon. Drizzle this all over the top of the crescent dough, then sprinkle brown sugar over that, to taste. Bake in oven at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes, or until top layer of dough is done. Remove from oven and WAIT. This is the hardest part of the recipe. Let the dish cool a bit or you’ll have a hot mess when you try to slice and serve.

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My coworkers preferred their bars cold. I like mine hot, with a cup of coffee. How you devour your Pumpkinnnnmmmm Bars is totally up to you.

Enjoy!

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How To Conference

I learned so much at this year’s RWA Conference, met a ton of people, and had more fun than I can chronicle in one blog post. However, one thing stood out to me, more so than at any writer conference before: We all conference in our own unique way. (Yes, I’m using conference as a verb here. Just roll with it.)

First, a blanket statement: There is no wrong way to conference, and how you conference will change from year to year, evolving with your career and personal life. It goes without saying you need to be polite and use your manners. I’m not talking about basic human civility, I’m talking about how you participate and manage your time at a writer conference. There’s no right or wrong way, there are only different ways – and the differences are beautiful.

Bad Girlz do San Diego!

Bad Girlz do San Diego!

You have the writers who treat the conference as roughly 80% a learning event, 10% networking, and 10% social. They attend as many workshops and presentations as they can pack into their schedule. They will walk away from a conference with a notebook full of notes, a hand full of business cards, and a brain bursting with knowledge.

There are the writers who attend conference primarily for professional networking. A national conference in particular is perfect for meeting with their editor(s), agent, the online chapter they rarely see face to face, that author they’ve been meaning to connect with about collaborative promo. These writers might attend a workshop or three, but mostly they’re there for meetings and planning.

There are also the writers who go to conference to connect. By connect I mean not only the professional networking with editors, bloggers, etc., but also social connection. All year they write in their bat caves, and this is the one time of year they are in the same room with dozens of like-minded individuals. They are energized by simply being around other writers, soaking up all the creativity and romance-positivity. You can find these writers in the bar, at the coffee shop, by the pool (if it’s San Diego) talking to EVERYONE. They don’t meet a stranger, if the person has on a conference badge.

Taking a break and socializing on the veraaandaaah.

Taking a break and socializing on the veraaandaaah.

Then, there are those writers who split the difference right down the middle. That’s where I fall. I like to walk away from every conference having attended at least one workshop that teaches me something new, or gives me a fresh perspective. I’ll take it even further and say, I prefer to walk out of every workshop with at least one nugget of wisdom. This year? SUCCESS! Every workshop taught me something or reminded me of a forgotten fact. I don’t feel like I’ve conferenced right if I don’t learn a little something along the way, but that’s just me.

I also go to network. I’m that weirdo who loves to network, but only when it’s about writing. I want to meet people and put faces with names, learn who’s who, build some kind of Romancelandia yearbook in my brain, so I’m not wandering the halls, clueless about who heads up what blog and which editor took over what line. The thing that really gets me excited about a conference though? Connecting. I love to socialize with writers. I don’t even care if I’m talking. I can sit by the pool and listen to other writers discuss their pitfalls and triumphs and I’m happy. I live in a world of money and numbers. Nobody is talking about character arcs and resolution. Absolutely NO ONE discusses hero inspiration or sex scenes, and whether or not the F word is okay for steamy contemporary, but not small town. I don’t get to have these conversations with anyone else except writers! So bring on the connecting! In the bar, at the sandwich shop, in the elevator, getting lost trying to find Salty’s restaurant. Wherever. Writer talk. Gimme!

Me at the Kensington signing, dorkin' with my book covers. Shiny!

Me at the Kensington signing, dorkin’ with my book covers. Shiny!

How do you conference? How do your friends conference? By the way, none of the Bad Girlz conference the same way. We cover the spectrum, and I think it’s awesome! 😀

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I Like To Move It, Move It!

Let’s be real for a second: This writing gig ain’t the healthiest around. Add to that the fact that my day job is also desk bound, and I spend a lot of time sitting on my arse. The zinger is, if I don’t get some kind of physical activity or exercise on a regular basis, if I don’t move, I go full “Meh.” Mentally, my brain feels so full I can’t pick any one task to tackle. Physically, I become lethargic. I think they call it malaise in historical novels. 😀 Or is that ennui? Whatever it is, I come down with a big ole case of it. But, with a full time job and a child now in elementary school, specific classes at set times (like spinning or Zumba) are difficult to manage, if not downright impossible.

For me, the key is convenience and a flexible schedule. During the school year, on a week day, I wake up before 6am and I get home a little after 6pm. I don’t want to spend another hour at the gym, away from my family. But, where there’s a will, there’s a way. At least 3 days a week, I work through lunch and, around 3:30pm, I go downstairs to the gym in my building, and I squeeze in a workout. I crank up my Spotify (good tunes are key), and I do some elliptical and lift weights. I love weight training. It’s hard work and often times I’m sore the next day, but the work out makes me happy. The endorphin, the results, the fact I can pick up my 50lb kid with little effort – all of it makes me happy.

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Now that the days are longer and we don’t have to be at school so flippidy-flappin’ early, I’ve gotten back into swimming. Morning swims are like this weird, cardio-heavy meditation for me. I swam competitively in high school, but I’m not 16 anymore. Swimming is hard, y’all! But in the water there is quiet and calm. Despite my panting at the end of each 100m, it is peaceful. When I’m swimming, I think of little else; only my stroke and my breathing, my form, and my progress. When I finish, I’m exhausted but exhilarated. Every day, I can swim a little farther. I leave the pool, just as the rest of the neighborhood begins to stir, and I feel balanced.

Working out and swimming, even the teensiest bit of run-walking I’ve recently added, keeps me balanced and my brain works better. Even if I spend ~8 hours a day at a desk, I’ve swam half a mile or I’ve walked 1.5 miles and ran .50 (running is hard too, y’all!). Whatever it is, I’ve done something that is the opposite of sitting at a computer. This helps me focus on what I need to do at the desk jobs. I love writing and I’m lucky enough to really like my day job, but I the only way I can continue to enjoy them, is by taking the time to move.

What do you like to do to move it, move it? 😉

 

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Deadline Doubt & Doom

When you’re on a deadline, you doubt everything.

I cannot write. I won’t finish this book. If I do finish this book, it’s going to be utter crap. I am crap. These characters are crap. Is there no logic left in the universe? What is life? What even time is it?!?!

But – plot twist – all of these doubts are horse hooey.

These are lies your brain tells you because you’re under a lot of pressure. The truth is, you can write and you will finish, and the book will be wonderful. You’re just a teeeeeeeeeensy bit freaking out at the moment.

How do I know? Because I’m on deadline right now. O_O (Omg, how did you guess that? You’re so smart!)

It’s not just me though. Over the past, idk, three or four years (HOW HAVE FOUR YEARS GONE BY?!?!), I’ve watched and listened as my best writer friends continue to take this journey. Inevitably, as the book due dates close in, panic ensues.

The book will never be done! ‘Tis rubbish! All is Lost!!!

I’m not smirking at my friends; I’m smirking with them, because I said these exact words this past weekend.

WE ALL PANIC. I’ve come to think of it as a writer rite of passage. Don’t feel like you’re the only head-case around. Come on and join the Panic Parade. We have cookies and Cheetos, a whole spread of unhealthy stress and comfort food, and wine. Like, lots and lots of wine. We will look into your crazy eyes with our crazy eyes, and you will know you’ve found home. Come, commiserate with us over our imminent doom.

I’m kidding. There’s no imminent doom (it just feels imminent), but we do have crazy eyes.

Take a deep breath and repeat after me:

I can finish this book. I will finish this book. I’m a bad a$$ author who has done this before. And, when I do it again, I’ll take a moment to pat myself on the back and celebrate another successful THE END…right before I dive into the next book and repeat this whole process again.

See? Feel better? Awesome! Me too.

Now, I gotta run. I have to finish this damn book! 😀

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How To Not Lose Your Sh*t

Truth time: The last few weeks have been some of the most difficult, exhausting, and overwhelming in my life, and none of it has to do with writing. I’m talking about a real life adulting, one million items on my To Do list, sh*t storm of stress.

Show of hands, who else has been here? I see you! Big hugs to you (or fist bumps if you’re hug averse).

Over the last few weeks, I’ve gone through the roller coaster process of selling my house, buying a new house, closing on both houses, packing up, moving, unpacking, transferring my child from one school to the next, getting my mother ready for a month long trip abroad, an unusual and insanely busy time at work, some personal life SNAFUs that I won’t get into, and yes, being on deadline.

But, I made it…I think.

How did I keep from going insane? For me, there is one fool proof therapy for all of life’s toils and trials. One activity outside of writing and working out or working it, that is guaranteed to take me out of my head and whatever quicksand pit of responsibility life has tossed me into, and allow me the five minutes to, oh – let’s say two hours, of respite required to bring me back to functioning level.

That thing is (and this should come as no surprise): FANGIRLING.

Yep. That’s the secret to my sanity. A daily dose of diving into a subject I love, yet has no link to my responsibilities, and is 100% selfishly for me. I don’t fangirl because it will bring me success or money. I don’t fangirl because it’s altruistic in any way. I do it for me.

A rewatch of Star Trek Into Darkness is an escape from a Sunday of packing fifty boxes. I can pack and watch Chris Pine being beautifully broken and begging for the lives of his crew while Benedict Crumblebread is like, “B*tch please. I will walk over your cold corpses. Peace out, Enterprise!”  

Taking half an hour at the end of the day to surf Twitter or Tumblr for fandom news, press tour clips, talk show appearances, Sebastian Stan’s face, reviews, gossip, whatever, about Marvel, Trek, Star Wars and occasionally DC (Because Wonder Woman is awesome and also Chris Pine), is how I unwind. A few funny memes or gifs, along with crazy cat videos, dog Vines, and baby goats being adorable – that is the kind of quality content I want filling my brain.

Watching Captain America: Civil War, three or four times, will be my reward for working my butt off the last few months. Captravaganza Weekend with BGW’s Jeanette Grey is the celebration of not only Steve and Bucky and Sam and all of my feelings, but a party to celebrate the fact that the months of February through April did not break me. They could have. They almost did! But I clung to the pieces by having this escape that is mine.

I suggest, to any writer, wife, mother, hard working lady: find something for you. Be it knitting or learning to pole dance, fangirling or fashioning cosplay outfits. Whatever. You need a little slice of life that doesn’t benefit anyone but that beautiful woman in the mirror.

Enjoy!

trek dress

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A MOMENT OF BLISS Cover Reveal

It is with a ton of excitement, and more than a hint of eager anxiety, that I reveal the cover of                   A MOMENT OF BLISS! This is the first book in my Honeywilde Romance series. The book drops August 16th and I hope everyone will love Roark and Madison as much as I do. These two lightning-in-a-bottle personalities come together to mix pleasure with business, but they’ll have to lower their defenses and surrender hard won independence if they want something even sweeter.AMOB cover

Read an excerpt from A MOMENT OF BLISS:

No wonder a world-traveling music star remained obsessed with this place.

Honeywilde provided all of what was best about the South: the food, the warm, welcoming environment, the relaxed atmosphere, the gorgeous weather.

Madison grabbed a biscuit, cut it in half, and slathered it with butter before Roark could return and see how much she’d put on each side. The temptation to hurry and eat one now, and pretend like a second one was her first, was immense. She took a sip of her coffee while the butter melted. Roark appeared in the restaurant doorway a moment later.

Damn.

Not because she’d missed her opportunity for biscuit scarfing, but damn.

He spotted her and strolled over, saying hello to a few of the guests. His face was full of color from the morning air, his dark hair slightly tousled from the wind. He was still put together, top to bottom, in dark gray slacks and what looked like a ridiculously soft polo shirt, but she could easily imagine him less cleaned up.

Ruffled from the outdoors, his hair mussed up even more, smelling like sunshine and evergreen, and a day or two of scruff on his jaw. He was the kind of man who could work a bit of stubble. The kind who made your lips pink after kissing him, and rubbed deliciously against you in . . . other places.

Madison jerked her gaze down to her biscuit. Work, work, work. Job, job, job. She was not here to salivate over biscuits and Roark. She grabbed a menu, ready to fan her face until she caught herself.

“Hey.” He pulled his chair out and sat down across from her. “Chillier than usual this morning.”

She put the menu back down. “Uh huh. Chilly.”

Pre-order your copy today from: Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Kensington Publishing

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DICK, and Why You Need It

Beyond the skill and love of writing, there’s something more important. If you’re going to be a published author with staying power, you need some DICK.

Settle down and bear with me. DICK stands for:

Determination, Independence, Compassion & Knowledge.

(Get your mind out of the gutter – where it’s having a faaaaaaabulous time with mine!)

Determination. You’ve heard it before but it cannot be said enough. You get into the business of writing, you better be determined to keep at it, NO MATTER WHAT. Put on you perseverance pumps and your best resilient red lipstick because this industry will mow you down if you let it. Do not let it. Remember everyone goes through the valleys of darkness (yes, valleys, plural), even your very favorite NYT Best Seller. She or he probably considered quitting when their sales dipped or their contract wasn’t renewed, or their sub genre glutted, etc. etc. Here’s a little secret: everyone has considered quitting at some point. Probably a few times, but guess what. They didn’t. That’s why they’re still around, putting out books.

Real life will get in the way of writing, and sometimes you must let it. We will go through times when writing simply has to be put on hold in order to deal with bigger issues. Other times, you have to power through and write anyway. I’m currently writing the opening of book 3 and this blog post on my phone as I sit at the gas station around the corner from my house. Why? Because the people looking at my house still haven’t left and if they’re going to put in a purchase offer, I’m certainly not going to rush them. So here I sit. Me, typing on my phone and my son with his iPad, looking like we’re casing the joint because we’ve been here half an hour yet haven’t left the car. At the moment, my real life is a tornado of house showings, keeping my house tidier than I ever keep it otherwise (seriously, you could eat off the floor right now) a book deadline, day job projects, and wondering if and when we’ll sell or find a home, etc. etc. I know we will, but these ‘tween times ain’t easy. And still, the earth keeps on turning and I’ve got to keep on writing, just like you. 😉

Independence. Here’s something you may not know as a newbie author. Your agent or editor, amazingly fabulous though they are, cannot always be there for you for every little thing. Your critique partners, while THE best, most coolest people you know, have books and lives of their own. Sometimes you’ve got to go it alone. You’ll need to make a judgment call, turn in a novel that hasn’t received critique, think up a book title, resolve an issue – all of it, by your self. It’ll be scary, but I promise, you can do it.

Compassion. For yourself and others. For yourself, ease up on the harsh judgment. Maybe you didn’t write 2,000 words today. Hell, maybe you didn’t write 2. That’s you okay. Go get ’em tomorrow tiger! For others, realize they may be in the middle of a shit storm you can’t even fathom. If someone’s behavior is less than stellar, maybe cut them a little slack. But if they’re consistently horrible, that’s a whole other story.

Knowledge. This business is constantly changing. Uuuuugh, that sounds so trite, but it’s also true. Publishers close, new house lines open, editors move, sales trends change monthly/daily. Arm yourself with knowledge. Stay plugged in via a writer’s group, blog or loop, Twitter or Facebook or whatever. Stay informed so you aren’t left with your mouth hanging open like a fly catcher the next time some big news rocks publishing.

I hope this insight helps (and made you smile at least a wee bit). Just remember, whenever the going gets tough, think about DICK.

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How McGovy Wound Up In Writersville

The topic for this round of blogs is what authors or books inspired us to become writers. I have several authors and series that inspired me, making me long to weave tales with even an iota of their skill:

Karen Marie Moning’s HIGHLANDER series

KMM pic

Lisa Kleypas’s WALLFLOWER series

LK pic

and JK Rowling’s HARRY POTTER – duh.

But I’d be lying if I didn’t confess my largest inspiration and motivation toward writing as a career was fan fiction.

Even before the wave of Twilight fan fiction, there were pockets of fans writing about movies, TV shows, and books they loved. I believe I’ve mentioned it here before, but the very first bit of fiction I wrote was a corrected version of the events in X-Men 3. (Gee golly, look at that. For me, it all goes back to Marvel. Who’d’ve thunk it?) From a deep desire to right the wrongs of that movie, came the courage to put pen to paper (literally) and write a different ending.

The resulting narrative was so-so, the dialogue fun, and I shied away from writing any sex (BAH HA HA!), but I’d written a story.

Hands shaking, I hit ‘Post’ – or whatever it was you did to put stories up on Live Journal back in the day – and the comments trickled in. And then they poured. Comments are to FF writers what reviews are to traditional writers, and fandom liked my story! I didn’t suck!!!

After that, I wrote a few more short stories, then a couple of opuses with a co-author. I had regular readers and people encouraging me and, though I didn’t know it at the time, I was learning the basics of my craft.

THEN I discovered J.R. Ward’s BLACK DAGGER BROTHERHOOD series.

<Cue the choir of angels>

JRW pic

Ward’s voice was unique, gritty, the characters larger than life. I read the entire series (6 books long at that time, I think…wait…Wrath, Rhage, Zsadist, Butch, Vishous, and Phury – no, I’m not even kidding about the heroes’ names)  in a matter of two weeks. Then, about three months later, I re-read them all again. Ward created this world, with vivid characters who I cared about, and I wanted to return again and again. If you’re one of the few people out there who hasn’t tried this series, and you like steamy romance with some paranormal flavor, do yourself a favor and GET THESE BOOKS NOW. If I know you, I’ll even lend you my copies.

Upon my third reading of Rhage’s book, LOVER ETERNAL (*swoooooooooon*), I put the book down and proclaimed, “I want to do THIS! I want to write stories about love and acceptance, healing and redemption. I want to reach a reader who is grieving (like I was at the time) and give them solace and reprieve. I want to provide some happiness, a brief escape. In a world full of doubt and darkness, I want to be…a romance writer!”

And that’s exactly what I did. 🙂

Do you have an author, book or series of books that made you take the leap from dreamer to writer? Who? What titles? Share the names and joy with us – namely with me because I’m in the market for a new addiction! 😉

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