Why I Don’t Accept Reader Friend Requests

Close up of facebook page with friend request


I got another message from a reader who was hurt that I hadn’t accepted her Facebook friend request, so I thought it was time to make another post about why I generally don’t accept friend requests from readers. I answered her privately, but here I want to address the question more broadly.

The first part of my answer is that I write under my real name. My social media accounts are in my real name, and I’ve had most of them since before I ever tried to write fiction. I’ve had Facebook and Twitter going on 10 years now. Since I’ve opened those accounts, Twitter has been where I keep up with the world, and Facebook is where I keep up with my family and friends. I’m careful about who I friend on FB. I keep it to people I know in person, and people I’ve interacted with substantively and positively online.

The second part of the answer is that I’m very politically engaged and opinionated. On my personal Facebook, in addition to talking about my kids, my cats, and my students, and sharing videos of baby goats in sweaters, otters holding hands, and baby bats eating fruit, I talk about politics and culture a lot. I rant and worry. I donate and fundraise and exhort. I do it only with people who think like I do, because Facebook is my online house, and I keep it as safe as I can.

Which brings me to the third part of my answer: I struggle a great deal with anxiety and depression. While I don’t write for the money and don’t need to worry how I’ll feed my family if I piss readers off (that might be apparent just from the stories I write, lol), I do take it hard when I get hate mail. I know I should have a tougher skin, but I just don’t. It sends me to the dark place and messes with my writing mojo—and that absolutely terrifies me. I don’t write to get paid, but I do write to stay sane.

On Twitter, as I have since 2008, I follow a lot of political people. While I don’t actively tweet very much, and rarely about anything other than books and writing, I do like a lot of tweets from the people I follow. I’ve gotten angry messages from readers because those likes showed up in their feeds, and they were upset about learning where I stand on an issue. From that evidence, I can be sure that opening my Facebook friends list, where I actually am very active and political, would invite strife into my online house.

I don’t fault someone for deciding not to read me anymore because they don’t like my politics. And I obviously understand that hearing from readers, those who hate me as well as those who love me, is part of the gig. But those angry messages mess with my head and get in the way of my writing, which messes with my head even more. To guard against it, I compartmentalize and do what I can to at least limit where and when and how those messages come.

Twitter is the place where I keep up with the world, and that account is my original account in my actual name, so I keep it and use it the way I want. I deal with the occasional angry message there and don’t worry about follower count. My personal Facebook is home, so I limit my friends list mainly to people I know, and who know me.

For readers of all stripes, I have my FB author page, and there you will not see political posts. There I am only about books and writing and reading. Perhaps occasionally some mom brags (my kids are awesome!) and cute animal videos. It’s a safe space, too—for you as well as for me.

I also have Instagram and Pinterest, and they’re pretty safe, too.

If you’ve sent me a friend request and you were hurt when it languished unanswered, I sincerely apologize. I leave them sitting open because the options are to confirm or delete, and deleting feels too harsh. There are too many to send a personal message of explanation for each one, so I leave them unanswered. But it’s not a personal judgment. It’s simply that we don’t know each other personally.

That’s my essay about why I don’t accept most reader friend requests. Let’s just come together on my author page and love books.


Summer! Made it!

Freedom car travel concept - woman relaxing

Freedom car travel concept – woman relaxing with feet out of window in cool convertible vintage car. Girl relaxing enjoying free holidays road trip.


I just finished my last day of classes for the spring 2018 semester last night! There are still some meetings to survive, and more papers to grade than I want to think about, but summer is so close I can smell the sunscreen!

Who am I kidding? I’m not going to need sunscreen, because I’m going to spend the summer like I always do–writing my fingertips off.

(Actually, the hubs and I are taking a romantic road trip up the Pacific Coast this summer, but I think my need for sunscreen might remain minimal in the Pacific Northwest, lol!)

Since I’ve finished writing everything I’m going to publish for the balance of this year (and I’m about 85K words into a book I’m going to publish in 2019), I thought I’d take a minute to update my release schedule and firm up some deets for you–and talk a little about what’s on deck this summer for writing, and some hints about what you might see beyond that.

So, first: a reminder and firm-up of my plans for the rest of 2018. No more tentative dates; here are the releases still to come this year:

2 June: Fight, The Brazen Bulls MC #6. That’s already been announced, and you can find details here. I’m going to set up the preorder this weekend, so keep an eye out.

14 July: The Pagano Brothers #1 (title and cover to be revealed in June–look for a post introducing the whole series then, too). This is the first book of a mafia romance series, spinning off from the Pagano Family series. Book 1 is Trey Pagano’s book. He’s all grown up now. Heh.

1 September: The Brazen Bulls MC #7 (title and cover to be revealed mid-summer).  I’ll announce which Bull has the lead here when I reveal the cover and title, but if you’ve been reading the series, I hinted at this couple in Honor.

13 October: The Sawtooth Mountains Stories #2. (title and cover to be revealed in September). This is Logan’s story. If you’ve read Somewhere, then you’ve already met his One True Love.

24 November: At the beginning of the year, I told you I wanted to write a Christmas novella, and I wrote one! I’m going to drop this after Thanksgiving–no preorder or anything, just a release. Until then, I’m gonna leave the mystery intact. Like a wrapped package. 😉

As for my summer plans…

Last summer, I used my expansive writing time to stretch my wings into a new genre, and I wrote Aurora Terminus, my post-apocalyptic science fiction novel. This year, I’m going to give another favorite genre, epic fantasy, a whirl. Oh, I love my idea for this one so very much!!! But I’m also freakin’ terrified to try a story on a scale this big. So we’ll see.

I’ve also got another historical romance on deck. And a couple other wing-stretchy projects to dabble around with this summer, if there’s time.

Oh! And I’m gonna read! I have so many cool books on my TBR right now!

Finally, I’ll be in Cincinnati, OH on Saturday, 28 July for the Motorcycles, Mobsters, and Mayhem Event. Check the link for details. If I’ll see you there, you can preorder books for that event here.

Updates on current series:

I’m just about done writing the final book of the Brazen Bulls MC (Book 8), which will come out early in 2019. After that, there’s going to be a bit of a biker lull in my schedule for a while. When the Bulls are done, that will be 27 novels and novellas I’ve written about outlaw bikers in the past 5 years (not to mention all the SOA fanfic I wrote before that), and I’m gonna need to recharge those batteries.

What can you expect in the meantime?

Well, there’s a prequel standalone for Delaney and Mo in the offing eventually, maybe in 2019, but the research on that one has been a bit of a slog, so I’m not ready to commit to it quite yet. Lola is chasing other stories at the moment.

The Sawtooth Mountains series is just getting going, and I can see that series ending up in the 4-6 book range. I love Jasper Ridge almost as much as I love Signal Bend, and there are a few residents there whose story I want to get my hands on.

Same with the Pagano Brothers. I’m only beginning to plumb the dark depths of Nick’s side of the pews, and that world is a place Lola can really slake her bloodthirst, so I expect that series to go 4-6 books as well.

I’ve had a few readers ask if there will be more books in the world of Aurora Terminus. The answer is…maybe. AT has an ending that could be simply the end, or it could branch off into more story. I have ideas for enough story to make a trilogy. But right now, I’m not sure if there will be more.

Though I love it now and think it turned out great, writing AT was absolutely the most difficult, soul-rending, confidence-busting experience of my writing career to date, so I’m not yet ready to leap into that volcano again. AT didn’t really get noticed out in the world, either (mainly because I 100% suck at doing literally anything that would get my work noticed). Selling books is not my primary motivation for writing (were that the case, I’d write nothing but bikers and cowboys), but when I’m facing a painful writing task that I might not enjoy, not selling books doesn’t exactly get my juices flowing, lol.

So, anyway…

I have a few plans for this fall, too (besides the obvious writing, writing, writing–oh, and teaching, teaching, teaching), but other than Penned Con 18 in September, they’re not fixed well enough for me to say much about them, except keep an eye out for more info.

Beyond that, who knows what the future holds!

All I know right now is THANK GOD IT’S (almost) SUMMER! Now, where’s the tequila?



Summer drinks with blur beach on background

Summer drinks with blur beach on background

Advice for Learning, Writing, and Life?

I don’t usually talk much about myself on my author social media, because, well … who the hell cares about what I do with my life that isn’t writing books. But lately, my day job and my writing have collided in some interesting ways, and it’s made me feel contemplative, so I thought I’d share, in the event that there’s someone who might find it interesting.

I think it’s pretty well established that my day job is English professor. I’m the English Education Coordinator at Sacramento State, which means I advise and teach students who are learning to be high school English teachers (I teach courses in teaching literature and teaching writing). I also teach American literature (which is what my PhD is in) and popular literature and culture (which is where my worlds sometimes collide). I also do scholarly work—research and writing—in all these areas.

So, anyway, one thing I do in this day-job world is serve as an Area Chair for the annual conference of the Southwest Popular/American Culture Association. This is an event where pop culture academics converge for four days to be fan-scholars and scholar-fans on topics ranging from comic books to Harry Potter to food culture to music to television to film to … you name it, if it’s geeky, there are probably pop culture scholars studying it. I organize and chair the Science Fiction and Fantasy and the Works of Joss Whedon areas. I also often present work of my own there. This year, I’m giving a presentation on Whedon’s problematic feminism.

Here’s where you’re muttering to yourself “She’s right. Who the hell cares?” Hold on, I’m getting to it, I promise. Or I hope, anyway.

This year the main conference organizers asked me to do a workshop on self-publishing as well. This request caused a spectacular collision between my deeply ingrained imposter syndrome and my pathological inability to say the word ‘no,’ and the result was a gory scene where my generalized anxiety was splattered all over the road, and I lay there, gasping and paralyzed.

Wow. That metaphor got really dark. Here, Lola, have a cookie and go sit down.

I don’t talk much about myself because I can’t imagine people being interested unless they’ve actually asked me a question. I don’t talk much about the specifics of my writing because I know for an absolute fact that I don’t do much “the right way.” I do what works for me, but I make no assumptions that what works for me would work for anyone else. Writing is an intensely personal endeavor, at its core. There is no one way to be a writer, or an author. There is no one way to be successful at either–except, of course, to write.

A few paragraphs ago, I mentioned that one of my day-job duties is to advise students. I’m the kind of advisor who doesn’t tell you what to do. I’m a big fan of the Socratic method: I ask you to think about what you want and need, and to figure out what you should do on your own. I’ll give you some things to think about, and some factual information. I might tell you my own experience, but I’m not going to say, “Here’s what you should do”—unless it’s something like “I really think you should get out of the way of that speeding bus now.”

Anyway, that’s how I broke my anxious paralysis about this workshop—A THREE-HOUR WORKSHOP OMG (wait, don’t think about that, keep moving)—I decided to prepare it as if I were advising students on the subject—just lay out the things that I’ve learned and that have worked and failed for me, use myself as one example in a vast and complex world of examples, and send them in directions for more information.

And it turned out, I had a lot to say. I was sort of stunned at the sheer amount of experience and knowledge I’ve gained from this endeavor that started one late-October evening in 2013, when I screwed up my courage, loaded a poorly-formatted file to Amazon, used their humble cover creator option to add a bland cover, and pressed “publish” on my first book.

There are a lot of things I know about and know you “should” do that I don’t do, because I made a choice to define my success in a certain way, to know my boundaries and understand the pivot point at which I could risk the most important facet of my success: my love of the writing itself.

I know how much I struggle with anxiety, so I draw my boundaries within my limits, and I don’t do the things that might make my “bestseller” status transcend the confines of Amazon and reach to higher realms, but would also cause that anxiety to blow up my head.

That became the focus of my workshop (3 HOURS HOW AM I GOING TO TALK FOR 3…no, chill out, it’ll be fine): define your own success. Understand what you want and strive for that. Make the goal realistic and concrete. If that goal shifts along the way, make sure it does so organically. Don’t compete—don’t measure yourself against anyone but yourself, your goals and your concept of success.

I’ve got my plan for this workshop finished, and, as it happens, I think I could go for longer than three hours, lol. The PowerPoint is freakin’ enormous. But I realized something: my advice for self-publishing authors is the same as my advice for students and could be summed up in less than three minutes: Identify what you want. Learn what you need to reach that goal. Do your best work. Build a strong community around you. Measure yourself only against yourself. Love what you do.

Also: be kind, find joy, and try to relax.

I think that’s just generally good advice for life itself.



2017 Fave 5: My Favorite Reads of the Year


Since I began writing fiction, and because my day job also requires a lot of reading and writing, I don’t get to read for simple pleasure as much as I used to. But I manage a couple books a month or so. Last year, I posted a list of my top five reads, and readers seemed to appreciate it, so I thought I’d do it again and maybe get into the game and make it a yearly thing.

My favorite genres as a reader are science fiction and fantasy, and since I’m steeped in romance as a writer and beta-reader, my list of pleasure reads tends to lean away from the genre I write in. But I read a few wonderful romances just for fun, and I’ve included my favorite here.

So, let’s do this from bottom to top. In each heading, I’ve linked the title to its Amazon page:

#5: Norse Mythology, by Neil Gaiman


I am a fan both of Neil Gaiman (I’m going to be teaching a senior seminar on his work next semester) and Norse mythology (as evidenced by my Viking romance series, The Northwomen Sagas), so I had Gaiman’s Norse Mythology on preorder from the moment it was available, and it didn’t disappoint. Gaiman retells prominent Norse myths in his typical style, managing to balance irreverence and respect, humor and pathos on a thin blade of perfection.

#4: The Butterfly Project, by Emma Scott


Oh, I enjoyed this so much. Zelda and Beckett are wonderful, deep, interesting characters, and their individual stories pack as much emotional punch as their romance. The writing is graceful and true, and I LOVE LOVE LOVE the way Zelda’s comic frames and shapes the story. I’m an avid comic and graphic novel reader, and I found the integration of the comic here seamless and interesting–and thematically powerful. Highly recommend this, if you haven’t already read it.

#3: Saga, Volume 7, by Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples


You know how I just said I’m an avid reader of comics and graphic novels? I’ve been following about a half-dozen current titles since their first issue (one, I’ve been reading for about ten years now), and Saga is hands-down my favorite of these regular reads. Last year, Volume 6 made my Fave 5 list, and Volume 7 might be even better. This series has everything–gorgeous art, characters to care deeply about, a unique, epic story, and some deep themes and ideas. At the heart of this story are two powerful people in love, and the small family they’ve made together. If you are a reader of comics, you really should be reading Saga. You won’t be sorry.

#2: The Stone Sky, Book 3 of the Broken Earth Trilogy, by N.K. Jemisin


The Stone Sky is the final book of The Broken Earth trilogy. I’ve been reading this series since last year, and each and every book is a favorite. The first two books (both Hugo Award winners) deserved two places on my list last year, but since this is very much a trilogy, one story in three books, I wanted to wait to recommend it until the end, to be sure Jemisin stuck the landing.

She stuck the hell out of it.

This series is absolutely fantastic, and my favorite SFF read of the last ten years. Jemisin’s world-building takes my breath away, and her characters are deep, diverse, fascinating. They are real people, sometimes prickly, sometimes loving, sometimes brave, sometimes weak. Flawed and wonderful. You will come to love the ‘villain’ as much as you love anyone.

It is not a typical hero’s journey kind of SFF story at all, though it is about a journey, and there is a kind of world-saving thing as a goal. Strong arguments could be made to consider it either science fiction or fantasy. I consider it both.

The first book is The Fifth Season.


And #1–my favorite book of 2017: The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas


This book has been #1 on the NYT list pretty much since its release, so I’m sure you’ve heard of it. Let me add my voice to the thunderous chorus of praise.

I’ll start by saying that I know I’m seriously in the minority of genre readers, but I generally hate first person present POV. Like, unless I have other reasons to proceed, I will decide against a book on page one of a sample that’s written in first present, because I really, really, really don’t like the characters telling me what’s happening while it’s happening. I always wonder why they have time just then to narrate their lives. Shouldn’t they be focused on what’s happening? I want characters to sit me down and tell me a story. So first person is fine in past tense, but third person past is absolutely my favorite POV (note that that’s what I write in, lol).

Now, though I think it’s the POV that’s most often done poorly, I have indeed read some amazing books written, at least in part, in first present (The Handmaid’s Tale, for one), and if there is a compelling reason for me to push through my resistance (a book I’ve been assigned to read, or one a friend has written, for instance, or one that everyone is talking about and my curiosity overcomes my distaste for the POV), and the story is good enough, the writing strong enough, I might eventually get wrapped up enough to forget the POV and just enjoy the story. But it’s usually a struggle to get over that hill, and I need a reason beyond the book itself to keep going.

I say all that because THUG is written in first present, and I struggled with the POV for a good while. I kept trying to put it down because I couldn’t get into it. But E V E R Y O N E  I know and respect had read and loved this book, I’d read countless articles about its importance and worth, and I teach YA literature, so I was considering it for my syllabus. I pressed on. And then, at one very important scene, I crested the hill. More importantly, it became very clear that first present was the exactly right POV for this story. The reader needs to be there while things happen. In the moment. The emotional impact is nearly overwhelming.

This is an important book. It’s a necessary book. But more than that, it’s a brilliant book. It tells a powerful story with nuance and compassion, and it is beautiful.

And yes, it’s on my syllabus.

(Aside: The Broken Earth Trilogy is written in part in first present, too. That’s another read that was so good I overcame it. And it’s another read for which, in retrospect, I see that the POV choices make the book stronger.)

And that’s my Fave 5 list for 2017!

Happy holidays, everyone! xoxo




Inspiration, Upended Plans, & Third Thoughts: Confessions of an Anxious Writer

White feather on blue inkwell and old book

Hi all,

Here at the middle of 2017, I thought I’d give you an update on my publishing plans through the balance of the year, and a sketch of my plans beyond that. In order to do so, I have to tell you a little story, one that’s pretty embarrassing in some respects. I hope you’ll bear with me for a few minutes.

The story starts back in the spring of 2016. It was a typical California spring day, by which I mean postcard pretty—cloudless blue sky, light breeze, the works. I was driving to work, the windows open in my car and a Pandora station playing on the stereo. Lovely. A song came on I’d never heard before; the tune caught my attention, and so did the words. About two stanzas in, my muse (that would be Lola, if you didn’t know) hit me on the back of the head with the inspiration stick. I suddenly had this image in my head, full color and Dolby sound: a young woman behind the wheel, her arm resting on the door through the open window, her hair blowing in the breeze. She was driving away from her life, no looking back.

Just that, like a flash, and not such an unusual image in itself. But it hit me hard. So hard that it knocked the song that had inspired it straight out of my head—I have no recollection whatsoever of the title, the singer, the tune, or any of the words.

I couldn’t get that single image out of my head for the whole day. That night, I dreamt about the young woman. I saw why she was leaving her life, and it became an idea for a story. I got up and opened a new file, meaning only to take a few notes and get it out of my head, because I had other writing plans on deck, and this idea didn’t fit my plans. I was just finishing the first draft of Miracle at the time, and I intended to start the third Northwomen book next (I hadn’t had the idea for the Brazen Bulls series yet).

But those “notes” became a first chapter. And then I couldn’t stop. I wrote the whole book in a flurry of inspiration more intense than I’d felt since Signal Bend. More than 100,000 words in less than four weeks. I write fast, but I’d never written that fast, especially not during the semester.

Then I had this story, and I liked it a lot. I shared it with my betas, and they all liked it, too. But they also agreed that it wasn’t much like anything else I’d written.

It was, for one thing, a lot less violent than most of my work, and it didn’t have the potential for violence that all my other work contains. There are some pretty dark events—I mean, come on, it’s still me—but that stuff is more backgroundy than usual for me, and the focus is very much on the couple.

I’m not good at picking labels, but it is possibly my only traditional contemporary romance.

By the time I was done, other characters had “popped,” catching my interest, and I thought that it could be a series—in fact, I already knew the couple of the second book—and for the first time I felt like I could guarantee an ironclad HEA for every couple throughout a series—a guarantee I never make. The world of this out-of-the-blue book is just safer than my bikers, or my Vikings, or even the Paganos, with their Mafia connections.

Also, it’s a western, which is not my usual bag—although, honestly, that “western” angle isn’t all that different from Signal Bend. It’s a small-town story in which the small town pops as a character itself, and the townspeople are vivid secondary characters. But it is a sweeter, safer story, and a calmer, safer world, than is my tendency.

I didn’t know what to do with it. Would my readers like this kind of story from me? I had no idea.

So I stuck it in a folder and put it aside. I picked up my plans where I’d dropped them, and wrote the books I’d had in the queue. But my little town in Idaho kept waving at me, wondering when I was coming back.

Finally, I decided I would put it out under a pen name. Hey, I thought, this will be a good time to try to do things “right.” I still didn’t do the hiring of PR thing, but within the bounds of DIY, I at least did things in the right order this time.

I picked a name from my own family history, several generations back—a colorful great-great aunt who is family legend—and opened all the right social media accounts in that name. I started posting in them. Under that name, I sent out some queries to bloggers asking if they’d like an ARC (something I never do).

I published it last September.

And promptly and wholeheartedly freaked the fuck out. Guess what? Somebody like me, who struggles so much with social anxiety that she agonizes for fifteen minutes about whether to use a fucking exclamation point on an FB post, DEFINITELY SHOULD NOT try to manage two different author personas.

I’m not exaggerating when I say I had a breakdown over the whole enterprise—before the book had even gotten noticed. I can’t imagine what my poor brain would have done if that book had had a Move the Sun-type release. After about two weeks, I unpublished the book, deleted all the social media accounts, deleted my private Pinterest inspiration board for that world (*sobs*), and vowed to forget the whole sorry experience.

Which I did, more or less. The memory poked at me occasionally, and I was sad about the swift demise of a book I’d loved writing and liked as a story, but I was all NOPE NOPE NOPE about jumping back into that mental morass.

Then, a couple of months ago, Lola began whispering in my ear about that second book idea, and she hasn’t stopped. The more I want to write that second book, the more my meltdown with the first torments me.

I feel deeply sheepish about this. I know lots of writers have multiple pen names and lots of those writers keep them unconnected from each other. It’s not putting a book out under a pseudonym that’s got me blushing. It’s my little private drama and spectacular wimping out that’s driving me up a wall.

But clearly, I’m not going to be able to maintain a pseudonym.

So okay. I’m going to put it out again this fall, this time in my own name. To limit confusion for the people who bought it the first time, I’m not planning to change the title or cover or anything except my name, and I’ll add an author’s note of explanation. That will be my October release. I won’t do a preorder for it; I’ll just drop it on the first Saturday of October.

I don’t know whether you’ll like it, but I do. In fact, I just did a fresh edit (I didn’t change much, except to cut way back on the use of a pet name that sort of got away from me the first time), and I was reminded how much I really do love this world and the family that anchors it—and I was strongly motivated to get up over myself and put it back out in the world.

This post is me jumping off the point of no return for that plan. And really hoping there aren’t jagged rocks down below.

The book is called Somewhere. The family name I used for a pseudonym is Jenny Gavin. The town I built is Jasper Ridge, Idaho, nestled in the shadow of the Sawtooth Mountains. The Cahill family is its heart. It’s a contemporary, western, small-town romance. If a series does develop, it will be the Sawtooth Mountains Stories.

And the female lead is a young woman who drives away from a life that has died.


With that in mind, an update about my firm publishing plans for the balance of the year, and my tentative plans beyond that:

2017 releases (firm):

  • 5 August: Slam, the Brazen Bulls MC #3
  • (Early September: All four books of The Northwomen Sagas will no longer be exclusive to Amazon and will be available on multiple platforms.)
  • 7 October: Somewhere, A Sawtooth Mountains Story
  • 2 December: The Brazen Bulls MC #4 (I’ll announce the title and all that jazz later)

2018 plans (sketches):

First, re: the Bulls—Book 5 is my current work in progress, and I’m about 50K words in now. At this point, I’m planning to keep to the schedule I’ve got going, where I release a new Bulls book every 4 months. So Book 5 would come out next April, with Books 6 and 7 following later in the year. Based on the sketches of ideas I’ve got so far, I think this series will be 8 books long, with a 9th book on the tail end (a prequel story about Delaney and Mo, set during Vietnam). That all depends on countless factors, predictable and otherwise, but that’s the plan at this time.

As for other books and series, I love patterns and structure, and I like the pattern of a “different” book releasing between each Bulls book. Like the Northwomen, and Somewhere—books that go in different directions. I’ve got a whole pile of ideas outside the Bulls. I’ve got a post-apocalyptic story written now that isn’t a romance (there’s a love story, because I ship EVERYTHING, but it’s not the focus, and there’s no sex), and I have a range of ideas for romance stories and series, including a Pagano Brothers series (which would be a true mafia romance series), an MMA series, hopefully more Sawtooth stories, and several ideas that will be standalones. Like a Victorian romance with an English suffragette as the female lead. Really want to write that!

Anyway, the Brazen Bulls series is the spine of my plans for the next couple of years, and around that, I will chase whatever ideas catch my fancy.

Like when Lola hits me upside the head and upends all my plans.


Father’s Sun is LIVE

Father's Sun cover gold

Father’s Sun, the conclusion of The Northwomen Sagas, is live and available on Amazon. It’s in Kindle Unlimited and exclusive to Amazon through the summer.

I’m working on removing the series from KU so that I can publish it on other platforms in the fall, so the earlier titles in the series will be coming off KU, one by one, throughout the summer.

You can find buy links to all the books in the series here.

As I’ve said before, The Northwomen Sagas has been a labor of love. I’ve adored researching and writing this world, and I am really proud of these stories. Though it has consistently ranked well in its specific category of Viking romance, it’s actually not a widely read series (apparently, not many readers read Vikings, period), but that hasn’t dampened my enthusiasm for this endeavor. I write to write much more than I write to be read, and this writing has been a joy.

I’d have written the Northwomen if no one but me had read it, but this series has some devoted readers, and I want to thank you for sailing this sea with me. xoxo

Information about future writing/publishing plans is coming soon. Stayed tuned to this channel.



Looking Back Down the Road to Signal Bend


Hey there.

I’m contemplating a project (which is still tentative, so I’m not ready to say more about it), for which I’ve undertaken a re-read and re-edit of the Signal Bend Series. Other than to skim sections here and there to check for continuity points as I’ve continued telling stories in the same world, or to sample a few passages I especially like, I haven’t read any of the books from that series since shortly after I finished the manuscript of Leave a Trail—when, in a blaze of nostalgia, already homesick for the world I was leaving, I read through the whole series in a week. That was right about three years ago.

I just finished re-reading/editing Leave a Trail, completing the series, and now I feel bloggy. I have some nostalgic thoughts and observations about writing (and living) Signal Bend that interest me, at least, and I thought I’d share them in case they might interest you, too.

Fair warning: It’s long. I had a lot of thoughts. Also, here there be spoilers.

MTS blog

My writing style has changed noticeably since Move the Sun—and by “changed” I mean “improved.” Holy wow, was it hard not to dig my hands deep into MTS and really change the language. I still like the story, and I still think Isaac and Lilli’s chemistry crackles like Pop Rocks and Coke, but I see novice weaknesses in the actual craft that make my fingers itch.

However, throughout this re-edit of the series, I made myself stick to fixing actual errors and formatting glitches, limiting my editing of sentence structure mainly to style consistency and verb tense fixes. (LIKE USING PAST PERFECT TENSE CONSISTENTLY WHERE IT BELONGS, 4-YEARS-YOUNGER SUSAN. GEEZ. NOT LIKE YOU’RE AN ACTUAL EXPERT IN THIS GRAMMAR SHIT OR ANYTHING.)

That said, though, I wouldn’t change anything about the story of MTS. I still vividly recall the experience of writing Signal Bend. I began thinking about my writing process as a being named “Lola” because throughout that series, I barely had the feeling of crafting a story. It flowed through me as if I were merely transcribing someone else’s dictation. The saga wanted to be told, demanded to be told.

After this re-read, I think I see where those weaknesses of craft originated. It was more than simply a writer finding her footing in a new endeavor (it was that, too, of course). It was that I was chasing after the story, slapping words down on the page as quickly as they came to me. And I was still deeply living the story during the editing stage, so I still had that “flow” feeling and didn’t want to meddle with the magic.

Now, I wish I’d meddled a little. But I’m proud of the work.

BTS blog

Behold the Stars was written before I published MTS. I’ve always kept at least one book “in the bank,” as it were, so I’m sure what the next thing will be before I put something out. It helps control my anxiety about publishing. Currently, since I slowed my publication schedule down a little last year, but not my writing, I’ve generally got three books in the bank at any given time. When I release something, it’s probably been sitting, completed, on my hard drive for about six months or so. I keep telling myself that means I can take a break, but then I never do. It drives my husband nuts.

Anyway, Isaac and Lilli’s main, two-book story was wrapped up before MTS came out. I’d been waffling about publishing MTS, riddled with my usual anxieties, and I forced the point by refusing to allow myself to start Show’s story (which clamored to be told) until MTS was out in the world.

That’s worth mentioning for this reason (and confession): when I published MTS, I hadn’t read a romance novel in something like 25 years. Fabio was at his peak back then, and Johanna Lindsey and Laura Kinsale were my go-tos. I could not have named any current romance writer; the closest I’d come to reading romance in all that time was Charlaine Harris’s Southern Vampire Mysteries.

Or Twilight. I’d read the Twilight books.

Even coming from writing popular SOA erotic fic, I had literally no idea that “MC romance” was a thing. I wasn’t even sure that I had written a romance. I’d simply written a story that wanted to be written about people I wanted to be with.

So I was a total n00b in the genre. Since I didn’t know that MC romance was a thing, I also didn’t know it was a hot thing. I completely lucked into that. I didn’t have a website, or an FB page, or any kind of author “platform.” I used Amazon’s cover creator for MTS’s first cover. I did literally nothing but slap the book on Amazon and hope my friends would buy it.

And then MTS got reviewed online at USA Today. Favorably. Things got a little crazy after that.

But I didn’t understand the romance world or the trade at all. These days, I understand it better, but I still suck at it. I’ve come to terms with that. For a while, during the Signal Bend days, I seriously considered giving up my day job—I was making a lot more money with book sales than as a professor—but I didn’t, for a couple of reasons: 1) I like my day job; it’s a career I worked hard for. And 2) I live with anxiety every single day. Writing is my haven and release. I didn’t want to turn it into something that had to make money. I didn’t want to be beholden to anyone but myself and my muse. That would have driven me straight off the cliff.

I’m so fucking glad I didn’t react to Signal Bend’s success by changing my life. Because writing is a lucrative hobby and not the way I pay my bills, I can write what I want, chase the stories that interest me, and not worry if anyone comes along for the ride.

So…Behold the Stars was written and in the can when I published Move the Sun. All the controversial elements of that story had occurred. Comet had died on fire. The kittens had been gruesome wind chimes. Daisy Ryan had been brutally murdered. Marissa Halyard had been killed. Lilli had been taken and brutalized by Ellis. All those things had happened.

I began writing Into the Storm approximately fifteen seconds after I clicked “publish” on MTS, weeks before BTS came out and the backlash hit. (What I thought at the time was backlash. The scale got reset a while later. Anyway, I got my first hate mail.)

Would I have written BTS the same way if I’d known I was writing romance, and if I’d understood the trade better? That was a question I went into this re-read with. Does the story hold up as it is, with its controversy, knowing what I now know about the romance world, and now that my head is out of the Signal Bend zone?

Answer: yes. (Phew!)

Yeah, those events aren’t “romantic,” yeah, at least one of those events puts some serious tarnish on the “heroes’” armor, yeah, I totally freaked myself out during this re-read, and yeah, it’s intense. But the story works, and it’s right for the world I’d made.

Here’s a thing that’s been true since I started writing bikers all the way back in fanfic: I don’t want to romanticize the outlaw MC world. I don’t want it just to be a backdrop for Bad Boys™. I’m not trying to write “heroes” and “heroines” (you’re never going to see me do the “H/h” thing). My leads are people I like—no, people I love—always, but when I write outlaws, they’re going to do bad things. Hopefully, they’ll do them for reasons they see as right, and they’ll want to, and try to, atone when it goes wrong, but they’re going to cross over into the dark—and I don’t just mean they’ll be assholes. I hope they’re not assholes, in fact. Even though they torture. And kill.

As a person and a writer, I’m interested in the complexity of people. I’m not interested in writing bikers because they’re hot (or, not solely for that reason, haha). I’m interested in outlaws, in people who reject the “right” way and find their own way. People who do bad things (and “bad” things) because they feel they must, but who aren’t, at their core, bad people.

I’ve said that all before at some point or another, but I went back into this re-read of BTS sort of peeking through my hands, hoping my rationale held up. For me, it does.

Convenient, that.

Also, the writing in BTS is a lot tighter than in MTS. In the second book, I got my legs under me and started to run. I can just about pinpoint the moment it happened, when the insistent demands of the story and my assertion of my voice to tell it really locked in.

ITS blog

Reading Into the Storm this time, I was struck by how much I LOVE SHOW. I mean, I’ve always loved Show. But wow. He’s awesome. I barely feel like I can take credit for that, lol.

I remember when I was finishing BTS and just DYING to tell Show’s story. That poor man! I spent a few days, as I was finishing BTS and figuring out how to publish MTS on Amazon, thinking about what Show’s story should be. I knew it had to be different from Isaac and Lilli’s story. I didn’t want to write the same story over and over, and anyway, Show needed something totally different.

The way I write, I almost never have any idea where a story is going. There are a couple of exceptions to that rule: final books in a series, for one—more on that later—and, in a singular instance, I wrote an entire book in my head while I was on vacation without my laptop, and that story, though it changed a lot in the writing, followed the main path I’d imagined (that would be Soul’s Fire, btw). What I otherwise do is figure out the main characters and the setting, then let the characters loose in the setting and see what they get up to.

So, for ITS, I asked myself: how on earth would Show come back to life, and who on earth would bring him back? I knew a couple of things, because I knew Show:

1) There was absolutely no chance that Show would open himself up if there was ANYTHING dangerous going on with the Horde. After what he’d lost, he’d never intentionally risk someone else he cared about getting hurt like that. He had to have some sense that things could stay quiet in Signal Bend.

2) It would have been completely unrealistic for me to populate Signal Bend with a bunch of superheroes. I already had Lilli, my badass chick who can do just about anything. There are more ways to be strong than that, though. I wanted a woman who was successful and smart, and strong in a more normal way. I also thought Show would respond better to a woman like that. Someone who’s not as combative and confrontational as Lilli is, but who asserts herself. From those ideas, Shannon was born.

I didn’t know about her secret until I was well into writing the book. That happens in almost every book, and I’ve come to trust it. The first time I alluded to Lilli having some kind of secret purpose for moving to Signal Bend, I had no idea what that purpose was. When she had a trunk full of weapons, I had no idea why. Likewise, when Shannon avoided holding a baby for the first time, I didn’t know why.

Like I said, I let my characters tell me their story. It works better when I get out of their way.

AOE blog

I’ve always considered Alone on Earth the weak link of the Signal Bend Series. It’s the transition book, the one that puts pieces in motion (though I didn’t know it at the time), sets everything up to bring the series story to its climax and resolution, and in my mind, it wasn’t as strong as the others. I was pleased and relieved about how strong the story felt to me as I read it now.

It definitely serves to transition from the peace of ITS to the Santaveria storyline. But the original reason I moved Bart out of Signal Bend had nothing to do with any of that.

I put him with Riley because he was so starstruck in ITS, the only Horde excited about the movie, and I thought that would be a cute, sweet, light story with some humor. Then, as I got into it and learned about Riley, as I came to understand her, I realized there was no way she’d give up her life and move to Signal Bend. Moreover, I didn’t want her to give up her life for Bart.

But I couldn’t imagine Bart ever leaving the Horde. I didn’t want him to give up his life for Riley, either. Neither is weak enough to be absorbed into the other so completely, and either would be a fish out of water in the other’s world.

But oh, shit. Wait. I’m halfway through writing this story. What the hell do I do now? Do I break them up?

Well, the Scorps are right there, in the clubhouse, being all threatening and douchey. What if something compelled Bart to give up the Horde to save it?

He totally would do that. Oh, man. Imagine the painful scenes (Lola and I, we love writing pain. Oh so very much.). All those goodbyes to write. When I started to bawl at the thought, I knew I was on the right track.

I also knew Isaac’s conflict with C.J. needed to get resolved, but I didn’t plan that resolution ahead of time. When it happened, I knew, by the way the words flew from my fingers, and the tears from my eyes, that it was right.

Anyway, it was good to read AOE again, remember how and why the story unfolded as it did—and also to realize that the writing is pretty tight in that one. It is funny, and Bart and Riley really click. The pacing is good, and the action is sharp. I went into this read a little nervous, like “Oh man, I hope this one doesn’t suck worse than I think.” So I was thrilled to discover that it doesn’t suck at all, lol.

IDW blog

I’m not going to say much about In Dark Woods, except that I wrote it in like three days. 20,000+ words. Talk about a story that wanted to be told.

A confession: I fucking love the hair-washing scene. I cried so hard when I wrote it. (Maybe you’ve noted a recurring theme: if an idea makes me cry, it’s getting written.) Sometimes, I go back and read just that scene, and revel in my own writing. (Ugh. Well, confessions are supposed to be embarrassing, I suppose.)

ATS blog

I didn’t want to write a story for Havoc. I didn’t especially like Havoc. He’s a bully and a jerk, and a sexist d-bag. I prefer “Gamma” males to Alphas—the tough badass who might be emotionally guarded, but actually treats people, especially women, well. The guy who doesn’t demand that a woman get behind him and isn’t threatened when she steps out in front.

Isaac. That’s my ideal guy. Gamma all the way.

But then Havoc and Bart had Bart’s last day in Signal Bend, and Hav was so hurt and mad and lost. There was something soft, even a little needy, inside that asshole shell, and that caught my interest. So I started his book. All the Sky was kind of an experiment: could I fall in love with a guy like Hav? (I have to be in love with my leads to write them.) Could he realistically fall in love and be a good partner? (Because NO WAY am I writing a lead woman who will just accept total douchebaggery from a guy.) Who would love him the way he needed to be loved and demand that he return the favor?

Uh, yeah, he really could learn to love and do it well. I love Hav’s evolution. I love how he learned to be a role model, a friend and a father, to Nolan, and a strong partner for Cory. But still kept his sharp edges, too. He didn’t get a personality transplant; he simply grew. I’m pretty proud of that.

And Cory is probably the lead female character I’ve written who’s most like me (Sadie is another who shares a lot of my own stuff), so I’ve always loved her.

But damn, was it hard to read ATS this time.

Actually, it was hard to read it the first time. I’d already written Show the Fire when I first edited ATS, and I think ATS was, originally, my least well-edited book, mainly because I couldn’t focus as well as I needed to. It was so damn hard to read his story, knowing what would happen not long after.

There’s a lot of foreshadowing in ATS, too, which I’d never intended. It’s like he knew long before I did how his story would end.


STF blog

As you might imagine, I got a LOT of hate mail for Show the Fire. I even got death threats. Lost a lot of readers, some of whom still bear a grudge. Occasionally, I’ll still come across a stray comment somewhere on social media, somebody saying DON’T READ FANETTI, SHE KILLS LEADS! (Which, incidentally, I’ve never done in a romance. I’ve killed previous leads in two romances. Out of thirty books published.)

Even now, almost three years after I published STF, I still occasionally get angry messages.

I get that. Death threats are very much not cool (don’t do that, seriously), but angry readers expressing their anger, I get, and I expect. However, I occasionally also get messages from people calling me a “fraud” or a “cheat” or a “thief” because I call my work romance and then kill lead characters. Those messages piss me off a whole lot.

Again, I don’t kill lead characters—not when I call a book a romance. I have—rarely—killed previous leads. Call that a fine hair to split if you will, but it’s true. Always for story, and never for shock, but I’ve done it, and I won’t promise not to do it again. But the books I publish in the romance category all meet the Romance Writers of America’s definition of the genre (which seems to be the trade standard definition): a central love story, and an optimistic ending for the couple. The genre doesn’t require an ironclad HEA. At most, it requires an HFN, and all my books (but one) end with at least an HFN. The one that doesn’t, I don’t categorize as a romance.

Individual readers might require anything they wish of the books they read, obviously. Groups of readers, even large groups of readers, even the majority of readers, might require anything they wish of the things they read. If the stories I write aren’t what some readers want in a romance, that’s to be expected. To each their own. But I’m not a fraud or a thief because a book I wrote didn’t meet a reader’s demands.

I accept that the things I write make some readers so angry they hate me. I accept that some readers will never read me again, will write angry reviews, will tell all their friends to avoid me. If that’s the price for writing what I want, okay. But I don’t accept having my integrity impugned because something I wrote pissed somebody off. That is not cool, and it’s not fair.

Okay. That’s been sitting on my chest for a few years. Phew.

Anyway. Where was I? Oh, right. Reflecting on this re-read of STF.

STF has become sort of a battle standard for me, for probably obvious reasons, and I went into this one with fingers and toes crossed, hoping that the story made as much sense now as it did to me when I wrote it, that the events were as important and organic as I remembered. I was terrified that I’d read it now and regret.

No regrets. It helps, I’m sure, that the rest of the Night Horde’s story has been told, and I know how Hav’s death forged the rest of the series—and not just that, but entire Night Horde saga. I couldn’t take it back if I wanted to. But I don’t want to. His was a good death.

And, in my opinion, for whatever that’s worth, STF is the best-written book in the series.

LAT blog

And here’s the other book in the series that I had to sit on my editing hands as I read this time. When I set out to write the conclusion to Signal Bend, I knew I had a lot of open threads that needed to get tied off, so I made a list. That was the closest I’d ever come to making an outline ahead of time.

Reading Leave a Trail now, I can see a couple of things going on that I wish I’d had a better handle on: First, trying to get that list done and close everything off. I think that affected the pacing a bit, at least in the first half or so, as I tried to build a story that didn’t just shove those open questions in any old place. It was a different way of writing from what I’d learned to trust, and it didn’t allow me to follow my characters so blithely. I had to tell them to do things so I could move the story toward loose ends. Reading it now, there are a few scenes where I can feel my hand pushing too heavily on the story.

Second, I think I just wasn’t ready to leave Signal Bend. The story was ready to end, but I wasn’t ready to move away. So I think I lingered too long, maybe.

Anyway, I love Badge and Adrienne, and I love the way Signal Bend ends. But the book would read a bit differently, and be a bit shorter, if I were writing it now.

The True Seed, on the other hand—the epilogue?—wouldn’t change a damn thing there. Isaac + Lilli + angst = writer in the zone. Those two will always and forever be my favorite couple. I love all my leads, but they will always be my greatest love.

So. What have I learned?

Well, I’ve learned that a lot of things about my writing style have changed, and improved, over the past three-plus years and thirty-plus books. But even so, I think Signal Bend is still my best series (with The Northwomen coming up hard in second place). All the way through SB, that story needed to be told. I rarely felt like I was really creating it. It just flowed through me.

And back then, with my first books, every way I had of seeing and saying something was new. I hadn’t repeated myself yet. I’m very aware of that now, of my tendencies of language usage, and I’m always pushing myself to find a new way to describe something I’ve described before. (To that point: OMG WE NEED MORE SEX VERBS.)

I’m also in a steady battle not to allow the language to dominate the story. I write in Deep POV, a sort of hybrid between 1st person and 3rd, so I want my language to reflect the tone and personality and usage of the POV character, rather than a narrator’s voice. I’d much rather readers forget the words because they’re so immersed in the story than marvel at my linguistic pyrotechnics. If you’re marveling, then you’re reading, not living, a story. I want you to move into Signal Bend and slide into a booth at Marie’s to catch up on the gossip. (But don’t order off the menu. And don’t ask for fruit. Unless it’s pie.)

It’s a fine line to walk, being fresh and innovative without allowing my sentences to shout LOOK AT MY PRETTY WORDS. I don’t always keep the balance, but I’ve always got my arms outstretched, trying.

Though I still, and likely will always, let my characters tell me their story, these days, after so many words written (something like four million words in four years, including all my fanfic) and so many scenes described and worlds built, I actively craft the language more, pushing for freshness. Thus, the act of writing doesn’t flow quite like it did, when I was only taking dictation from my characters.

Writing has gotten harder, but I’ve loved writing almost every book I’ve written. Writing is my therapy, my refuge, my sanity. A hardcore introvert, I would rather be with my characters, all of them, than with most real-life people.

I hope I always love writing and never lose its comfort. But I know that no writing experience will ever again be as fulfilling, as inspiring and exciting and downright blissful, as writing Signal Bend.

It’s my soul’s hometown.

If you made it all the way to the end here, I hope this little tour through my head was worth the time.


PS: While I’m not yet ready to talk about the tentative project that spurred this re-edit (I will when/if it stops being ‘tentative’ and starts being ‘in progress’), I’ve uploaded these fresh files to Amazon. You can get the updates if you have the books on Kindle. No big changes. Just formatting cleanups and some corrections of typos and errors, stuff like that. Oh! And hyperlinked Tables of Contents! I added those!

PPS: I considered changing the book covers with this update, and I put some effort into it, but I like the original covers. The only one I’d change is MTS, and that’s only because the cover image has been used by too many other writers (another n00b move on my part). But the theme of the covers is just as it should be, so they stay.