Wednesday, February 28, 2018

WHAT ARE THEY UP TO NOW? Featuring Steph Bowe

Today's author: STEPH BOWE

Here is Steph's ORIGINAL ENTRY.

And here is my INTERVIEW WITH STEPH after her Secret Agent success.


1. What role did your participation in a Miss Snark's First Victim contest or critique round play in your ultimate success as an author?

It led to me signing with my agent, Ginger Clark! I had the option to send her a partial of my manuscript after the contest, and then she requested a full, and then she offered to represent me, which was thrilling and surreal and amazing. A couple of months later the Australian/New Zealand rights to my novel (which became GIRL SAVES BOY) went to auction, and I signed a two-book deal with Text Publishing. I was very, very lucky.

2. Tell us what your journey has looked like from your MSFV Success Story until now.

My debut novel, GIRL SAVES BOY, was published by Text Publishing less than a year after I signed with Ginger, in August 2010. I was sixteen, and I spoke at writers' festivals, and it was terrifying and awesome. (I have now been going to festivals, visiting schools and running writing workshops for over seven years, and am thankfully never as anxious as I was that first time!) GIRL SAVES BOY was also translated into Dutch, Spanish and Catalan. My second novel, ALL THIS COULD END, was published in 2013 and was long listed for a couple of awards. My latest novel, NIGHT SWIMMING, was published in April 2017. During this time, I also graduated high school and got a university degree in psychology! I haven't actually had a 'real' job yet, but I figure being a writer will do. Right now? I'm trying to write a novel for NaNoWriMo, and I'm procrastinating by answering these questions!

3. What has been the best part of your experience as an author? What has been most difficult/challenging?

There have been so many wonderful things! Being part of a community of not just authors but also readers, librarians, teachers and supporters of children's literature. Hearing from people who have read and enjoyed my novels in Australia and Spain and Holland and a bunch of other places. Getting to talk at writers' festivals and meet my idols and get paid to do something I love. I really cannot imagine my life if I were not an author. I have no idea what I'd be doing otherwise, and I'd have missed out on so many amazing things.

I also now do school visits and run writing workshops, which is not something I had envisioned for myself when I dreamed of being a writer - I had imagined myself locked away from society, writing in a darkened room. Which I still do a bit of! But I love teaching creative writing and meeting the young people I write for, and I feel very enriched by that. So my life is awesome in unexpected ways.

The most difficult and challenging thing is experiencing self-doubt: I had imagined, as a young writer, that I would feel different when I was published, as if I would turn into a Glamorous Confident Author overnight... which is not how publishing a book works. I was still me, and suddenly I was experiencing people criticising my work and I still felt very unsure of myself. So I was plagued with a lot of self-doubt, which made writing my second book very difficult. I still have trouble with self-doubt now, but I'm better at responding to my brain being unhelpful and telling myself to write anyway!

4. What's your latest offering, and where can we find it?

My latest novel is NIGHT SWIMMING, a contemporary YA coming-of-age novel. Here's what it's about:

Imagine being the only two seventeen-year-olds in a small town. That’s life for Kirby Arrow—named after the most dissenting judge in Australia’s history—and her best friend Clancy Lee, would-be musical star.

Clancy wants nothing more than to leave town and head for the big smoke, but Kirby is worried: her family has a history of leaving. She hasn’t heard from her father since he left when she was a baby. Shouldn’t she stay to help her mother with the goat’s-milk soap-making business, look after her grandfather who suffers from dementia, be an apprentice carpenter to old Mr Pool? And how could she leave her pet goat, Stanley, her dog Maude, and her cat Marianne?

But two things happen that change everything for Kirby. She finds an article in the newspaper about her father, and Iris arrives in town. Iris is beautiful, wears crazy clothes, plays the mandolin, and seems perfect, really, thinks Kirby. Clancy has his heart set on winning over Iris. Trouble is Kirby is also falling in love with Iris…

It's available in bookshops in Australia and New Zealand, and online for everyone else!

To purchase Night Swimming (for international people, Book Depository is best as there's free shipping!):

Book Depository

Text Publishing



5. Please leave us with some words of wisdom for all aspiring authors.

Always focus on the writing first - that's always the most enjoyable part of the process, and trying to write with the market in mind makes writing stories that are true to you virtually impossible. Write what you are passionate about and excited about and would love to read, and readers will respond to that.

Remember that everyone is on a different journey, and no matter when you publish or what stage of your career you are at, you have value as a writer and your stories have value. The world needs your stories. So much of publishing involves luck and timing, and writers who are more successful than you are often just people who have had better luck - your time will come.

Writing professionally is a weird career - it's wonderful, but it can also be very demoralising at times. You never really feel as if you have 'made it' - the goal posts always keep moving, and it's very difficult to make a good living. Even once you've published novels, you still get rejections and disappointments and self-doubt. Being able to manage those difficult times, and keep writing anyway, is a skill that will serve you throughout your writing career. Good luck.

Monday, February 26, 2018

March Secret Agent Early Info

Please note: This is NOT the call for submissions! The contest will open next Monday, March 5.

SUBMISSION GUIDELINES (please read carefully):

*To enter, please use THE SUBMISSION FORM HERE.  (Please note: email submissions are no longer accepted.)
*THIS WILL BE A LOTTERY: The submission window will be open from NOON to 11:59 PM EDT, after which the bot will randomly select 50 entries.
* PLEASE NOTE: You are responsible for figuring out your own time zone. "Time Zone differences" are NOT a reason for not getting your entry in.
* Submissions are for COMPLETED MANUSCRIPTS ONLY. If you wouldn't want an agent to read the entire thing, DON'T SEND IT. If an "entire thing" doesn't exist, you shouldn't even be reading these rules.
* Only ONE ENTRY per person per contest. If you send more than one, your subsequent entry(ies) will be rejected.
* If you WON A CONTEST WITHIN THE PAST 12 MONTHS (i.e., offered any kind of prize from a Secret Agent), please DO NOT ENTER THIS CONTEST. (Unless it's a different manuscript.)
* Submissions are for THE FIRST 250 WORDS of your manuscript. Please do not stop in the middle of a

GO HERE to submit via our web form.

As always, there is no fee to enter the Secret Agent contest.

This month's contest will include the following genres:

Literary Fiction (family saga, immigrant stories, etc.)
Upmarket Women's Fiction
YA (literary and commercial)

(Please do not submit your work if it does not fall under one of these genres.)

Friday, February 16, 2018

Friday Fricassee

Hey, everyone!

Just a few bullet items this morning--I have a FULL DAY AT HOME so I'm planning to hunker down and plot the heebie-jeebies outta this story of mine.

This.  It looks all organized, doesn't it?  But when I started moving some Post-It notes around, THEY DECIDED THEY DIDN'T WANT TO STICK ANYMORE.  If you ever wondered whether it were possible to RAGE against tiny, fluttering bits of paper, I am here to tell you OMG YES.

I ended up having to use pieces of tape.  Which kind of defeats the purpose of a Post-It note.

But I digress.  HERE ARE THE THINGS:

THING ONE:  Because I blog here less frequently than I used to and because I'm moving my focus to my author web page, I really (really really) hope that you'll take a moment to SUBSCRIBE TO MY NEWSLETTER right now.  This will get you two things:

  • A monthly newsletter from my very fingers, giving you the latest updates and inside peek into my journey toward the release of GATHERING STORM (as well as heads up on all the milestones/giveaways/etc.).  Monthly, as in once a month.  In other words, I WON'T ANNOY YOU.  
  • A FREE AUDIOBOOK written and narrated by me.  Because I want you to have it.  And also, well, it's my first audiobook (I mean, I've sung a jillion times, but READING WORDS IS VERY DIFFERENT), and your feedback would be invaluable.


THING TWO:  I'd like to include you on my WALL OF COLLEAGUES.  Basically, I'm compiling a list of everyone who has been a part of this blog community, whether for a week or a decade (10 years this April!), so I can publicly acknowledge everyone who has been a part of my journey.  If you'd like to be included in this list, PLEASE EMAIL ME THE FOLLOWING:
  • Your name (full name or first name/last initial, followed by the SCREEN NAME YOU USE HERE
  • Your Twitter handle (if you have one; if not, no worries)
  • Writing since (the year you started writing)
  • Following the blog since (the year you started following this blog)
  • Your genre
That's it!  I'll be working on this over the next few weeks, so PLEASE HELP SPREAD THE WORD!  Send the above info to me at

IMPORTANT: Please put WALL OF COLLEAGUES in the subject line.

THING THREE:  We're having a SECRET AGENT CONTEST in a few weeks!  Early info will post on Monday, February 26, and submissions will open on Monday, March 5.  KEEP A SHARP EYE ON THE BLOG/TWITTER/FACEBOOK!

And there you have it!  Three happy things.  Hope your weekend is full of happy, too!

Friday, February 9, 2018

Friday Fricassee

Happy Friday, dear ones!

So yesterday I sent out my first author newsletter (go subscribe so you don't miss the next one!), and I spent an awful lot of time checking stats.  As in, how many were delivered (100%).  How many people opened it.  How many people clicked on links (like for the FREE copy of Agent: Demystified). 

I think I'm a stats geek.

It's been a long time since I've done something like this.  Eons ago, I published a weekly newsletter called MOMMY! The Internet Lifeline for Stay-at-Home Moms.  This was back before the days of Mailchimp and moron-proof email campaigns, and I really was that person who accidentally sent out the newsletter one week with everyone's email address visible.

Oy.  It's so much easier now.

I guess you could call that my "first life" as a writer.  I had a burning desire to offer support to other moms-at-home (working or not), and writing has always been a Thing I Do, so it just sort of came together.  Along with the newsletter, I also provided an online forum for these moms.  The coolest thing?  Today, all these years later, there are about 15 of us who are still connected.  We've got a private Facebook group where we still feel safe sharing absolutely anything.

Unexpected pregnancies.  Verbally abusive husbands.  Lyme disease.  Miscarriage.  Cancer.  The death of a grown daughter.  Widowhood.  We've walked through it all together, connected by hearts and words.

We've laughed a lot, too.  Pee-in-your-pants belly laughter that makes your family members nervous for your sanity.  I love these ladies--and I've only met 4 of them in person.

Hearts.  Words.  Lives.

I also wrote this:

I let it go out of print a few years ago, and I've got exactly 4 copies in my house.  Honestly, I can't bear to read it.  My writing style has matured so much that, well, I sort of cringe a little when I flip open the pages.

I've always loved the cover, though.  And the title?  My then-four-year-old daughter actually said that to me one day at the table.  "Mommy, my lima beans are allergic to my spoon."  (Because lima beans.)  How could I not make that into a book title?

In all its imperfection, though, it touched people's hearts.  Encouraged them.  Made them laugh.  Gave them the "you're not alone" feeling that was my intent all along.

So there's that.

Hearts.  Words.  Lives.

And then there's us--this lovely, diverse, bursting-with-words group of people, most of whom have never met face-to-face.  We share our journeys and our hearts, and we offer what we can to our fellow writers.  We learn, we grow, we cheer each other on.  

You know how much I love being part of this community of writers, because I say it all the time.  Isn't it wonderful to be able to use WORDS to connect, to support, to congratulate, to instruct, to love?  We are blessed, indeed, that what we do (write) is also how we reach out.  And I wouldn't trade this connection for anything.

Thanks for being you!  May your weekend be filled with words and loved ones and an incredible sense of knowing that, in the grand scheme of things, you matter.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Author Newsletter Launch!

I'm excited to announce that the first issue of my author newsletter will be going out TOMORROW (Thursday)! 

If you haven't already subscribed (and huge thanks to those who already have!), please do take a moment to sign up now, so you don't miss a single issue.

All subscribers will receive A FREE AUDIOBOOK of THE WISHING SEED, a fairytale in verse written and narrated by me.

(Seriously.  You wouldn't pass up the opportunity to hear me NARRATE, would you? I honestly don't know how people do entire novels.  Because it's like this tiny corner of your brain is just WAITING for you to stumble over a word!)

Head TO MY WEBSITE to subscribe now!

Thursday, February 1, 2018

First Kiss: Critique Guidelines

Yay!  Time for some smooches!

Kisses are trickier than you may think.  Too many adjectives and we might roll our eyes instead of savoring the moment.  Not enough build-up and we might miss the moment altogether.  There's a delicate balance...coupled with personal taste.  (See what I did there?).  So enjoy the kisses--and see if you can help your colleagues make them even better!

Look for feedback from HOLLY BODGER and PIPER J DRAKE over the next few days!

Guidelines for Critique on MSFV:
  • Please leave your critique for each entry in the comment box for that entry.
  • Please choose a screen name to sign your comments. The screen name DOES NOT have to be your real name; however, it needs to be an identifiable name.  ("Anonymous" is not a name.)
  • Critiques should be honest but kind, helpful but sensitive.
  • Critiques that attack the writer or are couched in unkind words will be deleted.*
  • ENTRANTS: As your way of "giving back", please critique a minimum of 3 other entries.

*I can't possibly read every comment.  If you ever see a comment that is truly snarky, please email me.  I count on your help.

First Kiss #15

TITLE: Complex Solutions

Joe and Lexi walk along the beach, killing time, waiting for another friend to arrive so they can all search for Lexi's parents' lost research.

“I can’t let my parents down, let that stranger who’s stalking me get his hands on it. I mean, if that’s why he’s following me around.”

Joe stops and turns towards me. “We’re going to find it.”

“Sorry, it seems it’s all I ever talk about. I shouldn’t dump it all on you.”

“Why are you apologizing? I want to help, Lexi.” His jaw muscle pulses. He takes a step closer.

“You’ve already done so much.” I look him in the eye and hold his gaze. He’s so close, his eyes an ocean of endless green.

My heart is like a ticking time bomb, a spark about to ignite into a firestorm. Joe leans close and takes my face in his hands. His peppermint scented breath is warm on my face as he parts my lips with his. I close my eyes and kiss him back, a soft, gentle kiss that slowly deepens. He brushes my cheek with his thumb as his other arm winds around my waist tugging me to him, against the warmth of him. I place my hands on his sweatshirt and feel his heart thrum in his chest. He tastes so good, a mix of salt, soap and peppermint rushing through my veins, through every cell. This is so good, so right. I don’t want to stop.But I do.

Because I feel like a fraud, keeping my secret from him. He thinks I have it all together. He has no clue how messed up I am, addicted to the little knife in my pocket. Will he still want to kiss me when he discovers the truth? My head spins. I draw in a sharp gulp of air and jerk back.
Joe’s eyes widen. “Lexi, what’s wrong?”

First Kiss #14

TITLE: What We Were Missing
GENRE: YA Contemporary

After a huge fight with her sister, Riley has driven to Hall’s apartment, where she’s taken out her anger on him. When she’s calmed down he wants her to talk, but she’s not sure she can trust him.  

“Do you want to talk about it?” His eyes are gentle and probing and I almost say yes.

“Not really.”

“Of course not,” he mumbles.

My body buzzes with irritation.

“What does that mean?”

He sits back with his lanky legs stretched out before him.

“Just more of the same from you.”

“So what?  You want all the juicy details?”

I sink into the cushion behind me and am suddenly, acutely aware of the negative space between us.  His head, leaned against the back of the couch, rolls towards me.

“Just something,” he says, and his eyes search my face with small, frantic movements.  I pull my feet up, embracing my knees like a shield.

“I don’t know what to do with you,” he whispers, and almost imperceptibly tugs at the hem of my jeans.

“That makes two of us,” I say.

When his eyes meet mine I can hardly remember myself.  Little flecks of gray float near his irises, like foam caps in a green sea.  This time when he pulls gently on my jeans I release my legs and let them fall towards him.  His hand brushes the top of my arm and before I can push back he’s pulling me close, his lips pressing softly into mine.  I move into the arc of his body and for a moment I disappear in his warmth.  For a moment I melt under his soft touch, his gentle kisses.  For a moment I let go.

First Kiss #13

GENRE: YA Contemporary

Soccer prodigy Lexi tore her ACL and, many months later, still struggles to return to form. Friend and freestyle partner Brasil gets her to play a very high-stakes game of soccer and she finally, finally, scores a goal.

 I’m so giddy I can’t stop giggling. Brasil laughs too, his hands around my waist, holding me so long I realize I should probably get down. But I don’t want to get down. As Brasil’s hands migrate lower, as our laughter fades to silence, I don’t think he wants me to get down either. He hitches me closer with one hand while his other strokes my cheek, then traces a path to my ear, outlines a lobe, goes back to my chin. A heavy swallow passes over his Adam’s apple. His gaze intensifies. My breathing shallows. Our smiles fade into something softer, more hesitant.

    I’m done being hesitant about any of this.

    I press my lips to his. He kisses me back, fully and firmly, with an intensity, a longing I’m not quite prepared for. His breath is a heady mix of coconut and vanilla. I taste it on his lips, his tongue. And those hands, those rough, callused hands that I’ve longed to have touch me, travel everywhere. I tighten my legs around his waist as he clutches the back of my neck; his other hand runs up and down my back, my sides, so, so close to the front of my sports bra, like he’s never going to be able to do this again. Those hands continue to roam, even when we break apart. I’m breathless, a little dizzy, and even more giddy than before.

    Because his kiss? This? Us?

    It’s even more glorious than the goal I just scored.

First Kiss #12

TITLE: Not Dead Enough
GENRE: YA Horror

Charlotte is being stalked by someone claiming to be her dead boyfriend. Nate has been helping her try to find out who it is. Charlotte isn't sure if Nate is just a nice guy or if he actually likes her. They have just arrived at a school dance together.

Maybe I’d misinterpreted what tonight meant. Maybe he was going to tell me that he just wanted to be friends, that it didn’t mean anything that we were here together.

I waited, wanting him to just get it over with. When the song ended, he shifted in his seat so he was facing me. “I’m sure you’ve already figured this out, but I really like you.”

The butterflies in my stomach seemed to have grown, and everything inside me fluttered. I cleared my throat, hoping my voice wouldn’t squeak. “I really like you too.”

Nate grinned, then the grin faded, and he leaned toward me. I shifted in my seat, leaning toward him. He put his hand on the side of my face, and together, we closed that last inch. His lips were warm and soft, and the butterflies in my stomach were so agitated that they almost felt uncomfortable.

He kissed me as if he wasn’t thinking of anything but me. He kissed me as if he couldn’t get enough of me. I couldn’t get enough of him. It felt dangerous and real and too good to be true. There wasn’t enough air in the car, but I didn’t need to breathe ever again. Everything felt too warm, as if we might burst into flames.

When we broke the kiss and sat back slightly, I couldn’t help grinning like an idiot, the same grin that was on Nate’s face. “This is the best dance ever,” Nate said, then laughed.

First Kiss #11

TITLE: Evren
GENRE: YA Fantasy

Evren and Sa'av faced the villain together and Sa'av was hurt. Things are coming to a head.

His sapphire eyes were dilated, his breathing shallow. "What happened?"

"They pierced me. In the chest."

Evren swore under her breath as he lifted the torn tunic and she saw the wound pooling with blood and liquid.

"Will you let me?"

His eyes flickered up towards her, hazy with pain. "Please, Evren."

Swallowing the lump that had risen in her throat, she kneeled down, the violet silk pooling around her. The tightness in her chest wouldn't leave. This was goodbye.

Tipping her head down so he wouldn't see the tears, she went to work, binding the wound. He inhaled sharply when her hands touched his waist. Glancing up, she opened her mouth to apologize for hurting him.

But was surprised when his mocha hand came to her chin and tipped her towards him.

Their lips met together and a volcano of heat flushed around her face down her neck. Evren bit his bottom lip gently, her eyes fluttering closed. Heat swarmed other places of her body and she pressed into his chest, careful to avoid his cut.

Tipping her face away from his searching lips, she rested her face in the nape of his neck.

"Evren," His tone was hoarse, "Please - "

"I have to leave, Sa'av."

She felt him slump down, his body quaking with disappointment. Tears threatened to slip down her cheeks. Biting down hard on her lip, Evren leaned back so he could see her face. The orange and violet dust particles continued to fall around them. They were in their own messed up fairytale world for that moment.

First Kiss #10

TITLE: For the Love of a Child
GENRE: Adult Suspense

Pearl has killed Betty’s abusive ex-husband, worried that he knew they switched the baby of a famous actress with another. When Brandon (a Private Investigator with a crush on Betty) arrives and starts pounding on the door asking if Betty is okay, Pearl tells Betty to get rid of him.

“Betty, don’t —”

I pulled him down by the lapels, stood on my tiptoes and brought my mouth to his. I felt his body tense for half a second, then his arms were around me. I kissed him hard, hungrily, letting all the emotion of the day empty from my body into his. I felt him respond to me, felt the muscles in his body tense. He kissed me back. His effort matched mine and then surpassed it. For that moment in time, all thoughts of babies and actresses and dead husbands disappeared. There was only the two of us, fusing into one.

After what must have been minutes, I reluctantly pulled away. My arms were wrapped around Brandon’s neck, something I didn’t remember doing. His hot breath heated my face as he brought his forehead down to touch mine. Part of me didn’t want to move, but Pearl’s last order stuck in my brain. Get him out of here.

“Get me out of here.” My hands moved down to his chest and found his heartbeat. It raced almost as fast as mine. “Let’s go. Anywhere. Just not here.”

He didn’t let go of me, but I saw his eyes move back to the front door. I tilted my head up and kissed him again. Gently this time, just for a moment.

“Please, get me out of here.”

He kept one arm around me as he led the way to his car.

First Kiss #9

TITLE: A Hundred Breaths
GENRE: Adult Historical Romance

13th century, Scotland. Gwyn is a Nord-Ancients woman who's been kidnapped from the isles and forced to wed Simon (a Scotsman) in a revenge plot against Gwyn's father. She refused to show up in the wedding chapel, so Simon's father brought the priest up to her bedchamber. Accepting her fate, she consents to the union:

The priest cleared his throat. “Wilt thou have this man to be thy wedded husband, to live together after God’s holy estate of matrimony? Wilt thou love him, submit to him, honor and keep him, so long as you both shall live?”

Gwyn paused. Simon’s vows had lacked submit.

Simon’s father Alroy coughed.

Her groom’s eyes never left hers. They were as vast as the sea.

Her whispered words caught in her throat. “I will.”

It was done.

“Our help is in the Lord, who made heaven and earth,” the nasally priest said, taking both of their hands into his cold ones. “Blessed be this union.”

Simon didn’t release their connection. He stood unnaturally still, his face expressionless.
“Kiss your bride, Sir,” the priest encouraged.

Simon bent down to her level, turned his head to the side, and planted a soft kiss on her lips. She leaned ever so slightly in and allowed her own lips to meet his. She had never tasted a man’s lips before, and it was the briefest of moments. She’d expected ale or perhaps pungent cider, but as she pulled back and he released her hands, all the taste that remained with her was of fear.

And not just her own.

Simon turned on his heel and left without another word. His father followed, brimming with satisfaction, and lastly, the priest slinked away.

Once again, she was alone in her room. Alone on her wedding night, a Nord woman the new lady of Eilean Donan.

First Kiss #8

TITLE: Will of Time
GENRE: Adult Speculative Fiction

Will is a former child prodigy and a current professor at MIT with growing feelings for his PhD student, Elise. Elise is in her final semester and has had her eye on Will for a long time. She's just given him a thoughtful Christmas gift and, not having planned on a gift exchange, he has nothing for her. He's all apologies. She silences him with a kiss.

Without warning, Elise leaned in and placed her lips upon mine, their softness momentarily stunning me. I reacted the only way I knew how. I leaned forward and kissed her back the way her professor most certainly should not. In over my head, I pulled her to me without further thought of right or wrong. I drank in her scent, her taste, every inch of her I could claim in some way.

She had initiated it, but I found myself turning the tables, pinning her to the door in our heated exchange, one hand seeking her cheek as the other pressed against her lower back, pulling her tighter to me. My tongue danced across her lips, still tasting of her last glass of Riesling, and she responded by sinking closer, demanding more. I had been stupid to think that my growing attraction to Elise wouldn’t end in disaster.

In a rush of emotion, Elise finally broke the kiss. Her glassy, dark eyes were filled with something I couldn’t identify. Warning? Regret? Satisfaction? Even assaulted by guilt, there wasn’t a single part of me that didn’t want more. Had I been invited, I would have followed her into the apartment and into her bedroom without a second thought. God, she tasted as good as she smelled.

James. I shut my eyes. Jesus, Will. What were you thinking? A moment like that…
And my first thoughts were about her goddamn boyfriend?

First Kiss #7

TITLE: She Dances in Blood
GENRE: YA post-apocalyptic/urban fantasy/romance

Grayson and Ivy (Ivanka) are trying to get their supplies, and themselves, out of the sudden rain when Ivy slips. Their moment is interrupted by Ivy’s best friend, Rosie.

She pulls up short, her foot slipping in mud. My arms go around her waist and catch her. She clutches my arms, and we stand frozen in the rain.

I don't know what I'm doing, don't know that Ivanka’s not going to level me flat for touching her this way. I do know I have to hold her.

She doesn't push me away; she just looks at me with those big blue eyes.

I’ve imagined this but never thought it would happen. I slide my hand up her jaw and cup the side of her face. My other hand pulls her closer. She tilts her head, looking up at me. My heart clatters in my chest louder than the thunder rumbling above.

“Ivy,” I breathe.

Her lips part; her eyes close.

I'm almost afraid to kiss her, sure she’ll lash out, rebuild the fortress around her heart, and once again become the death angel I can only admire from afar. I press a single kiss to her cheek and hear her short intake of breath. Her hands slide up my back, her palms firm against me, keeping us together.
I want to tell her I love her, but I know it’ll scare her. I kiss down her jawline instead, telling her without words.

“Oh,” she breathes, her fingers grasping my shirt, digging into the muscles of my back. “Please kiss me.”

My thumb caresses her bottom lip. “Yes, ma’am.”

The warmth of her lips is just meeting mine when …

First Kiss #6

GENRE: Adult Contemporary Romance

Strangers, Nate and Victoria openly flirt while waiting to cross a busy intersection. Jilted from a recent breakup, Victoria is flustered by his attention and steps into traffic too soon. Nate saves her from getting hit by a car and tends to her injuries. She wants to thank him with a kiss.

Before I could process what was happening, he ripped the hem of his T-shirt and pulled off a strip of fabric. Bare-fisted. Like it was nothing.

The stranger swept my hair from my face and wrapped the cotton around my head. I feathered my fingertips down his strong jaw, testing if he was real.

Smiling warmly, the line of his brows deepened. “Maybe…one more loop…hmm…” His voice was deep and gentle, with a rough scratch. I wanted him to sing me to sleep, tumble toward me in the middle of the night.

Our bodies moved closer, his shoulder touching mine, my breasts falling on his chest. I let him into my space, trusting him.

“There.” He tucked the makeshift bandage. “Tight enough?”

It wasn’t. “Yes.” Breathy and soft, my response sounded more appropriate for the bedroom, but the word escaped my lips unrestrained. I couldn’t imagine ever saying no to him.

I felt his quick breaths on mine. His thumb caressed my jaw. I leaned in. Then, the bandage loosened and slipped down my face.

“Guess it wasn’t tight after all,” he said.

Heart pounding in my ears, I took in deep breaths. A lump traveled down his throat, bobbing his slight Adam’s Apple. Once again, he secured the bandage. He continued like our almost kiss moment hadn’t happened, but it had. I knew it. He knew it. It clung to the air, contracted with his bicep, and lingered in my eyes as I drooled over his tattoos.

First Kiss #5

TITLE: Fated Beginning and End
GENRE: NA Fantasy

Faelyn is a newly risen queen and she's fallen forbiddingly for Bastien, a soldier in her army. They have a magical connection that draws them to each other, but then a misunderstanding happens and he's sent away. Knowing she shouldn't, Faelyn rushes to tell him goodbye.

Bastien gazed into her and placed his hands on either side of her face. “We'll be together again.”
He dipped his head, eyes intent on her lips. She should stop him. Stop this before it became more than just unspoken intentions and trapped her in her misery, but as true as that was, she knew she wouldn’t. Her body and soul needed and wanted his love as much as he needed hers.

She stood on the balls of her feet and tilted her face to his. Their lips met, claiming each other. They moved and breathed together in the most intimate dance she'd ever experienced. The taste of him was surreal, the most intoxicating flavor, making her want more. His body, so tight against hers, left an ache burning low in her belly.

He moved a hand to the nape of her neck, pulling her closer. His scent, like untamed woods, flooded her senses. Her hands slid up his muscled arms, feeling the strength of him with her mind and magic. From his broad shoulders up his smooth neck, to his pronounced jaw. She plunged her fingers into his long hair.

He gasped, one warm hand winding around her waist, lips moving with their desperate need, just as strong as hers. More, she needed more. She parted her lips and he acknowledged the invitation eagerly. His tongue slipped in and collided with hers. Tasting, tangling—a wanting that sent her shivering and set her on fire from the inside out.

First Kiss #4


Brian thinks Elizabeth might be a lesbian. He decides to determine if she is by kissing her. If she feels nothing, she’s a lesbian. She’s already attracted to him but he doesn’t know. This is not only their first kiss but her first kiss, ever.

His lips crash down to mine and the world spins upside down. Everything is quiet – even my nonsensical head for once. The kiss is quick, a peck, but the earth is moving too fast when he pulls back.

“Did you feel anything?” I swallow hard, not sure what to say. Should I tell him I feel all kinds of things when I’m near him?

“You didn’t do it long enough,” Crystal says.

Before I can tell him, it was fine. He grabs my face. Drawing my mouth toward his, he stops just as our lips are about to touch. The words I plan to say are shoved behind my desire for his lips on mine again. His eyes scan my face. “Breathe. Relax. Don’t overthink it.”

His voice has dropped an octave and the vibration rolls against my skin sending shivers up my spine. My eyes slip shut and his lips wrap around mine. I inhale his citrus scent. His hand goes to the back of my head, drawing me in closer. The other rests on the small of my back. This kiss is slow and deep. All the muscles in my body clench.

His tongue slips into my mouth.

What the heck? I push against his chest. He lures me back and never stops kissing me – tongue and all.

I’m not sure about this.

I don’t know if I like this.

Until I taste the chocolate covered raisins he’s been eating. It’s the most delicious flavor mixed with him.

First Kiss #3

TITLE: The Gentleman's Farm
GENRE: Adult Women's Fiction

In an attempt to get her sexy know-it-all neighbor Evan out of her head, Mika takes a bottle of wine to her front porch and calls a local radio station, asking them to play a song to capture her feelings of frustration with a man. Evan hears, and storms over to her house.

“What the hell was that about?” He demanded as he stomped up the steps.

“What are you talking about?”

“That business on the radio! Was that because of me?”

“Who the hell else would it be about?”

He put his hands on the sides of her face and bent his head to capture her mouth in his. He kissed her lightly, then with more fervor. Deeper and deeper. She felt her resolve weakening, her knees softening and the heat rising in her.

“Make no mistake, Mika. I am undoubtedly attracted to you. I refuse to fall for someone who is just going to up and leave in a year. It’s not a smart business decision.”

Just as quickly as he’d ignited passion, he’d brought on her anger.

“Business decision? Since when is dating a business decision?”

“Since the beginning of time! All I’m saying is, all I do is all in and I’m not the type to just do a summer fling.”

He kissed her one more time and then jogged down her steps, leaving her even more horny and frustrated.

First Kiss #2

TITLE: Redefined
GENRE: YA Contemporary

High school seniors Cat and Adam are on their second date. The last time Adam brought Cat home, her overprotective father interrupted their almost kiss goodnight by shining a mag light into Adam’s truck. Shockingly, Adam asked Cat out again, and this time, he’s a little wiser…

Before we got to my driveway, Adam pulled off to the side of the road. Dark shadows of cows moved slowly in the pasture next to his truck, but otherwise, there wasn’t anyone around to bother us.  He shifted into park, cut the engine, and turned off the lights. When he looked over at me, his eyes caught the dim light from the dash, and they looked huge, hopeful.

“Look, you can see Capella from here,” he said.

He hadn’t stopped the truck because of a star.  I pressed my hands against my legs so he wouldn’t see them tremble. I was horribly unprepared for what was coming. “Um, thanks, I had fun learning about photography, and the movie was good too, and …”

Half smiling, he reached over and touched his finger to my lips. “Sssh.”

My mouth stopped moving, but everything inside me raced.

He inched closer and dropped his finger.

I closed my eyes.

When he leaned in to kiss me, our noses bumped together, and I pulled back, proving my gigantic lack of experience in the kissing department. I opened my eyes, considered bailing on the whole idea, but Adam tilted his head and tried again.

His lips were softer than I expected, and I didn’t pull away.  At first I couldn’t breathe, and I didn’t know where to put my hands, but after a while, after I quit worrying and just let myself feel, it was so easy for us to fuse together.

First Kiss #1

TITLE: Time Passages
GENRE: YA Contemporary Fantasy

Gemma really likes her friend Ben and has been trying to find the right time and place to tell him. Finally, they're at a party together and she decides it's now or never. But the only place they can find to be alone together is the laundry room.

I look up at him and flounder around for the right words, but can’t think of any. I push ahead anyway. “I like you, Ben. A lot.” His eyebrows rise, but I keep talking. “I think I’ve liked you forever. I'm sorry if it makes you uncomfortable, but I had to tell you. You don’t have to say anything back right now. I understand.”

I can’t meet his eyes, afraid of what I’ll see. Embarrassment? Horror? I stare at his throat and watch his Adam’s apple bob up and down, petrified I just ruined everything.

I glance up at his face and his lips are curved into a smile. “It doesn’t make me uncomfortable, Gemma. I like you too.”

“You do?”

“Yeah, but you were always with Kyle. So I didn’t think—”

“Kyle's not my boyfriend anymore. I'm breaking up with him. Tonight.”



He leans closer and touches my cheek. My heart pounds. His arms wrap around my waist, his head lowers and he kisses me. Softly at first, then long and deep, one hand slides up my back and laces through my hair. Kissing him is thrilling and sweet. I feel a little wobbly.

Our first kiss is nothing like the fantasy I had a few days ago—no beach, or crashing waves, or sunset sky. We stand under glaring fluorescent lights. Instead of a sea breeze, the air is filled with the overpowering smells of bleach and floral fabric softener. The rumble of a dryer is our soundtrack.

None of that matters.

Ben likes me.