Before You Quit

Hand holding headphones, folders and resignation letter on the desk

This is the expression of a woman who only now realized the word “just” appears 347 times in her manuscript.

Somewhere around April 2014, the grayness of my life began to lift. At the time, I was being dragged underwater by the riptide of a depression I’d only just begun to address with a therapist, drowned by anxiety I didn’t even recognize as a problem until two years later.

Nevertheless, I began writing fiction for the first time that month. I sat at my keyboard, desperate for relief from all my troublesome thoughts. For a blissful moment when my mind could occupy itself with someone else’s life, rather than my own.

I wrote with no expectation of publication. No knowledge of how or how well I’d write. No sense of what kinds of stories suited my unknown talents (or lack thereof). And holy shit, I wrote quickly. In the space of a month or two, I completed a 90,000-word rom-com set in modern-day Colonial Williamsburg, one which featured plenty of sex and banter, but lacked—sadly—a plot. Shortly thereafter, two novellas (later published as Broken Resolutions and Ready to Fall) were sitting on my hard drive. Together, those novellas took me two and a half weeks to write.

It was easy. It was all so damn easy and joyful. I had no clue about the flaws in my writing (many and varied, as it turned out), and no expectation of a writing career. No pressure, internal or external, other than the drive to dismiss the worries crowding my head.

Because it seemed like the thing to do, though, I started querying and submitting. Then came a contract, which felt like a blessing at the time. (And I should add that I remain grateful to the publishers and agents who wanted those two novellas. I appreciate their faith in a complete newbie.) Someone wanted to buy my books! Six of my books, in fact, four of them still unwritten! How marvelous!

I signed my contracts. I dropped all those other weird stories I’d been plotting without any thought as to my career trajectory or the opinions of potential readers. And I buckled down to write the books in my contract, the next books in what became the Lovestruck Librarians series.

That’s when things started going wonky. Not at first, not when I had months and months in reserve before my first deadlines. Not when I could write books set in a different world, a different time period, between my contracted books.

But once I started running up against my deadlines, once I could no longer write “palate cleanser” books between books I had to write, once my working life became an endless series of Lovestruck Librarians books, Lovestruck Librarians blog posts, Lovestruck Librarians developmental edits and copy edits and page proofs, and—of course—Lovestruck Librarians promo and marketing, that swift writing pace so praised by my then-agent and then-editor began to falter.

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Full Circle, Full Heart: Female Friendship in My Book (And My Life)

Over at the Manic Readers blog today, I’m talking about female friendship in my books and my life. And don’t forget to enter the giveaway there!

Hen party! Funny friends for your design

Yes. This is what my friends and I do when we get together. Every time.

In many ways, Penelope Callahan is just like me.

Penny—the heroine of my debut novella, Broken Resolutions—works at a small, rural library in Maryland. For almost two years, so did I.

She serves as the children’s librarian for her branch. Until I switched to the central branch of our library system, I too ran storytimes for kids.

She’s an introvert, quiet and uncomfortable in crowds no matter how calm she appears to be. Among trusted friends, though, she’s mouthy and raunchy. As am I.

And in the first draft of my story, she was like me in one other crucial way: unmoored by a strong circle of female friends.

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Librarian Heroines: AKA Contemporary Romance’s Bluestockings and Governesses

Over on the Fresh Fiction blog today, I discuss the perennial appeal of librarian heroines and their historical analogues: bluestockings, governesses, and schoolmarms. Nerdy girls throughout history, rejoice!

Depositphotos_29846305_original

I love librarians. No doubt about it.

I worked at a public library for five years, after all, which implies a certain amount of affection. Or masochism, I suppose. And my debut novella—Broken Resolutions—is a contemporary romance set in a small, rural Maryland library during a risqué New Year’s Eve singles’ event. Almost the entire book takes place within that one building. My couple meets there, falls in love there, and consummates their budding relationship there. (You may be surprised by what they use as their mattress. No, I’m not going to tell you.)

Still not convinced of my deep and abiding adoration for librarians? No problem. My final piece of evidence: Broken Resolutions is only the first in an entire series of books featuring librarian heroines, so I will basically be drowning in nerdy library references for years. Years.

You might think I’d get sick of the whole subject, but that’s not the case thus far. If you have recommendations for other contemporary romances featuring librarians—including your own, if you’re a writer—please let me know. Like scratches on the Game of Thrones Blu-ray you checked out from the library, I’ll be all over it.

But I also enjoy reading historical romances. And while a few—such as Tessa Dare’s Any Duchess Will Do—feature heroines involved in library work, most don’t. So I got to thinking about what the historical equivalent of my librarian heroines would be.

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Reader, I Referenced Her: Jane Eyre in My Debut Book

On the Novels Alive blog today, I stopped by to chat about how I used Jane Eyre as a touchstone when I wrote Broken Resolutions!

Charlotte Bronte

Charlotte Bronte (1816-1855). Engraved by W.G. Jackman and published in “Queenly Women Crowned and Uncrowned,”1885.

Somewhere in the middle of writing my debut novella, Broken Resolutions, I realized I had a problem.

Let me give you some background. I’d set my book on New Year’s Eve at a small, rural public library. By Chapter 3, quiet librarian Penny had been bribed by her boss to host a risqué singles’ event. And because the numbers were uneven, she was forced to participate too.

The first group activity required each of the singles to choose his or her favorite romantic passage from a book. Penny randomly assigned them into pairs, and those pairs then read their selected passages aloud together. Penny, naturally, found herself matched with our hero—reclusive bestselling author Jack Williamson, in disguise as a mild-mannered accountant for the night.

Penny unknowingly picked a passage from Jack’s book (as you no doubt expected). And Jack picked, um… well… uh…

There. That was the problem. What on earth should Jack’s book be?

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From One to Many: The Creation of the Lovestruck Librarians Series

I’m on the SOS Aloha blog too! In their post, I explain how a lone novella became the first in a series—and why my first book will never, ever see the light of day. Ever.


When I first wrote Broken Resolutions, my debut contemporary romance, I didn’t intend to make it part of a series. In fact, I assumed it would never see the light of day.

The only previous book I’d written had found its home in the dusty depths of my hard drive. For good reason, too. It lacks what is popularly known as “a plot.” (Turns out, your book can’t just contain chapters of your couple bantering and having hot monkey sex. Who knew?)

The Romance Writers of America conference last year inspired me to do something a little different. I attended a session discussing how novellas could help tighten your prose and allow you to experiment with different stories without a huge time commitment.

Perfect, I thought. Why don’t I try writing a novella? One with an actual plot?

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It’s Too Early in the Morning for This: Reading, Writing, and Editing Sex

I also wrote a post for the Just Contemporary Romance blog, where I discuss how I approach sex scenes. (Hint: Carefully. Especially at eight in the morning.) And click over to their blog for a giveaway!


When it comes to romance novels, I’m promiscuous. I have very few nonnegotiable demands, other than an entertaining story, clear consent before sex, and non-abusive behavior from the heroes and heroines. I don’t care whether the book is set in the past, present, or future. It makes no difference to me whether the protagonists are humans, vamps, or aliens. The story can be funny or angst-ridden, lyrically written or brutally efficient in its verbiage. And while I don’t mind novels where the climactic payoff is a simple kiss, I also get a kick out of erotica.

But I understand that many—most?—readers are not like me. They have favorite subgenres and definite opinions about heroes, heroines, preferred mood, and writing style. This is especially true, I think, when it comes to sexual content. I’m happy to read almost anything, but not everyone wants to encounter tumescent body parts every few pages.

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Love in the Stacks

Today, I’m visiting Mary Gramlich’s blog to discuss how I perennially disappoint my mom by not making my heroes baby-toting cowboys who also play professional sports and volunteer for the local firehouse. (Love you, Mom!) Don’t forget to enter the giveaway for my book on her site!

Book with heart

As far as my mother is concerned, all good romances feature cowboys, firefighters, or professional athletes. And if the hero happens to be a hockey-playing rancher who volunteers for the local firehouse—and preferably acquires an infant at some point in the story—all the better.

Unfortunately for her, those stories aren’t my catnip. No, I focus on a slightly different type of hero and heroine: Nerds. Book jockeys. Smart, snarky, and sometimes socially awkward human beings.** Which inevitably results in the following conversation every time I start writing a new book:

Mom: So is your hero a firefighter?
Me: No.
Mom: A cowboy?
Me: Nope.
Mom: A hockey player?
Me: NO.
Mom: Does he play baseball?
Me: For the love of God, NO!
Mom: [pauses] Maybe your next book?
Me: NO, MOM. IT WILL NEVER BE A COWBOY, OKAY?
Mom: So…nerds again?
Me: Yes.
Mom: Huh.

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Librarians: We’re Way Filthier Than You’d Think

I’m visiting Shelley K. Wall’s blog today to talk about librarians! We may seem innocent, but…well, you’ll see.


I am a proud former librarian. I am also the possessor of a potty mouth, a bawdy sense of humor, and an e-reader that should’ve melted long ago because of its smutty contents.

While I worked at the library, the combination of my job and my personality sometimes surprised people. I understood why. In the popular imagination, librarians love silence, propriety, and—above all else—glaring over the tops of their bifocals at troublesome patrons. They don’t swear. They don’t tell dick jokes. And they certainly don’t read sexy books.

Turns out, though, that’s not quite true. If you talk to librarians, you’ll find a wide array of personalities. Some of my favorite coworkers did direct death stares at noisy library visitors, and a few refused to read books with sexual content. Others, however, actually ended up getting shushed by patrons (*coughMEcough*) for speaking too loudly or laughing too hard at dirty internet memes.

And many of us loved romances. In my case, that love led to writing romances of my own.

But I didn’t forget the library, even though I no longer worked there. My debut novella, Broken Resolutions, is set in one. It features a quiet but determined librarian named Penny, who meets her perfect match on New Year’s Eve. The later books in my Lovestruck Librarians series feature her friends, all of whom work in the same library system.

So before Broken Resolutions downloads onto e-readers around the world, I should probably clarify a few things. Here are four true/false questions to test your librarian knowledge:

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