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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Meet Tori

Last week I was having a conversation with my husband as to when it would be best to share Tori with the world.

Me: (to my husband) So check it. I made this great graphic of Tori. I just don’t know when the best time to share it is.

Him: Next Wednesday. It’s a holiday after all.

Me: (stares at him blankly)

Him: Yeah, it’s steak and blowjob day. Ya know. Valentines day is for chicks. That day where guys go out of their way to give cards, and chocolate and all kinds of shit to girls. Steak and blowjob day is the male equivalent. We get a steak and blowjob.

I threw my head back and cackled like a madwoman (just like Tori would do).

(Yes, my husband put it on our Google calendar. Just in case you were wondering.)

Ok. I’ll play.

You see Tori is a feisty and fiery heroine. She’s not intimidated by a man who needs to be a man. She gives her man what he wants, and if he wants a steak and blowjob by all means he’s gonna get it.

Why? Because Tori is the kind of girl that knows Steak and Blowjob day is satirical. She knows that Steak & BJ day is NOT really meant that men feel that they are being asked to much.  Tori (like me) also knows that her man is going to satisfy her desires as well.

Steak and Blowjob day. It’s funny ladies. Get. OVER. It. There are so many more things in this world to let ruffle your feathers.

So. All that said let me tell you all about Victoria Johnson aka Tori (and don’t EVER call her Vic, unless you are her bestie Keith).

Tori let out a breath and kept scanning the crowd. Her eyes stopped on a muscular, sandy haired hottie with hair almost to his waist. “Him. The waiter.” She pointed toward the table a few rows over.

“You mean Tarzan?” Keith sighed. “It’s like you don’t know me at all, Vicky.”

Keith was the only one she’d ever let get away calling her Vicky. She always went by Victoria at work and he shortened it to Vicky the night they met and it stuck. Victoria or Tori she allowed, but never Vicky-except for Keith.

“What’s wrong with him?” she protested. “He’s hot if you ask me.” If they weren’t in a gay bar Tori may have done some flirting with him herself. It was going to be a dry night for her tonight she realized as she peered over the sea of attractive young men.

Yes. Tori is wild uninhibited in her sexuality. Some would call her promiscuous, I prefer to call her sexually liberated. It’s time to get over the slut-shaming. Girls CAN and DO enjoy sex. Even KINKY sex.

Scott trailed his fingertips down the curve of her spine all the way to her ass, pulling her cheeks apart exposing her back opening. A grin stretched his lips. Would she let him get away with his filthy fantasy?

What the hell, it was worth a try.

He took two fingers and glided them into her pussy, getting them nice and wet for where he was headed. Her back arched as she screamed his name into the sheets that were now balled up underneath her. He pulled his fingers out, gliding upward, tracing the outline of her opening with his fingers that were wet with her juice. She tensed at first but didn’t protest; in fact, she lifted her bottom higher-inviting him to do as he pleased.

“Do it!” she said impatiently.

(He always waits for her to always give consent).

Scott knows there is more beneath her surface. He knows Tori is much more than a sexy vixen. She’s an artist; through and through. She’s got a wild heart and a gypsy soul. She loves beauty and knows it comes in all forms. When my hero (Scott) loses his leg in Afghanistan they have the following exchange:

She pulled back and rubbed her fingers gently over the stitched cuts on his face.

“Those are gonna leave a mark.” He chuckled wryly.

“Scars are sexy.” Her mouth wrinkled into a slight smile. Lord if her blue eyes weren’t the warmest thing he’d ever seen.

“Not all of them are.” He glanced at his stump under the sheet and rolled his eyes.

“Says who?” She furrowed her brow. “Society? Fuck em. Own that shit.” She nodded to the sheet. “You, Scott Harris, can make anything sexy.” She kissed him again.

The loss of his leg never defined him, it was just part of him. She sees Scott for exactly who was and always will be. Masculine. Strong. Sexy as hell. Beauty is about MUCH more than what lies on the surface. (Although the fact that he’s ruggedly handsome doesn’t hurt).

After Scott’s injury Tori stays by his side and heals his heart. She brings him back to the man he was, refusing to let him wallow in self-pity.

Tori will do anything for those she cares for but her walls are high and her guard is always up. She trusts no one but herself. Slowly Scott chips away a her walls brick by brick.

She is the one he wants to spend the rest of his days with. Problem is fate always has a way of wrecking his best laid plans.

I’ve made it no secret that Tori faces a tragedy of her own. There is no big reveal because we find out in the prologue that Tori is blind. An accident rips her life apart, leaving her without sight and struggling to recover the sexy woman she once was.

(Yes, the blind artist trope. So cliche. I know. Don’t lie. You know you love it. At least I poke fun at my own cliches.)

“I’ve devoted my whole life to art, a visual career. Not just that it’s in my soul. I’m the tragic blind artist.” Her words dripped with sarcasm. “This is so fucking cliché it’s like I’m a god-dammed after school special or something.” She laughed nervously.

Tori is notorious for covering up her pain with humor. She doesn’t want people to see what’s inside.

She wilted in his embrace as the fight of holding back her pain drained from her.

She hides behind her strength. It’s her mask to the world that protects her. (Scott of course knows this.)

She also hides behind her snarky sense of humor.

“Hey, you know me, I never half ass anything, even going blind apparently,” she feigned pride. “Well I better get going. I have a very full day of sitting in the dark and listening to Metallica’s Fade to Black.” She laughed a little too loud her crass joke.

She never takes herself or her disability too serious. She doesn’t want it to define who she is. She wants to be the same sexy, mischievous girl she always was. (To all her O&M teachers dismay she refuses to stop wearing heels.)

Blind girls can still rock heels, drunk blind girls, well, that's questionable

I tried very hard to not make her a “Mary Sue” character. (You know, the character that is just everyone’s dream.) I wanted her to be flawed and realistic, but not SO flawed that people hate her. I wanted her to be strong, but not a bitch. (Let’s face it writers, we all know how readers will rake you over the coals for an unlikeable heroine). I wanted her to be most of all REAL. Someone that every girl could possibly relate to. I wanted her to be quirky, strong, funny, (and in book two we realize she’s actually quite insecure).

I wanted her to be a girl that other girls would be comfortable hanging out with, but not a girly-girl. I wanted her to be a girl that can hang with the guys.

“That girl of yours is something else, Harris,” Chief said. “Smart as hell. Hot as fuck too.”

“Yeah, it’s rare to find someone who can hold her own in a cocktail dress at a DC fundraiser, and dance topless on a picnic table in Texas while downing Jack.” Scott smiled proudly.

Tori doesn’t play into gender roles and stereotypes. Tori doesn’t fault other women who are girly. She also isn’t intimidated by a man being a man. He can let the full weight of his masculinity into the room and she’s perfectly ok with that.

She could adapt to whatever social group she was around it seemed. Chad had seen her hang now with what some would consider the lowest in society, himself included, but also knew she worked in that fancy circular building he could see in the distance. The girl was a chameleon.

This is what Scott loves about her. She’s unlike anyone he’s ever met. Some days she’s a breeze and other days she’s a hurricane. I won’t spoil for you HOW they get to their HEA. (Yes we all know the HEA is coming. This IS a romance after all. But in romance it’s about the journey, not the destination).

It’s a saga full of loss and growth for them both (with lots of steam along the ride). I LOVE Tori’s character arc. As an artist who loses her vision she has to learn to find the beauty in life in other ways. She begins to realize that years of meaningless sex is no longer gratifying. Hiding behind the walls of her sexuality becomes quite lonely. She longs for more.

I'm not scared of the dark anymore

But this is what makes their story even more special. Scott and Tori understand each other in a way that nobody else could. They truly are best friends with benefits. Fate may have ripped them apart several times over the years, but it also has a way of working out things exactly as they are meant to be.

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Comparison is the Thief of Joy

After I’d written five books I quickly realized that calling them “Book One,” “Book Two,” and so on was NOT going to cut it. Since I knew I had a series on my hands I wanted something that would tie them all together. Something that would stick in peoples minds and something that would also capture the essence of the books.

At first I was considering titling my series “Wicked Games.” Music inspires me and Chris Issac’s song “Wicked Game” is a recurring theme. Also my MC Tori loves her games of seduction.

 “I’m putting my panties in your back pocket.” Her hand slid into the back pocket of his jeans. “You have until two am to get them back to me. If you do you will be paid back. Handsomely,” she added in a throaty whisper. “I’m in one of the freshman dorms on Georgetown campus. Good luck.” She patted him on the back and walked out the door with her friends.

Of course there are one MILLION books with the title Wicked Game. Some people said not to worry about this but with SO many out there I just felt that I’d get lost in the shuffle.

So about a year ago I started toying with the idea of Fire. My heroine is fiery and flirtatious. My hero knows that playing with her is like playing with fire. Fire is a recurring theme in her life (I can’t get too much into this without getting into spoilers).

Tori sure as hell wasn’t one for conventional sex. The possibility of getting caught only fueled the fire in her. Their booty calls had consisted of having sex in a public park, in a dressing room at Nordstrom, and in a utility closet on her campus.

My other MC: my hero Scott, is military. He’s dark and brooding. He is fury.

“Stop,” he ordered. He didn’t want her apology, he just wanted her heart and for her to be safe. That’s all he’d ever wanted, and he was so angry at her putting herself in constant peril. He hated that about her, and it enraged him that she’d probably never stop. He sucked in a deep breath. Even frustrated with her his cock tingled at her sweet, intoxicating scent. He grabbed her cheeks, pressing his lips to hers and kissing her with all the fury that was in him.

Fire and Fury. That’s it I told myself. That’s how they love each other. With fire and fury. That’s who they are at their essence.

So I knew I had my series name and my theme. Now it was just all about naming the individual books in the series. Once I had the theme the rest came pretty easy.

So I started making my covers. I found stock photography I loved and came up with an amazing cover concept.

Then a HUGE political best seller comes out called Fire and Fury that is ALL THE RAGE.

No no please god no GIF

Yes my hero is military but I try very much to stay away from any kind of politics in my writing. I do the same for my characters.

At their core they both have level heads and walk a line right down the middle and look at issues-just like my husband and I do. They don’t “support” any political party or candidate.

So this left me screaming. I don’t want people to think I’m pushing any kind of politics or agenda EITHER direction.

Also I didn’t want anyone to think I was trying to piggy back on the success of someone else’s work. I’d had this name for months. I had my cover. This title was MINE. How dare this happen to me! (TEARS)

So I went to my Romance Diva’s forum where there are so many supporting ladies and asked their advice. Everyone came back with two comments.

  1. It’s a beautiful cover
  2. Don’t worry about the series title

Basically everyone told me by the time I release the the dust would settle from this other work, and also since mine is contemporary romance it’s not even in the same ballpark as this other work. They said to stop fretting and just move on.

So I did.

Then I read a couple romance novels with similar themes to mine and similar plot lines.  The comparison trap starts to creep up again. Worry starts to enter my mind.

Comparison is the thief of joy. 

Let’s face it, after thousands of years on this planet, everything HAS been done. (Just take a look at Hollywood remaking all these old movies that have been done before.)

Someone will come up with a story concept that is similar to yours. If you read and write romance you can always pick out plot points and tropes that cross over from one book to another.

Someone will probably come out with a title that is similar to yours (or God forbid the SAME).

Someone WILL write a better book than you.

You can’t let any of this get in the way of your process. Your work is YOUR work. It’s going to be different. You are going to put your own spin on it. Your characters are going to come to life in a completely different way than another authors characters will.

Use YOUR voice. It’s your biggest tool to separate you from the herd.

Better than yesterday.

I coin this phrase constantly. I get up, I put in the work, and I’m better than I was the day before. I look back on my design work from ten years ago (and I cringe). I can either look back and sulk in comparison at how BAD I was or I can say “Wow. Look how good I’ve become.”

I choose to not let comparison get me down. I strive to be better each and every day.

So go out there. Create. Put your words on paper or the ink on the canvas. Pour your soul into your work of art. Stop worrying about what others are doing and compare only to yourself.

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Image of man in bed with overlay of soldier.

Meet Scott


or the past few months I’ve had the joy of taking part in a daily hashtag game on Instagram. Today’s post is “favorite character.” I’ve done one of these on Blaze (my favorite SC) but today’s topic was your favorite MC.

I debated back and forth wether it was Scott or Tori. I love how feisty she is and I love her rough edges. Tori immediately jumped off the page. I KNEW her (probably because I made her personality a lot like how I wish I was. Bold. Brave. Daring. Takes shit from no one).

I know in my heart though that Scott is THE BEST part of this saga. (Funny, because he was really flat for quite some time.) It took a lot of effort for me to mold him into the hero that I wanted him to be.  I had to really dig deep and figure out what his goals were, and what was stopping him from getting there (other than Tori’s antics).

As a female writer it’s really hard to “write like a dude.” Many times I’ll read a romance novel and the man sounds so feminine. I’m not talking about beta males here, those types of guys are fine. Not all heroes need to be alphas. What I mean is that the male main character will say/think things that girls WANT to hear, not actually what a man would be thinking.

I’m fortunate enough that I have my husband to put me in check when Scott says or does something that would not be typical of a man to say or do. In fact, a LOT of how Scott acts and things that he says I steal, ahem, I mean, borrow from my husband. My husband has and always will be, my muse.

I was having a conversation with another writer friend of mine and she mentioned in a book (which I love) where a male character says “Oh my god, you are magnificent.”  She said “I don’t see any scenario where anyone would actually say this.”

Yeah, I could agree with her on that.

So, now that I’ve rambled on long enough let me tell you a little about Scott Harris.

Scott Harris was born in Texas and grew up a military brat. His father was in the Navy and they moved around a lot. They settled in Texas his freshman year of high school, so he considers Buda (a small town outside Austin) his hometown. From a young age he knew he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps. Watching his older brother and older sister rebel, he stayed on the straight and narrow, stuffing down most of his wild streak. For the most part, he was a good kid.

This disciplined nature followed him to Annapolis, MD where he went to the Naval Academy. His goal was to make SEAL, and odds were that most men wouldn’t make the cut. He had no intention of being on the wrong side of the axe when it came down. When the guys would go out to party, eight out of ten times he’d stay behind and study. One night though, he decides to go out with the boys to blow off some steam.

They head to a dive bar in Georgetown on a night that they have a rare weekend pass as upperclassmen. There they can hit on drunk college chicks and get wasted for next to nothing.

This night changes his life. This is the night he meets Tori. This is where the story begins.

Tori challenges his disciplined nature. She’s everything he isn’t. Wild. Free. Uninhibited sexually. She brings out the beast in him. She pushes him far beyond his comfort zones. She brings FUN into his life. She changes him. Mostly for the better. (The jury is out on that one.)

Scott is a perfectionist to the core. He will NOT pursue something unless he knows that he will succeed. Failure is his worst enemy. It crushes him.

Keith sipped his drink. “You keep waiting for the perfect moment and you are going to miss your shot, I mean hell, she almost just died.”

Scott’s jaw clenched as Keith’s words cut him to the core. They could have had that by now and he could have saved her from this. That thought settled like a brick in his stomach. He’d waited years for the stars to align, waiting for the perfect moment and where did that get them?

For years he fights his feelings for Tori, lying to himself that they are better as friends with benefits. He tells himself that Tori isn’t the type of girl you settle down with. He tells himself this because deep down he’s afraid of not winning her heart. His pride holds him back.

Part of him wanted to run in there and rescue her from this creep. The other part of him wanted to scream at her for devaluing herself so much. Truth was, right now she wasn’t his to rescue or be angry with. Not yet anyway. She was a starving artist who trusted nobody but herself to take care of her, and he was an unemployed, disabled veteran, who had nothing to offer her but his heart.

When Scott comes home wounded from combat, Tori stays by his side. He’s lost his career and his leg. Everything he worked for his entire life is slipping through his fingers. Tori pulls him out of his pit. Shows him how sexy he always has been, and always will be. Tori is his redemption, but he still can’t penetrate her walls. (Tori’s arc is another blog post so I’ll end that here).

Underneath his smoldering gaze and tough exterior, Scott is really a softie. He cares for other people. He hurts when others hurt. He may be six foot three and a scary looking beast, but he’s a kid at heart.

Speaking of kids. He’s REALLY great with kids:

“But he has a robot leg, is he a robot?” The small voice chimed next to them.

“Shhhh,” the mother said quietly to her son.

“My leg isn’t a robot, but it is carbon which is stronger than a human bone,” Scott informed the kid.

“Can I touch it?” the kid asked.

“Sure, go for it.”

“Wow! It’s hard!” The little boy exclaimed. “Can you run on it?”

“I can’t run too well on this one, but I have a special leg I use for running, that’s a super cool blade. I just swap it out whenever I need to.”

“Cool! What happened to it mister?”

“Some bad guys tried to blow me up.”

“Woah…” the kid mulled that over for a minute.

“It’s ok, we got em back.”

I had a perfect image of Scott in my brain when I wrote this, what he looked like. I’ve yet to find an actor or model who is precisely him. I kinda imagine him size wise a bit like Joe Manganiello (Six three, about 220lbs). Joe has this amazingly serious looking smoulder but I’ve seen him play some comedic roles as well. Honestly, he could be a good fit, but it’s not EXACTLY how I imagine Scott.

In his face I imagine him somewhat like Nick Bateman. Although a little bit more rugged . Nick is pretty. Almost TOO pretty.

About two years into writing this I stumbled across romance writer and cover model B.T. Urruela, who is a combat vet, lower leg amputee just like my MC. God, if I had unlimited funds I’d hire BT in a second to do my cover just because I want to give back to vets. he would make a great Scott. I’m a huge advocate for PWD (people with disabilities) playing in TV roles and doing modeling gigs. We NEED more of this. Michael Stokes is an AMAZING photographer who showcases wounded vets in his photography (photo credit: Michael Stokes). I LOVE what he’s doing for veterans.

michael stokes photo of BT Urruela

None of these guys are EXACTLY as I imagine my hero, but it helps to build a picture of the man I was trying to create.

I hope that readers fall for Scott as much as I have. Somedays I think my husband is a bit jealous of how much time I spend with Scott. Other days I know that he’s flattered when he reads a line I wrote that came out of his mouth.

That’s why my first book will be dedicated to my husband. My muse. The one who started it all.

Thank you baby for sticking by me and being my biggest cheerleader. I can’t wait for everyone to meet the man you helped me create.

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kill your darlings

Revising My Manuscript


ver the past several months I’ve been immersing myself in writers groups and had the joy of working with some great CP’s (critique partners).

I can’t believe how many other romance writers have stepped forward out of the goodness of their heart to help take this poor, novice writer under their wing.

One CP recently told me based on my synopsis that my story was “too big”. Too many moving elements. Too much going on. She gave me some hard (but much needed) advice. My husband who has held my hand and dried my tears along this journey agreed with her.

But I’ve had this story like it is for so long! I whine. I don’t want to change it. Beta’s said it was great and they loved it! Why should I change it now? Nope. Not listening.

Not listening. Plugging ears.

So I did what any sensible person would do. I dug my egotistical heels in and plugged my ears. Then, after the dust settled and I picked myself up off the floor. I really started to look at things objectively.

I sat down with my husband (the most patient man on the planet). We printed out my synopsis and highlighted each subplot in my novel.

So. Many. Colors.

Vibrating colors gif

It was like an acid trip on paper.

Ok. So maybe, just maybe my story IS too big.

So after a week of sulking (and total avoidance), I dug in–knowing what I needed to do.

This included taking out a sub plot that didn’t advance the storyline. It was really convoluted with a lackluster ending. This also included (gulp) removing pages and pages of a SC that I LOVE LOVE LOVE. That was hard for me. Killing my darling Blaze.

Don’t worry readers, you will still get plenty of Blaze in book two. I promise, he’s worth the wait. 

This deleted so much I was able to go in and add in some deleted scenes and backstory that I absolutely loved. This in fact made the romance between Scott and Tori that much stronger.

Also, I had the dreaded cliffhanger. I LOVED this cliffhanger. It was so cheeky and creative. I had been holding onto it with a death grip. I had to step back and ask myself: Am I really delivering my readers a satisfying ending? Was this cliffhanger going to look like a only marketing ploy to sell more books? I didn’t want readers to think that I was tricking them into a sequel. I honestly just had so much more story to tell and it had to end SOMEWHERE.

So, I rewrote my ending. You know what? I LOVED it. As hard as it was to let go of that ending that I’ve had for five years, it felt RIGHT. As hard as it was to delete all those scenes with my SC, it too felt right.

I then sent my new version to a new beta. She had lots of great feedback. She said and I quote. “I don’t know what the political intrigue was, but I’m definitely not missing it.”

She also had some amazing ideas and feedback. Mainly about my comma issues. (Hello my name is Avery, and I abuse commas.)

comma abuse comic

Yeah. It’s time to hire a professional editor. Let me just rub my magic lamp and ask the genie to give me the cash for that.

Aladdin rubbing magic lamp

So, dear writers, listen to your CP’s. Be willing to have an open heart and an open mind. Allow your feelings to get hurt. Allow yourself to cry over it, but only for a moment. Then do what needs done. Dust yourself up off the floor and get at it. Kill your darling. Even when it (like the quote says) “breaks your egocentric little heart.” Slice it. Dice it. Chop it up and put it back together again.

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VW lime green van

Favorite Character


or the past few months I’ve had the joy of taking part in a daily hashtag game on Instagram. Today’s post is “favorite character.”

I could seriously go on and on about my characters, as I’m sure most authors could. Their voices are so real to me. Funny thing is, the one character that is my favorite I didn’t create.

Ok, that’s not entirely true. Let me backtrack.

For anyone that hasn’t read my blog yet, a little history. My husband and I started writing snippets of sexy stuff back and forth to each other while he was on military orders. This is what spawned my entire novel. (A decision that I’m certain he regrets now.)

I immediately regret this decision - Anchorman snippet

Anyhow, one day I asked him for help on a scene and he sent me a scene where my hero and heroine are waiting at Miami International to be picked up by a SEAL buddy of the hero. The only thing that I kept from the original scene he sent was the following:

“You brought me a hottie! You shouldn’t have.” He swept Tori off her feet, which caused her to squeal in unexpected amusement. 

“Watch out for her, she’s trouble!” Scott hollered.

Although caught off guard, Tori couldn’t help but giggle at his silliness. “I wouldn’t harm a fly,” she purred.

What was most interesting to me is that this beach bum was so completely different from my straight laced hero, in fact, you would probably never even guess the man was former military.

I started writing more about this character, and honestly he jumped off the page and took on a complete life of his own. I would have never guessed that this SC, Blaze, would become so near and dear to my heart.

Disclaimer: Blaze was a silly placeholder that I put in my first book until I could figure out what this guys name was. Well, the damn name just stuck. I realize, it’s absolutely ridiculous. I even state HOW ridiculous it is in the story:

Blaze was obviously a nickname, and Tori could only speculate how he acquired such a ridiculous name. 

So, now that I’ve bored you with all the mundane backstory (like I’ve said before brevity is not my strong suit), I will tell you a little about Blaze.

Blaze (a.k.a. Ian Hodges) is a former Navy SEAL and military buddy of Scott Harris. They served shoulder to shoulder in Afghanistan together. The men have been through hell and back together and are brothers. They trust each other with their lives.

Blaze is quite different than my hero. He’s a bit of a mess. He’s a weed smoking, VW driving, houseboat living beach bum who pisses off every woman he sleeps with. He’s honestly a damn son of a bitch.

houseboat, man smoking joint and green VW van

“Good to see you too…” he gave me a devilish sideways smirk, “Blaze.”

I let out a hearty laugh. “So is that what they are calling me now?”

“That among other things.” Harris snickered. “Chief still calls you that damn son of a bitch.”

Without divulging too many spoilers Blaze has been through some serious trauma. He’s rough around the edges. A LOT like my MC/heroine Tori. Thus, they become immediate friends. They can relate to each other in a way that even my hero can’t relate to his girl. Blaze becomes the brother that Tori never had.

Once you look past all his filthy, disgusting comments, (believe me, there are several) and get a peek into his heart, you will realize that Blaze, like Tori, deep down is a softie who is just been hurt and jaded by his past wounds.

Blaze is also amazing comedic relief. My inspiration for him was a mix of Sterling Archer, Barney Stinson, and Matthew McConaughey.

Alright, Alright, Alright

Blaze says things like…

“Harris is such a heartbreaker. I’m better looking than him, I promise. You into beach bums? Wanna get some sand up in your crawl?”


What was her name?” 

Blaze scratched his temple. “Honestly I don’t even know. I called her Dolly because she had bleach blonde hair and tits like-”

Oh and there is also…

“I just enjoy knowing where this thing has been.” He pulled the garter to his nose and took a big whiff.

Pairing Blaze up with Tori in scenes became wildly entertaining to write. I never intended for him to become such a larger than life SC. He became so big in fact, that he would even spawn a spinoff of his own that is a current WIP.

So yes, (future reader base that I hope to obtain). You will get a Blaze novel. Why because everyone, (even a damn son of a bitch like Blaze), deserves a happily ever after.

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averys writing research

Novel Research


hen I first set out to write a novel I don’t think I was aware of the amount of research that would go into planning and making sure I get things right. I have so many moving pieces to my story, military, disabled characters, a setting that I’d never been to, careers I had no clue about, etc…the list goes on and on.

I know that we can’t watch a show with any military reference without my husband cursing at the television, ahem, correcting, how wrong they always get it. Either the formation is wrong, the uniform is completely off, etc… He will pick it apart to no end.

you fucked it up soldier in uniform

Thankfully I have him there to tell me just how much I fucked up, ahem, guide me when I miss the mark.

Oh boy, do I botch it at times. 

So, when I first began writing about disabled characters, I knew I was going to need to do my homework. It’s a scary thing writing about a marginalized community. You are putting yourself out there for huge backlash if you get it wrong. I never wanted to diminish the struggles, but I also didn’t want to portray them as weak. I wanted to handle it with the utmost sensitivity, realism and paint my heroes and heroines in a positive affirming light.

I’m a researcher to a fault. I’ll spend hours pouring over medical case reports, researching different types of conditions to make sure that I hit things spot on scientifically. I researched O&M training, physical therapy websites, prosthesis websites, blogs, YouTube, books, articles, the Reddit community. Oh and guide dogs. That was a favorite, I mean, who doesn’t LOVE dogs?

If I’m unsure of a detail, even a minute one, I’ll research it. I go too far at times. Like seriously, does my reader actually care that I researched the time of the liquor store closing on Sunday in my heroines neighborhood?

OMG I need help

As far as researching my setting, the majority of my first novel takes place in DC. I’d never been there when I first started writing, so I spent a lot of time online and embedded in Google maps, searching local bars and coming up with locations for scenes in my novel. This was a TON of fun. What was even more fun was when I actually got to take a trip to DC and experience it first hand. You can read all about that here.

Some of the research was grueling. Some of the research was a lot of fun. I learned a lot. The medical stuff didn’t bother me. I grew up in the days of Trapper John MD and love me some Grey’s Anatomy so that kind of research was right up my alley.

novel research

For one of my novels I had to research overseas adoption. For another I needed to research some legal stuff. This is about where I almost pulled my hair out. The only thing that comes even close to being as mind numbingly awful as criminal law is politics. (Yes, I see the irony that my novel(s) takes place in DC, but politics really don’t play a huge role). My husband will talk politics and I sit there and nod as my eyes glaze over.

Boo sleepy gif

Anyhow, I learned so much I knew I would just wow my husband with how detailed I got hitting the mark on this stuff. Then he tells me to trim it down.

Woah. Wait. All that time I spent learning I’m just supposed to cut? You mean I go into TOO much detail?

No, there is too much. Let me sum it up.

The fact that my first novel was clocking in at 117K words tells me yes, I may have the problem of going into too much detail.

So, I learned above all that you can research a subject to death. There is a fine line to walk between giving the right information and giving TOO MUCH information.

Happy researching!
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