MothersDay_ForBlog

The Motherhood Dynamic

Relationships with parents can be tricky. For many, Mother’s Day is a happy occasion, but for many, it’s bittersweet or downright painful. I love exploring family dynamics in my stories, and I understand that the relationship that each of my characters have with their parents greatly effects who they are as an individual.

So, let’s dive in and talk about the motherhood dynamic with each of my characters.


Tori and Maureen.

Trigger warnings: Miscarriage, car accident, death, grooming, infertility.

I’d say that it’s safe to assume that Maureen (Tori’s mom) is probably one of the most tumultuous relationships I’ve written. We learn in Chasing Fire that her father is dead, and her mother is an addict. Tori had to be “mom” to her younger sister Jane, and when Tori finally leaves the house, she shakes off that responsibility and just lives for herself for quite some time.

When she meets Scott’s mother in Smoke and Mirrors, it stirs up all kinds of emotions about her relationship with her mom, and we peel back the onion that is Tori a little more. It takes us all the way until book three to realize what is truly going on with Tori and her mom, and just how deep the rabbit hole goes.

In Chasing Fire, motherhood is the last thing on her mind, and she fears she’d make a terrible wife and mother, due to her past. But once she realizes that her chances of motherhood could be robbed from her, she starts to yearn for it.


Scott and Judith

Trigger warnings: Infertility

We only meet Judith briefly in Chasing Fire, but in Smoke and Mirrors she is a central character to the story. Mamma Harris stole my heart and the hearts of readers. She’s a little intrusive at times, but so loving, kind and wise. She loves everyone exactly where they are at, even if she may not agree with their choices. She’s the epitome of a nurturing Southern mamma. “Come in, take your shoes off, let me cook you something, this is HOME.” (But don’t you DARE take a bite of food without saying grace first).

With the solid upbringing of two wise, loving, parents, its shaped Scott to be the good man that he is. Tori is nervous about meeting his family, due to her sordid past, but Scott knows she has nothing to worry about. If she’s good enough for him, his folks will see that, and they do.


Blaze and his mamma issues

Trigger Warnings: Violence, child abuse, drug abuse.

Blaze has another horrible past. (Oh the torture I put my main characters through). He doesn’t remember much about his mother. She was an addict who ran off and left him with his abusive father. He doesn’t even know if she’s alive or dead to be honest.

Much to his dismay, Mamma Harris takes Blaze under her wing. Mamma Harris immediately has a soft spot for him, due to the fact he served with Scott, and saved his life on several occasions. She does not like his womanizing ways, but she loves Blaze in spite of all that. And when all hell breaks loose in Blaze’s life at the end of this story, Mamma Harris is the one person he knows he can turn to and she will accept him with loving and open arms.

“I like cookies too.” (One of my favorite lines that caused me to break down in tears when I wrote it). You’ll have to read the book just to see why.


Keith and Jonathan’s mothers

Trigger warnings: mental illness, alzheimer’s, drug abuse, death of a grandparent.

Jonathan’s mother died when he was very young in a car accident, and he was raised by his father until he passed on 9/11 (Pentagon). But really, the one who truly raised Jonathan was his Nana Ollie. When we first meet Jonathan, you think that Nana Ollie is dead, but turns out, she is in a nursing home with dementia, and her time is growing to an end. This shapes a lot of the heaviness that is on this single father’s shoulders. (Oh yeah, Jonathan has a kid…) We see glimpses of Nana Ollie through Jonathan’s eyes, and just how deep of an impact she had in his life. Like Mamma Harris, the woman was wise, loving, kind, a killer cook and loved Jesus with all her heart. She suspected early on that Jonathan was gay, and it didn’t matter to her one bit. All she cared about was his character, and that woman instilled good morals into Jonathan.

Keith is a mamma’s boy through and through. His mother, Tilly, was a kind and loving woman, a wonderful mom, but she suffered from bipolar disorder. Keith, being the giver he is, always took it upon himself to take care of his mom, to be there for her on her bad days/weeks/months. So much so, that he neglected his own mental health over the years. Keith’s own anxiety and mental illness finally boils over in this story.


Tanner and Gia’s family

Trigger warnings: Death of a spouse, loss of a child, domestic violence.

Tanner was born hard of hearing/Deaf to two Deaf parents. His mother, congenital, and his father who lost his hearing in Vietnam. He was raised around Deaf culture, and takes pride in who he is. I don’t talk a lot about his parents, but they are good, solid people who helped shape Tanner into the gentle soul that he is.

Gia lost both her parents as a teen, and spent time in foster care, but again, good people. The later part of her life is where things got rough. Bounced from foster home to foster home, she winds up falling for a bad man, and when her abusive husband impregnates her, she knows she has to go on the lam, not just for her, but for the safety of her child. We know right away that Gia is willing to do anything for this kid, including starting all over in a new country. She’s a GOOD mother, and is ready to raise this child all on her own.

But she doesn’t have to…because, well, she meets Tanner of course.


Silas and Kennedy’s family

Trigger warnings: substance abuse, death of a parent, death of a sibling, abortion.

Kennedy is the epitome of mother issues. She lost her mother to cancer at a very young age, and wound up with a stepmother who only used Kennedy for her own advantage. I lost my mother too at a young age to cancer, (thankfully, no evil stepmother, mine was pretty awesome). But like Kennedy, the pain and loss I buried has put me at times on a slippery slope with substances. I have to watch myself VERY carefully, and not over indulge.

Silas was a mamma’s boy. So much so, he never wants to cause his mother any pain. He can’t stand to see her cry. And that’s what she did when he got his diagnosis. Cried, and prayed. Cried, and prayed. So much so he couldn’t take listening to her pain. The thing he hasn’t realized though, is by shutting her out of his life so much, that’s exactly what he does…wounds his family. He feels it’s easier to not have them involved so they don’t have to know how much his vision is declining, but that is the furthest from the truth.


So, like my characters, I understand that my readers may have complicated feelings on Mother’s Day. As someone who has lost their mother, I know from experience that this day can be bittersweet for many. Praying for those today whom this day is difficult for. Celebrating with the ones that are joyous today. Sending love to all.

Happy Mother’s Day.

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KennedyOuting_ForBlog

Kennedy and Theo

This is the scene where Kennedy outs her brother, Theo. This piece got written (for me) then put in, then taken out, then put back in (edited shorter) then removed, and well, then just left it to fragmented memories here and there, but you get the gist. I warred with this one a lot. I ultimately decided to leave it out, because I felt that this was better left for another story (wink, wink).

And that’s all I’m saying about that, because, spoilers.

I even debated NOT sharing this scene because I don’t want to ruin it for the next story, but after I mulled it over the past few weeks, I decided to give this to my readers. I think it gives a lot of insight into Kennedy’s headspace that night, why she did what she did, and how her sanity just frayed.

Fair warning, this one is…heavy.


I looked over to Ibrahim as he pulled around the large fountain in the cobblestone, circular driveway to my childhood home in Weybridge. 

“This is where you grew up?” Ibrahim blinked several times looking at the sprawling estate.

“Unfortunately, yes.” I frowned looking at the opulent, French chateau home that had been in my father’s family for decades, now completely renovated and decorated by Elizabeth. She’d made sure of that as soon as she moved in, removing every memory of my mother, every piece of furniture she sat on. I may have only been ten years old when they married, but thankfully I had the wits to stash away the few personal keepsakes of Mum’s before they disappeared forever. “Trust me, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.” 

“I should have worn a suit.” He grimaced as he turned off the engine, looking at the other guests filing in the door. 

To me, he looked amazing, wearing a tight-fitting, burgundy mock-turtleneck. His snug, black trousers hugged his muscular legs. His dreads were pulled back into a ponytail, showing off his two gold hoop earrings that I thought were sexy as sin.

He was a beautiful man. The perfect mix of elegance and edge, brains and brawn. Just my taste. 

“Ibrahim, you look dashing.” He could have worn the finest linens imported from Paris, and it still wouldn’t be good enough for Elizabeth. Hopefully, with Theo brining his new boyfriend, Emerson, for once, my stepmother wouldn’t be focused on me. It was the only reason I agreed to come, to support Theo as he came out.  

Mummy was going to have a fit. Part of me was nervous, for Theo. Part of me was proud for him being so brave, and yes, a big part of me was ready to sit back with a drink in hand and watch the drama unfold. 

I dug into my purse, pulling out two small bottles of vodka. “Here,” I passed one to Ibrahim. “A little pregame to thaw the frost.”

“You’re mad, Kennedy.” He laughed and we toasted quickly, both downing our shots. He breathed heavy as the liquor burned our chest. “But I like how you think, you little rebel.” 

“And I like you,” I leaned across the car, planting a kiss on his full lips. He was the first man in a long time that I’d fancied enough to bring to such an event, and I was hoping he’d stick around. Although I did fear I how this evening would weigh on him. Ibrahim was a poetic peacemaker at heart, about to walk into a room full of vultures. 

“Well, let’s crack on,” I said, grabbing the handle. 

Hand in hand we walked up the marble steps and through the front door. Ibrahim’s jaw dropped open as we entered the large foyer, slathered in holly, garland and sparkling ornaments. One of the many Christmas trees stood floor-to-ceiling, probably twenty feet tall. 

“Magnificent…” he whispered.

“Would you like me to check your coat, sir?” One of the staff greeted us. 

“Yes…” He swallowed the lump in his throat as he shedded his coat. “Thank you.” 

I grabbed his hand and walked him into the reception hall, which was just as ornately decorated. Dozens of flocked trees lined the perimeter with glittering white lights, large red ornaments, and golden bows. Fairly lights hung from every inch of the ceiling, as soft Christmas jazz played in the background. Everything was perfectly coordinated and absolutely spectacular. 

A butler passed by with a tray full of champagne and I quickly grabbed us each one as Theo came flittering over. “Hello, sister,” he said, snagging his own flute. “Long time no see.” He winked and gave me a kiss on the cheek. I’d been living in his flat nearly a year and we still kept up this charade, coming separate to any gathering. If Elizabeth knew I was living with him, she’d have a fit, considering I was technically cut off, financially. 

Pinky finger lifted he took a long sip. “You must be Ibrahim.” He extended his hand. “Nice to meet you, mate.” 

“Pleasure to meet you as well,” my handsome date replied. 

I glanced around the room for his partner, Emerson, who was nowhere to be seen. I’d seen photos of the bloke, much older than Theo, but that made sense for my brother.

“Ibrahim, would you mind grabbing me a plate?” I motioned to the buffet. “I’m famished.” 

“Of course.” He nodded. 

“Oh this will be fun,” Theo whispered in my ear. I turned to my brother, the gold in the center of his bright, green eyes swirled with mischief as he eyed Ibrahim’s arse. “He is delicious. Well done, sister.” His head tossed back in maniacal laughter. 

“Where is Emerson?” I hissed. 

Theo shrugged sipping his champagne. “Couldn’t make it.” Obviously, a lie. 

You chicken-shit little prick. 

“You look lovely tonight, sister,” he said, toying with my hair.

I swatted at his hand and growled. “Theo, we had a deal! It was the only reason I came. Elizabeth wouldn’t dare make a scene in front of her guests. She’ll have no choice but to put on a brave face. You finished uni last spring! You have a doctorate in music theory for fuck’s sake. It’s time to grow up and get a job!”

We stood there, arguing, nasty words being slung between the two of us until I saw Elizabeth weave her way over to Ibrahim.

Fucking hell. This was going to be a disaster. 

I quickly downed my entire glass in one gulp and exchanged it for a second then elbowed my way through the crowd, hoping to save my date. 

“And you are…” Elizabeth had already started in on him.

“Ibrahim Abioye.” He offered his hand. “I’m here with…” 

“Me,” I said, snaking my arm around him. “This is my date, Ibrahim.” I shot Elizabeth a pointed glare that hopefully conveyed shut-your-bloody-trap.

Her brown eyes blinked several times and she plastered on a smile singed with acid. “Of course he is.” She lifted her chin. “Welcome.” Oh she was dying inside. Just as I suspected. 

“Thank you for the hospitality.” He nodded with a slight bow. “You have a lovely home Ms. Murphy.”

“Lady, Elizabeth Murphy,” she corrected. 

“My mistake.” He placed a hand across his chest.

I rolled my eyes. The hag only got that ridiculous title thanks to my dead father being a landowner. She used me to get to his money, then cut me off. 

“And what is it you do, for a living, Ibrahim?” 

“I teach history and government at the same secondary school as Kennedy.” 

“Finally have a steady job now, do we? Still an aide, are you?” Elizabeth looked to me, cocking her head to the side. 

“No. I finished uni.” No thanks to you. “I’m teaching orchestra full time now.” I squared my shoulders. And I’m a much better instructor than you ever were. 

“Hmmph. Interesting.” Oh Elizabeth was seething inside at my minor success. “Well, enjoy your evening.” With a quick patronizing pat on his shoulder, she continued to work the room.

The evening wore on and several “guests” came over to talk with Ibrahim and I. I suspected Elizabeth kept sending them our way to discuss history and politics, to try and throw him off balance. 

Ibrahim held his own very well, and stuck to his beliefs, but my entire life I’d listened to politics, and frankly, I was over it. So much arguing and nothing was ever accomplished. It all made my head spin. Finally, I couldn’t listen anymore. I turned and went to the bar to grab another drink. “Vodka, neat.” I strummed my fingers on the counter and tried not to dive too eagerly when the glass was placed in front of me. 

“Had quite a few tonight, haven’t you?” Ibrahim appeared behind me as I sipped my drink. 

“Can you blame me?” I motioned to the room. 

He snorted and bobbed his head. “I think I’m going to call it an evening, Kennedy.” 

“That sounds like a good plan.” Now that I knew Theo didn’t need me, I was more than ready to leave. I quickly swallowed several gulps. “I’ll go fetch our coats.” 

“No. I’m going to call it a night.” He rubbed my shoulder. “I’ll pay for your cab.” He dug into his wallet. 

I shook my head. “No, it’s fine, I can get a ride with Theo back to the city.” I swallowed hard. “Call you tomorrow?” 

He frowned. “I think we both know this isn’t going to work out. I can’t put on fake pleasantries and hold my tongue. It will only cause problems in the future, and I’m not a man who cares for drama. Long-term, our families would never mesh.” 

“Elizabeth is barely family,” I mumbled into my drink. 

I should have never brought him. Elizabeth’s political status scared off the decent blokes, and the ones who didn’t care to impress were not that impressive to begin with. 

“Add to it your drinking. Your stepmother said—” 

“She said what?” I cut him off. 

“Nothing I didn’t already suspect. It just seems like every time we’re together, a drink is in your hand.” 

I nodded, staring into my glass. “Understood.” 

He kissed me on the cheek. “I’ll see you at work Monday, Kennedy.” 

Oh yes, working together after a breakup would be loads of fun. 

And with that, he was gone.

I finished my drink and ordered another. I was already beyond pissed, may as well go for blackout, just to forget. 

I stood in the shadows, watching as my stepmother called everyone to attention. Theo waltzed up and took the seat at the grand piano. “I’m so very proud to announce that my son, Theodore, has just finished university…” she droned on with his entire CV of accomplishments for quite some time “…and now, he is going to grace us with a performance.”

Rounds of applause came from the room and my brother beamed, with a slight nod and half-bow. 

With a deep breath he placed his hands on the keys and began to play “Carol of the Bells.” 

I loved him and hated him in that moment. The way that he so effortlessly was in his element. His ability to focus,  like he’d forgotten the entire audience was watching him. He was fucking brilliant. 

As the song played I looked above the mantle to our family portrait. It used to be me, Mum and Dad, which Elizabeth immediately replaced with an image of Dad, herself, myself at ten, and a young, smiling, adorable little Theo front and center.

It was as if my mom never wandered these halls. Erased from existence.

I tried not to think too much about what my life would be like had she lived, because it would send me spiraling. Unfortunately with the drinks coursing through my system and the high emotion of the evening, it was all transporting me to my dark pit of despair. 

I closed my eyes and imagined a very different Christmas Eve. Mum never was one for fancy soirees. Christmas to her, was about the family. She’d of given the staff a few days off and cooked for us herself. Dad of course would still be alive, reading me The Night Before Christmas by the fire. He only started drinking heavily to numb the pain of her illness, and then her loss. 

Ding-dong, ding-dong. My brother’s deft fingers played the melody flawlessly.

But then there was Theo. If mom hadn’t died, then I wouldn’t have him. Maybe I’d still have a little brother, or sister, or both. If she wouldn’t have gotten ill, surely, they would have had more children.

Ding-dong, ding-dong. He was mixing up the composition, adding in a bit of the Harry Potter theme. It was…perfection. 

Yes Theo, we all know you’re brilliant. 

Swaying to the music, I swallowed more of my drink as the room spun around me.

“Maybe it’s time to stop the drinks, Kennedy.” Elizabeth stopped me from spinning and pulled me to the side.

“You’re not my mother.” I chuckled, taking a long gulp. 

“Like father, like daughter.” She scoffed. “It’s ruined you, just like it ruined him.” 

I growled under my breath. Speaking of fathers and being ruined…that is when I noticed Father Wilson was in attendance. The bastard. He always fancied Theo far too much. I had a hunch he got my brother all twisted in the head, making Theo forget the fact he’d liked boys far before Father Wilson did well, whatever it was I suspected he did to my little brother. 

She sighed. “Where did your friend Abraham go?”

“Ibrahim,” I corrected. I took another gulp. “He’s gone.” You made sure of that. 

“Can you fault him? You’re a mess, Kennedy.” She pulled the cup from my hand. “If you could just put down the drinks and get your life right, you’d find someone of good status.” She passed my empty cup to a waiter passing by. “Look at your brother.” She beamed at her little boy. “Theo has always made the right choices. Worked hard in school. Went to uni, stayed focused on his studies and far away from women until the time was right. Now he’s found Emerson,” she said right as my brother finished up. “I only hope she’s good enough for him.” 

I laughed like a woman possessed. So loud, in fact, that people turned and stared. 

“Kennedy!” Elizabeth hissed. 

I clutched my belly, unable to contain my giggles as the room spun around me. “You’re fucking delusional.” 

She blinked, utterly confused.

“Emerson. Is. A. Bloke.” 

Elizabeth’s jaw flopped open and she shook her head. 

“Look at him!” I pointed to my brother as he stood from the piano wearing his prissy little, red and black, paisley, sport coat, that no straight man could ever pull off. “Theo. Is. Gay.” 

Theo’s green eyes widened as he paled. “Kennedy…no…” Tears rolled down his cheeks. “Please stop…” he begged.

But no, my drunken mouth wouldn’t close. “You’ve always been blind to it.” My last thread, frayed. I was delirious with rage, laughing like a madwoman so much, I could barely catch air. “You sent him to an all boys Catholic school! Do you have any idea what really happened there? Tell her, Theo!” Tears rolled down my cheeks as gasps came from the crowd. “Your perfect little angel told me every sordid detail! Every fondle under the desk. Every fellato in the coat closet!” I screamed from the bottom of my lungs. “You didn’t protect him from girls! You let him loose in the candy store!” 

Elizabeth snapped her fingers. “Get her out of here!” She hissed at her staff, her minions. 

“Now, he just wants to be himself, happy with another bloke, and he’s too fucking twisted in his head due to his mommy issues to even accept himself for the beautiful gay man he is!” Two arms grabbed me, dragging me out of the room kicking and screaming like a toddler having a tantrum. “So frightened he’ll disappoint you! Terrified he’ll be like me, cast out, discarded, with nowhere to turn, no safety net, not a soul in the world who cares.” 

Photo of bonfire n the woods with text 'Silas and Erin deleted backstory"

Silas and Erin

As I said in my previous post, I’ve got a TON of deleted backstory from Take Me Down. I’m sure many readers may question WHY Silas was with Erin for so long. (I did try and give her some redemption by the end of the book, showing her regrets, and that she’s just as wounded from the fame as he is). In the novel, I explained BRIEFLY at dinner with Silas and his brother WHY he was so smitten with Erin.

Erin and Silas went to high school together, and she rejected him. So, when they reconnected as adults, he let his ego get the best of him. It all boiled down to his rejection. (Rejection does not sit well with Silas.) Also, there was something about Erin that reminded him of home, and part of him was holding onto that nostalgia. And as you know, Silas loves hard, fears change, and doesn’t back down from something until the universe forces his hand.

But this was not Silas and Erin’s story, this was Silas and Kennedy’s story. A couple readers have suggested an Erin book, and I’ve toyed with it in my mind. I love the idea of telling her story and seeing things from her perspective. From Erin’s side, Silas would be the bad-guy. Someone that was just with her because she was famous and pretty. He stuck it out because he was lonely, and scared to be alone. He didn’t truly love her, he tolerated her for the sex. He hid secrets from her as well.

But, I could be asking for trouble there….but then again, trouble is my middle name.

But I digress. Anyhow. Onto the deleted scene. Here is Silas, as a teen, when he totally blew it with Erin the first time.


I stood at the keg talking to Erin Barclay. 

Me. Having a conversation with a cheerleader. 

It was a fucking dream come true. 

As she bent over and refilled her red Solo cup, I couldn’t take my eyes off the epic set of tits popping out of her tiny, white tank top. My gaze traveled down to her long legs extending from her barely-there cutoffs. Capping it off at the bottom were a pair of sexy as sin cowboy boots. I swallowed the lump in my throat, imaging her–heels to the heavens–and those boots wrapped around my virgin neck. 

Thank God for country girls. 

She cleared her throat, and my eyes snapped back to her face.

“You performed really well tonight,” she said. We’d just finished our fourth, and final, performance of the school musical, Little Shop of Horrors, where I played Seymour. “You were really funny.” 

“Thanks.” I lifted my cup to my lips and took a swig of beer. 

Her eyes raked over me and she gnawed on her pouty bottom lip. Best guess, she was contemplating if it would be social suicide to speak to me. “Are you new here?”

“No,” I replied. We moved a lot due to my dad’s military career, but we’d been in Oklahoma for three years now that he’d retired as a chaplain of the National Guard and taken up pastoring a small, country church.

“Oh.” She frowned. “What’s your name again?” 

“Silas.” I flashed her a lopsided grin. 

No response.

“Silas Graves?” Seriously, she didn’t even know who I was? I sat behind her all of Freshman year in history. The girl never carried a pencil. The first time she asked me for one, I just gave her my only one, because, well, duh. Hot girl. I started carrying extras in my bag solely for her. “Mr. McKinley’s history class?” 

Her brows went up, like a lightbulb went off in her head. “Oh my god.” She laughed. “That’s right! You used to wear those thick glasses.” She laughed. “No wonder you looked familiar playing Seymour! It was the geeky glasses. I kept trying to figure out how I knew you.” 

Heat flushed in my cheeks. “I’ve got contacts now,” I mumbled. 

“Good call.” She smiled. God, she had perfect teeth. Mine, not so much. They weren’t eat-an-apple-through-a-chain-link-fence bad, but crooked enough that I was self-conscious of them. “You have really amazing eyes,” she added. “They’re so big and blue.”  

“Thanks.” An awkward silence hung in the night air. Say something, you idiot. “Your eyes are pretty, too,” And legs. And tits, and her long, dark hair, and, well, everything. Erin Barclay was a solid ten. She’d already been in a country music video, and she was only going to get hotter, and probably more famous. 

“You’re really cute, for a drama geek.” 

Um, thanks? A backhanded compliment, but I’d take what I could get. “Would you, um, like a beer?” I nodded to the keg. 

“I’ve already got one.” She wiggled her cup and laughed. 

“Oh yeah, silly me.” I rubbed the back of my neck. I had no game. None. 

“It’s okay.” She flashed a supermodel smile that I was certain would grace the pages of fashion magazines in years to come. “Let’s just hang.” She closed the gap between us. 

One thing led to another, and before I knew it, I was lying on a blanket locking lips with Erin Fucking Barclay, the most popular girl in school. As our tongues tangled, my hands roamed over her smooth thigh, up and around the curve of her hip, the dip of her belly and finally, I was under her shirt, cupping her breast. 

We made out for so long, my dick was about to bust through my jeans. It was painful how much I wanted to be inside of her. 

“Do you want to go somewhere more private?” she finally asked. 

Fuck yes. But instead I cooly replied with a, “Sure.” I had a condom burning a hole in my wallet that I’d finally be able to put to use. 

Outside I was calm, cool and collected, but inside I was a bundle of nerves. I was about to lose my virginity to Erin Barclay. I was an actor, after all. Fake it till you make it. Standing, I bent down to grab the blanket we’d been lying on, praying I didn’t choke under the pressure. 

Squinting in the dark, I looked for the cup I’d sat down. I could barely see my own two feet now that the bonfire had died down. Finally, I found it and retrieved it from the ground. Right as I turned back around, I somehow lost my footing on a rock, or a branch, or God knows what, and went barreling straight into Erin. The plastic cup crumpled between us, as beer went everywhere. 

“What the hell?” she shouted, pulling back, shaking off her dripping wet arms. 

“I…I’m sorry…” I stammered. “I…I…I’m just a little drunk,” I lied, scratching my brow.

Beer dripped down her nose, face, chin and was soaking into her white tank top. A crowd of her cheerleader friends began to form around us. 

“What’s wrong?” one of them asked, holding a flashlight. Thank fuck. I could see again.

“This geek spilled beer all over me!” Erin shouted.

Twenty minutes ago I was cute and talented. Now in front of her friends, I was a geek. I rolled my eyes. “It will dry off,” I mumbled. Jesus, it wasn’t that big of a deal. “Take mine if you want.” I grabbed my shirt at the back of my neck and pulled it off, offering it to her. Mine seemed much drier than hers, considering I could  see her nipples through the fabric. 

All her friends looked at me, then exchanged a wary glance. 

“But the smell. What am I gonna do?” Whining, she glanced to one of her friends.

“I’ve got a change in my car,” another friend offered, giving me the stink-eye. “Come on, I’ll go grab it for you.” 

Crossing her arms, she frowned, glancing at me, standing there, shirtless. “I’ll be there in a minute. Go on.” She snagged the flashlight from her friend. 

Her friends reluctantly walked away. 

“I’m really sorry.” I looked down to my feet. 

“Accidents happen,” something in her expression softened. Probably because I looked so sad and dejected, standing there, shirtless. “I gotta clean up or my parents will kill me.” Her head cocked to the side and she ogled me up and down. Thank fuck I’d been doing some lifting in the garage with my dad. I’d also shot up several inches that year, thinning out all that baby fat. “Another time, maybe?” 

“Yeah. Sure. Another time.” I pulled my shirt back on. But I knew it would never happen for me. Not in a million years. 

She leaned over and kissed me on the cheek, then, with a quick wave, she was gone. 

I walked a few feet over and sat down on a log. Leaning my elbows on my knees, I dropped my gaze and cursed myself for blowing that one so epically. 

Stupid. Clumsy. Me. I’d always had two left feet, unless I was under the bright stage lights. That was my wheelhouse. 

Time for another drink to drown my sorrows. I really didn’t want to go to college a virgin, that is, if I was going to college. Maybe Erin would talk to me on Monday. All I knew is if I ever got another chance with her, I would not blow it.   

Standing, I turned my gaze toward the parked vehicles in the distance, where I knew the keg was sitting on my friends tailgate, but behind me it was nothing but a sea of black. Turning, I grabbed a few logs and tossed them onto the fire, hoping to illuminate the area a little bit more. Then, I wandered into the distance. My foot caught something on my trek and I heard a squeal from a girl, and a male grunt as I tumbled toward the ground.

“Fuck, Graves, what’s your deal?” My buddy, Ryan Wilson, growled at me. “We’re trying to get a little privacy here. Jesus.” 

“Sorry man.” I stood and dusted myself off. “Didn’t see you there.” Maybe I was a little more buzzed than I thought, and it was time to call it a night. Driving drunk was a big hell-no for me. Best not press my luck. “I’ll catch you Monday, dude.” 

I pulled my keys out of my pocket and used the flashlight on my key ring. My dad had gifted it to me along with a spare key to his truck the day I got my license. I’d rolled my eyes at the gadget that had everything. Flashlight, bottle opener, corkscrew, pocketknife, you name it, the thing had it. My dad was such a survival nerd, always prepared and always trying to teach me his ways of doing things. But the stupid thing actually came in handy. The last thing I wanted to do was trip on more bodies. 

Finally, I reached my dad’s truck and climbed in, firing up the engine. I flipped on my lights and started rolling, bumping and jostling over the rough terrain of the field, but even with the brights on it was difficult to see anything other than what was directly in front of my hood. 

I opened my eyes wider and leaned closer to the wheel as I turned around the bend. 

Damn. Maybe I shouldn’t be driving. 

Right as that thought flew through my head, there was a loud thud, and something rolled across the hood. I slammed on my brakes. With a sickening thump, whatever it was I hit rolled to the ground. 

Please be a deer. Please be a deer. 

Not like I wanted to kill Bambi, but it was better than a human. 

Panic seized my veins and I gripped the wheel, shaking. After a couple calming breaths, I got out and checked around me.

“Dude, what the fuck?” My other cast member and friend, Patrick McDowell hopped off the ground, dusting the red dirt off his jeans. 

My heart rapped against my ribcage, threatening to break through my chest. “Dude, are you okay?” I finally croaked out, trying not to throw up. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t see you.”

“Yeah, I’m fine, but fuck, man. How drunk are you?” 

Honestly, I felt stone sober. Not sure if it was the adrenaline pumping through my veins, or what. A few of my other theater buds came over, and my cheeks heated with humiliation for the third time that night. 

After a few calming breaths—and now that I knew Patrick was alright—I inspected the damage to the truck. There was a slight dent in the hood. “Fuck, my dad is gonna kill me.” I rubbed my brow. “If he catches whiff that I was drinking…” I shuddered to thinking about the heat I’d take for this. 

“Your dad is the least of our worries. If Mr. G finds out, we’re toast. We’ll get cut from drama club,” another one of my friends, Brad Finch put his two cents in.  

“Pop the hood,” Ryan said, jutting his chin to the truck. 

I did as bid, then walked back to the front of the vehicle. Ryan took his fisted hand and bumped up on the inside of the hood a couple times, the dropped it. “No biggie,” he said, pointing to it. “Popped right out.” He dug into his pocket and looked to Brad. “Take my keys, follow us back to Graves’. I’m gonna drive him home.” He pointed to the rest of the cast and crew. “Everyone keeps their mouth shut about this, you got it?” 

The rest of our friends nodded. 

Ryan looked to me. “Get in.” He jutted his chin to my truck. 

We drove in awkward silence for ten minutes down the dark, two-lane highway. 

“So, what’s up with you, dude?” Ryan finally broke the silence. 

“I guess I drank too much,” I lied, staring out the window into the blackness.  

“Bullshit. I know you. You’re stone sober right now.” His tongue clicked and he hesitated, like he didn’t want to say what he was thinking. 

“What?” I growled at him. 

“You nearly killed Patrick tonight. That’s what.” 

“It was an accident. It was dark. He came out of nowhere.”  

“You also stumbled all over Lisa and I on the blanket.”

“You were on the ground in the middle of the woods,” I protested. 

He just shook his head as he turned into my neighborhood. 

“It’s just…” He groaned. 

“Just what?” He was starting to piss me off. “Spit it out.” 

“You always seem to have trouble at night.” He snorted. “And backstage before curtain call…” He groaned. “You nearly knocked down the flats.” 

“Yeah, it’s so fucking funny that Silas can’t see shit in the dark,” I spewed out. The guys always poked at me about it. Hell, even my dad would gripe at me and tell me to grow up when I’d cling to him and cry about not being able to see in the dark. Case in point, my stupid keychain. His way of telling me to man up. 

“Dude, that’s not normal.” His tone was flat. Ominous. “My uncle Larry was like that, and, well, you know…” 

His uncle Larry was the only church member allowed to bring a pet into the sanctuary, if you get the gist. 

My gut clenched. I’d always had this small voice at the back of my head telling me something wasn’t quite right, like how come everyone else could see the stars at night, but I couldn’t? But I constantly pushed it out of my mind. I shook my head and laughed it off, not wanting to even entertain that thought. “I get my eyes checked every year, dude. I’m fine.” There was no way. 

“Yeah. Of course you do. You’re right,” he quickly backpedaled. “It’s probably nothing.” He shrugged. “Forget that I said anything.” Ryan killed the engine and handed me my keys. 

Headlights shined into the cab as Brad pulled up behind us. “Thanks for the ride,” I mumbled as I climbed out of the vehicle. 

“Hey, Graves,” he hollered for me as I headed to my porch. “Don’t be all weird about it, okay?” 

I shoved my hands in my pockets and rocked back on my heels. “Yeah, no problem.” I jutted my chin to him. “I’ll see you Monday.” 

close up of woman holding a passport and a boarding pass. Text reads: Deleted scene from Take Me Down

Kennedy’s Move to the States

I have a ton of deleted material from Take Me Down. Both Kennedy and Silas have a pretty heavy backstories and even though I wrote it, a lot of it wound up getting cut from the book.

But, I still want to share these parts of the story with my readers, so I plan to release them over the next several weeks/months. Since this was the original beginning, go for it and read now if you like, it shouldn’t spoil anything. There may be spoilers in future ones, and I’ll pre-warn you on that. I loved how it showed Kennedy’s spunk, but overall this turned out to be far too heavy for my liking. The published opening sets more of the tone for the book than this wold have (and I also feared it wouldn’t endear readers to Kennedy). So, it was axed.


“We will now start boarding for flight 1083 from Heathrow to JFK…” the attendant spoke over the loudspeaker. 

That was my cue. 

With a sigh I shouldered my bag, and went to the queue. 

“Kennedy Murphy?” A male voice chimed behind me. 

Glancing over my shoulder, my eyes met George Davies, one of my brother’s mates from secondary school. Actually, mates was incorrect. George Davies was nothing but a bully. He tortured Theo relentlessly his entire life. Many nights I’d consoled my brother after George had pretended to befriend him, only to turn around and play another cruel joke on poor Theo. 

I closed my eyes and swallowed hard. Should’ve known I wouldn’t make it out of London unscathed. 

“Oi! It is you!” He clutched my shoulder, shaking me a bit. Bloody hell, he smelled like booze. “Guys! Look! It’s Kennedy Fucking Murphy!” he shouted to his mates. 

I shrugged out of his grasp, then inched forward in line, staring straight ahead, hoping he got the hint.

But no, he sidled up next to me. “So shocking to see you after all this time. Everyone assumed you were…”Dead? Drunk? Lying in a gutter?  “Off the grid,” he said instead. 

“Yes, you could say I have been.” Please don’t be sitting next to me on this flight. If I had to sit next to George Davies for six hours and fifty-five minutes, I would keel over. 

Please, just leave me the bloody hell alone. 

I got to the front of the line, scanned my boarding pass and headed toward the plane. Of course, George was hot on my heels. “You look so…” he blinked “…fit.” 

“Sobriety works wonders.” I adjusted the strap on my shoulder and kept moving forward.

“My boys and I are heading to New York. Going to hit up all the clubs. Visiting the states, are you?” 

Moving to the states,” I corrected. 

He whistled, rubbing the back of his neck. “Can’t fault you for that. Everyone still talks about that display of yours at the Christmas party.” 

My jaw clenched. “I’m sure they do.” 

Yes, it was quite the drunken display. 

My stepmother had just scared off the one decent bloke I’d met in quite some time. Then, she proceeded to berate me, blathering on about how proud she was of Theo for always making the right choices. How he’d finally settled down with a nice girl, and how she couldn’t wait to meet Emerson, totally clueless to the fact Emerson was a he, and Theo was gay. 

“Emerson. Is. A. Bloke,” I’d hissed to my stepmother through vodka-laden lips. “Look at him!” I pointed to my brother as he stood from the piano wearing his prissy little, red and black, paisley, sport coat, that no straight man could ever pull off. “Theo! Is! Gay!” 

Theo’s green eyes widened as he paled. “Kennedy…no…” Tears rolled down his cheeks. “Please stop…” he begged.

The only reason I agreed to come to the party was because Theo pleaded that I be there since he’d be bringing his partner. I’d come to support him, and he hung me out to dry. 

“You’ve always been blind to it.” My last thread, frayed. I was delirious with rage, laughing like a madwoman so much, I could barely catch air. “You sent him to an all boys Catholic school! Do you have any idea what really happened there? Tell her, Theo! Tell mummy dearest what her precious little altar boy did.” Tears rolled down my cheeks as gasps came from the crowd. “Your perfect little angel told me every sordid detail! Every fondle under the desk. Every fellatio in the loo!!” I screamed from the bottom of my lungs. “You didn’t protect him from girls! You let him loose in the candy store!” 

Elizabeth snapped her fingers. “Get her out of here!” She hissed at her staff, her minions. 

“Now, he just wants to be himself, happy with another bloke, and he’s too twisted in his head due to his mommy issues to even accept himself for the beautiful man he is!” Two arms grabbed me, dragging me out of the room kicking and screaming like a toddler having a tantrum. “So frightened he’ll disappoint you! Terrified he’ll be like me, cast out, discarded, with nowhere to turn, no safety net, not a soul in the world who cares!” 

George’s tongue clicked behind me, pulling me from my dismal memories “I feel just awful for how poorly I treated your brother, especially considering what happened afterward…” He grimaced, but didn’t look a bit remorseful. 

Please. Just. Stop.

“Of course, I’m sure you feel even worse.” He slumped into his seat. First class, of course. 

He had no idea how I felt. My whole life I’d tried to protect Theo. But I grew weary. This pawn could only hold the defensive line for so long.

“Do you, George?” Do you feel awful?” I peered down at him, blinking. “Do you feel awful for giving him wedgies on the playground? Pulling his trousers down in the middle of the hall? Throwing him in the rubbish bin? Dumping milk on him? Locking him in the custodian cupboard? Do you, George?” 

He paled. “I…I…” he stammered. 

“Well, do you?” I shouted and stomped down the aisle toward second class. Fuming, I shoved my carry-on in the overhead compartment, then flopped into my seat.

Before I knew it, the fight attendant was making her way toward me. Bloody fantastic. “Excuse me, miss?” she asked. “Was that man harassing you?” She pointed to the front of the plane.

This one is for you, Theo. 

“Why yes, he was.” I leaned in closer to her, and added in a whisper, “Got a bit handsy with me in the queue.” I blinked innocently. “I think he may be intoxicated.” Neither of these were lies, just stretching the truth a bit.

The flight attendant frowned, patting my shoulder. “I’m so sorry. We’ll take care of him.” She elbowed her way back to George. “Excuse me, sir!” she shouted to George. “I’m going to need you to come with me.” 

And with that, George was escorted off the plane. 

MeetKennedy_ForBlog

Meet Kennedy

Kennedy was a tough nut for me to crack. I have to say, she’s been one of the toughest heroines that I’ve had to write to date.

The first reason, I decided to make her British. Since Silas is losing his vision, attraction to him is not the physical. I wanted to give her a saucy accent that would instantly pique his interest.

I couldn’t tell if she was mildly irritated and teasing, or downright pissed. Had to be the accent. Brits always threw me off. They had this way of packaging snarky comments in pretty paper with an enormous bow on top. “I left a note above your box,” she added.
“I didn’t see it.”
“You should check your post more often.”
“Noted.” I offered a salute, flashed her a grin, and winked. “I’ll try to mind my volume.”
“That’d be fab.” So frosty. So cold, and yet still sexy as hell because of her damn fucking dialect.

I learned a LOT. Like fanny does not mean backside, but actually well, the vag. So, when I said “He smacked me in the fanny…” I had to quickly change it (thank you beta readers!)

I knew I wanted her to be a prickly pear. Because, Like Silas, I’m a sucker for the prickly ones. I like a woman with some grit to her.

The elevator chimed and she moved toward the doors as they squeaked open. “Have a good workout, Kennedy.” I jutted my chin toward her as I adjusted the bag on my shoulder.
She snorted. “Cheers, 28B.”
Well, there you had it. Didn’t even bother to use my name.
And why the fuck did I care? I was breaking my rule number one—you don’t shit where you sleep. But for some stupid reason, she’d piqued my interest. Ever a sucker for the prickly ones.

Third, there needed to be something else that made him emotionally connect to this stranger. Silas, being artistic himself (a thespian and radio personality) and going blind, music is important to him. It’s more than his career. Music speaks to his soul. So, I made Kennedy an artist as well, a cellist.

I’d always loved the cello and thought it never got the respect that it deserved. Some would consider it melancholy, isolated, dark, and miserable—like listening to a reading of a eulogy, but not me. I found it deep, silky—like a long, seductive moan. And Kennedy made that cello croon.

Next, came Kennedy’s backstory. This was the most difficult for me to write, and the most personal. Kennedy is an addict who is two years sober.

Typically, I have a LOT of drinking in my books. A LOT. (Hell, my author banner reads, “Whiskey and Bad Decisions.”).

I always put a lot of myself into my characters. Like me, if I plop a drink into their hand their inhibitions lower, and you see more of their authentic self start to emerge.

Time to get real with you readers. In my early twenties I did a LOT of things I shouldn’t have. I did some HARD drugs. It took me quite some time before I felt comfortable to have a drink in my hand. Yes, I drink now. I also occasionally use medicinal marijuana, but never ever will I touch hard drugs again.

Even with my history, I struggled writing Kennedy. Everyone’s experience with substance abuse and addiction is different. For me, I easily walked away from the hard drugs when I was younger. I never went to rehab. I never had any withdrawals or cravings. I never had a sponsor. I never went to group meetings. Still, like her, I truly know what it feels like to long to be the person you aren’t. I know what it’s like to beat yourself up for the mistakes of your past.

I opened the fridge and found the dressing next to several beers and a couple bottles of wine. My heart sank. This was the type of setting where a normal person could sit down with their lover and enjoy a glass of wine with dinner, but not me. I wished I could have just one. But no, I was a binge drinker. Once I started, I’d drain the bottle. Honestly, I didn’t crave the drink as much as I craved rebirth.

Drinking was never really an issue for me. Still, I try to keep myself in check. Then 2020 happened. Like many others stuck at home, I started drinking more. Life was rough personally. It was just one thing right after another that hit us.

“Stepmom cut me off and kicked me out, since I was not going to uni. I moved into my boyfriend’s dinky flat. He never loved me. Just used me for my composition skills, while he toured the UK and fucked groupies. Left me with a mound of bills and addicted to alcohol and drugs. Eventually, I found a job as a teaching aide while I put myself through uni. Tried to stay sober. Then life would happen.” She ran her fingers through my hair and sighed. “My telly would break, my car would need a new radiator, setback after setback. That, of course, caused me to self-medicate heavily.”

I struggled to write. Even though I was vaxxed, I got covid, twice. I’m still suffering long-term issues from it. I’ve faced depression, crippling bouts of anxiety, panic attacks and many sleepless nights. The more my anxiety ramped up, the more I was drinking. The harder it became to write.

“Do you think that artistic people are more drawn to addictive behavior? The musicians, writers, actors…”
“Drugs don’t make artists, they break them.” She set her mug down and leaned back. “And yes, I do.”
I bobbed my head. She was right. The further I withdrew into drugs and drink, the harder it was for me to feel the music.

So, I took some time off from drinking during writing her. I’ve done this before. If I notice my tolerance is too high, and I’m drinking more than I should, I’ll take weeks, sometimes months off just to make sure I have it under control. I never want to go back to the woman I used to be.

What this did was help me relate to her better. How can I be comfortable in my own skin, without the push of liquid courage? How do I control the anxiety and self-doubt without a glass of wine or whiskey to relax?

Silas trusted me, blindly, and I nearly betrayed him. Last night after we shagged it was written all over his face, and again, at the table. It was more than him straining to see my physical beauty. It was deeper. A lovesick hopefulness in his expression, as if I alone held the keys to something extraordinary.
And it scared the bloody hell out of me.
I was not extraordinary. I was nobody. I wasn’t brave. I wasn’t strong.

Like me, Kennedy shows a brave face to the world, but inside, she’s trembling. Scared to lose control. Scared of what people will find when they see her for who she really is. She’s lonely, isolated and longs for people in her life, but after being burned so much by others, she’s guarded herself and built a fortress around her, absolutely terrified of rejection.

The fortress I’d built for self-preservation had thick, concrete walls lined in barbed wire and a sniper on the roof. When trespassers came too close, I’d maim them. But the more time passed, the more it felt like a prison instead of protection.

I wouldn’t say I’m as prickly as she is, and I like to think I control my mouth MUCH better than she does, but I am just as damn awkward. People don’t always get my sense of humor. I’m crass, and downright irreverent at times.

I lingered, shoving pastries into my mouth, glancing around the room, trying my best to look approachable. I’d never been great at striking up conversations with strangers, and something about me never gave off a friendly vibe. Typically, my social anxiety would get the best of me, my mouth would run amok, and I’d wind up saying something sarcastic, rude, or awkward.

She may not always say the right things, but I will say something about this girl, she’s witty. And thankfully, my hero is a sucker for a girl with wit.

Cello From the Other Side @CelloThere
@TheMorningReaper is either harboring a hooker, watching a porn marathon, or performing an exorcism in his flat. One thing I do know for certain is what it sounds like when another girl fakes it. #Fakingit #yesyesyes

“Damn. Shots fired,” Kay laughed as she read the Tweet. “She’s got the When Harry Met Sally fake orgasm gif underneath the image.” Her cackles grew louder. “I like this girl’s style.”

You and me both, Kay.

At the end of the day though, this girl is all heart. No matter how scared she is, no matter how much she wants to run, she can’t run from him.

Because Silas and Kennedy have something very special.

I’m excited for you to meet her.

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Meet Silas. Image of pensive man in leather jacket, wearing sunglasses leaning against a wall. Image bottom right, book cover, Take Me Down

Meet Silas

As authors, we are constantly pulling inspiration from some of our favorite stories, movies and television shows. I can’t ever seem to watch or read something without an idea spinning up in my mind how I could twist it and make it my very own.

Take Me Down was no exception. I’ve had this idea in brewing the back of my head for decades. It all spawned from an episode of Charles in Charge (one of my favorite shows as a kid). Without giving you too many spoilers, Charles gets stuck in an elevator with a woman who is blind, and he has no idea that she’s blind.

Since I’ve already written a blind heroine, it was time for me to do a blind hero. The first issue, how do I write his condition, and give it a new spin? Instead of making it a traumatic accident (what happened to Tori was EXTREMELY rare) I decided to go more toward reality of what many visually impaired people face—a degenerative condition.

“I have retinitis pigmentosa—RP for short—and there’s no cure. Other than my fading eyesight, I’m healthy. There isn’t anything else wrong with me.”

“Subjective, but go on.” I couldn’t help but get that dig in. 

“At what point of knowing someone do I tell them I’m going blind?” He scratched his brow. “No matter when I decide to say it, it’s always fucking awkward.”

Silas doesn’t like to talk about it, considering he deals with it so much daily. He just wants to be seen as a man, not a blind man.

As is tradition, I researched a LOT. I read tons of autobiographies, message boards, and every piece of literature on RP that I could. I recruited a friend and beta/sensitivity reader who is visually impaired to try and get it right. Despite all the effort I put in, writing about disabilities always leaves me fearful. I want to represent the community as best as I possibly can.

That helped me think a lot about Silas, his backstory, and how I could put some of myself into him. I decided to make him an actor. A man who must get into a character’s head, understand who they are, where they came from, and why they do the things that they do.

Because of his failing vision, he “sees” more than most. Beauty and ugly are no longer visual for him, but emotional.

“Don’t think because I’m blind that I can’t see people for who they really are. I see far more than most. You have pain on the inside, and that’s not ugly. That’s human.”

Loss is a central theme in this book, and how different people deal with grief in different ways. Some people ignore it. Some people wallow in it. Some people drink it away. Because of his condition, acting roles got stripped from him. He had to step out of the limelight. He went from the stage to the screen, and from the screen to the sound booth.

“I like the morning show. It’s like a mix of journalism and theatrics, in a sense. The stage was my first love.”

“You performed?” He was damn good looking and charismatic enough to be on screen or stage.

“I used to. Not anymore.” He cleared his throat, shifting next to me. 

He’s desperately trying to hold onto the career he’s got left. Does he always handle it well? No. He gets bad advice from friends and those close to him.

During my four-year run on Secrets We Keep, my agent advised me to keep my visual impairment under wraps. Yes, I see the irony there, but the acting industry was brutal, and work not easy to come by. So I kept my mouth shut and found workarounds for my blind spots. It worked, until I fucked up to the point the producers thought I had a substance abuse problem, and my character was given the axe.

Not only did I make him an actor, but I had my straight character, play someone on television who was gay. In doing so, he faced both criticism and praise. Something I also am very accustomed to.

“Let’s circle back to the industry. There isn’t much disability representation in film and television. How do you feel about able-bodied actors being cast into roles of people with disabilities, considering you, a straight man, took some heat when you stepped into a queer role?”

There is a lot of drama in this book. Like all humans, Silas and Kennedy deal with some heavy issues. It’s what makes them real. But there are so many LOL hilarious moments. I wouldn’t call this a rom-com, but it’s close. More like a romantic dramedy. Silas is not all doom and gloom. He’s come to acceptance of his condition, where he is headed, and he just wants to move on with his life and find someone to share it with. Honestly, he’s one of the funniest, most theatrical characters I’ve ever written.

“I’m not a fucking circus sideshow.” 

“No. You’re a blind man who refuses to own it.” Her tongue clicked. 

“Does this look like I’m not owning it?” I cleared my throat. “Step right up, ladies and gents,” I hollered, tossing my cane in my grasp like a ringmaster, “and come watch as a blind man does menial, everyday tasks, like using a computer, crossing the street, and wiping his own ass.” I gave a half-bow and a tip of my nonexistent top hat.

 I’ll introduce Kennedy in another blog post, but once he meets her, she teaches him to feel again. To trust his instincts. To stop listening to the crowd and follow his heart.

Kennedy made me feel every damn color of emotion. Anger. Irritation. Curiosity. Beauty. Amusement. Excitement. Desire. In a world where you can’t see, feeling is everything.

 I knew from the get-go that I wanted this to be an enemies-to-lovers book. It’s my favorite trope to write. It creates such wonderful banter and off the chart’s chemistry. So, I pitted them against each other as nemesis neighbors. Kennedy, is a cellist and teaches lessons from her home. Silas, my resident manwhore, spends his evenings…well…making a LOT of noise.

“Do anything fun?” His feet shuffled behind me. 

Did he just snicker? I turned my head to him and raised a brow. “It was a lovely, quiet, relaxing weekend, for the most part. Well, other than Rey meowing all night.”

“You gonna turn me into the landlord for her, too?”

“No.” I rolled my eyes. “Rey’s meows are cute, unlike the other howling catcalls I’ve heard coming from your flat. Thankfully my ears were not privy to that this weekend.” 

He laughed boisterously. “Yeah, I flew solo the past few days. Had to tug my own rope.”

I blanched. Granted, I’d done some maintenance myself, but I wasn’t shouting it from the rooftops. You’d think living under him I’d crave a drink, since he was driving me mad, but really, I was just craving him.

“FYI, trying to whack off with a cat around, not the easiest. Rey kept trying to attack my hand under the sheet.” 

“You’re vile.” I held in a laugh. I wasn’t about to give him the satisfaction.

“Hey, don’t be calling me disgusting. You got yourself some bean-flicking action this weekend, too.” A smug smirk tugged at his lips as he stared straight at the elevator doors.  

My jaw dropped open. “I did no such thing!” I lied through my teeth. 

“If you can hear me, I can hear you. Just sayin.” His grin grew wider. “Who’s Johnny?”

I wanted to sink into the floor. I rubbed my temples, saying nothing. 

“How many batteries does it take to make that kind of humming?

You get such a wide range of emotions to play with, anger that morphs into desire. You’re building and building to that moment when they finally succumb to their feelings and that creates heat, and passion.

But even better than that was her scent. The first thing that drew me to her. I was right up in it, breathing it in so close I could taste it. The sweetness, the spicy, it was exotic and decadent, consuming me with lust and need—working me into a hungered frenzy. If it was the last thing I ever inhaled, I’d die a happy man.

My erection strained painfully against my jeans and with each thrust of my tongue into her mouth I pressed forward into her heat, practically dry humping her in the elevator, which did nothing to relieve my aching cock and only increased the pressure building in my pants.

“My place or yours?” I asked, biting on her earlobe. I could tell from her signals it wasn’t a question of if, just where.

She moaned. Sweet God Almighty. She was killing me. “Silas,” a throaty whisper came from her, followed by another moan. God, her voice, that accent breathing out my name. It was so fucking sexy. 

“I need to fuck you, Kennedy.” I peppered kisses down her jawline. “Now,” I growled, nibbling at her neck. “You choose, or I’ll take you right here, right now.”

Silas is a very complex character with many layers to him. His vision loss is his current story, since it’s taken a nosedive, but once you peel back the onion you see there is so much more to him than his visual issues. A talented actor. A loving brother. A loyal friend. A mamma’s boy who likes cats. The geeky drama kid that grew into a hottie. But don’t let that fool you, he’s tender, but not soft. His sport of choice is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and he’s totally capable of throwing down. Trust me. You’ll see it.  He’s masculine, fatherly, protective, gentle and a good man at his core (despite all the mistakes he makes).

I can’t wait for you to meet him.

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series

Why I Write Series

I was having a writing discussion with another author friend of mine the other day about series. She writes mostly stand-alone novels and I writes series.

I’ve always been a series junkie. I’d much rather sit down and watch a TV series that I can get hooked on rather than a movie. My first reading loves as a child were “The Babysitters Club.” As a teen I read the Vampire Chronicles, then graduated on to V.C. Andrews books that were all dark gothic family drama’s mixed with a little romance.

So it’s easy to see, why I write series. It’s what I enjoy. I love getting to know the characters, their quirks, their in’s and outs. I love that we know on Friends that Joey had an imaginary friend who was a space cowboy. Or that Monica’s “nickname” in high school was “big fat goalie” and of course we know about Chandler’s third nipple his “nubbin”.

I love that on New Girl we know that Nick can’t lie to save his life and he begins to sweat profusely. I love how Winston doesn’t know how to prank.

I love how on Parks and Rec that we know that Leslie loves waffles and Ron loves to eat meat and drink whiskey. (Yeah, my kinda guy).

We know that Jake on Brooklyn 99 is a die-hard “Die Hard” fan.

I love that on How I Met Your Mother we find out that the lovable player Barney Stinson used to be a hippie.

I love the little snippets and inside jokes that run through a good series. It was so satisfying to finally get the answer to the pineapple incident on the extended DVD on How I Met Your Mother.

I’m a firm believer that loyal fans deserve a payoff. (Clears throat, coughs…Amsterdam).

I also love the angsty drama and mystery. Shows like This is Us that make me cry big ugly tears and FEEL every moment of what the characters experience through that hour.

Shows like Six Feet Under that dive into family dynamics and darker subjects.

Shows that weave a bit of a mystery along the way like LOST, (but are really all about the characters journey).

I’ll be honest. There were nights that I sat up on message boards talking about the show LOST. I was a little obsessed with this show and the mystery element and how they weaved the timelines together. SUCH amazing storytelling. (Of course, we won’t talk about how angry that show made me with the unsatisfying ending. I could go on for days…) I will NEVER do that. Promise.

Some authors get bored of the same characters and they need to move on. They write stand alone novels or some of those authors write series featuring different characters (that’s really the current popular trend). This allows them to move onto a different story but stay in the same world.

You don’t see a lot of novels/series these days in romance that follow the same couple along their journey. This is a shame to me, because honestly it’s what I love to read. Sure, there are trilogies and things like that.

But I also get that along the way readers fall in love with these secondary characters and want to know their story as well.

So that’s why I’m doing something a little different. My first three books will follow Scott and Tori, then I’m going to release a few books featuring secondary characters that I (and readers) have fallen in love with. (Clears throat, ahem, Blaze). Later down the road I’m going to re-visit Scott and Tori, so I’m in no way done with them yet.

I’ve always imagined my Fire and Fury series like a TV drama playing out in my head. A little bit of Grey’s, where everyone is important but the show mainly revolves around Meredith. That’s Scott and Tori. They are the epicenter of my universe. The secondary characters stories are just as important though and many times play into theirs.

So why am I doing this? Pure and simple, it’s the story I want to tell. It’s what I want to write.

I’ve heard the following tidbits as I started this journey:

Start out writing a few books that are standalones to get your feet wet in the self-publishing industry.

Don’t write a series featuring the same couple.

Don’t write prologues.

Don’t write flashbacks.

Romances should be written in first person with alternating POV.

Don’t use secondary POV’s in your romance storytelling. 

And the list goes on for a mile of all the things I did that I wasn’t supposed to do. I’m not saying that any of this isn’t sound advice. What I’m saying is that you can get so bogged down with the supposed “rules” that it cripples your storytelling.

Am I doing something a little wacky? Yup. But is that a bad thing? I’m not sure yet. Ask me again in five years when I’m no longer a newbie at this author thing. I’m not done yet and I could still fall flat on my face with this concept. But am I having fun telling these stories? Hell yes.

So, what’s my advice? I don’t think that there is one right answer for authors. I think you need to write the stories that are screaming inside your soul to be told. It will shine through in your storytelling.

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My Sophomore Book – Smoke and Mirrors

I’ve been busy putting the final polish on Smoke and Mirrors, my sophomore book, the second in my Fire and Fury series.

This book. Oh, where do I even begin?

Of course THE week that I sent over to my editor for the final proofing would be the week that I decided to read not ONE but TWO amazing books that make me doubt everything about myself.

This book… oh this book… I’ll be honest. This book has about KILLED me.

Have I mentioned before that I re-wrote this book not once, oh, not twice, not even three but FOUR (yes four) times?

Draft one of Smoke and Mirrors was a mess. Originally I’d ended Chasing Fire on a cliffhanger and I felt that I was doing a huge disservice to my readers by not giving Scott and Tori their HFN. I didn’t want a gimmick. I wanted readers to read on because they love these two as much as I do. So before I published Chasing Fire I fixed the ending. Then I knew I had to fix the second book. I had this huge weird mystery plot in book two that just didn’t work for the first half, and the second half Scott and Tori went off to Texas to meet his family. It was like two different books jammed together and it was NOT working. I really loved the second half of the book, and that is where most of their growth was as a couple. I knew that THIS is really what I wanted Smoke and Mirrors to be about.

So I rewrote it. Then I rewrote again. Finally it began to take form. It turned out to be a much more laid-back type of book.

Chasing Fire was this fun, flirty (and yes angsty) will-they-won’t-they, I’m-gonna-yank-my-hair-out type book. For some it was a frustrating read. For others, they loved the angst. I started writing Chasing Fire as a fun hobby between my husband and I. We’d write these sexy scenes/snippets about these two friends with benefits back and forth while he was on military orders. I somehow managed to make it work as a romance. I took three years to mold Chasing Fire into a novel that actually made some sort of sense. It took time to give these characters motivation for WHY they circled each other for so many years without committing. I was certain it was doomed to fail. It wasn’t the typical romance novel. I broke all the rules writing this thing and followed no formula. BUT it was Scott and Tori’s story and they eventually told me WHY they did the things they did, and for them, it made sense.

Guess what? It did hella better than I ever expected it would. Readers GOT my characters. They understood that it was really a novel about two people loving each other in the wrong place at the wrong time with life constantly getting in the way. They saw how human Scott and Tori were and loved them in spite of their glaring faults and terrible decisions.

Smoke and Mirrors was much more the romance novel I wanted to write. A novel about two broken people learning to love in a committed, monogamous, relationship. I really wanted to crack Scott and Tori open and see what happens when you put these two damaged people together for real.

It’s VASTLY different from Chasing Fire. So that of course leaves me with much lingering self-doubt. Now that they don’t have the will-they-won’t-they to keep the pages turning… are my characters enough to keep readers engaged?

Of course I hear all the rules screaming in my ear as to why my series is doomed to fail. Things like:

“You can’t have a sex scene in the first chapter… you have to build to it.”

Sorry, this is kinda my signature thing with these two. I did it in the first, and second and I plan to do it again in the third. Because admit it. Scott and Tori have some seriously HOT boinkage.

“Readers will not stay engaged and follow a series about the same couple.” 

Um, ever heard of Twilight? Fifty Shades? Outlander? I mean, I could go on and on about all the RULES. Ya know what? Screw the rules. (That’s me channeling my inner Tori). I’m going to write the story in me that is screaming to be told.

Personally once I fall for a couple I could read about them doing laundry together and be completely satisfied. Not everyone is hard wired this way. But, like I’ve said before I set out to write the type of romance novels I would want to read. I guess this is because I wanted to mirror what I have with my husband in Scott and Tori. TV shows like “This Is Us” inspire me to write about real couples going through the drama of life together, and somehow still staying strong. If you ask me, a couples story doesn’t end at the HEA or HFN. Things happen. Life goes on. Trials come. The romance keeps blossoming. People grow deeper in love. I wanted to show what it was like when people try and work through their issues to grow stronger and become better people.

Scott has to really battle his nature to lead men and control. Control is what keeps others around him safe.

His ability to be in control kept him and others around him safe. It was his creed that he’d lived his life by and prided himself on. Leave a situation to the device of others and they’d fail the mission, or wind up dead. Just like the day of his explosion. He’d known that the CO’s plan was shit. He was right. If he’d been in control he wouldn’t be walking on a peg and Jones wouldn’t be six feet under.

As a soldier this is his thing. He barks orders and men just are expected to fall in line.

“I have a permit.” Scott shrugged.

“A permit?” Tori’s brow went up.

“An I-can-do-whatever-I-want permit,” Scott said with arrogance.

Isn’t that the damn truth?

Harris did what he wanted and nobody was ever allowed to bat an eye. They all were just expected to fall in line. Except Tori it seemed. Harris’ girl seemed to march to the beat of her own drum.

Of course fate would pair him up with the ONE WOMAN who refuses to submit. This is the essence of their conflict in book two. His father wisely points this out to him:

Scott took a pull from the beer. “I never want her to feel trapped. Ever. I love how free spirited and wild she is, but I hate it at the same time.” Scott scratched his brow. “I’ve been in some dicey situations. Bullets have flown by my head. I’ve been blown up. I’ve seen my brothers die in front of me, but nothing terrifies me more than the thought of something happening to my girl.”

“I suspect she fears being out of control and loss as much as you do.”

“Oh I’m certain she does.” His eyes widened.

“Funny thing, isn’t it? How we somehow manage to end up with the one that forces us to look in the mirror—reflecting all our faults and fears.” Wayne let that hang in the air for a moment. “Makes us have to work on our shit. We have to become better men.”

This is what Smoke and Mirrors is. It’s all about growth. Growth as a couple. Growth as individuals. Scott needs to learn there is a fine line between control and keeping her safe. Tori needs to learn to trust him, grieve her losses and figure out the woman she now is without sight.

Tori has lived her life closed off. She keeps people at a distance to protect her heart from further loss. She hides behind the walls of her sexuality because honestly, deep down, she’s not near as confident as what she portrays to the world. Pairing her up into a monogamous relationship brings all these fears to the surface, and it forces her to deal with her junk that she’s stuffed down. She never really had a chance to deal with her grief in book one. I think women are going to relate to Tori much more in the second book. We get to see a much softer side of Tori in Smoke and Mirrors:

“I’m so fucking angry. The one thing that I was good at was stripped away from me.” She sobbed into Keith’s chest. “I just want my art back. Even if I can’t see it, I need to feel it in my soul, and I’m so exhausted from having to think so much, I can’t even do that.”

“Honey, I’m so sorry I called it a fun challenge. I didn’t—”

She shook her head and pulled back. “You only said that because I’ve said that a hundred times in the past several months trying to remain positive. It’s my damn suit of armor. I’ve fooled everyone. It’s all smoke and mirrors; an illusion. Reality is, I’m still really pissed.”

My worry about how Smoke and Mirrors will be received has left me up at night in a sweat of panic. I guess because Chasing Fire did so much better for a debut than I could have ever hoped for. I want to deliver a satisfying read to my loyal fans for the next book. I still give my readers the smoking hot love scenes. We still have the dashes of humor that I love so much. Tori is still as reckless as ever and it drives Scott insane. The thing is, it’s just not near as gut wrenching as the first. I felt my readers, myself and my characters needed a break from all the major drama and angst. I wanted some time to enjoy Scott and Tori as a couple before all hell breaks loose (and trust me, it does in book three). But don’t worry. It all works out in the end. That I promise.

So yeah, Smoke and Mirrors is a transition book. It’s a lot of growth and really digging into my characters issues. I’m hoping my loyal fans that fell in love with Scott and Tori in the first book will enjoy their journey in this second book. I know I’ve enjoyed writing it (even if it took me four times to get it right).

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Meet Judith

Happy Mothers day to all the mamma’s out there! I decided in celebration of mother’s day, I’d share my favorite book mamma, Judith Harris with the world.

In book one of the Fire and Fury series (Chasing Fire) we briefly met Judith Harris (mother to Scott Harris). We get a LOT more of Judith in book two (Smoke and Mirrors).

When I set out to create Judith I didn’t want her to be the southern, Christian mamma that you see Hollywood portray with the crummy accent and the southern bible thumping stereotypes. I didn’t want her to be the monster in law like many books and movies paint the hero’s mother to be. I wanted her to be a realistic image of what a Texas, southern mamma was like. I wanted her to invite Tori into her family with open arms. I wanted her to “Love Jesus but drink a little.” (Best quote EVER).

Judith’s husband (Scott’s dad), Wayne, says the following when Tori slips out a curse in front of him:

“Judith sings sweetly with the choir on Sunday, but can cuss like a sailor Monday through Saturday when the preacher ain’t around. Just don’t ever say the big F word in front of her. She will whack you upside the head for that one.”

Judith is a fiery red-head southern mamma that takes shit from no one. When she says jump, you can really only ask how high. You don’t argue with Mamma Harris.

Tori’s fork dropped out of her hand and clanked loudly on the plate. “Church?” Tori swallowed her mouth full. Scott didn’t say anything about church being on the agenda.

“Well of course, it is Sunday after all,” Judith said as if it was normal practice for Tori to go to church on Sunday. “Pastor hasn’t seen Scott since he was a teenager and I would love to show you off, Victoria.”

Tori knew she had to look like a deer in the headlights. She dug her nails into Scott’s thigh.

“Oh, dear I’m sure they’re exhausted from the flight, we don’t expect you two to go.” Wayne came to her rescue. Tori was not a hugger but she could have jumped across the table and flung her arms around the man at that moment.

“Yeah mom, we’re pretty worn out, maybe another time.” Scott squeezed Tori’s hand on his lap.

“Fine, but next Sunday I’m not taking no for an answer,” Judith said adamantly. Tori knew there was no way they were going to get out of it the following week. She was learning one thing, you don’t argue with Scott’s mom. Judith was already displeased that they were sleeping in the same bedroom. Tori thought it was ridiculous. They were in their thirties after all.

The woman has grit and a strong backbone. She’s also very nurturing. She will go above and beyond for her kids (to a fault… she can be a bit smothering at times), but she does it from the bottom of her heart that is the size of Texas.

“And look here at this sweet girl you brought home!”

The next thing Tori knew she was getting a bear hug from Scott’s mother. “Oh!” Tori flinched and chuckled in surprised amusement from his mother’s ambush. Tori politely returned the warm embrace around Judith’s small, yet strong frame. The hug lasted a few moments longer than Tori was comfortable with.

“Well my goodness.” Judith pulled back and held onto Tori’s shoulders. “Aren’t you a pretty little thing?”

“Thank you, Mrs. Harris.” Tori gave a genuine smile. Although the welcome was a bit much, it made her feel warm all over. She’d never been hugged that tightly before even by her own mother. How on earth could she have been afraid of this woman with the sweetest voice she’d ever heard?

Family is not really Tori’s thing. Her father died when she was very young and her mother turned to self-medication with booze and drugs. She’s never had anyone that she could really count on to be in her corner. She knows that Scott comes from a good, wholesome family. So heading to Texas to meet Scott’s very large family is going to bring a lot of issues to the surface. Without getting too into spoilers, my goal was even through the turmoil and self discovery that Tori has to do while on this trip, this was to become a very healing process. Finally, Tori gets the family she never had growing up. Judith fills a little of the gaping hole that was left in Tori’s heart.

Judith’s hand reached over and squeezed her leg. “Oh honey! I didn’t mean it like that. I know you’re quite capable. I just care about you. Lord, I bet people question you all the time. That must feel awful…” Judith sounded so upset with herself. “I should know better, when you need help you’re smart and bold enough to ask. I just…” she let out a heavy breath, “I just wanted to mother you a bit.”

Tori put her hand on top of Judith’s and squeezed it. There were about a thousand emotions that filled her with that statement, but they all clogged in her throat. Finally, Tori managed to croak out a meager, “Thank you.”

Judith isn’t perfect. That’s my number one rule about characters, they MUST have flaws. Judith is a bit nosy, and overbearing, and controlling (ahem, now we know where Scott gets it from). She tends to smother the ones she loves a bit too much.

Scott leaned in and gave her a deep kiss. “Now let’s head inside. Mom’s peering out the window being nosy, as usual. I can see her wild red hair poking over the frame.”

Here is a little from Blaze’s perspective on Mamma Harris.

He may have never met the woman face to face, but he’d know her for certain if he passed that red head on a crowded street. The woman that sent him not only letters, but dozens of cards with sky filled doves and bible scriptures scrawled on them when he was in the hospital. Oh, and cookies. Yeah, he appreciated those. He read every word she wrote, trashed the scripture filled cards, and ate every last crumb. The woman could bake a mean ass chocolate chip cookie.

I could go on and on about Judith. My inspiration for her was a mash up of all the mother figures that have poured into my life. My mom, like Tori’s dad, passed when I was very young. Judith has a dash of my mother’s willingness to go above and beyond for those she cared for. My husband’s mother is the same way. My very kind, loving mother in law will constantly inconvenience herself for all us kids. My husbands grandmother is a very wise woman who loves without condition and will always give you big hugs, AND tell you exactly how it is as she heaps you up spoonfuls of her home cooked roast on Sunday. And as far as her mouth, well, Judith gets her no-filter will say anything that pops in her head mouth from my Nanaw. My nanaw was also a bit of a southern gossip. That woman never knew when to keep her flap shut, but she was a RIOT. If I had a birthday party and the kids were playing musical chairs, you better believe my Nanaw was right in there with the kids being a total goofball. As far as her backbone and grit to take anything that life throws at her, she gets that from my stepmom. That woman has survived open heart surgery, breast cancer and MUCH more. She’s one of the strongest women I know.

So to all you strong mammas out there today, I salute you, and Judith Harris. I can’t wait for you to fall in love with Scott’s mamma.

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Chasing Fire is LIVE

Today I sent my babies out into the world. Chasing Fire is officially LIVE!

Let me recap my past month.

I spent countless hours painstakingly pouring over the changes sent to me from my editor.

It took me five days, 352 pages of edits and clocking in at 98K. My hands were nearly too tired to type another word, but the final draft of Chasing Fire was finally finished. I did two final read throughs and tried to catch every last thing.

In between working on the edits I put the book on Amazon for pre-order and it was approved by Amazon, so my plan was to launch the links for order on Monday April 2nd (which I did).

For fun on April 1st I checked the pre-sale stats and expected too see nothing. After all, I’m a newbie author with zero reader base and I haven’t even promoted the links yet.

Then I saw that I had orders.

Holy freaking crapola.

I blinked several times and stared at the screen. This can’t be real.

My hands started to tremble and tears began streaming down my face. This was becoming REAL. This was happening. Five long years of labor on this book baby and it’s going to be in the hands of readers.

Today that dream became a reality.

Over the next several weeks orders continued to trickle in. All this time I was formatting the ebook using Scrivener (then converting it to a .mobi file by using Calibre – I’ll go over this whole process in a separate post). I was also working in InDesign for my print copy and blasting promos on social media.

My Amazon ranking steadily climbed. I sent out ARC’s and had an overwhelming response for my first novel. Then this week was basically promo…wait…promo…wait.

Tuesday my print proof came in the mail. I can NOT tell you what it feels like to hold that baby in your hands. It’s like holding your newborn (but not QUITE as emotional). I did cry though. Big happy tears.

All this time lingering self doubt clouded my brain. Then, something miraculous happened. The ARC’s started coming in. People LOVE Scott and Tori.

Here are a few of the words that have made me cry this week from advanced readers:

It was phenomenal. Tori and Scott are wonderful characters. These books must be a part of my library.

I absolutely loved Chasing Fire by Avery Kingston! I was captivated from the very first chapter, I liked Tori immediately she seemed like she was so much fun, and Scott wow totally Alpha loved him! The feels in this book, I was all over the place!!

Chasing Fire was fantastic. I can’t believe this is a debut novel. Amazing writing, superb characters, a vivid and honest portrayal of military life, and plenty of yummy steam make this a total must read.

My biggest hope as an author is that readers will find my characters authentic. I wanted them to fall in love with Scott and Tori as much as I did. Scott and Tori are SO VERY REAL to me, and I needed them to be real to others as well.

I can’t wait to continue their story. I can’t wait for readers to find out what is in store for them. Lots of angst, drama, pain and joy is coming in the future.

Hold on tight readers. You’re in for one wild ride.
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