L.J. Greene's Blog

December 14, 2018

4 Ways to Leave Your Readers Sweaty, Breathless, and Gasping “Oh, Baby!”

From my guest post on Long and Short Reviews. Enjoy!
http://www.longandshortreviews.com/gu...

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In romance writing, we love our oohs and ahs. But it turns out that love scenes are quite tricky, and much harder to craft than one might expect. There’s no right way to do it, no how-to manual. Some writers prefer to simply fade to black; others favor a lot of description. It’s a highly personal decision. (Full disclosure: I fall somewhere in the middle. I love a sexy description, so long as it’s done artfully and with purpose.)

Still, certain things hold true regardless of your particular preferences, and it’s important to keep them in mind. After all, a badly crafted scene involving a bank robbery may be boring to a reader, but a badly crafted love scene can be just plain hilarious. And that’s not usually the goal.

The good news is that as human beings, we’re biologically programmed to be interested in sex. Sex of any kind, really. Cows, horses, grasshoppers – if a creature is doing it, we’re inclined to at least give it a glance. So you can expect the cat ears of your readers will naturally swing forward at the first gasp of desire. As such, love scenes are powerful tools in your arsenal of storytelling. Use them responsibly! When you have a tiger by the tail, there’s a lot that can go wrong. Here are a few things to keep it from turning on you:

1. Context. Context. Context.
The measure of a great love scene is that it could only be written for those two specific characters in that particular moment in time. I can’t stress this enough. Sex is not an exchange of sweat; it’s an exchange of emotion. (And there’s a wide range of emotion available to you; don’t limit yourself to just love or lust.) What happens in a sex scene is far less important than why it happens or how your characters feel about it. Too much description with too little emotional context and you have wandered into “hokey pokey” territory. Readers deserve far more than just being told where the right arm presently is.

2. Words matter.
• Power words like “lick” go a long way towards painting a vivid mental picture, and the human brain is more than willing to fill in the rest. Too much detail can be unnecessary and distracting. If you find yourself describing slurping or slapping, you’ve likely gone too far.

• Resist verbal contortionism. I cringe when I read scenes where an author has gone to extreme measures to avoid using certain words. It’s true that how a writer describes the female body, in particular, is a very personal and stylized thing. But most romance readers are not so delicate that you need to say “tender pink crests.” Just say nipple. No one will mind.

• Leave out the euphemisms. If you find yourself writing “coochie,” perhaps you yourself are not comfortable with the level of description in your scene. Your readers will know it. Further, if “flesh knife” appears in your novel, might I suggest any number of better alternatives?

• “Moist” and “creamy” are best left to describe the excellent cake your lovers will enjoy together afterwards. Enough said.

3. Say something!
One of the things I look for in a great love scene is dialog. Keep in mind that these are two human beings. Interacting. And that interaction should move the story along, not just serve as a sexy digression. Dialog is a highly efficient and interesting way to convey emotional context. As you sit down to craft a love scene, try thinking about it as a dialog scene with physical details to support.

4. Employ at least three senses.
In the throes of writing a sex scene (no pun intended!), it’s easy for us writers to forget that our sense of touch is only one arrow in the quiver. What we see and hear, what we smell, and what we taste play equally important roles. By layering in several senses, you can paint a three-dimensional picture that is far more vivid, compelling, and artfully sexy.

Oh, baby!
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Published on December 14, 2018 07:28 Tags: love-scene, romance, romance-writing, sex-scene, tips-for-love-scene, tips-for-sex-scene, writers, writing

December 13, 2018

A Holiday Epilogue for Aftereffects

For Nance. Because you asked... :)

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Keir


“Okay, so what’s the emergency?” Dan asked me, sliding into the booth on the opposite side and holding up a finger to signal the waitress. “Wait, did you order?”

Jamie shook his head. “Not yet, mate.”

It was just barely six o’clock on a Thursday evening at The Rose & Crown, and the happy hour crowd was already humming.

“What can I get for you?”

“Two Plinys,” Dan told her, gesturing between us. “Guinness for this guy,” he added pointing to Jamie, “and . . . what?” he asked Marcus. “A Shirley Temple? Extra cherries?”

“You’re a riot, grandpa,” Marcus mumbled. “I’ll have an IPA.”

Dan leaned back with his arm draped across the booth and turned to me again. “All right. So what’s got you stress-eating bar nuts? And by the way, I wouldn’t do that,” he cautioned, pointing at the cashew I’d just picked up. “Marcus licks his fingers and double-dips.”

I tossed the cashew back onto the table, and on a gusty exhale told them, “I need your help. I still haven’t figured out what I’m giving Selene for Christmas.”

I could almost hear the screeching of brakes that ripped through the bar at my admission. Time stopped. Conversation went silent. Somewhere, birds probably fell from the sky. Three pairs of eyebrows shot up and there was a subtle shifting of bodies around our table.

“You do know it’s—” Dan turned his wrist and the screen on his watch lit up with the date. “December 13th?”

“I’m well aware,” I answered, leaning forward and dropping my head into my hands. Apparently, this situation was as bad as I imagined. “I’ve been running through all these ideas but nothing feels right. It’s our first Christmas together, our first real gift-giving occasion. I can’t blow this.”

Like an act of divine holiday magic, our waitress returned with alcohol and lots of it, materializing through the crowd and setting our drinks down on coasters in front of each of us. As we descended into our glasses, there was a general consensus around the table that, yes, I was totally screwed if I blew this.

“Okay, here’s the plan: You need a gift,” Dan said to me. “We’ll just do some research.” He pulled out his phone and opened the Google app. “What. Women. Want. 2018,” he mouthed, typing. “Here,” he said pointing to his phone. “Good Housekeeping’s 37 best gift ideas for the woman in your life. Number one, face cream.” He frowned. “Number two, a life planner.” He paused and looked up. “What the hell is a life planner?”

“Dude,” Marcus said sitting forward and holding up his hands. “Isn’t the correct answer to this problem always jewelry? We’re done here.”

“Are you both mad?” Jamie asked them. “Keir cannot give his fiancé a generic gift on their first Christmas. Keir, my mate, you need to come up with something that demonstrates some thought. Some individuality.”

A sinking feeling took hold in my gut. I knew he was right, of course, which is why I hadn’t slept in a week and my brain was practically melting in my head. “What was the first gift you gave Mel?”

“Ah,” he said, nodding. “I wrote her a song and performed it for her in front of thirteen hundred people at The Fillmore.”

My heart immediately bottomed out. I could only look at the bastard and blink.

“I suppose that’s not much help,” he added quickly and with an apologetic wince.

“Not much,” I affirmed. “What about you?” I glanced over at Dan, who looked up from his phone where he was still scrolling the list for something better than face cream.

“I surprised Sarah with a piano. And above it, I hung a portrait of her I’d taken on our first date. She says she thinks it was the exact moment we fell in love.”

Groaning, I rubbed a palm over my mouth. My stomach felt twisty and gross. I was so screwed.

“You know the funniest part of all of this?” Marcus chimed in next to me, arms resting on the table and a wicked grin on his face. “The girls are probably sitting around right now, having this exact conversation. And what you just heard from these saps,” he said nodding his chin at Dan and Jamie, “that’s your measuring stick.”

“You are such a dick right now,” I told him, laughing despite the fact that I was this close to throttling his scrawny throat.

“Yeah, well, what did you expect?”

“Maybe that your seven-year friendship with my bride-to-be might be of some small use in this situation.”

“I don’t know shit about women.” He said it lightly, but his expression suggested there was something tighter beneath it—and nothing he would ever say to me.

Silence engulfed us again and I glanced around, feeling the weight of every Christmas wreath and blinking light and Ho, Ho, Ho resting heavily on my chest.

“Well . . . I did have one idea.” I was hesitant to even mention it because for all I knew it was just as terrible as giving Selene face cream. “I was thinking I could take her to Vegas.”

My eyes flickered to Dan, measuring his reaction. For several beats, he said nothing. Then slowly I watched his expression go from blank to wide-eyed as my meaning dawned. “Elope?”

I winced. “It’s bad. Right?”

Jamie laughed. “Depends how do you feel about castration at the hands of your mother-in-law?”

“No castration required,” I said holding up my hands. “We’d still do the whole wedding thing exactly as planned. I’m not talking about cancelling that. I’m talking about something private just for us. We wouldn’t even have to tell anyone, if she didn’t want to.”

God, was this a terrible idea? I hadn’t actually said it out loud until just now, and the response around the table was not reassuring.

Selene and I joked often about eloping because the wedding planning was reaching comedic levels of absurdity. But in truth, I think I was only partly joking. Yes, a part of me was excited to proudly holler my love for her in front of a big crowd of everyone we knew. Look! Look what I got! But there was another part of me that only needed her, and that part of me was happy to whisper my commitment between us in this small, quiet space where only we existed because that was the only place that really mattered.

“Being married to Selene is the only thing I want. Just to stand before her and pledge myself to her and promise her a life together with love and respect at its core. Anything else I’d give her wouldn’t do justice to what she means to me.”

I let go of a deep breath and lifted my glass, feeling mildly defeated and, honestly, not even caring if my crew gave me a mountain of shit for being so whipped. I deserved it. Truthfully, I relished the feeling that I’d finally been claimed.

But instead they were conspicuously silent for what felt like an eternity. Dan and Jamie exchanged a brief look. I couldn’t tell what any of them were thinking and it drove me crazy.

“Damn, Stevens,” Marcus finally said, shaking his head. “You certainly do know how to throw down when you want to.”

I sniffed out a laugh. “So, is that a thumbs up or a thumbs down?”

Marcus shrugged. “She already said she’d marry you, so what the hell? I say do it.”

Dan hummed thoughtfully, considering this. He was, himself, a newly wed. “I can’t believe I’m saying this but I think I agree with Marcus. My wedding day was one of the best days of my life, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. But you do get pulled in so many directions. It would’ve been nice to have a moment to just let it all sink in and enjoy the significance of what we’d done. So yeah, I get it. I think Selene would, too.”

“Seriously?”

“Seriously.” He held my gaze and I felt a knot loosen in my chest.

“I agree. It’s brilliant,” Jamie added with a grin. “And if nothing else, you’ll get a whole weekend away together—some great meals, a few shows. What do you have to lose?”

A surge of relief flooded my system and I couldn’t fight the smile that exploded across my face. I felt a little shaky and slightly euphoric at the thought that this crazy idea might not be so crazy after all—that my girl might hear me out and not think I was a total lunatic for wanting the future we envisioned together to start, well, . . . now.

“Thanks,” I told them, and I couldn’t make my cheeks go back to their normal shape. I thought they just might stay like this forever.

“Okay, then,” Jamie said, “the only question remaining is, D’ya need a few witnesses?”
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Published on December 13, 2018 07:32 Tags: aftereffects, christmas, epilogue, holiday, holiday-epilogue, perfect-gift

December 12, 2018

Boo! And Yay! The Ups and Downs of Writing

Today I had the good fortune of visiting The Reading Addict. Below is my guest post. And here is the link to the full entry:
https://thereadingaddict-elf.blogspot...

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Writing, for me, is like being in an angsty teenage romance. One minute, it’s all sweet, sweet ecstasy and you swear you’ve landed Thor himself (the movie version!), all perfect and beautiful, and muscles on top of muscles. The next minute, you’re kicking him to the curb, drinking boxed chardonnay to the music of Adele and planning your satisfying life with cats.

Because let’s face it, writing is hard. Whenever I hear authors say their books just flew out of them, I fantasize about extending my foot and tripping them as they walk by. (I’ve never actually done that, by the way, but damn if it wouldn’t be tempting.) Writing often gives you those high highs and low lows, with very little in between. It’s something you have to be willing to truly work at. And it should be that way. After all, earning even one reader is a privilege. But at the same time, you also have to be kind to yourself. You have to believe in the value of your words. And most of all, you have to trust that your voice is worthy to join the chorus.

I’ve written three books to date, and I can honestly say that at one point or another in the writing process I have despised them all. My search history will attest to the fact that I actually once googled ‘what to do when you hate your manuscript.’ (Who knew there are actually websites for that!) But the longer I’ve been doing this and the more I interact with other authors, the more I’ve come to realize that we all go through this. It’s normal. Even Bruce Springsteen has said about the song-writing process for some of his most iconic work that he simply failed until he didn’t – that certain songs were crap until they weren’t.

So when we sit alone in front of our keyboards and expect ourselves to be Hemingway the first time through, we should probably keep in mind that even Hemingway scrapped certain scenes, rewrote entire chapters, and compared himself unfavorably to others. It’s just the nature of the angsty romance that every author has with writing. The trick, I think, is to not give up on what you’re doing until that thing you’re writing becomes the thing you intended it to be – to believe you have it in you, and then make it so. Because when that happens, it’s magic.

Of all of my books, Aftereffects was the most arduous to write, probably because it’s my most personal and the bar was set very high to get it just right. It’s a gorgeous friends-to-lovers story with a squeal-worthy HEA and two utterly loveable characters. I adore the book. It might even be my favorite. But it wasn't that way every day. Many days, it was Adele and chardonnay and cats…
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Published on December 12, 2018 06:46 Tags: advice, romance, ups-and-downs, writer-s-block, writers, writing

December 6, 2018

Aftereffects Characters Debate the Merits of the Dual POV in Aftereffects

Today I visited Books to Light Your Fire and provided this guest post - Keir and Selene debating the merits of the dual POV in Aftereffects. So much fun!

https://bookstolightyourfire.blogspot...

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Keir: So the question here is what . . . why we didn’t want some third person telling our story for us?

Selene: Yeah, that’s the question.

Keir: Why would we want that?

Selene: I don’t know—because a third person is unbiased, I guess. And they can speak to what other people are thinking, too.

Keir: What other people? The story is pretty much just us.

Selene: Like Justin, for example.

Keir: No one cares what Justin thinks. I don’t even care what Justin thinks.

Selene: (laughs) Nah, I really don’t care, either.

Keir: Besides, Aftereffects isn’t about some bank heist. It’s a love story.

Selene: A friends-to-lovers love story.

Keir: Exactly. It’s kind of personal. To have had some third person telling it would’ve been weird. Don’t you think?

Selene: I agree. Another option, though, is that I could’ve told it.

Keir: By yourself?

Selene: Yes.

Keir: Not happening.

Selene: Why?

Keir: That’s boring.

Selene: What?

Keir: You’d have spent the whole book going ooohhh Keir, he’s so hot, he’s so perfect, he has such a big—

Selene: Keir!

Keir: (laughs) You know you would.

Selene: You’re the most annoying.

Keir: And you, Ms. Georgiou, are my aching, forever love. But you have to admit, Aftereffects is much better because I’m in it. Also, not to bring up a sore subject here, but you didn’t always read the tealeaves correctly when it came to us.

Selene: Ouch.

Keir: It’s true, though.

Selene: It’s kind of true. Much as I hate to admit it to your arrogant, smug face.

Keir: Handsome, did you say?

Selene: I didn’t say that, no.

Keir: (smiles) And don’t forget that I told some great stories in Aftereffects.

Selene: Like what stories?

Keir: Like the Jiffy Pop story in Chapter 21. I gave some valuable insight into my upbringing.

Selene: You mean how ten-year-old you ran around pretending to be a superhero?

Keir: Human Torch, baby. Flame on! (reaches out for a fist bump)

Selene: Flame on!

Keir: You know, one of the reviewers said they loved the way I told the part about when you made me go with you to Bloomingdales.

Selene: I didn’t make you. You were holding up your side of a bargain.

Keir: Yeah, whatever.

Selene: I’m still a little mad at you for that chapter, by the way. Did you really have to tell everyone about . . . you know . . .

Keir: (grins big) I don’t think I do. What are you referring to?

Selene: Hush, you.

Keir: (laughs) You’re blushing! That part was awesome . . . Any guy would agree. And that’s why we needed my POV. We needed a man’s perspective.

Selene: And what would’ve been your perspective on the part where you told me you wanted every side of me in every light of day for as long as we have.

Keir: I don’t remember it like that.

Selene: Which is why we needed my perspective. (smiles big) It’s all right there in Chapter 12.

Keir: I knew I should’ve narrated that chapter. And speaking of which, I need to talk to L.J. about the number of chapters I got. I don’t think it was 50/50.

Selene: She probably didn’t think you could keep a secret.

Keir: What do you mean?

Selene: I think she wanted me to tell the earlier chapters because good storytelling means you let a story out slowly. And you’re kind of . . .

Keir: I’m kind of what?

Selene: Awesome. (smiles)

Keir: No. (laughs) Nice try, Georgiou. What were you going to say? I’m kind of what?

Selene: You’re just very . . . introspective. You analyze everything. Which is a good thing. It’s one of your best qualities, Keir.

Keir: But?

Selene: No but.

Keir: (raises a brow)

Selene: I just think once you got rolling, you would have told the whole thing in one long chapter and not left anything for me.

Keir: So you’re saying I’m too awesome of a storyteller.

Selene: I don’t think that’s what I said at all.

Keir: And a bit of a demigod.

Selene: It’s a good thing I love you.

Keir: It’s a damn good thing you love me.
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Published on December 06, 2018 06:29 Tags: aftereffects, character-debate, contemporary, dual-pov, humor, romance

December 5, 2018

"Oh, Yes Baby!" And Other Things I've Learned About Writing

Good morning! Today, I'm visiting Romance Novel Giveaways with a guest blog. http://romancenovelgiveaways.blogspot...

Enjoy!

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Suffice it to say, for an author, every book written is a learning experience. Some lessons come in the form of a pleasant surprise–like the discovery of five bucks in the pocket of a jacket you haven’t worn in a while. Who knew you had it in you? But some lessons come like the discovery of a black whisker on your chin. Makes you wonder how long that little lovely has been there, and who might have noticed it before you did. Seriously, don’t dwell on that.

So here are a few things I’ve learned about writing:

1. Writing is like being in an angsty teenage romance.

One minute, it’s all sweet, sweet ecstasy and you swear you’ve landed Thor himself (the movie version!), all perfect and beautiful, and muscles on top of muscles. The next minute, you’re kicking him to the curb, drinking boxed chardonnay to the music of Adele and planning your satisfying life with cats.

Because let’s face it, writing is hard. Whenever I hear authors say their books just flew out of them, I fantasize about extending my foot and tripping them as they walk by. (I’ve never actually done that, by the way, but damn if it wouldn’t be tempting.) Writing often gives you those high highs and low lows, with very little in between. It’s something you have to be willing to truly work at. And it should be that way. After all, earning even one reader is a privilege. But at the same time, you also have to be kind to yourself. You have to believe in the value of your words. And most of all, you have to trust that your voice is worthy to join the chorus.

Of all of my books, Aftereffects was the most arduous to write, probably because it’s my most personal and the bar was set very high to get it just right. It’s a gorgeous friends-to-lovers story with a squeal-worthy HEA and two utterly loveable characters. I adore the book. But it wasn't that way every day. Many days, it was Adele and chardonnay and cats…

2. Not every idea is a good idea.

Oh sure, as an author, you covet all lightening bolts of divine inspiration, but let’s face it – in the light of day, some ideas are just stinkers. To be fair, my first encounter with this bit of wisdom came while writing Ripple Effects. I’m very glad to report that before publication of that novel, I had the good sense to delete a particular scene involving a Butterfinger. Yes, you read that right. A Butterfinger. And trust me on this; you really don't want to know.

But armed with that bit of experience, I came to understand as I wrote Sound Effects and then Aftereffects that knowing which scenes to cut was every bit as important as knowing which scenes to write. In fact, I deleted nearly ten thousand words from the final version of Aftereffects, and its pacing is one of the things of which I’m most proud. This book builds momentum from the start and doesn’t let up until the very last page. No mid-novel sag here! And no Butterfingers. You have my word on that.

3. ‘Oh yes, baby!’ only gets you so far in the writing of great love scene.

Well, sure, we do love our oohs and ahs. But it turns out that love scenes are very tricky, and much harder to craft than one might expect. Too much description with too little emotional context for the scene and you have wandered into “hokey pokey” territory. Readers deserve much more than just being told where the right arm presently is. To me, the measure of a great love scene is that it could only be written for those two specific characters in that particular moment in time.

In fact, I’ll tell you that the first love scene in Aftereffects, told from both Keir and Selene’s perspectives, required at least a dozen re-writes before hitting those critical notes. On more than one occasion, that scene made me want to curl up in a ball and eat cake, but now it’s one of my very favorites.

4. It’s good to break with convention.

I tend to write the stories I need to tell, rather than the stories that are the most commercial at the time. I realize that puts me not exactly in vogue, but I also think there are a lot of us out there who want to see our experiences reflected in real ways, with characters that feel authentic. The most important thing a writer can do is to write something she believes in. The rest will take care of itself.
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Published on December 05, 2018 06:27 Tags: lessons-learned, romance, writers, writing-tips

December 3, 2018

San Francisco: One Great City, Three Unique Literary Devices

I'm on tour with Aftereffects over the next 10 days with a great group of interesting blog sites! I'll be posting some of my guest blogs here and linking to their sites. Check them out!

Today's post is from Travel the Ages. https://traveltheages.blogspot.com

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When I set out to write Aftereffects, I had two lines of text in my head: “Heaven felt very close to San Francisco,” and “Heaven, it seemed, was too close to San Francisco.” I knew little else of the path that Aftereffects would take, but I knew that my main character’s story arc would rise and fall between those two lines, eventually twenty-four chapters apart.

I have a special affinity for San Francisco. The Bay Area is my home, and all of my books have taken place here. After all, it lacks for nothing you’d want in a book’s setting: stunning landscapes, a rich tradition of innovation and creativity, cultural diversity, and social vibrancy.

But location in a novel is more than just a setting; it can and should be used as an important component in the storytelling itself. That’s why selecting and finding interesting ways to leverage your location is so important. Its underlying characteristics provide tension, humor, and interest.

In Aftereffects, the city of San Francisco plays the role of antagonist. The city my heroine loves seems to turn on her suddenly, creating a barrier in her life that feels insurmountable. But is it? I’ve long been interested in exploring the idea that as humans we create certain obstacles in our head in order to protect ourselves from having to deal with those larger, underlying fears that are the true culprits. To give an example, I often hear writers lament about all the roadblocks to being published. There’s certainly truth in that, but the real fear isn’t wasting our time, it’s rejection, right? Still, we focus on the difficulty of the task, so that we can avoid the possibility that someone else may say out loud the words we whisper to ourselves in those solitary moments of doubt. It’s an interesting and all-too-human trait that I loved examining in Aftereffects. And San Francisco was my willing accomplice.

Sound Effects took a different tack. Jamie, my hero (an Irish-born, up-and-coming musician), is the absolute embodiment of San Francisco. He’s vibrant, creative, entrepreneurial, and, yes, an immigrant. Exploring the city with him allowed me as a writer to explore his character in a fascinating and unique way. Sound Effects is no rockstar romance. It’s about living life passionately. It’s told from the perspective of someone who grew up never really believing she had a passion and feeling kind of bad about that. (Anyone??) It’s also an intimate look at what it was like to be a musician on the cusp of success at one of the most pivotal times in music history. And on that note, if you’re a music lover, I highly recommend visiting all the San Francisco landmarks mentioned in Sound Effects, especially The Fillmore. As Jamie would say, it’s magic.

The San Francisco you meet in Ripple Effects is my San Francisco. I spend the majority of my time as a consultant in the Silicon Valley, and it’s impossible to drive around the Valley without being affected by it. With its frenetic pace of life, one can’t help but feel like people here are always inventing, always trying to solve problems in an out-of-the-box, disruptive kind of way. And it’s true that many of the companies founded here have literally changed the world—Fairchild Semiconductor, Cisco Systems, Genentech, Google, Facebook. The Silicon Valley is rich with lore of seemingly crazy ideas that took shape in a garage, and went on to become Apple or Hewlett-Packard. As a result, the collective wealth in the Bay Area is absolutely staggering.

So it’s no surprise that my heroine, Sarah, might feel like a bit of an outlier. Her childhood home is only miles from the Stanford campus, but it’s a great distance in terms of economics. And that contrast sets the tone for the highly relatable conflict that unfolds in Ripple Effects.

There are an infinite number of interesting locations to choose for a novel. Our job as writers is to take our paintbrush and blend the many colors of that setting with the many colors of our characters. After all, nothing lays to waste a great location like simply shoving it in the background.
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Published on December 03, 2018 06:30 Tags: san-francisco, setting, travel

October 8, 2018

AFTEREFFECTS is live!!! Happy Book Birthday!!!

Seriously, wow! I have been so preoccupied in the last month waiting for this book to come out that, come to think of it, I better make sure the fish is still swimming and the plants aren’t dead… :/

Aftereffects was such a labor of love and I don’t think I’ve ever been more proud of a book or more excited to share it.

Thank you so much for following me on this crazy adventure. If you read Aftereffects, please leave a review on Goodreads or your favorite retail site. Your reviews are the lifeblood of independent authors like me.

So that’s it! I love you! You’re amazing! Thank you for reading! Happy book birthday! I hope you pick up Aftereffects, and I hope you love this book as much as I do.

Without delay…Chapter 1


Selene

Maybe it should have been obvious by the way my bumper collided so decisively with his that the universe had something particular in mind for us. In hindsight it was. In fact, it was the perfect metaphor for the way our lives came together—jarring and serendipitous—and for the way our eventual untangling left its own sort of damage.

But in the moment, with my front bumper wedged under his rear one, and the crunch of plastic still echoing in my ears, I missed those finer points completely. All I could think about was the fact that I had caused this accident. Right smack in the middle of the Golden Gate Bridge.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, I had exactly seventy-two minutes to get myself downtown, park, and triple-check that everything in my portfolio was flawless. Because today, of all days, was make-or-break for my career.

The graphic design firm I worked for was competing for an opportunity to refresh the image of a major consumer-facing brand. The client wanted a new logo mark, new color scheme, and a whole new visual language. It’s a very big deal when a household name decides to change the look of its branding—these are multimillion-dollar decisions that twenty-four-year-old first-year designers usually don’t get to come anywhere near. The fact that I was being allowed to submit my ideas for consideration was absolutely humbling.
The fact that my career was suddenly at the mercy of a food truck that advertised itself to be Blaze of Seattle was nearly comical. Or it would have been, if I didn’t now have only . . . seventy-one minutes!

There just really weren’t enough shits in the world for this one.

I began ransacking my glove box for an insurance card that hadn’t expired when the other driver jumped out of his truck and shook his head at what he saw. His face was partially hidden behind a pair of black Oakley sunglasses, and through the windshield, it was hard to tell if his demeanor was signaling a cool self-possession or if he was just really super pissed. The best I could say was that he was young and didn’t appear to be injured.

As for the truck . . . well . . . shit.

He crouched down to take a closer look, rubbing a hand over the dark stubble that shadowed his jawline. And I’m not saying I had any preconceived notion of what a food truck purveyor might look like, but if pressed, I would definitely lean more toward a Guy Fieri type than the one standing in front of my car. This one was tall and lean, with an elegantly muscular frame under a relaxed-fitting black T-shirt and jeans. And he had a crown of shiny dark-brown hair that was ruffled by the wind coming off the bay. I won’t lie—he was striking. Enough so that I was distracted from his off-putting demeanor for a couple of seconds, at least.

“I’m so sorry—” I said as I climbed out of my car. But with the roar of the wind and the rush of the traffic passing by in the two left lanes, I couldn’t quite tell if he heard me. He didn’t show it, if he did.

“I’m really sorry,” I said again. “Are you hurt?”

Still no answer. I could plainly see, though, that he was now cursing fluidly under his breath as he stood with his hands on his hips, surveying the damage, which I thought was much worse to my BMW than to his truck. After what felt like an eternity, he exhaled deeply and acknowledged me for the first time.

But with his sunglasses on, I couldn’t see his eyes, just my own reflection in his lenses—my white blouse and matching skirt in sharp contrast to the dark frames. So gradually, my focus fell to his mouth.

It was full and parted slightly, and seemed almost too soft to be nestled into the thistle of hair that surrounded it. And it was so elegantly shaped that for several beats I was distracted from the fact that it had set into a very flat line. He seemed to be about to say something when he stopped and pulled off his glasses. And, wow! I actually needed a moment. He was—

“What’s all over your face?” he suddenly asked me.

“What?”

“Your face. There’s something black all over it.”

Obviously, I couldn’t see my face. But I looked down at my hands and, oh God, it was there too. And another huge black smudge was smeared across my skirt.

Shit.

The explanation seemed to sink in for both of us in the same perfectly clear moment, and I wondered if it was even remotely possible for the bridge to magically open up and swallow me whole. I kind of hoped it was.

“You were putting on mascara while you were driving?” he demanded.

And, no, the bridge was apparently not going to save me. I felt a blush spread over my skin like a humiliating heat map.

“Are you serious?” he continued, even more slit eyed than before. Who would have guessed that eyes the color of melted dark chocolate could be anything but soft and warm? “Women actually do that?”

“We don’t make a habit of it,” I snapped, and pushed a cloud of blowing brunette hair off my face. “But—” Christ Almighty, I couldn’t justify this, even to myself. “I have an important meeting I need to get to, and I’m running very late.”

“And now I’m late.”

His hard look stung—I’m not saying it wasn’t deserved.
“I’ve already apologized,” I said, my voice tightening to match his. That’s when it struck me with absolute certainty that he had heard me before.

“An apology doesn’t begin to cover it.”

“Well, I don’t know what you think you’re entitled to, but that, plus an insurance check, is all you’re going to get.”

His dark brows rose slightly, and he blinked once. That beautiful mouth opened, but, fortunately, nothing came out. I definitely enjoyed him more when he was silent.
In the charged seconds that followed, I brushed furiously at the spot on my skirt, avoiding his stare with stubborn intent. Still, defensiveness and anxious energy were creating a strange brew in my veins, making me feel a little desperate.

After all, my car was crammed under his rear bumper—a realization that made my eyes swim with infuriating tears. The spot on my skirt was just icing on the cake. And now I had only sixty-four lousy minutes to get to the office.

I loathed this feeling of helplessness almost as much as I loathed the idea of letting him see me stress-cry, which was feeling like a real possibility. So I marched back to the trunk of my car and pulled out a jack my dad had put there for emergencies. I guarantee he never pictured this.

“What are you doing with that?” Blaze demanded, standing there with his arms crossed over his chest, his eyes squinting against the cool wind.

“Don’t tempt me by asking.” There were several things I would have liked to do with the jack just then, but I knew I’d have to settle for its intended purpose.

“You are not touching my truck.”

“Watch me.”

It was pure gold the way his eyeballs seemed to pop out of his head. He let me push past him, but probably only because he thought I didn’t know how to use a jack.
He had clearly never met my father.

Because here’s the thing: My upbringing was the opposite of entitlement. My parents had plenty of money, yes, but my sister and I were raised to be self-sufficient. Thus, I had an eclectic collection of life skills under my belt: oil changing, lawn mowing, some basic plumbing; I could even replace the occasional bad light switch. Jacking up a car? Give me a break.

In a matter of minutes, I had blocks on both sides of the front passenger-side tire and had screwed the handle into the jack. Crouching to locate the jack point by the rear driver-side wheel, I could feel his eyes on me.
“That’s not going to hold my truck,” he said in his deep, smoky voice.

I rose to standing and turned around, pulling a chunk of hair out of my lipstick as I met his gaze directly.

I was a goddamn picture of female empowerment, after all, jacking up a car in four-inch heels. The fact that I was literally sweating anxious circles under the arms of my white blouse and my hair was blowing all over my face and into my mouth was beside the point. This guy was just standing there. Critiquing.

“How do you know that?” I snapped.

“It has a lifting capacity of five thousand pounds. See the sticker right there?” he said pointing. “This truck weighs sixteen thousand.”

I followed his line of sight, now very pissed. “And you didn’t think to mention that before I did all this?”
“You weren’t exactly asking me, remember?”

He was serious with that bullshit. “I told you I’m late. And I’m in a skirt,” I said stomping one foot and gesturing sharply to my outfit in a glorious Greek manner.

He leaned in a little closer, making solid eye contact—his face, the picture of arrogance. “I wasn’t the one who caused this.”

“No, you’re just the ass who would rather make a point than help me fix it.”

He made no apologies, though something in his face told me I’d struck a nerve.

But then he looked away and without another word strode to his truck and came back out with a much larger jack that made mine look like a toy. He went to work assembling it like he, too, knew how to use one.
I was seething, but begrudgingly had to acknowledge that it wasn’t a bad view. I let my eyes travel again over his body, watching the way his T-shirt melted across his back as he worked. I would make every effort to scold myself for this later.

He straightened when the truck was lifted high enough to release my car, then wiped a bead of sweat from his brow with his forearm. “We should be able to get these apart now. Are you okay? To drive, I mean?”

I laughed. And, with as much drawn-out sarcasm as I could muster, added, “Thanks for asking.”

I felt like such a ridiculous fool standing in front of this man, a hair away from a tantrum-y explosion. And! apparently I had mascara all over my face! Plus, it looked like the wand had been doing doughnuts on my skirt.
I checked my watch. Sixty-one minutes to go . . .

“Look . . .” He paused, making a little breathy sound, and shifted his body uncomfortably. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw him rub a large hand across the back of his neck.

But I didn’t care what he was going to say. Cars were backing up behind us, trying to get around. Drivers were honking, and it was obvious they were growing very annoyed by the delay. Needless to say, my stress level was quickly overcoming my composure. Hands trembling slightly, I pressed my fingertips to my eyes, then wiped my cheeks, sniffing hard.

What an absolute mess this morning had become.

“It’s mostly all off now. The . . . mascara, I mean.”
There was a different note in his voice that made me glance at him, and when he met my eyes I noticed his expression had softened. Those hard edges seemed to have tempered a little with kindness giving him more of a good-natured face than I had originally credited him with.

His body, too, had taken on a more relaxed posture. His hands were on his hips, and for the first time, I noticed that he had a small collection of leather and woven bands on each wrist.

“Here, there’s just a bit . . . ”

He lifted one hand, and with deliberate slowness, started to reach out to touch my face. Then he seemed to think better of it. The hand wavered and fell back to his side. Instead, he made a small motion in the direction of my cheek, and I brushed the last fleck of mascara away.

“Thank you.”

He shrugged, and one side of his mouth ratcheted up slightly higher than the other. What looked like a tiny dimple peeked out.

“So where’d you learn to use a jack, anyway?”

“Why do you ask?”

“Easy, there. I’m just impressed, that’s all.”

I opened my mouth to reply, but he held up his hands to stop me. “It’s not a chauvinistic comment. I’m just saying most people don’t know how to properly jack up a car.”

“Yeah, well, I have a great dad.” Understatement. I had the best dad on the planet. I’d never met a better one.

He studied me for a moment, serious again, before nodding. “Obviously.”

His hair was messy from the wind, and a bit of color still bloomed across his cheekbones and down his neck, making him seem younger and more approachable, somehow. For several beats, we just stood there as the traffic muddled around us in a profane opera of barking horns and shouting voices.

“Why don’t you get in,” he finally said, gesturing to my car. “Throw it in reverse when I say. We can get you to your meeting.”

“You think?”

“Yeah. We can fix this.” He seemed like one of those guys who could probably fix anything.

“I’m so sorry for all this. I really am. I was being reckless.”

With just one heavy blink and a soft shake of his head, he shrugged off my apology. “This isn’t the stuff to get upset about. I should know better.”

It was one of those times when I knew I should say something, but I couldn’t think of anything that wouldn’t sound dismissive of my mistake. Maybe he wasn’t looking for me to respond, anyway. So I just nodded gratefully and climbed back into my car, as he’d instructed. Through my front windshield, I watched him press down on the hood with the full weight of his body. I eased back on his signal, ignoring the angry sounds of scraping metal and buckling plastic.
And at least I still had fifty-three minutes. My portfolio was ready, I told myself. I didn’t actually need to check it again.

With my mangled car now free of its captor, I dug into my purse, found my wallet, and got out to hand him my information.

“I can let you know as soon as I have the estimate,” he said, reaching around to grab his own wallet from his back pocket. “It should be a pretty straightforward repair.” He handed me his insurance and ID.

Keir Andrew Stevens, his license said. Thirty-one-year-old, six-foot-two-inch organ donor. One hundred eighty-five pounds. From Seattle.

“Did you just move here?”

“No.” He looked up from where he was photographing my information. “I’m just down for a few months. With some luck, I’ll be heading back soon.”

“You don’t like San Francisco?”

That was hard to imagine. Nowhere in the world is quite like San Francisco. In fact, the exact spot in which we were standing, nearly midspan on the bridge, was probably one of the most photographed, most visited, most romanticized places in the world. Just west of the southbound lanes that led into the city stretched the brown sands of Baker Beach and the majestic Marin Headlands. Turning to the east, one could see Angel Island and Alcatraz, surrounded by sapphire water sprinkled with whitecaps and sailboats. And looking directly up from where we stood, the towers of the Golden Gate reached like a ladder to heaven. Heaven felt very close to San Francisco.

“It’s not that,” he hedged, and handed me back my cards.

“I grew up here—in Mill Valley, actually. But my life’s in Seattle, my business—” He lifted his shoulders and let them drop. “San Francisco’s just not home anymore.”

“You’re setting Seattle on fire now, is that it?”

For the first time, his brown eyes crinkled at the edges with humor. And it was like a light switched on behind them as the smile spread down to his mouth. Every bit of earlier antagonism evaporated. In its place was a pleasant expression that seemed much more at home on his face than the stern one from before.

“Something like that.”

“And don’t mess with the truck,” I teased, straight-faced, as I photographed his information.

He outright laughed then, a deep and infectious sound that I had an instant positive reaction to. I knew right away that any woman could easily grow to adore the sound of that gravelly, masculine laugh. I was focused on the phone in my hand, but I could feel the way his eyes lingered on me—warm this time. It’s amazing how you can feel something like that. I couldn’t resist looking back at his face.

“It’s my truck,” he said with a mixture of humor and fondness, as well as a new playfulness in his expression that made me smile. In unison we glanced over at the injured party. The whole center section of the metal bumper was bent inward, and paint from the hood of my car now peppered it with black smudges.

“I feel terrible. And I shouldn’t have called you an ass.”

“Forget it. I was an ass. And believe me, I’ve been called worse when I was much less deserving.” He smiled lightly, and I found myself staring again at the elegant curve of his lip and his bright, straight teeth.

“Wait, are you going to be out of business while this is being fixed?”

“No. You can’t make a living off just one truck. This is part of a fleet. The rest are in Seattle with my catering business.”

“Oh.” But that was even more confusing. “So how did you and one truck end up down here? Wrong turn?”

He coughed out a sound that fell somewhere between laughter and surprise. “That’s exactly how it happened,” he answered, and shot me a sidelong grin that was downright irresistible. The creases in his cheeks told me that he smiled that way often. “I was putting on mascara, and I somehow missed the exit for Seattle.”

“Aren’t you just hilarious,” I said returning his sarcasm with pleasure.

There was more than a touch of mischief in those gorgeous brown eyes, and a little voice inside me whispered, Uh oh. There’s something highly likeable about this person.

I could see that he had a sense of humor and at heart was probably a good guy. It didn’t escape me, though, that he hadn’t actually answered my question. “I really do apologize for the inconvenience. And for making you late.”

“I know,” he said in earnest. “It’s not—” He heaved a breath and looked at me more intensely as the grin shrank slightly. There was something more he wanted to say but didn’t. His eyes were moving back and forth between mine, but then he shook his head and said simply, “I didn’t mean to be such a dick about it. You just . . . caught me at a weird time.”

Time.

The mention of it reminded me that I had only forty-seven minutes to go. And that would be just barely enough.

“Well, it was nice to run into you, Keir Stevens,” I said, and was rewarded again by a flash of white teeth.

“Hope we bump into each other again, Selene Georgiou.”
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Published on October 08, 2018 06:34 Tags: aftereffects, book-birthday, book-launch, contemporary, contemporary-romance, romance

September 3, 2018

The Totally Honest Tale of Ernest Hemingway, A 7th Grade Science Teacher, and Me

I know what you’re thinking, but no, this isn’t a version of Kiss, Marry, Kill. Nor is it a secret confession about wanting to lay some lips on Ernest Hemingway. (Although, thinking about it, I actually kind of do. Is that weird?) No, this seemingly random collection of people has a very specific purpose.

In a month and five days, my third novel, Aftereffects, will be published. And I’m so proud of that novel, I can hardly stand it. It actually took me nearly two years to complete and there were many times in the process that I questioned whether or not I could tell the story the way it needed to be told. What I know for certain is that I couldn’t have done it if Aftereffects had been my first novel.

So here’s where Ernest Hemingway comes in. He’s famously quoted as saying, “It's none of their business that you have to learn how to write. Let them think you were born that way.” And he’s right—which is part of the reason I want to kiss him. (His beard may be another, but I digress.) But the truth of the matter is that we do have to learn to write. Nobody is really born that way. There are people who are innate storytellers—who can imagine situations so compelling, we want to read them. But how you tell a story—how you tease it, how you let it out slowly so readers can’t turn the page fast enough—well, that’s a skill you can learn. And you have to learn it the hard way . . . through practice.

And this is the part where the 7th grade science teacher comes in. In July 2015, I published my first novel, Ripple Effects, about . . . you guessed it . . . a 7th grade science teacher. (Trust me on this, he’s not at all like the ones you had!) It was the most joyful romp, and, for me, it began a love affair with writing that has undoubtedly grown into a full-blown passion. But here’s the thing: I learned so much from writing that novel that I was able, in turn, to write Sound Effects and Aftereffects, which were both a bit more complex. I did not possess the skills to write those stories when I sat down the first time to pen Ripple Effects.

So I am SO excited to let readers know that after completing Aftereffects, I returned to Ripple Effects and, this summer, rewrote it using everything I learned from the two successive novels. The characters, storyline and scenes are exactly the same as the original, but the execution is just a bit stronger. And I’m thrilled with the result.

If you haven’t read Ripple Effects (or if you read an earlier version of it), this is the perfect time to pick it up. It’s a funny, sweet, sexy story that I think you’ll love. In fact, I’ll give you the first chapter below so you can judge that for yourself. And don’t worry, all my books are standalones, but this will acquaint you to many of the key characters in the series. The updated version is available now on all the major channels, so go for it! You’ll be glad you did! And don’t miss Aftereffects, coming out Oct. 8!

Oh, and one more thing . . . as for my actual Kiss, Marry, Kill—here you go:

Kiss: Chris Hemsworth because . . . duh . . . it’s Chris Hemsworth;

Marry: my own Mr. Greene because he’s my soul mate and the reason I learned about Happily Ever Afters in the first place;

Kill: Star-Lord. Yeah, I’m talking to you, Star-Lord. If anyone deserved to go up in a pouf of ash, it was you. Seriously, dude. You’ve got some major making up to do come spring. That’s all I’m saying . . .



Ripple Effects — Chapter One

Sarah

Like ground zero for nerd chic, Charlie’s Bar & Grill on University Avenue stood as a mecca—a funky kind of place, equally favored by the hoodie-clad Silicon Valley professionals, as by their similarly dressed student counterparts. It was Friday night happy hour on the last day of Stanford’s spring semester finals, and the place was packed.

“Here, take this,” Selene said, tossing back her long, dark hair, and handing me a very pink, very sweet cranberry cosmopolitan. “For the next three months, we have nothing to do but relax. And we’re going to start that tonight.” She raised her drink in a toast, took a large sip, and melted into cranberry bliss.

In truth, neither of us was without responsibility for the next three months, but I understood what she meant. Selene Georgiou and I had been roommates for the past four years, and were heading into our final semesters of undergraduate study in the fall. After that, we’d be going our separate ways—she likely moving to San Francisco for a graphic design job and, me, likely continuing on at Stanford for my master’s degree in education. This was our last summer together, and neither of us was ready to face up to that reality just yet.

So despite the onset of a ham-like state of post-finals exhaustion, I agreed to come out for a drink, and even let her dress me up in an outfit that she insisted was very flattering to my figure.

Selene was tall, like me, but more lithe to my curvy athleticism, which explained why her floral print, button-front blouse felt a little sexier than I had intended. I pulled at the front of it for the millionth time, deeply regretting my earlier apathy in the selection process.

“Wow, that is strong,” I winced, taking a sip of the lethal concoction she handed me. Even the sugared rim couldn’t disguise the heavy alcohol content. “Who did you have to flash to get this?”

Selene rolled her eyes—not exactly a denial, though. “I’m going to the restroom,” she said. “I’ll be back.”

I took another small sip of my drink and glanced around the bar. I grew up in the Silicon Valley, but in truth, I was still in awe of it. Nowhere else in the world was quite like it. With its frenetic pace of life and vibrant cultural diversity, you couldn’t help but feel like people here were always inventing, always trying to solve problems in an out-of-the-box, disruptive kind of way. And it’s true that many of the companies founded here had literally changed the world—Fairchild Semiconductor, Cisco Systems, Genentech, Google, Facebook. As a result, the collective wealth in the Bay Area was absolutely staggering.

Of course, that made me a bit of an outlier. Though my childhood home was only miles from the Stanford campus, it was a great distance in terms of economics. But growing up, I was never discouraged by that. The Silicon Valley was rich with lore of seemingly crazy ideas that took shape in a garage, and went on to become Apple or Hewlett-Packard. It had always given me the feeling that if you worked hard enough, you could do anything—even get into Stanford on a full academic scholarship.

I took another sip of my cosmo, and counted my blessings for that one.

One of the coolest things about Charlie’s was that the used brick interior and cement flooring gave it a warehouse feel that deftly showcased Charlie’s apparent passion for the eclectic work of local artists—everything from paintings to sculptures to scrap metal creations.
Today’s artist was a photographer, and the restaurant’s pin lighting accentuated many sweeping landscapes of the Bay Area, as well as interesting close-ups of local flora and fauna. They were beautiful, and in my appreciation of them, it was a full minute before I realized that I actually recognized some of the photographs—one in particular. It was an image of the Golden Gate Bridge, with the bridge sitting almost eerily behind a ghostlike band of fog, and the rich, brown sand and rolling waves of Baker Beach in the foreground. The original focal point, whatever it was, appeared to have been cropped out, giving the image a soft, dreamy quality.

It was so distinctive that I was nearly certain it was the one I remembered from many years ago, but I squinted to see the name of the photographer on the card beside it anyway.

Daniel Moore.

Wow.

That name brought back more than a few memories—memories that were flashing through my head as I stepped back and happened to glance to my left.
And that’s when the small-world theory proved itself again. The photographer in question was standing just a foot away, scrolling through messages on his phone.

“Mr. Moore?”

Penetrating green eyes lifted to absorb me blankly. But I could see that he was fighting to place me in his memory. After a long, awkward beat, we both said my name at once. Though for him, it was definitely more of a question.

Daniel R. Moore was one of three biology teachers at McKinley High School. He couldn’t have been more than a handful of years into his career when I last knew him, and always strictly reserved with students. But he was definitely passionate about teaching. His lectures famously prompted some pretty memorable discussions on scientific advancements, and ethics, and conservation. When he was in full flow, he was absolutely captivating.

“Yes, of course, Sarah. I’m sorry.” He shook his head in apology and slid his phone into his pocket. “And, please, call me Dan.”

His expression unexpectedly developed into a large, good-natured grin. And I was so taken aback by his warmth, which was far from my recollection of him, that I stared for a moment, probably open-mouthed and blinking.

I imagine it was the same feeling bugs had when someone suddenly turned on a flashlight.

“I was just admiring your photographs,” I told him—and then definitely closed my mouth.

“Ah. Just a hobby.” He looked around at the display as his smile became more self-deprecating. “Charlie’s a friend of mine, so I blame him for all this.”

I laughed, though it was still a little awkward. Because with pleasantries now aside, we were heading towards that part of the conversation where you had to actually converse. And the problem was, what do you say to someone you haven’t seen in more than five years and didn’t know to begin with? Plus, I was now highly conscious of the fact that my blouse felt far too small, which was not ideal for this kind of reunion. I found myself discreetly tugging at it again. To Moore’s credit, his eyes remained on my face—a bit of professionalism that did ring true to what I knew of him.

“Are you still teaching?”

“Yes. But not at McKinley. I left the high school to teach seventh grade life science at Taft.”

He watched me so intently as we talked that my natural instinct was to look away. But somehow, I couldn’t break his gaze. I was pinned there, his eyes holding mine ruthlessly hostage. Then he glanced down at my drink, and I realized what he was probably thinking.

“Don’t worry, I’m twenty-two,” I blurted out, gesturing with the glass.

Jesus, did I really just . . . ?

“Oh, I . . .”

He looked momentarily confused. Like maybe he didn’t believe me? Did I look underage? I couldn’t explain the impulse behind it, but I pushed my hand into the pocket of my jeans, and pulled out my driver’s license and student ID, thrusting them in his direction. The sound of a soft, metallic clink registered nearby, though I didn’t give it any real thought.

Dan took the license and ID card from my hand, and laughed a little uncomfortably, as though he wasn’t quite sure what to do with them.

“Well, I . . . okay. I wasn’t . . . Here, you can keep these,” he said, handing the cards back. “So, you should be graduating soon?”

“Umm,” I started, swallowing a sip of my drink. “Actually, I’ve still got one more year to go on my bachelor’s. I have an internship at Stanford Medical Center so I haven’t been able to take a full load each semester. Thus, the five-year plan.”

“The medical center?”

“I’m working with kids with autism.”

He narrowed his eyes as if digging deep to recall something. “Your brother.”

“Yes. Well, Asperger’s Disorder, actually—but that’s where the interest comes from.”

“That’s really great.”

He was eyeing me closely, tilting his head slightly as if this was a revelation—like he was suddenly seeing me for the very first time. Evidently, I’d managed to progress in his mind from underage drinker to semirespectable societal contributor. I smiled, pleased with myself, as I put my IDs back in my pocket.
But that’s when I realized that nothing else was in my pocket, and the happy feeling quickly evaporated. I looked down to find that my neatly folded cash and house key were on the ground next to my foot, apparently dislodged when I took out the cards. And to my unmitigated horror, the tampon from my pocket was also on the ground, lying conspicuously next to his shoe.
He shifted his stance and stepped on it accidentally, looking down with a surprised, “Oh!” And, then, an even more distressing, “Did I . . . ah . . . disable it?”

Disable it? Like a tampon bomb?

Gasping, I sank to my knees and scrambled around to retrieve the items. He seemed to be of the opinion that keeping the conversation going while I did this was the best way for us to pretend that he didn’t just step on my tampon. I did appreciate the effort, but admittedly, I wasn’t really listening to what he was saying. There was something about his completing a PhD in education at Stanford, which I wouldn’t have thought was necessary for a middle school teaching position.

I stuffed the tampon back into my pocket with enough force that my cosmo sloshed out of its delicate glass and all over his pristine leather loafer.

Jesus! Really, universe?

“I am so sorry!” Brushing at it vigorously with my hand had little effect. The leather was soaked, and the sticky sweet liquid was running over the top of his foot and into his shoe.

“Uh . . . it’s fine, really.”

Bending to gently grasp my arm in his hand, he began to pull me back up before I humiliated the both of us any further. But it was inevitable—another wave of liquid shot from the mouth of the glass as I rose, this time soaking the leg of his pants, midthigh. He let out a little grunt and released me.

Oh, God. I didn’t even know how to recover from this. I didn’t think it was possible.

I gaped at the wet spot. But since we both knew that my pockets didn’t hold anything of value for this situation, my hand dropped helplessly away. Instead, I looked up to his face, on the verge of tears. Real tears. The big ugly kind that required a nose blow and usually ended up in hiccups. I was fully expecting the worst. Instead, I found him looking kind of sweet, and maybe even a little amused.

“Don’t worry about it,” he said kindly. “It’s not the first time I’ve left a bar wearing a cosmopolitan. Though it’s been a while,” he added smiling.

I laughed a little, in spite of the horror, and he made a playful show of squishing the liquid in his shoe. I wondered if it was always this way for super attractive men—women doing bat-shit crazy things in their presence. He seemed to know just how to handle it.
I took in a deep breath and let it out, closing my eyes momentarily.

“I’m sorry—did you say your PhD is on education reform?”

“I did, yes.”

“That’s funny—I’ve been struggling to write my grad school scholarship essay on that same topic.” Understatement of the century, right there.

Despite the fact that I was radiating heat from my scalp to my toes, the skin between my breasts felt cool. And something about that sent off a tiny alarm in my brain. I turned to see if the breeze might be coming from an open door.

“I should just copy yours.”

Somewhat distracted by the fact that I couldn’t see any open door, I didn’t immediately realize that I had just proposed plagiarism to a teacher. My former teacher. And then it dawned.

My attention snapped back to the tall, athletic man standing in front of me, and he had the queerest expression on his face. He seemed to be searching politely for some appropriate thing to say—which, God knows what in the world that might be.

So I rushed out quickly with a disclaimer, my eyebrows planted firmly in my hairline.

“No, I didn’t mean I would actually want to plagiarize your PhD. I never do that sort of thing. Ever.”

He laughed again, but there was something uncomfortable beneath it. “I didn’t think . . .”

Rubbing the back of his neck, he looked away briefly. Then, he turned again in my direction. But he wasn’t really looking at me; he was looking pointedly at my forehead. Something wasn’t right here. His eyes darted around the room again, as if searching the place for help that wasn’t coming. At last, he refocused his attention precisely on my face. More alarm bells went off.

Clearing his throat, he continued in a businesslike manner, “What I was going to say was, it’s definitely an ambitious topic for a short essay. You’ll have to narrow your focus considerably, or your paper will come off as superficial.” The intensity returned to those devastating green eyes. “If you want, I’d be glad to review your outline and give you a few ideas.”

I was flooded with relief that we seemed to have returned to more stable ground. Okay, see, this was how a normal conversation was conducted. He was just a regular person, after all—no more or less than I was.

“You forget that I’ve had a pretty intimidating experience with your infamous red pen,” I teased, watching his reaction.

Mr. Moore was not known for his sense of humor, and in light of his surprisingly genial manner tonight, I was suddenly curious to know how he’d respond to mine.
Before my eyes, his gaze turned from intense to almost sparkling.

He was still oddly rigid, but he cocked his head to the side and adjusted his stance.

“What are you implying about my red pen?” That disorienting smile was back, and something about his demeanor eased my concern.

“I’m not implying anything,” I said, relieved to feel like myself again for the first time since he uttered my name. “Our papers always looked like they’d been victims of a violent crime.”

He blinked for a moment. And then he threw his head back and laughed. It was a hearty, masculine sound with a bit of a rasp around the edges, and it washed over me with unexpected warmth.

“Some of them definitely were a crime. A crime against science—and against my intelligence, for that matter.”
I’d never heard him laugh.

Years ago, I wouldn’t have thought he was capable of it. This whole exchange showed a side of him that I could not have imagined back then. He had an actual sense of humor.

And an incredibly sexy laugh.

It would have been an altogether pleasurable discovery, except that it was followed by a rather cataclysmic one: The three middle buttons on my blouse had come open—wide open. And it had likely been this way for many minutes.

I glanced back up, grasping at my blouse with my free hand, to see if Dan had noticed the malfunction. Well, of course he had; his ears were now the same shade of pink as my cosmopolitan. He quickly looked away, avoiding my conspicuous attempts to button the blouse back up with my one free hand. But, surely he couldn’t mistake the fact that I was fumbling miserably. Finally, he reached back across his shoulder and tugged his light gray sweatshirt over his head. His thick, wavy strawberry-blond hair was sent into joyous, wild abandon, which he mostly righted with a quick shake of his head.

“Here—in case you’re . . . cold.”

He handed me the sweatshirt with one hand, and took the sticky drink from my shaking fist with the other. Then he stepped away to set it down on the bar. I’d never been so grateful for a moment to compose myself.

“Run!” my brain shouted, helpfully. “Or cry!” That was somewhat less helpful. He already thought I was a barely legal flasher—crying would just make him think I was an unstable barely legal flasher. So fortitude prevailed, and I stood my ground, pulling the sweatshirt over my head for modesty. It was warm from his body heat and roomy enough to accommodate his size. I rolled the sleeves up several times, and brought myself back to rightness. Or some version of it.

“I can send this back to you,” I offered when he returned. But he waved his hand dismissively, and then scribbled something on a napkin.

“Here’s my email. Send me your outline. I’d like to help.” He looked at me earnestly, seemingly searching my face for some hesitation on my part to take him up on his offer.

I nodded slightly, looking down at the napkin.
“I mean it,” he added.

“Okay. Thank you.”

I studied him for a moment, and just tried to reconcile my memories with the man standing before me. I couldn’t. But just then, Selene walked up to my left.
“Are you ready to go?” She smiled pleasantly at Dan, and then turned back to me.

“Yes.” God yes! “It was really good to see you again . . . Dan. And thank you for—” gesturing to the large sweatshirt— “this.”

He ignored the last part. “It was good to see you too, Sarah.”

The sincerity in his face was oddly reassuring. It was impossible to think that I’d conveyed anything remotely resembling my best self, but his genuine kindness made the calamity of the last half hour feel, maybe, slightly less calamitous. At least temporarily . . .

§

Leaving Charlie’s, Selene and I walked along University Avenue, only distantly aware of the people around us, and of our necessary course corrections to avoid a collision. Neither of us said a word for long minutes.
“He was my high school biology teacher,” I finally whispered as the indignity seeped back into my consciousness.

“That guy is a science teacher?” She was definitely taken aback by this little nugget of information, and gave herself a moment to process. “He’s not like any science teacher I’ve ever had.”

That was probably true for most people, but it didn’t help my humiliation in the least to dwell on it.
“That was horrifying.”

“Yeah, it pretty much was,” she affirmed. Like it or not, Selene never pulled punches. It was actually one of the things I liked best about her. Although every once in a while, I wouldn’t have minded being lied to. Just a little bit. “Someone needed to step in there before you reprised the Celtic dance you did at Sheryl’s 21st birthday. You were definitely heading in that direction.”

“Was it that bad?”

“So to recap: You dropped your tampon at his feet; bent to pick it up, thus, spilling your drink on his shoes and pants; and carried on a full conversation while exposing your breasts. Did I leave anything out?”

“I told him I wanted to plagiarize his PhD.”

“Oh, nicely done!” she said as if this was some sort of an achievement. “Well, look at it this way—you probably won’t ever have to see him again.”

I took a deep breath. That’s true, I told myself in a consoling manner. Although . . .

“He offered to help me with my scholarship essay.”

Selene turned to me, eyebrows raised. “Was that before or after you popped your blouse open?”

“Oh, my God.” A fresh wave of nausea rippled through my stomach.

“You should definitely take him up on it, though.”

“There is no way I could do that now. I just gave him a peep show!”

“So what. They’re just boobs. He’s a biology teacher, after all.”

Right.

“What got you so out of whack, anyway? He’s ridiculously hot, but that was . . .” She shook her head as if she was at a loss to commit an adjective to that particular scene.

“I really don’t know what that was. I think I’m just tired.”

But, truthfully, I thought it was more than that. It’s a funny thing to see someone after many years, and to find him so different from what you remember. Maybe he seemed different to me because I was different, but I would never have described him as friendly or warm.
Although to be fair, I couldn’t imagine I’d have weathered much better in his memory. I could only guess how I would have come across to him at that tumultuous time in my life: introverted, sullen, obsessively focused on my college resume. I stopped short before allowing myself to consider how I might have come across tonight.

When we finally reached our apartment, I went quickly to my bedroom. I collapsed to the bed, and stared up at the sparkling popcorn ceiling for a long time. It was astonishing how running into someone you knew years ago threw you back immediately to who you were when you knew him. I felt the need to mentally shake off that person I once was. But it was also a good reminder of what had changed in the time between—how far I’d come in many ways, and what was still in front of me to do.

On an impulse, I dialed my friend Marcus.

“I need to ask you a favor . . .”
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July 19, 2018

To Happily Ever After...

In November 2016, I published a blog entitled "And So It Begins" that discussed what it was like to have just written the opening paragraphs for my new book, Aftereffects. Today, I am incredibly proud/excited/verklempt to announce that that Aftereffects will be published on October 8!

Two years in the making, this book was a very personal adventure. I wrote (and rewrote and rewrote!) every single day from November 2016 to this very morning, just to get it exactly right. This book didn't fly out (like I so enviously hear authors say from time to time!) - it bled out.

And while the main characters, Keir and Selene, get perhaps my favorite Happily Ever After - lucky me - I get one too. Because as I finalized the last edit this morning, I can't stop smiling. I am so very happy with the result.

I’m sure it’s true that if you spend enough time with a writer, you’ll eventually show up in their work. When I look back on my own small body of work, I see reflections of so many people in my life, so many of their stories, and our stories.

Of all of my books, Aftereffects most baldly tells these stories. So my greatest and most heartfelt thanks goes to all of those whose presence in my life has given me a rich and beautiful palette from which to draw from and, more importantly, a rich and beautiful palette of relationships and experiences that feed my soul every single day.

Can't wait to share it with you! Here is the description:

What could be more terrifying than falling in love with the person who is your good place? Maybe realizing just a smidge too late that there can be dire consequences to becoming your best friend’s lover.

The lives of Keir Stevens and Selene Georgiou serendipitously collide midspan on San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, one jarring step ahead of fate. He’s a temporary transplant from Seattle; she’s facing the biggest career opportunity of her life. They have no notion of the common thread that connects them.

As they come to discover they share a similar adversity, their relationship evolves from a fun and frivolous infatuation with nowhere to go into a true friendship with sincerity, humor, and respect at its heart.

It’s awfully hard not to fall in love with that—even if you’re pretty darn certain you shouldn’t.

But when love and friendship suffer their own devastating collision—their interests brutally conflicting—the consequences of blurring the lines between the two suddenly become real. In the end, which one will be the stronger? And more important, can either survive?

Aftereffects is a stand-alone, dual-POV adult contemporary romance about the things we choose in life out of all the things that are beyond our choosing—a tale of love and friendship, of time and how we spend it, and of the inner wars that ultimately show us what really matters.
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Published on July 19, 2018 07:06 Tags: aftereffects, friends-to-lovers, happily-ever-after, love-and-friendship

November 7, 2016

And so it begins: Day One of a new novel

“Maybe it should have been obvious by the way my bumper collided so passionately with his that the universe had something particular in mind for us. In hindsight, it was. In fact, it was the perfect metaphor for the way our lives came together–jarring and serendipitous–and for the way our eventual untangling left its own sort of damage.”

So begins the first chapter of Aftereffects, the third and final (?) installment of the Ripple Effects series. And as any writer will agree, Day One is exhilarating – daunting, in that you have so much runway ahead of you and so many questions still to be answered, and great, in that how incredible is it to be able to do this a little bit every day?

But Day One isn’t really Day One. In truth, Day One started months ago with a few kernels of an idea. In this case, the first kernel was Selene Georgiou, a take-no-prisoners, straight shooter kind of girl, and one of my favorite characters from Ripple Effects.

And she’ll need a hero. What I love about writing is that the needs of one character create, by necessity, the only other character who can answer those needs precisely. As such, came Keir Stevens, a man so beautiful, so funny, and so incredibly close to my heart that he can easily stand shoulder to shoulder with Dan Moore and Jamie Callahan. That’s a tall order.

As for their circumstance – well, that’s where life comes in. This book is inspired by my dad, who I lost on Oct. 10, the very same day that Sound Effects was released. The yin and yang of that has not escaped me. So in Aftereffects, I honor men for whom the call of parenthood is nothing less than sacred, a reflection of one of the most amazing men I have ever known.

It’s a long road from chapter one to happily ever after. But in the hiatus of publishing Sound Effects, of which I am enormously proud, I truly missed writing. I missed telling stories. And I can say from experience that you never know just where a story will take you once you begin, but today I took the first step. And it was awesome.

L.J. Greene
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Published on November 07, 2016 07:05 Tags: after-effects, beginnings, first-step, new-book