8 Reasons Not to Date the Band

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via Unsplash

Last night @SeriousGirlGang threw one of their usual hashtag parties. They’re always a blast, and often trend, but #ReasonsNotToDateMe was especially fun.聽There are a lot of reasons not to date聽me, but since Mike took care of that problem three years ago, I thought it’d be fun to tweet from the point of view of the South of Forever gang.

It was way too easy to riff on these guys.

If you want to see all of my #ReasonsNotToDateMe tweets, click the tweet below to see the thread.

Since they were so fun, I figured I’d do a few more.

Reasons Not to Date Jett

  • I’ll spend all of my money on boots… then all of your money on more boots.
  • If you like hot showers, don’t hold your breath. I take long, hot baths.

Reasons Not to Date Koty

  • Because of my stint with the boy band ESX, I never have to work again, and I’ll always try to rescue you with my cash.
  • I have zero taste in home decor, unless you count stainless steel and leather.

Reasons Not to Date Savannah

  • I’ll put your kid in daycare behind your back so that I can focus on my painting career.
  • Most of the聽closet we’ll share will be occupied by half-finished paintings.

Reasons Not to Date Max

  • My ex is crazy. Like, legit crazy. She’ll sneak attack you without you ever even seeing her.
  • I have a B.S. in education, but I impulsively moved to Boston and joined a band instead of finding a teaching position.

Reasons Not to Date Poppy

  • I will always look more put together than you. I have outfits for days.
  • The first time I ever drove on my own鈥攍icensed, of course鈥攚as in a snow storm. Wearing聽wedges.

Reasons Not to Date Griff

  • Since I’m pushing thirty, I have a bad case of family fever.
  • If things with the band don’t work out, I’ll go back to playing minor league hockey. Or just retire early with my trust fund.

Reasons Not to Date Krista

  • I’m not looking for a relationship. To quote Group X: I just want bang-bang-bang.
  • Hos over bros. Sisters before misters. Period.

Reasons Not to Date Perry

  • I enjoy long walks to the liquor store and relaxing聽one-night stands.
  • My hair will always be cooler than yours. Fuck yeah, dreads!

For more of the South of Forever gang, pick up your free copy of聽Diving Into Him.

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End of Year Paperbacks Clearance Sale!

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via Unsplash

And just like that, it’s officially autumn. There are so many things I love about this time of year: hayrides and apple聽picking, pumpkin spice lattes at Starbucks, cozy sweaters over soft leggings… I could go on. It does sting to say goodbye to summer鈥擨 am an August baby, after all鈥攂ut I’ve always seen fall as a new beginning. Maybe it’s because I could never wait ’til the first day of school so that I could start using all my new notebooks and pens.

I’m an office supply junkie. What can I say?

For whatever reason, the change of season triggers a mindset in me to grind down and get busy, in preparation for the new year (and the coming winter). Since I’ll be re-releasing all of my paperbacks in 2017, it’s time to clear out my current inventory. This, of course, totally calls for a clearance sale!

Shipping within the U.S. is free; if you live outside the U.S., please email me to discuss shipping options. You can email me at聽elizabethbaronebooks@gmail.com.

Diving Into Him (South of Forever, Book 1)
1st Edition, Maietta Ink, 2015
Regular: $14.99, Clearance: $7.99

Only 1 copy left


The Nanny with the Skull Tattoos
1st Edition, Maietta Ink, 2015
Regular: $14.99, Clearance: $7.99

Only 5 copies left


The Nanny with the Skull Tattoos
2nd Edition, Booktrope, 2016
Regular: $11.95, Clearance: $9.99

Only 6 copies left


Sade on the Wall
2nd Edition, Booktrope, 2015
Regular: $11.95, Clearance: $9.99

Only 3 copies left


Please email me at elizabethbaronebooks@gmail.com if you live outside the U.S. and wish to purchase a signed copy!

Story Time: How I Realized I’m Bisexual

Bisexual Visibility Week 2016

Something not many people know about me is that I’m queer鈥攖otally bi, dude. It’s been a long journey of self-discovery and I’m still learning a lot, but I’ve reached a point in my life where I’m completely comfortable with who I am, and I don’t care who knows. It’s not about them, after all.

Being bi doesn’t mean that you’re into swinging or threesomes (though some people are and that’s totally cool). I’m happily monogamous in my marriage to a bearded dude who will kick your ass if you make ignorant comments toward me. Kidding. Maybe.

Bisexual means that you’re physically attracted to both male and female genders.聽It doesn’t mean that you’re confused or promiscuous. It just means that you’re wired to appreciate women and men. Bisexuality is not a choice,聽phase, or excuse.

It’s an important part of who I am, but it also doesn’t define me as a person.

Growing up watching soap operas and not knowing any other queer people, it was my understanding that women married men. Still, I had crushes on both Devon Sawa and Aaliyah. I would sit on my school bus admiring other girls’ asses and had no clue that something was different about me.

Until high school.

Every morning we stood in the old Municipal Stadium parking lot, smoking cigarettes (and maybe other things, heh). Two of my friends from our morning crew, Lisa* and Lacie*, announced that they were together and that they were bi.

This piqued my attention. I knew I wasn’t gay because I still liked guys, but I was also very much attracted to other women. Finally there was a word to describe how I felt. I had to know everything about this completely new-to-me聽sexuality. Between my friends and the internet, I realized I was bi, too.

And it wasn’t just me.

Lisa and Lacie’s brave coming out sparked an entire LGBT+ movement throughout our high school. Suddenly dozens of students were also proudly declaring their sexuality and gender IDs. “I’m gay,” a usually quiet and shy boy I knew proclaimed. “I’m trans!” my friend Helena*聽announced. The school gave us a weekly support group and, for the first time, I met lots of people like me.

People who didn’t fit the mold, who were different and vibrant. We were artists and writers, daydreamers and metalheads. Ordinarily we might have never spoken while passing in the halls, but in “gay group,” as we dubbed it, we found kindred spirits in each other.

Gay group ended up collapsing after our facilitator Karen* suddenly stopped coming. Looking back, she was an adult that we all looked to for guidance, but she was only human, and dealing with her own issues. A lot of us were hurt and angry. We tried to carry on without her, but things just fell apart from there.

One thing that didn’t change, though, was the wave聽of tolerance and acceptance that flowed through our school. Kids in new freshman聽classes openly came out long after gay group ended and Lisa and Lacie graduated. I like to think that the legacy we built continues.

Though I’ve dated many women and men, I met my match in a tall, blue-eyed artist who keeps聽me on my toes. Actually, for the first year or so that we were dating, he drove me bonkers. It took me a while to snag him,聽but once I did, I knew I’d found the real deal.

Marrying a man doesn’t make me any less bisexual, though. I’m still queer as fuck, just like married people still feel attracted to other people but don’t act on their attractions. Nor does it mean that I have feelings for every woman I come across. I have a type, thank you very much. If you’re related to me or we’re friends, you don’t have to worry about me coming on to you. And never, under any circumstances, would I cheat on my husband.

These days, I use my sexuality to write #ownvoices novels for readers just entering adulthood. Krista鈥攖he main character in the fourth and final South of Forever book鈥攊s bisexual, and I’m exploring some tough themes with her in my WIP.

So that’s my Bisexual Visibility Week story. I’m here, I’m queer, and I’m still the same person I’ve always been. Just a little bit more colorful.

馃挆馃挏馃挋


*Names changed for privacy.

5 Kick-Ass NA Books I Read This Summer

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via Unsplash

Even though summer isn’t officially over, the PSL聽is back聽within my reach and the weather has turned a little cooler. Mornings and evenings are now for soft sweaters, and I’ve broken out my boots again. It’s back to reality, and I’ve been busy writing a new book. My iPad is loaded up with books to be read as soon as I type聽The End, but I’m still mooning over these brilliant New Adult books that I read over the summer.

Kick back, and prepare to load up your Kindle!

Lex Talionis, by S.A. HuchtonLex Talionis, by S.A. Huchton
Standalone. New Adult suspense / romance.

Let the punishment fit the crime.

When Lexi receives a message from her dead best friend after Randi is senselessly murdered, she decides to take revenge into her own hands. A dangerous and calculated cat and mouse game begins, with Lexi holding the strings. I cheered Lexi on, even when her moves were morally questionable. The romance is a small element of the story; it mostly focuses on the friendship between Lexi and Randi. This was a stellar read that I couldn’t put down. A standing ovation for S.A. Huchton.

1-Click buy on Amazon

The Year We Fell Down (The Ivy Years, Book 1), by Sarina BowenThe Year We Fell Down, by Sarina Bowen
First in a series. New Adult romance.

The sport she loves is out of reach. The boy she loves has someone else. What now?

I read this book in one sitting, staying up late into the night because I couldn’t stop. It was the first time I’ve read this author but now I’m determined to read every word she’s ever written. Unlike your typical college sports romance, this book tells a love story between Corey鈥攅x-hockey player who was permanently sidelined after a life-changing injury鈥攁nd Adam, a hockey star out on temporary injury leave. The author perfectly captures both the frustration and beauty of disability, and the HEA romance that unfolds is a rollercoaster worth the ride.

1-Click buy on Amazon

Fuck Love, by Tarryn FisherFuck Love, by Tarryn Fisher
Standalone. New Adult dark romance.

This book, this book, this book. Another first for me, but I’m itching to read everything by this author now, too. I ripped through it, pausing only to sleep a little. It was like a good but strong drink that goes down like water. I got a little buzzed off Tarryn Fisher’s words; she truly is a fantastic writer. The story is about Helena, a Harry Potter obsessed door mat who begins pursuing her best friend’s boyfriend after she has a dream about what their life could look like. The whole thing is so insane, but I couldn’t help but root for Helena and Kit. This is another rollercoaster that will frustrate you but the ending is so very satisfying.

1-Click buy on Amazon

Rebel Soul (Rebel Series, Book 1), by J.C. HanniganRebel Soul, by J.C. Hannigan
First in series. New Adult romance.

Disclaimer: J.C. is my good friend who I’ve dubbed my “work wife” because even though our publisher closed, we still do a lot of strategizing (and laughing and commiserating) together. I love all of her books, but her latest release is just beautiful. It’s not as heavy as her other books are, though there are still plenty of social issues woven in. Tessa is enjoying her last summer before college when fate shoves her into the arms of bad boy Brock. This book encompasses that hazy, warm summer love feeling, complete with bonfire parties and tender nights full of burning, slow kisses. Though this book is HEA, there’s plenty of aching push and shove between these two. I can’t wait to聽read the rest of the series!

1-Click buy on Amazon

Kaleidoscope Hearts (Hearts, Book 1), by Claire ContrerasKaleidoscope Hearts, by Claire Contreras
First in series. New Adult romance.

This NA is a bit different from the usual, because the main character Estelle has recently graduated college. But that whole “adjusting to being on your own” element is still there, because Estelle’s fiancee died in a freak accident, leaving her alone in their house and the gallery they co-ran. Estelle has to pick up the pieces of her broke heart, and just when she thinks she’s recovered, a flame from the past walks back into town. There are a few chapters in Oliver’s point of view, but mostly the story is told through Estelle’s eyes. It’s a beautiful novel with some really brilliant lines.

1-Click buy on Amazon
(You can also purchase the entire three-book series聽here.)

What are you currently reading? Leave a comment and let me know!

The Harry Potter Elephant in the Room

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via Unsplash

I’m a firm believer that, if we want authentic diverse and #ownvoices books, we have to be willing to call out problematic聽behavior when we see it鈥攅ven if that means stepping on the toes of a giant.

I love the Harry Potter series so much, I started re-reading it this summer. J.K. Rowling brought real magic to the middle grade lit community. She wrote strong female characters聽and dealt with heavy subject matter like death and grief without holding back. Even the story behind the books she wrote is impressive and inspiring. I have nothing but admiration and respect for her.

But I still have to say that all of the recent post-publication revelations she’s made are extremely harmful to the diverse lit community and marginalized readers.

During all of the controversy surrounding which actress would play adult Hermione in the upcoming play, Rowling announced that as a matter of fact, Hermione was written as racially ambiguous because she is actually secretly black. Personally I think the whole uproar would have been better handled had Rowling said, “Pipe down kids, the color of聽Noma Dumezweni’s skin has no bearing on her ability to play this character.” It would have been direct and to the point rather than puzzling; several readers pored over the texts and found several instances were Hermione was described as white.

If Hermione’s blackness had been crafted into the story with intent and purpose, it could have been a major win for girls and women of color. Instead, this muddled announcement comes off as confusing at best.

Another grand divulgement was that Dumbledore is totally gay. Which, again, would be so cool鈥攈ad his sexuality ever been mentioned or even affected the plot. As a queer woman, this super piqued my interest. But there are only a few ambiguous references, such as when Nicholas Flammel is mentioned to have been Dumbledore’s partner. However, timeline-wise, Flammel has been married too long to ever have had a romantic relationship with Dumbledore (unless they’ve been having an affair, which would quickly get the entire cast of characters on the set of Jerry Springer).

Queer kids need heroes like themselves in fiction that they can look up to but, despite his kindness and bravery, Dumbledore just isn’t that kind of hero.

I could have completely overlooked all of this, though, because at the end of the day it might just聽all add up to semantics and perspective. But I was completely speechless聽when I heard that Rowling recently explained that Lupin’s condition is a metaphor for HIV/AIDS.

Dude.

I appreciate Lupin’s struggle. Every time there is a full moon, against his will, he turns into a werewolf and gets destructive. He has little control over his actions during this time, until the full moon wanes. However, Lupin’s condition affects him exactly once a month. It is not life-threatening like HIV and AIDS are. Nor are people living with these very real illnesses at all monsters.

This comparison is simply聽offensive and harmful, and I can’t stay silent.

Rowling’s status as a household name doesn’t make her immune to being checked. I wish more authors and readers would speak up when there is harmful behavior happening in the lit community. Keeping our mouths shut because we don’t want to upset an author聽or their fans will only continue to enable聽problematic books with marginalized characters.

If Rowling wants to write diverse books and characters, our little village would love to have her. There is an aching need for more books that readers can identify with鈥攅specially young readers who are searching for their place in the world. But I can’t stress enough how important it is to write diverse or #ownvoices books with intent and authenticity, creating characters who are loudly themselves, even if they’re still struggling within.

Again, I love J.K. Rowling and the Harry Potter series. And, even though I’m frustrated, I still enjoy聽the books and characters. But I have to use my voice and say that these post-publication declarations are more harmful than they are helpful鈥攋ust as harmful as authors who purposely exclude marginalized characters from their work.

 

10 Reviews: Diving Into Him Reading and Swag Pack Giveaway!!

I’ve been kidnapped by my work in progress, so I’m behind on… everything. 馃槼聽What can I say? When the muse takes you, you’ve got to just follow her.

Here is the live reading from聽Diving Into Him as a thank you for helping me reach 5 reviews!

To enter to win the swag pack, you must:

  • be a U.S. resident
  • comment on the video with a link to your聽Diving Into Him review

I will draw a winner next Wednesday, September 14th.

(Facebook is not responsible for or affiliated with this giveaway.)

If you haven’t read聽Diving Into Him yet, grab your FREE copy here!

To see the rest of the rewards, read this post.

What Happens On Tour: Chapter 5

What Happens On Tour (South of Forever, Book 3), by Elizabeth BaroneExhaustion tugged at Poppy. She glared at Jett. She wanted to say something equally snappy. Instead, she brushed past Jett into the condo.

“Well?” Jett spun on her heels. She put her hands on her hips.

“To think, I actually missed you guys,” Poppy muttered. Her eyes met Griff鈥檚. Heat spread across her cheeks. Her eyes flicked around the room. The whole band was there. She nodded to Max and Perry in greeting. They each gave her nods back.

Jett tapped her foot on the floor. “Hello?”

“What鈥檚 the problem, Jett?” Griff asked, his voice low. The sound of it caressed Poppy.

She closed her eyes for a moment, bathing in that sound. She could listen to him talk all day. She wondered whether she was bordering on infatuation. Opening her eyes, she met Jett鈥檚 gaze.

“That thing out there.” Jett jabbed a finger at the conversion van. Cold air rushed into the condo.

“That thing is our transportation for the tour,” Poppy said. She folded her arms across her chest.

Jett鈥檚 eyebrows flew toward her hairline. “Our what?” Her voice took on a dangerous edge. Poppy wondered whether the band had spent the whole day rehearsing. They were probably just as cranky as she felt.

Keeping her tone light, she gestured toward the van. “It was the cheapest thing I could find.”

“Jett,” Griff said, standing. He put a hand on Jett鈥檚 arm. “We don鈥檛 exactly have the time or money to be picky.”

Whirling on him, Jett stopped within inches from his chest. Next to Griff鈥檚 tall frame, the band leader looked even smaller. It was amusing, Poppy thought, how someone so small could be so feisty. She knew exactly why Koty had fallen in love with Jett. The other woman glared up at Griff. “Do you not care about our image?”

Jett鈥檚 voice was laced with a dangerous tone that only a woman could inflect. Poppy glanced from Jett to Griff, positive that things were about to get ugly.

Rising lazily from the couch, Perry stretched. He ambled across the room and peered through the door at the van. “Boss,” he said, stretching the word out. “Are we really going to tour in that thing? King Riley is going to have a tour bus.” He turned to Poppy. “Why don鈥檛 we have a tour bus?”

Before she could respond, Griff slammed the door shut. “What are you all, a bunch of princesses?”

Max held up a finger. “For the record, I鈥檓 good with whatever is out there. Cheaper is better sometimes, anyway. Plus, now we鈥檒l be able to afford hotels.”

Griff shook his head. “No hotels.”

“We can take turns sleeping on the bench seats,” Poppy told them all. They stared at her. “Or not.” She put her hands behind her back.

“Hotels aren鈥檛 in our budget, guys. Things are really tight. We don鈥檛 have a label backing us, remember?” Griff spread his hands.

Poppy wondered whether he was coming to her rescue on purpose, or if he really didn鈥檛 care what they toured in. Her heart fluttered at the thought of him defending her. A smile touched her lips, despite the argument taking place around her.

“Hold on.” Koty held up his hands. “Let me take care of this.” He took Jett鈥檚 hands. “I can get us a tour bus and take care of the hotels.”

Jett wrenched her hands away. “Why do you always have to throw money at everything?” She ran a hand through her long, dark hair. “We鈥檙e an independent band. We don鈥檛 need big-label money.”

Though Koty鈥檚 eyebrow twitched, he said nothing. He stepped back, giving Jett room.

Poppy sat down on the couch, slumping back into the pillows. It felt good to relax, even with everyone arguing around her. Part of her felt like an outsider. She had come into the band late, and the relationships between each of the members were already formed. She wondered sometimes where she fit in.

Dating Griff鈥攊f it ever were to happen鈥攚ould mean, in many ways, dating Jett. His job often seemed to entail keeping the lead singer happy. Griff and Jett spent a lot of time together, ironing out details and haggling band business. She wasn鈥檛 sure if she would be able to handle that. Then again, she was probably getting ahead of herself. Besides, she reminded herself yet again, she needed to keep things professional. Straightening in her seat, she pushed a stray curl out of her face. “I already put a down payment on it. I drove it over here. For better or worse, it鈥檚 ours.”

Griff nodded in agreement. “Come on, Jett. Don鈥檛 be such a hard ass about this. We鈥檙e going to be up to our eyeballs, dealing with King Riley.”

To that, Perry muttered an “Amen.” He straightened his dreads, pulled back into a ponytail. “They鈥檙e not the easiest to deal with.” His eyes dropped to the floor.

“What do you say, Jett?” Griff asked, his voice gentle.

Jett sighed. “I guess it鈥檚 better than nothing.” She flicked a glance toward Poppy. “Thanks for bringing it here.” She jerked a thumb toward the window. “How were the roads?”

“Awful.” Poppy grinned. “It was kind of fun.”

Perry gave her a sideways glance. “Fun? Girl, you must be new.”

Ignoring his teasing, she stood from the couch. “I鈥檓 beat, though. I need to get back to聽.聽.聽.聽home.” She swallowed hard. She’d almost said “the dorm.” No one seemed to notice, though. They each mumbled in agreement. They had definitely been rehearsing all day, she decided, glancing at Max鈥檚 messy hair. “Get some sleep, everyone,” she told them. “I鈥檒l be back in the morning.” With a smile on her face, she moved toward the door. “We鈥檙e going shopping.”

Jett frowned. “What the hell for?”

“We don鈥檛 have anything left in the budget,” Griff said, the space between his eyes creasing.

“This one鈥檚 on me.” She still had a tiny bit of financial aid leftover. “You鈥檙e all going to need something to wear on stage, right?”

Jett raised her eyebrows. “We usually just wear our own stuff.” Koty wrapped his arms around her, and she melted into him, visibly relaxing.

As different as they were, Poppy mused, they were perfect for each other. “You guys need an image,” she said. “If you鈥檙e going to play bluesy, catchy rock, you鈥檝e got to look the part. I have some ideas.” She thought of the sketchbook on her desk in her dorm room. She would be up all night sketching outfits, she realized.

“That鈥檚 a great idea.” Griff stretched, yawning. From across the room, he winked at her.

“I think it鈥檚 ridiculous,” Jett said, “but I鈥檓 too tired to care anymore.” She stifled a yawn.

Poppy鈥檚 own eyes burned. “See you in the morning.” She lifted a hand in parting, then headed toward the door. As she stepped back into the frosty snow storm, she hoped that the band would like whatever she came up with.

* * *

“That one鈥檚 good. I like it,” Krista said, tapping the sketchbook with a finger.

Early morning sunlight streamed through the window. Poppy was positive they were the only ones awake on campus. “Do you think she鈥檒l wear it?” she asked, remembering the attitude Jett gave her over the van.

Her roommate nodded. “Based on what she wore when she was with Perpetual Smile, I鈥檇 say you nailed it.” Krista鈥檚 finger traced the camouflage green joggers, black heels, and loose white tank top that Poppy had sketched the night before.

“And what do you think about Griff鈥檚 outfit?” Poppy asked, her cheeks reddening.

Krista turned the page. She studied the blazer, plain white T-shirt, and jeans. “It鈥檚 definitely him,” she said, “but I feel like it needs something.” She flipped to Max鈥檚 page. “You鈥檝e got Max wearing a denim chambray shirt over a white tee and khakis, but his hair is styled. You鈥檝e got Jett鈥檚 hair in a pinup style. What about Griff?”

Poppy scrunched up her nose. “I didn鈥檛 even think of that.”

“That鈥檚 why you need me on this tour,” Krista said. She turned the page to Perry鈥檚 outfit. Color appeared high in her cheeks.

Poppy narrowed her eyes slyly, a smile tugging at her lips. “You like him,” she teased.

Her roommate鈥檚 blush deepened. “I just didn鈥檛 know what he looked like until now. You always talk about him like he鈥檚 a huge pain in the ass, but he鈥檚 hot.” She traced Perry鈥檚 broad nose and arched eyebrows. Covering his dreads with a finger, she giggled. “If he cut his hair, he鈥檇 be like a whole new guy.”

Poppy squinted at the page, trying to imagine Perry without dreads. “But they鈥檙e so him,” she said.

Krista nodded. “And that beard stubble,” she said with a dreamy smile. She moved her finger, exposing the bandana that Poppy gave him for the stage. “Does his face really look like this? Is he really that muscular?” She touched the rippling muscles in his arms.

“Girl, you need to get laid.” Poppy took the sketchbook out of her roommate鈥檚 hands. “I tried to get his features, but you better meet him before you set your sights on him. He鈥檚 trouble.”

“What about Griff?” Krista asked innocently.

Surprised by the sudden change in subject, Poppy turned away. “What about him?” She bent over the sketchbook.

“Is he trouble?” Krista鈥檚 voice was gentle. “He鈥檚 a lot older than you.”

“So what?” Poppy shrugged. “It鈥檚 not like I鈥檓 going after him.”

Her roommate leaned into her. “The look on your face says otherwise.”

Poppy pressed her lips together. She couldn鈥檛 be that readable. Besides, she had decided not to pursue him鈥攎ostly. Between the tour and juggling school, she had way too much going on to throw dating into the mix. Still, she was surprised that Krista had picked up on her thoughts.

“You were moaning in your sleep about him,” her roommate said.

Her jaw dropped open. “I was not!” She twisted in her seat, facing Krista. Her cheeks burned.

Krista nodded, an eyebrow quirked. “You tossed and turned for a good half hour, and you kept saying his name.”

Poppy鈥檚 eyes widened. She definitely didn鈥檛 remember having any sexy dreams about Griff. She wished she did. Her dreams were the only sex she was going to have anytime soon. “That鈥檚 not even possible.” The words caught in her throat. She swallowed hard. “Krista, you know I鈥檓 a virgin. How could I be dreaming about sex?”

“Your subconscious seems to know exactly what you want.” Krista winked. “Or need.” She gave Poppy鈥檚 hand a squeeze. “It doesn鈥檛 have to be a serious relationship, you know. It can just be for fun.”

Shaking her curls, Poppy stood from her desk. “No way. That would jeopardize the band.” She moved to her closet. Her eyes roamed over her clothes and shoes, looking for something appropriate to wear. Though the snow had stopped, the temperature was still low. She hoped she would remember to buy a pair of boots while they were at the mall.

Krista snorted. “Everyone else is dating in that band. Why not you?” Poppy turned to look at her friend. She put a hand on her hip. Before she could say anything, though, Krista grinned mischievously. “The first thing I鈥檓 doing when we go on tour,” she said, “is hooking up with Perry.”

Poppy grabbed a shirt from its hanger and tossed it at Krista. “You鈥檙e killing me.”

Shrugging, Krista held the shirt up. She studied it. “I might wear this today.”

“You鈥檙e more than welcome to,” Poppy told her, selecting her own outfit. She dressed quickly, casting aside her usual blouse and skinny printed pants for a sweater and pencil skirt. She wanted to look as good鈥攁nd professional鈥攁s possible for the band鈥檚 shopping trip. She picked through her shoes until she found a pair of ankle boots. They weren鈥檛 exactly made for winter, but they would work.

Turning away from Krista, she dressed quickly. After throwing on some makeup and touching up her hair, she grabbed the keys to the van. “Do you want to come with me?”

Krista shook her head. “I鈥檇 love to, but I need to update the blog with the tour schedule.” She smiled. “Thanks for letting me tag along, by the way.”

Poppy smiled back. “Thank you for coming. I have a feeling I鈥檓 going to have my hands full.” Lifting a hand in departure, she strolled out of the room.

The drive to Jett and Koty鈥檚 condo didn鈥檛 take long. She recognized Griff鈥檚 car parked out front. It seemed as if everyone was already there. Smiling and checking her hair a final time, she slid out of the van. She walked up to the door and rang the doorbell.

She expected Jett or Koty to answer. When the door swung open, though, Griff stood on the threshold. His gray-blue eyes met hers, and heat pooled in her belly. “Hey,” he said.

For a moment, she just stared at him. Her eyes roved over his smile, the crinkle at the corners of his eyes. Her gaze dropped down to his jeans, then whipped back up to his face. Maybe Krista was right. Maybe it wouldn鈥檛 hurt to pursue him鈥攆or fun, if nothing else. She licked her lips. “Good morning.” She eased past him inside.

Jett sat curled up on the couch under a throw blanket, her head resting on Koty鈥檚 shoulder. Three mugs of coffee sat on the coffee table, steam rising into the air. Jett yawned, wiggling her fingers at Poppy in greeting. “Morning,” she said, voice husky. Poppy wondered whether she had slept.

“Want some coffee?” Griff asked.

Glancing around for the rest of the band, Poppy nodded. “Please.” Just as she was about to ask about him, Perry emerged from the kitchen, a mug in his hands.

“Morning, gorgeous,” he said, leaning in close to her. He pressed a kiss to her cheek, his freshly shaved face caressing hers for a moment. He smelled like cool scented soap and cologne. He hadn鈥檛 spoken to her like that since she first joined the band, and he had definitely never kissed her.

Blinking her eyes, she took a step back. Heat spread across her cheeks.

“Easy,” Griff rumbled to Perry.

She held up her hands. “It鈥檚 okay,” she said, still flustered. Krista, she decided, was going to fall head over heels in love with Perry鈥攁nd she wasn鈥檛 sure whether that was a good thing. On one hand, her roommate could whip him into shape. On the other, he could just as easily break Krista鈥檚 heart. “Just don鈥檛 let it happen again.” She looked at Perry, eyes narrowed. “I鈥檓 your manager, not a contestant on The Bachelor.”

Though he nodded in response, a flirtatious smirk danced on his lips.

She glanced around the room. “Where鈥檚 Max?”

“Late, as usual.” Jett yawned again. She snuggled into Koty鈥檚 arms. “Why are we doing this so early?”

Trying not to glance at Griff, Poppy wished she had someone to hold her like that. “Because we don鈥檛 have a lot of time.” She thought of all the arrangements she needed to make with the college. Pulling her phone out, she tapped a quick email to her advisor asking what she would have to do to switch to online classes temporarily.

Someone cleared their throat. She looked up. Everyone in the room was staring at her, as if they expected her to say something else. “What?”

“I asked if you could help me with merchandise orders tonight,” Griff said. His eyes glinted, a smile curling his lips.

“Of course,” she said without giving it a second thought. She swallowed hard and sent the email before anyone could ask her what she was doing.

“Are you managing any other bands?” Jett asked, eyes narrowed at her suspiciously.

The front door opened, saving Poppy from having to explain. Max lurched inside, his eyes wide and his hair springing in all directions. That was nothing new.

“Sorry I鈥檓 late,” he blurted. The top two buttons of his plaid shirt were undone. He closed the door behind him and strode farther into the living room. “What did I miss?”

Jett glared at him. “Would it kill you to be on time?”

“Probably,” he replied. A grin burst from his lips.

“Looks like someone got lucky,” Perry crooned. He flashed Max a thumbs up. Griff snorted.

Poppy put her hands on her hips. Though she wanted to laugh along with everyone else, they had work to do. She exchanged eyerolls with Jett. “Can I remind you gentlemen that we kick off this tour in less than three days? Max, next time you鈥檙e late, we鈥檙e docking your pay.”

Max鈥檚 jaw dropped open. Jett nodded in approval. Perhaps Poppy could forge a bond with her, after all. She bounced the keys to the van in her hand. “First order of business,” she said, eyeing everyone鈥檚 tired faces. “Coffee.”

She drove them to the mall in silence. Parking crookedly, she jumped out of the van and led the way inside, straight to the Starbucks on the mall entrance floor. The members of South of Forever filed in behind her, Jett on her heels.

“Nice work, Hampton,” Jett said. “You shut them right up. You鈥檙e a girl after my own heart.” She nudged Poppy with an elbow, then took the lead.

Pride thrummed through Poppy. With Jett鈥檚 approval, her confidence bolstered. She didn鈥檛 even mind waiting behind Jett for her own caffeine fix. She hung back, letting the other members of South of Forever go ahead of her. She watched as they ordered coffees, glad that they were listening to her.

Griff joined her in line. “What are you getting?”

“Some frap or other,” she said, struggling to keep her tone light. “I haven鈥檛 decided yet.”

“Well,” he said, putting his hands in the pockets of his jeans, “I鈥檝e got it.” He stood so close to her, she could feel the heat from his body.

Swallowing hard, she lifted a shoulder. “It鈥檚 okay. It鈥檚 a business expense for me.” She gave him a wink, but her heart fluttered in her chest.

Griff nodded. “Okay. Maybe later we can get a non-business coffee, then.”

She blinked. “What is this?” she blurted.

Stretching his shoulders inside his leather jacket, Griff glanced at the others. They stood off to the side, sipping coffees. The barista watched him expectantly. He was next. He turned his gaze back to Poppy. “Well, I鈥檓 asking you out,” he said in a low voice.

She stared at him, unable to believe her ears.

“It鈥檚 a simple question,” he told her. “Yes or no?”


South of Forever’s first tour is about to begin, and so is Poppy’s career鈥攊f she can keep all her lies straight.

CONTINUE READING

Chapter 1Chapter 2Chapter 3Chapter 4 路 Chapter 5

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Story Time: Why #SuicidePreventionMonth Is Not Enough

via Unsplash

via Unsplash

September is Suicide Prevention Month, which dredges up a lot of complicated feelings in me. You may or may not know that I’m a survivor. Almost two years ago, I’d been on antidepressants that, as usual, had an adverse affect on me. I was so messed up, I was convinced that no one loved me, that my husband had abandoned me, and that I should just die. I was also grieving the loss of a dear friend, so I’m sure that didn’t help. None of those things were true鈥攎y husband was in fact baffled at my behavior and worried鈥攂ut I couldn’t see through the dark clouds.

Depression lies.

From the moment I woke up the next evening, confused but alive, I felt ashamed of what I’d done. I didn’t tell anyone for a long time. I felt stupid and I felt like a failure. It took another year before I finally came off all of the medication and was properly diagnosed with PTSD from multiple traumas throughout my life.

But that year in between was hell.

None of my doctors realized that the medications they were prescribing me were just making things worse. In fact, despite how awful I felt, they usually just increased the dosage or added a second or even third聽medication. I finally talked the psychiatric APRN I was seeing into discontinuing my medications. Through the haze of pharmaceuticals, depression, and anxiety, I could still hear my gut. And my gut was saying “Drugs are bad, mmkay?”

Unfortunately, for reasons that I will probably never understand or forgive, my APRN didn’t wean me off. We’d discussed how various psych meds always strongly affect me, and I even asked if I needed to wean. He said no, and within days聽I went into withdrawal.

I felt an infinite聽amount worse.

Almost immediately, I became completely unable to care for myself. I spent my days lying on the couch binge watching TV聽and movies聽I can barely even remember. I became a ghost woman, barely eating, not taking my arthritis聽medications, and rarely sleeping. Even my thoughts weren’t my own. They weren’t suicidal, per se鈥擨 didn’t want to hurt myself鈥攂ut I kept thinking things like, “I wonder what’d happen if I filled the bathtub and tossed a toaster in? Wait. Why the fuck did I just think that? I don’t want to do that.”

It was frustrating because I’ve been suicidal in the past but it was my decision, if that makes sense. This was like a stranger had stepped into my brain and was pulling the strings.

I knew it was the medication.

Psych meds have what’s called a half-life鈥攖he time it takes for the substance to get completely out of your system. As you go through the half-life, if you don’t wean, you will start to have withdrawal symptoms. The medications I was taking happened to have a shorter half-life, which means they’re even harder to come off of.

Though I was still seeing a聽therapist and the APRN, neither of them thought to do something about this. I was on my own.

I tried to ride it out. I really did. I kept telling myself it’d get better, especially as each day passed. But there are really no words to describe how I felt. It was terrifying, like crawling聽through endless cotton-thick聽white mist. I had no concept of time, no desire to write, and it seemed like I’d never be myself again. I just wanted to get back to my life.

On a Tuesday evening, I made the decision to go to the ER. I did not feel suicidal but I knew I needed help coming off the psych meds. While I didn’t exactly want to try any other medications, I guess I thought the hospital staff would prescribe me something to ease the transition or at least refer me to a new doctor who could.

I was so wrong, and I deeply regret going.

The staff did not listen to me. I tried to be honest, briefly explaining my history and how psychiatric medication always seems to do the exact opposite for聽me. But instead of hearing “past medication made me attempt suicide,” I think all they heard was “past attempt at suicide.” I was signed in against my will and, no matter how hard my family, husband, and I tried to explain again, I ended up being held for a week.

During my first night there, I had to meet with a social worker who asked if I had ever been sexually assaulted. I told her I have, twice. Not an hour later, they parked a patient next to me who kept screaming about how he did not rape his girlfriend.

The whole experience was horrifying, and almost a year later I still have flashbacks.

But after I was finally released, I found a new therapist who was trauma certified. Between the drugs finally wearing off, her proper diagnosis, and the new techniques she taught me, I felt better within weeks. I don’t know what would have happened if I hadn’t received the proper help that I needed. Maybe I would’ve started seeing a new provider and taking yet another medication that wouldn’t work; my mental illness has never been chemical, so there’s no chemical balance to readjust. Maybe that next聽medication would have been the one to finally kill me.

I’m not saying antidepressants, etc are all bad. They help a lot of people鈥攎any of whom are my own loved ones. But we over-prescribe them. Few providers know what to do with trauma patients, even though many of them are聽required to ask the same screening questions. And mental illness in general is so stigmatized, too many people just get brushed off. Hospitals have quotas to fill so they can make their monthly budget; affiliated and private providers are overbooked with too many patients.

We have聽to do better.

I don’t know how to patch the holes. All I know聽is writing, so all I can do is share my story and hope it inspires other people who do know what to do and have the power to make things better.

Putting these words out there used to terrify me.聽It still does, a little, and I’m not quite ready to share all the details. But in less than a year, thanks to my therapist’s help and quite a bit of independent work, I feel stronger than I ever have. Last week, I was able to let go of the past and stop letting one of the men who assaulted me continue hurting me. I was able to step out of that trauma cycle, stop obsessing over what happened, and walk through the door. I’ve closed it, and I feel fantastic. Free. I’ve got my magic back.

I just know that, someday, I’ll be able to let go of what happened to me last year. I’ll no longer feel uneasy at the very mention of a hospital. And I’ll keep getting stronger.

I’ll probably still have to deal with depression, anxiety, and flashbacks for the rest of my life, but not as intensely. The problem with multiple traumas is that it’s like ripping open a gash over and over. The original wound never heals, and just festers unless you get the right help. But I’m finally healing鈥攎ostly because I finally got the proper diagnosis and treatment. Now, when I have a flashback, I know to let it happen and remind myself that I’m in 2016 and I’m safe. When I have an anxiety attack, I know that it won’t last forever, that if I just breathe and ride it out, I’ll be okay. And I know that when I start to feel depressed, it’s time to ramp up my tools (journaling, yoga, meditation, essential oils, R&R, etc), and I know to always carefully balance my workload as a preventive measure so I don’t get overwhelmed and spiral out.

This isn’t the聽happy ending to a movie; my life is a work in progress. I’ll still have bad days or months or even years. But something tells me it will never be that bad again. I can’t even put into words how strong I feel, even when I’m down. I’m so much stronger than I ever was.

And even though a lot of that magic is mine, the spark started with Erica, my therapist who I may not see anymore but always think of and will be forever grateful to. If we had more Ericas in the world, maybe we wouldn’t need a suicide prevention month.

To learn about the warning signs of suicide, please read this SAVE.org article.

If you or someone you know might be in danger of hurting yourself, please call 911 for medical emergencies or聽Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Or, if you prefer, text Crisis Text Line.


I am not a trained or licensed medical provider. I am just a woman who has been there. I can offer an ear but I cannot give you any medical advice. Please use the above resources to get professional help.

Can We Reach 50 Reviews for Diving Into Him?

50 Reviews Blitz (Diving Into Him)

In case you missed it, Diving Into Him went FREE on the same day that What Happens On Tour came out. As of today, the book has eight reviews on Amazon (special thanks to everyone from Rockstars Among Us who reviewed)! This is fantastic and I’m so thankful to everyone who’s taken the time to post your thoughts. However, now that Diving Into Him is FREE everywhere, I really want to make a splash with it!

In order to do that, I need to do two things:

  • advertise with Bookbub (the holy grail of indie publishing)
  • trigger Amazon’s built-in support

Bookbub requires books to have at least 10 reviews to be accepted, and rumor has it that Amazon starts emailing customers about your book when you reach 50-60 reviews.聽This is where you come in. I really need your help!

If you’ve already posted your review on Amazon, thank you so much. (When you have a second, if you could copy/paste your review to Goodreads, iBooks, Kobo, Nook, etc, I would really appreciate it.)

If you’ve read Diving Into Him, but haven’t posted a review yet, please do. You can post your honest review here.

If you haven’t read Diving Into Him yet, grab your free copy here!

Now, let’s get to the good stuff.

For every five reviews posted, I’m giving you a special gift!

  • 5 reviews: live video reading of a scene
  • 10 reviews: giveaway鈥攕wag pack (U.S. only)
  • 15 reviews: Koty鈥檚 POV of Tyler interlude
  • 20 reviews: post-epilogue short鈥攁 date night
  • 25 reviews: bonus sex scene of Jett/Koty
  • 30 reviews: giveaway鈥攕igned 1st edition paperback (U.S. only)
  • 35 reviews: alternate ending in Koty鈥檚 POV
  • 40 reviews: giveaway鈥攕igned poster聽(U.S. only)
  • 45 reviews: video reading of a chapter
  • 50 reviews: live Q&A
  • 55 reviews: post-epilogue short鈥擩ett and Koty discuss their future
  • 60+ reviews: giveaway鈥攅book copies of entire series

Now here’s where things get crazy. 馃槣聽We only have one month to reach our goal! If we don’t make it, the blitz machine turns into a pumpkin. I know we don’t have to worry about that, though, because you rock!

Step 1: Grab Your FREE Copy
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Step 2: Leave an聽Honest Review
Post Your Review

Step 3: Spread the Word
Use the buttons below to share this post!

Not sure how to write a review? All you have to do is rate the book on a scale of one to five stars, then write one or two sentences saying whether you liked or disliked the book.

10 Years Together, 3 Years of Marriage

Singing karaoke at our wedding.

Singing karaoke at our wedding.

Sometimes I marvel that this man is mine鈥攅ven when he’s driving me absolutely bonkers. Especially then, actually. I look into those soft blue eyes and I feel like I’m living a real-life NA romance. We’ve had plenty of our share of the back-and-forth.

Fire, meet gasoline.

When Mike and I聽first met*, I’d just started working at Toys R Us and also just exited a series of bad relationships. I was the heroine just looking to have a good time. Or so I thought.

All 6’3″ of him strolled up to me one night at work and asked me what my plans were. I hadn’t heard from my friends about our tentative plans, so I smiled up at him and shrugged. One night of drinking vodka and beer in a friend’s garage quickly turned into seeing each other almost every night for three months straight. I was giggly-drunk when he dropped me off that first night.

“Who do you like at work?” he asked in that low voice.

It was sexy as hell but I still managed to play it cool. “Oh, I don’t know,” I said, planting a sweet kiss goodnight on his cheek. “Someone.”

Still, the more time we spent together, the less nonchalant聽I was able to be. No matter how hard I tried not to, I wanted more of this guy who was a mind-blowing聽kisser and could kick my ass at Scrabble. He, however, did not appear to want more; brat wouldn’t even hold my hand in public.

As the end of the summer neared, I started to accept that we would not end up聽boyfriend and girlfriend. Too bad, too, because I could actually see myself dating him鈥really dating.

Right around my birthday, he called me and asked me if I wanted to go out to dinner. A real date. I was surprised. This was the same guy who’d told me聽he wasn’t looking for anything serious. Thus he has been confusing me for the last decade: when we’re ordering food at a drive-thru; when he stops painting a piece halfway through and starts another; when he changes the song right when it’s getting good and switches to an entirely different band while driving. But even though he can be extremely indecisive, he’s always聽been loyal.

That night, when we went out to dinner, he officially asked me to be his girlfriend. That was August 31st, 2006. Five聽years later, on the same day, he took me out to dinner to celebrate our anniversary. I was a nervous wreck; I just聽knew he was going to propose. I couldn’t decide what to wear or if I’d even say yes.

I mean, marriage? For real?! Getting married was for adults. People who knew how to be in mature, serious relationships. I couldn’t even decide what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, never mind who I wanted to wake up next to.

After we finished eating, I went to the ladies’ room to pee and collect myself. As I washed my hands, I stared at my reflection.聽This is it, I told myself.聽When I go back out there, he’s gonna drop to one knee. Practically shaking, I walked back out to our table.

But all he did was pay our check and tip our waiter. Stunned, I followed him out to the parking lot. I’d been so sure. He’d been acting so weird all night. It was our five-year anniversary.

I exhaled and let it go. At least now I could stop being nervous and just enjoy the night.

We got into the car and headed toward the highway. As we drove into the dark night, we talked about things the way we usually did. Just content boyfriend/girlfriend chitchat. Nothing serious or heavy. We were on I-84 when he glanced over at me.

“So you wanna get married?” he asked. It was our inside joke, our thing. We’d talked about doing it eventually. We always said things like “I like you. I might marry you someday.” It was always casual, no pressure.

I responded automatically: “Of course.”

“Okay,” he said. “We have to go to Britt’s. She has the ring.”

I blinked into the night through the windshield. Slowly, I turned toward him in my seat. “Wait, for real?”

He’s always surprising me.

He once made these聽crazy good New York strip steaks. I hadn’t even known he could cook鈥攏ot really, anyway. They were the best steaks I’d ever had, which says a lot because that particular cut isn’t the easiest to cook.

I could count a million things I love about him, but I mostly love his sense of humor, the way he cheers me on with my writing, and how good he is with kids. He doesn’t even blink when I get goofy, and sometimes he even joins in. Even when I burn dinner, he eats it without complaint. (Alien.) He’s been kind, patient, and supportive from the moment my arthritis聽set in, never making me feel bad and always taking care of me. Through years of setbacks and hardships, he’s never left my side and has always been there for me. I never even had to ask.

Like every real couple, we have our ups and downs. Sometimes I want to choke his beard (and do). Sometimes he needs a break from me and my intense personality. At the end of the day, though, we go to bed with kisses and “I love you”s.

He’s my alpha male hero, always taking the wheel when we have somewhere to go鈥攅ven if his knee is acting up. We’re both stubborn and have that “my way or the highway” mentality, but he is rarely聽the one to budge. I’ve met my match.

And he’s still a devastatingly good kisser.

Three years ago today we said “I do,” and I’d do it again.

I love you, bearded man.


*He swears we met years before that at my first job, but I honestly don’t remember meeting him. Which he will never let me live down.