An Ode to Goodwill Goodies

I’ve been what I consider frugal for most of my life, but in the past four to five years, I’ve really worked at being a more conscious consumer. Specifically, when I need something, my first choice is to try to find the item used at a thrift store or on Craigslist.

Since moving to the northwest I’ve relied on my local Goodwill heavily. My husband and I bought a couch, computer desk and table for our living room there. All three items were in good condition, they’re just not the most up-to-date pieces of furniture. But I don’t care, that’s probably because we snagged all three for just under $100.

We also found a nice set of dishes–service for four–that only set us back $8. During that same trip my husband spotted a vintage La Signora Caffettiera stove top espresso maker. I’ve wanted one of these Italian made bambinos since January, which is when I tried–and fell in love with–espresso made drinks, like mocha and cappuccino. This little gem was priced at $5. Score!

On Monday of this week I arrived at Goodwill at 9 a.m. (just after the doors opened) to peruse their clothing and shoe selections. Because of the holiday, the store was having an incredible sale on clothes and shoes–50% off!

With coffee and a shopping cart in hand, I set out to find a few items that would complete three outfits I’d designed in my head for the upcoming Emerald City Writers’ Conference I’m attending this weekend.

I found a lightweight sweater, a shrug, a long “duster” type cardigan and a shirt to complete my outfits I had planned to wear to the conference, with the half-off sale these four items only set me back $12.50. Hell yeah!

When I looked through the shoe department, I really got excited. I found two awesome pairs of hiking shoes–one “low-top” athletic style Timberland brand that look like they might’ve been worn once for only $8 and a pair of Columbia brand hiking boots in nearly new condition for only $10. Jackpot!

Since moving to the Pacific Northwest my husband and I have picked up hiking. In fact so far, we’ve went on a hike nearly every day he’s been off from work and a few days after work. Up to this point I’ve been wearing tennis shoes or a pair of all-season waterproof boots, but neither pair have the type of traction required for the more difficult trails (steeper incline/rugged terrain) that we’re hoping to work up to soon.

I won’t get to test out my new shoes until some time next week, since I’ll be too busy with the conference this weekend to hike any trails. Once I do, I plan on writing a post (with lots of pictures from our hiking adventures!) about not only breaking in my new shoes, but also I’ll talk all about this new hobby of ours.

Found a bargain at a Goodwill, yard sale, Craigslist or trash pile? Go ahead, brag about your pay dirt in the comments!

What to Wear to a Writers’ Conference?

Some of my favorite authors all at the same place!

Some of my favorite authors all at the same place!

On Friday of this week I’m attending my first ever writers’ conference. I’m thrilled to be able to go to the weekend long Emerald City Writers Conference, hosted by the Greater Seattle chapter of the Romance Writers of America (GSRWA).

I’ve dreamed of going to this annual event since the summer of 2013 and I worked hard during July of this year to ensure I had the extra money to go (I picked up several extra shifts at my then job and ended up working 12 days straight!).

Now that the conference is around the corner, my mind is not just focused on all the awesome writers I can fangirl out over–Anne Aguirre, Victoria Dahl, Lauren Dane, Yasmine Galenorn, Megan Hart and soooo many more!–I mean, I’m still gonna grin from ear to ear and squeee on the inside, most of the authors I’ve listed here I have followed on Twitter for years and read their books.

Annnnnyway, I digress.

With the conference coming up I’ve started thinking about other aspects, like the fact that I’ll be spending three days with other writers and industry professionals such as agents and editors. I don’t plan on pitching to an editor or agent this year, but I’ll still spend three days rubbing elbows with lots of folks in the romance writing/publishing business. Which brings me to…what to wear?

My day-to-day wardrobe consists of jeans, yoga pants and casual dresses with leggings worn underneath, none of which I think is right for a conference. I want to look polished and professional, but stay comfortable.

We have been warned that the meeting rooms inside the hotel where the conference is being held are a mixed bag. Some rooms can be downright frigid while others have lots of windows and get a lot full sun and can be quite toasty. Because of this fact, the GSRWA conference chairs have advised attendees to dress in layers.

Add to all of the above that this conference is in downtown Seattle and I’m taking public transit from my house and walking a few blocks from the bus stop to the hotel where the conference is being held (comfortable shoes are a must). Also, it’s October in the Pacific Northwest, meaning it’s very likely that I’ll see some rain on at least one of these days, so I have to take that into consideration while preparing my wardrobe.

With a little help from the thrift store, I was able to add to my existing wardrobe and put together four outfits: one for each day of the conference and a separate look for the party on Saturday night (we’re having a sexy librarian contest, so the animal print top is about as sexy as I’m willing to go). I found a long black cardigan for only $4 that goes with all my ensembles and I’ll carry with me to the conference all weekend. (Click on each picture below to see the image bigger).

I think  I have created polished outfits that highlight my personal style and my desire to be comfortable.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments section!

Goodbye Granny

Granny and me on my wedding day.

Granny and me on my wedding day.

This morning I woke to the news that we’d lost my Granny last night.

She was my last living grandparent and one heck of a zany, spunky, funny, caring lady.

I don’t want to share anything sad and heavy in her memory because I know she wouldn’t want that.

She loved to laugh and make others laugh and I know she would get a good chuckle at me sharing this story with people.

Below is one of my fondest and funniest memories from my Granny.

I wrote this short piece last fall in response to my then writing group’s prompt to write about the color red.

I’ll never forget that summer day. Even though I’m sketchy on the exact year, I think it was 1984 or possibly ‘85.

The three of us loaded up in my Granny’s silver Ford Escort hatchback and headed up to the gas station. It was a short jaunt from her apartment to the Shell, and being that I was only 4 or 5 years old at the time, I don’t recall much about the drive. My memory has always been stuck on what happened when we pulled into the gas station.

I was in the backseat and my older sister Tawnya was riding shot gun. Once we arrived at Shell, I remember Tawnya trying to get Granny to stay in the car.

“I’ll fill the gas can, Granny,” she offered.

But, Granny being Granny, always nimble and spry for her age, she gave a pull on the vehicle’s parking brake and hopped from the car.

My next memory from this day is of the color red.

The scarlet hue of the gas can my Granny pulled from the back of the hatchback.

The crimson stain on my sister’s cheeks.

And of course, the fire engine red “bikini top” my Granny was sporting with her cut off denim shorts.

Yes, our sixty-something year old grandmother in a homemade two-piece swimsuit was the scourge of my sister’s teenage existence, at least for that moment it was.

With no shame, my scantily-clad Granny filled the gas can and even ran inside to pay for the fuel.

When Granny returned to the car she just couldn’t understand why Tawnya had scrunched down to the point where it looked like no one was sitting in the passenger seat. Our drive home was uneventful.

We arrived back at Granny’s and she mowed her lawn dressed in what my family now likes to call Granny’s grass-cutting attire-her bra and panties dyed the most shocking shade of red I’ve ever seen.

Another Contract Signed with Totally Bound Publishing!

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I’ve been waiting to make an announcement until it was official–and now it is–I just signed a contract with my publisher Totally Bound!

The story is aimed at a fun new imprint called “What’s Her Secret?” with books that center around a heroine with a secret.

The manuscript is titled Life of Privilege and is about an heiress/reality TV celebrity that flees the public eye in order to keep a secret.

This book will release late spring/early summer 2015.

I will announce the exact release dates–pre-order, early download and general release–sometime in the late winter/early spring of 2015  :)

Something New: Recommended Reading

Recommended ReadingToday I’m kicking off a new series on my blog called Recommended Reading.

Ideally I’d like to post about a different book or series once a week, but it all depends on how much reading time I can squeeze in. So posts might be weekly or every other week.

Since I finally broke down and bought a Kindle in late April I’ve found that I read three to four times as much as I did in my pre-Kindle days.

I have been keeping track of everything I’ve read in 2014 via Goodreads, and I’ll only share a title or series here that I have truly enjoyed, meaning only things that I’ve given a 3.5 star review or higher.

ARE Image LinkIn the spirit of being transparent, I will admit that I recently signed on to become an affiliate with All Romance ebooks.

What does that mean, exactly?

Basically that if I link to a book here on my blog and someone clicks on it and makes a purchase based on my recommendation I get a small percentage of the sale.

Now for my recommendation
For my first recommendation I decided to go with a series that I have been consumed with since April and that’s the Black Dagger Brotherhood series by J.R. Ward.

I started reading the series because in early April I noticed a ton of my friends on Facebook had posted statuses about reading a book called “The King.” I decided if that many people with similar reading tastes as me were reading a book, I needed to check it out. After some Googling I discovered The King wasn’t a stand alone title, but was the most recent installment of the series (it’s book twelve to be exact).

I kind of hesitated once I found out the series was already on book twelve. Do I really want to commit to that? That’s a lot of books to be behind in a series, I thought. But since I worked at a library at that time, I figured, What do I have to lose? I’ll check out book one in the series and if I don’t like it, no harm, no foul.

I didn’t just like book one. I loved it!

I devoured the first book, Dark Lover,  (a little over 300 pages) in two days. :)

What’s it about?
The series is about a group of warrior vampires (the Black Dagger Brotherhood) who fight to protect their race against the evil lessers which are basically a sub-human species of  vampire slayers.

In Ward’s twist on the vampire trope, the Brotherhood are the good guys; they don’t harm humans and try their best not to involve them (even accidentally) in their war with the lessers. The group of warriors are led by their blind king, Wrath, who just happens to be the last pure bred vampire on the face of the earth.

Each book in the series focuses on a different “brother” and his journey of falling in love with his soul mate. J.R. Ward has created her own vocabulary in relation to how male and female vampires in her world unite for eternity–males become bonded to their soul mate–a union stronger and more unbreakable than the human equivalent of marriage.

Of course, being that these are warrior vampires, each book  of course has some action and fighting scenes. The series are romance and at the heart of these books a love story with a happily ever after unfolds.

There’s a lot more to the series, like subplots and secondary characters, a whole realm of vampire “heaven” and the vampire race’s equivalent of an angel, and a lot more. J.R. Ward truly created her own world with this series…which is why I made it my first recommendation, but also why I am sad that I’m almost caught up!

I’m currently reading The King and I am torn between wanting to lock myself in a room and read as fast as I can so I know what happens and wanting to drag this book out so I can savor it. The next book, The Shadows, doesn’t release until late March so it will be a while before I can get my next BDB fix.

If you’d like to read the Black Dagger Brotherhood series, please consider buying it at All Romance by clicking here.

Catch my Guest Posts!

This week I have two guest posts on two different blogs.

white on black_with strap_275pxMonday, September 22 was the date of my monthly scheduled posting spot at the Totally Bound author blog. This month I wrote about how different environments impact the muse.

Of course, I was inspired to write about this subject because of my recent cross country move.

Here’s a snippet from my post Change of Scenery, Change of Inspiration:

The saying location, location, location holds a bit of extra truth when it comes to writers. Authors, and other creative individuals, are often influenced by their surroundings. Or at least this has always been the case for me.

Recently I had a change of scenery and I’m already seeing how that is impacting my muse. Earlier this month my husband and I moved from Missouri to Washington State. We relocated for his job and we’re both ecstatic by this change.

However, having said that I have to admit that on the way to this euphoric state we took a detour into some hellish territory.

Check out the whole article by clicking here.

Aaaaaand another guest spot!

alittledeath_800Today I have a guest spot at author Scarlett Parrish’s blog.

Scarlett writes erotic paranormal romance and her blog and tweets are laugh-out-loud funny.

Seriously, you should follow her blog “Warning: may contain nuts” and/or her on Twitter: @scarlettparrish

Over at Scarlett’s place I wrote about the nostalgic power of the fall season and reminisced about the first book I read that inspired me to write romance. I had a blast writing this guest piece because, believe it or not, no one has ever asked me that particular question before!

Spoiler alert: The book was Tomorrow’s Promise by the lovely and talented Ms. Sandra Brown.

Here’s a teaser from my post In Classic and Modern Romance, Love Always Prevails as part of Scarlett’s Bookmark Wednesdays series:

After reading Tomorrow’s Promise, I was hooked and spent the next year devouring Ms. Brown’s backlist—which at the time was around 40+ novels. Her stories contained all the chest-clutching drama that old school romances are known for: secret babies, marriage of convenience and of course, the virginal heroine. Likewise, her heroes were larger than life and completely swoon-worthy: sheik, cowboy, bad boy and the mysterious loner.

Even though I’ve read all her books and followed her career, I tend to shy away from using words like “idol.” There’s no doubt that reading Sandra Brown had a major influence on my decision to try my own hand at writing romance. While I’ve never written a plot that contained a marriage of convenience or a secret baby, there is one thing I took away from all those romances by Ms. Brown: love always prevails.

Interested in hosting me as a guest on your blog? Leave a comment below or reach out to me using the form on the Write Me page here on my blog.

Learn More About my New Release Unlaced!

Unlaced CoverI released Unlaced late last week and did it so quickly that I didn’t get a chance to introduce blog readers to the plot or the characters before the short story came out.

As most readers of my blog know by now, I’ve written a ton in 2014. I don’t really understand the reason behind the crazy amount of productivity this year, but I’m not dumb enough to question it!

Who knows when this amazing streak will be over? I plan on riding the productivity wave for as long as my muse allows.

Anyway, I digress…

Unlaced was written at the beginning of 2014. I was inspired to write this particular story because of a special submission call put out by a certain erotic romance digital first publisher that shall remain nameless. I wrote the story and submitted it back in January and waited, and waited, and WAITED to hear a yes or no about the manuscript. Due to this publishing house’s slow response and some other factors that I will not go into now (I think I’ll be writing a candid “State of Publishing Industry” type post later this year) I had this gut feeling that Unlaced needed to be self-published for a variety of reasons. The main reason was timeliness.

Unlaced is set during Thanksgiving weekend, so I wanted it to see the publishing light of day by the end of this year, rather than waiting another entire year before it was in the hands of readers. So that’s a little of the industry side to this story, now on to the fun part…the plot and characters!

Here’s the blurb:

When Roxanna Chase finds herself alone in her tiny hometown of Haven, Indiana on Thanksgiving eve, she decides to do the one thing she always swore she’d never do: attend Chatterfest, an unofficial high school reunion held every year the night before Thanksgiving at Haven’s busiest bar, The Watering Hole. After a couple of cocktails and reminiscing with a classmate, Roxanna is overwhelmed, and a little turned on, when her old high school crush Nicholas Birch approaches her at the bar. He’s still as tall, broad-shouldered and sexy as he was thirty years ago. Since he’d dated her best friend in high school, Roxanna had always placed Nicholas in a box marked ‘hands off.’ When Nicholas admits he had feelings for Roxanna in high school, the two decide to leave the bar together and see what happens next. They quickly find that when old flames are rekindled, they can ignite into an inferno that refuses to burn out.

Meet Roxanna Chase:

Metropolitan Opera's 2010-11 Season Opening Night - "Das Rheingold"Physically, I pictured her being blond and blue-eyed and naturally beautiful. I knew her face looked a lot like actress Meg Ryan’s. But that’s where the similarities end, as she has the bust-line of Ms. Dolly Parton. Yes, I went there, lol.

Roxanna married her high school sweetheart shortly after graduating, but that didn’t end so well. He left her for another woman, so she moved to Atlanta and started her own lingerie line called Unlaced–specializing in intimates for the “well endowed woman.” Roxanna runs Unlaced with her grown daughter, Claire, the only good thing she has to show for her brief marriage.

Meet Nicholas Birch:

Rob LoweTall and broad shouldered with dark hair and blue eyes, there could only be one man in my mind sexy enough to fill Nicholas’ shoes and that is actor Rob Lowe. Nicholas comes from a well-to-do family and is home for the Thanksgiving holiday trying to settle his terminally ill father’s estate.

Since both characters in Unlaced are in their fifties, what I wanted Nicholas to represent physically for Roxanna was this sense that her high school crush was every bit as sexy and virile as he’d been as a young adult.

This is where my real-life inspiration is pretty spot on with my fictional character, pictures don’t lie, obviously, age ain’t nothin’ but a number to Mr. Lowe (he’s fifty and still oh-so-fine).

In high school Roxanna harbored a secret crush for Nicholas, but she only admitted her feelings on the pages of her diary. Since Nicholas dated her best friend, Roxanna always saw him as gorgeous, but unattainable.

When she and Nicholas catch up with one another 30+ years after graduating high school, they reminisce about the good old days and both admit that they had crushes on each other back in high school. With a little talking–and a couple of drinks–they realize that the feelings they had thirty years ago never really went away.

Below is an excerpt I shared with my newsletter subscribers last week (if you haven’t subscribed yet, what are you waiting for? It’s free! Click here to subscribe)

Here’s a snippet:

“Do you want to get out of here?” Nicholas asked her as his thumb stroked the inside of her wrist in a circular pattern that was both hypnotic and erotic.
She was sure he could feel her racing pulse under the thin flesh of her wrist. His touch caused her core to ache with a desire to be filled. The apex of her thighs began to swell. She felt her nipples harden into stiff peaks against the soft, lacy fabric of her bra. Her body told her the undeniable answer to his question was hell yes, she wanted—and now needed—to get out of there. She needed to leave with him. But could she allow herself to?
“I…” Roxanna began.
She started to tell Nicholas she didn’t know if she could. It had been so long since she’d been with anyone. Then she reminded herself of how long she’d been alone. Of how many nights she’d crawled into her cold bed by herself. Of many nights she’d wished for the company of a man, if not always for sexual fulfillment, just to be held. To have a sense of human contact. To hell with it. In the morning she’d console herself with the flimsy excuse of consuming too much alcohol.

Buy Unlaced at