The Writing Adventures of The Undead Duo–Julie Hutchings and Kristen Strassel

SECONDHAND HEART Cover Reveal and Excerpt!

Today’s Brew: Champagne!  No. I wish I had some beer. *looks sadly at water glass*

by Kristen

Everyone, I want you to meet Daisy and Cam. Daisy and Cam, this is everyone. SECONDHAND HEART is different from the rest of my books, which makes it exciting and of course, scary. (Putting out a book is never not scary, kids.) This is my first contemporary romance, featuring a young military widow and a failed reality show winner who comes back home to open a country bar. When I say home, I mean home. I set Secondhand Heart in my hometown of Plymouth, Massachusetts.

SECONDHAND HEART is coming October 7. You can reserve your copy today, because I’m nice like that.

And speaking of beer, they drink a lot of beer in this book. A big shout out to Tim Hutchings, that’s Mr. Julie to you, for making sure I got all my locals spot on.

I need to stop talking about beer when I don’t have any and show you guys this damn cover.


So what’s this all about?


Daisy Mangold thought she had her life figured out until a roadside bomb in Afghanistan changed everything. Now a twenty-one-year-old military widow, Daisy moves back home to start over.

Cam Hunter won the reality show The Spotlight, and thought he was on his way to becoming the next big country star. But when whispers of how he won begin to surface, Nashville is less than welcoming. After he loses his record deal, Cam heads back home to open a country bar.

When Daisy meets Cam, she isn’t sure she’s ready to let go of the ghosts from her past. Cam’s ex-wife isn’t ready to move on either, and the tragedy she causes will expose Cam’s secrets and shatter Daisy’s family.

Will Daisy be able to follow her heart into a future with Cam, or will her grief keep her trapped in a past that no longer exists?


The lights went down, and the crowd went wild and swarmed the stage. The VIP section was to the right of the stage, and elevated just enough that we could see everything perfectly. A cover band had played up until now, but Cam Hunter was headlining his grand opening celebration.

Ev and Bree cheered when Cam came onstage, so I did too, more to be polite. He was picking up my bar tab tonight, after all. I’d never met Cam in person. I’d only heard Ev rave about him and of course I’d seen him on TV. He was taller than I expected, his broad shoulders straining the fabric of his blue and orange plaid shirt. I know, the shirt sounds hideous, but it actually looked hot on him. Bree’d said it enough tonight, I was thinking like her now. He wore the top few buttons open, showing just a hint of his tan chest. I couldn’t see his eyes under the brim of his white cowboy hat, but his sandy hair curled around the collar of the shirt. He opened the show with his biggest hit, Lonely Heart Saloon, in case you were wondering where he got the name for the bar. I found myself staring at his lips as he sang the words of the song, watching them move in front of the microphone, wondering what those lips would feel like on my skin.

I shook myself back to reality, looking at Ev and Bree singing along, and I was the last thing on their mind. Looking back at the stage, I forced myself to look anywhere but Cam’s mouth. Only being able to see the lower part of his face drove me crazy. What was hiding behind those eyes? Were they laughing, twinkling? Hell, I didn’t even know what color they were, and suddenly, I needed to know.

Look away from his face. Jesus Christ. The faded denim made his thighs look amazing. Who the hell checked out thighs? Well, if you saw these thighs, they were worth checking out. On The Spotlight, Cam had been an overgrown, almost goofy kid, playing a role. Doing what he was told. Now, on this tiny stage just feet away from us in this club, it was obvious he was all man. All smoking hot man.

When Cam said good night and thanked us all for coming, I was surprised how disappointed I felt. I’d been so lost in watching him play, not only his guitar, but teasing the fans in the front row by dipping down low, those delicious thighs spread wide and staying just out of their reach, his fingers brushing their fingertips, I got so lost in my own fantasies that I forgot all about time.

After the show, my skin was all tingly and strange. Cam had awakened something inside of me I hadn’t even known was sleeping. But at the same time, it felt wrong. I shouldn’t be thinking that way about any man, yet. My husband hadn’t been dead a year.

But I wasn’t dead.

This was safe, lusting after some musician who didn’t know I even existed. No harm could come of it. Cam had built his entire career off of people wanting to be him or be with him. It was a fantasy, nothing more.

The crowd had thinned out a bit after the show, but since this was an Ev production, we were closing down the place. Bree babbled about the show, the songs I didn’t know. “Cam’s record company didn’t renew his contract. Can you believe that shit? So maybe he’ll be playing here all the time.”

If life could even be that kind. “It is his bar, so that would make sense. Cheap labor.” I giggled at my own joke. Beer made me hilarious. I thought so anyway.

“I read online that he’s thinking of taking a new direction with his music. Collaborating with some new songwriters and stuff,” Bree continued. “Maybe we’ll get to hear it first.”

Ev had disappeared again, to the mysterious backstage area. She came back out, with a huge grin on her face.

And Cam following her.

Holy shit, she was bringing him over to us. Bree started hyperventilating and squeezing my arm. “Calm down,” I hissed. “You’re going to break a bone. I can’t act cool if my arm is dangling below my elbow.”

“How can you even joke at a time like this? Oh my God, here he is.” Bree let go of my arm, and blood resumed flowing semi normally. I didn’t know what to say to him.

“Oh my God, I love you.” Bree’s teeth could never catch all the thoughts that came rambling out of her brain, even if she wasn’t at least three beers deep.

Cam took it in stride. “I love you, too.” He took her hand in his, and brought it up to his mouth and kissed it. Bree gave an Oscar worthy performance and did not faint.

“And this is my sister, Daisy.” Ev brought his attention to me.

His eyes were blue.

The kind of blue that jumped out against his tan skin, almost perfectly matched with his shirt. Somehow, my hand landed in his, I only knew because the electricity that danced along my skin.

“Evey’s told me all about you.” Nobody called my sister Evey anymore. It surprised me, and I liked it. I missed her being Evey. One side of his mouth went up higher than the other when he smiled, and the skin around his eyes crinkled at the corners. I knew too much time had passed for me to reply, but my brain kept short circuiting every time I tried.

“Not everything.” Ev bumped into him playfully. “You know, Daisy’s been looking for a job—“

“No, I haven’t.” What the hell was she doing?

Her mouth dropped, and she shot me a look as if she couldn’t believe I could be so stupid. “Do you have a job?”


“So, as I was saying, my sister could use a job.” Ev rocked back and forth on her heels and batted her eyelashes at Cam. “You still hiring here?”

She totally caught Cam off guard. Great. “I’m sure we could make room for you, Daisy.” His smile made me melt, and almost forget I wanted to kill Ev. I liked the way my name sounded coming out of his mouth. “Why don’t you come in tomorrow for an interview?”

“Okay.” I think I squeaked. Ev, satisfied with mortifying me, moved in closer to Cam and continued chatting with him. He kept looking over at me, probably trying to figure out if I’d make a good bar back or dishwasher.

And he still held my hand.

“I’ve got to go. It was nice talking to you ladies.” He bowed his head and squeezed my hand one last time before he let go. “Daisy, let’s say, one tomorrow?”

I nodded, then watched him walk away and join another group. I know you’re wondering how his ass looked. Amazing.


TODAY’S BREW: Not Pumpkin Spice, folks. Too soon.

By Julie

Is it too soon for Pumpkin Spice because I don’t want to see the end of godforsaken summer? HELL NO. It’s because I love the anticipation of September, and getting my first Pumpkin Spice Latte on my birthday.

*looks at camera* On September 6th. *winks*

Writing parents suffer during the summer. Enjoy summer all you want, those of you who don’t burn literally every time you step out the door, but if you write or work from home at all, you know I’m right. I’ve stopped whining about it and given myself a Get Out of Jail Free card for the month of August. If I can write, I do, but it’s just too impossible to hold myself to a goal until school begins.


I’ll tell you why, jerks.

Because I’ve committed to myself to finish the first draft of THE WIND BETWEEN WORLDS by the end of September, and on Twitter I’ve gained a few folks who follow me blindly to come along and commit to the same. People like Ludella Hahn (squeeeee!), Matt White of Fireside Magazine fame, the ginger fool and Book Riot contributor, Peter Damien, who I will drag kicking and screaming and shedding his ginger hair to the finish line of a first draft, and some moms and dads who need some support to get their words out.


So, this is what it means. Starting SEPTEMBER 1st, I want us to have a weekly check-in on Thursdays, right here in the comments, or feel free to email me, or tweet me your progress to your goal. And I will come looking for you if you don’t find me first.

I won’t brow-beat you, but I will expect you to do this for yourself. I want you to get to the end of your book because I know how important it is. I know you want it. I know how good it feels to have completed it, and emptied your heart of those words. And I want us to support each other, run writing sprints together, encourage each other, and let you know that we’re here for the goods and bads of writing.



1. Figure out how many more words you need in your first draft. (If you need help, consult my superior math skills privately.) Give me your starting word count.

2. Divide it up by the number of days you’re going to work on your book. For me, it will be 30 days–I do best if I write every day. If I miss a day, I make it up another day. Pretty easy. For you, you might only like to write the 3 or 5 days your kid is at school. Whatever it is, just tell me.

3. Mark it on your calendars. If you don’t have a calendar, use your phone or get a goddamn calendar, all I’m saying is, I don’t want to babysit, I want you to hold yourself accountable. And come looking for me for a pat on the back.

4. SHOW UP. Show up every way there is. Show up every day at your laptop or in your notebook, and WORK. Writers write. And then show up to tell us how you did.

SUCCESS LOOKS DIFFERENT FOR EVERYONE. If you don’t ever meet your weekly/daily goal, OKAY. I won’t slap you for it. But I WILL be looking for you to tell me what success you did have. Did you learn something new, get past a scene you never thought you could, get further in a day than you ever have? I want us to grow this month.

AND THIS MAY ALL SOUND VERY TOUCHY-FEELY, AND IT WILL BE AT TIMES. These characters that have been screaming at you to write while you’re at Playdate #297 deserve your time! But I want us to beat these books that have been haunting us all summer or longer into submission. I want them to know we’re the bosseseses. I want us to work together to take control of our processes and remember that writers write, and it’s a community where we all suffer the same troubles a lot of the time.





Patience and Publication

Today’s Brew: I bought Bailey’s Vanilla Brown Sugar creamer and it takes over everything.

by Kristen

Our friend Summer Weir announced her book deal this week. On it’s own, it’s amazing news. But Summer’s story of her road to publication really struck a chord with me.

When Julie and I started writing together, I wasn’t even sure if I’d be able to finish a book. Julie, on the other hand, was one driven mo-fo. She had already had begun researching how to get an agent when I was still in the “well I’ve got this really hot guy I want to write about” stage. She told me about self-publishing, and even though somewhere deep in my heart, I knew this might be a valid option for me, her pure enthusiasm about the prospect of getting an agent and a publisher seduced me. Once I thought I was ready for an agent, I started querying.

Here’s what Summer says:

My original intent was to self-publish right off the bat. It was a business decision. I know about marketing, promoting and social media, so to make better royalties on my own made sense. But I had a friend who suggested I try to get an agent. Because that’s what people who write books do, right? (As you can tell, at the time, I had no idea what people who write books actually do lol.)

Once I decide I want something, dude, get out of the way. I will run you over. I read everything I could find about how to get a book ready for publication. I entered contests. I got critiques.  I queried. I had an agent.  But ultimately, I decided the best place for me was self-publishing.  Two factors: timing and control.

Had I gone straight to self-publishing and put out my book in the summer of 2012…oh my God. Oh. My. God. I found an early draft of Because the Night, which at the time was called Immortal Dilemma, when I cleaned my office a couple weeks ago. I couldn’t even read it. At the time, it was the best I could do, and damn, I was proud of that manuscipt. But it needed work. So much work. It needed those rejections, critiques, and revisions that made me want to put my head in the oven.  Why? Those characters had become an extension of me, and I was way too close to them to see their flaws. When people  pointed them out, wow, it hurt. But together, we worked on things. Now, the central theme of the book is still there, but otherwise, it’s not the same book at all.

Here’s what Summer says:

So as I revised, I participated in writing workshops, agent boot camps, contests and pitch sessions. I swore I wasn’t going to be a victim of first-manuscript-shelving-syndrome, and so I found CPs, betas, and hired a couple editors as professional insight of how I could better my ms…During this time, I read a lot of industry advice, blogs, expert opinions etc as I tried to make sense of the whole process. I realized it didn’t matter what worked for everyone else, I had to figure out what I wanted for my book and for myself (my career).

Even though Summer and I write different things and are taking paths, our journeys and thought processes are very similar.

Now I that I have my self-publishing team in place, my books go straight into that process. Even though it’s called SELF-publishing, like Summer says, it takes a village. Chuck Wendig is probably more correct in calling indie authors author-publishers because not only are you producing a book, you’re overseeing the entire publishing process. I can do this now because of the path I took with Because the Night. I am pretty sure I made all the mistakes with that book, even creating some new ones along the way. (Hey, I’m a trailblazer). They were hard lessons, accompanied by a lot of tears and beers, but I learned from them.  I like to think I’m a better writer because of them.  I want each book I write to get stronger and better.

It gets frustrating to be patient. I hate patient. It’s up there with going to the dentist for me. But the critique/beta/rejection process is so important, because this is what actually gets your book ready for the publication process.  It makes you a better writer. You need to know how to take constructive criticism and revise before you work with an editor. You need your editor to have the best possible playing field to work with before she even touches your book, so she can work on making your story sing.  No matter how we decide to publish our book, this is one part of the road we all share.



What Back To School Means To Me: *shoots spaghetti cannon in joy*

TODAY’S BREW: Vanilla Pumpkin Pie. Because it is Fall in my black, black heart.

By Julie

If you have kids, or have seen kids, or have been to Walmart, you know that Back To School is a holiday that rivals only Christmas in its joy. This year for me, Back To School is something MORE. Not only are we having an exceptionally hard time at home, but for the first time in 7 years, I will have a chunk of time three times a week that is ONLY MINE. ONLY MINE. FOR THE FIRST TIME IN SEVEN YEARS. DO YOU UNDERSTAND THAT?

You can imagine that I have a list of Things for my three hours three times a week.

  1. First off, I get reeeeaaaallly pissy about writers who have the gall to bitch that they just don’t feel like writing. THEN YOU AREN’T A WRITER. I am desperate as hell to write, and just cannot get a minute to do it most days. So, top of the list, and there will be a formal plan outlined next week for all those who wish to join in, is a measurable, specific, actionable plan to finish my first draft of THE WIND BETWEEN WORLDS by the end of September. A few of us on Twitter really like holding each other accountable to our writing goals, encouraging each other, helping where we can, and so this devoted attention to our books is going to be monumental. JOIN ME.
  2. THE GYM. Holy crap have I missed the gym this summer. So, THE GYM. Just twice a week. If I can do more, hooray. But twice a week, non-negotiable.
  3. Panty shopping. Because it’s one of my favorite things to do. So panty shopping, with a cup of coffee in hand. It will be pumpkin something flavored.
  4. Book shopping. Once a month. Because I deserve it and I deserve it alone, and it’s research.
  5. Editing for an hour at said book store, in the café, because goddamn do I get a lot done doing that. So yes, my Undeaditing services will still be in full swing.
  6. I am going to watch every movie I have ever wanted to watch.
  7. Breakfast dates with my husband once a week. Yay. :)
  8. Nothing. Probably once or twice a month, nothing. No plan. A “White Space” on the calendar to do whatever I feel like that day. BECAUSE YES, ALL THIS STUFF WILL BE ON MY CALENDAR, OR ELSE IT WON’T HAPPEN THE WAY I WANT IT TO.
  9. God, I cannot wait for this–FINALLY, Kristen and I can have our Undead Duo meetings again. They are so crucial for us to encourage each other, plan mayhem (Kristen, get ready, because pretty sure we’re doing some “urban exploration,” AKA “uninvited visiting” of a local abandoned hospital), and for our general mental health.
  10. Christmas shopping. Without my kids in tow to hide things from. Walking around with all the music, and the lights, and all the joy other people seem to hate, but I adore it. And without having to worry if one of my children is accosting Santa somewhere while I try to hide from them, it will be amazing. I’m so excited.

So, yeah, this may seem ambitious, but not all of these things will happen every week, and if you want to do something, make time for it. I’m not a huge fan of saying “when this day comes, I can do EVERYTHING I EVER WANTED TO DO, SO LONG AS THESE PERFECT CONDITIONS EXIST,” but this school thing? This is a big one. A game-changer. And I’m so ready to play.

Guest Post: Kai Kiriyama’s Blaze Tuesday and The Case of The Knight Surgeon

Today’s Brew:  Coconut creme!

by Kristen

We have a book birthday to report!  Kai Kyriama released her crime drama, Blaze Tuesday and The Case of the The Knight Surgeon, on August 5. If you’re into steampunk and dark humor, check this book out.  Kai will tell you the rest:

knight surgeon COLOURED VERSION


Hi, I’m Kai Kiriyama, known on twitter as RaggedyAuthor, and I’m here today to talk to you about my upcoming release BLAZE TUESDAY AND THE CASE OF THE KNIGHT SURGEON.

I’m really excited about this book, it’s been something that I have been very proud of for a long time. I took it the semi-traditional way once, with a small press, but decided that it wasn’t for me, so I had it pulled. I did a bunch of editing added 10,000 new words to the story and polished it up until it shone like a dying star, only to explode into a black hole of noir crime and dark humour, and I’m now self-publishing the book in several different formats and editions. The official release date for the book is August 5, 2014 and oh my God, that’s a month away.

The cover I’ve revealed here is the special edition cover, and will be available in ebook and paperback format. I don’t have links for preorders available yet, but there will be direct links on my website as soon as I have those things available. It’s ‘special edition’ because it includes an exclusive short story that ties into the backdrop of Blaze’s world, and gives you a really good in-depth look at what’s going on behind the scenes when Blaze isn’t working a case. The short story features Kali Mason, the coroner at the Seventeenth Precinct, and Blaze’s would-be girlfriend (if he ever got around to asking her out!) and introduces a few characters and settings that will be introduced in later novels.

I’m really amazingly excited to be bringing this novel back to share with everyone because I think that Blaze is kind of an everyman, y’know? He’s a smart-Alec do-gooder former cop who gets really mad when bad things happen to good people and while he’s got the superhero vibe because he’s a private investigator, he’s still just a guy who loves hamburgers and a stiff drink to wind down, and has trouble talking to women. His mouth tends to get him in more trouble than it’s worth and he somehow manages to come out on top without too much effort.

In Knight Surgeon, we meet Blaze, and he’s hired to solve a murder of a charity worker, a doctor who specialized in helping kinds who were addicted to modification surgery and had nowhere else to go. As his investigation goes, Blaze discovers that there’s more at stake than just the health of a group of kids who have little hope, but a revolution in the clockwork implants that modify people’s bodies, and a conspiracy that snakes its way through the corporations that produce and market the robotics.

Think Repo! The Genetic Opera meets Agatha Christie set in a futuristic, semi-SteamPunk New York, but with less singing, and you get a good idea of what Blaze Tuesday is about.

Thank you SO MUCH, to the Undead Duo, for hosting me here and letting me ramble a bit about this book. And thank you, dear reader, for taking the time to have a look and give me a chance. I sincerely invite you to come over and say hello to me on Twitter, (I’m @RaggedyAuthor) or on my website – – where you’ll also find all the news about Blaze, the book release, the online and in-person events and everything else that’s going on in my crazy little corner of the world.

I hope to see you there!



BLAZE TUESDAY AND THE CASE OF THE KNIGHT SURGEON is a pulpy noir set in a futuristic New York. The oil and technology market crashed in the mid-2000′s and the world has developed into a technologically advanced form of SteamPunk. Body modification has become commonplace with rebellious teenagers, but this time, it’s literal. Clockwork body parts are touted as a medical miracle by the companies who make them, and high fashion by the stars who sport them, and a lot of kids go through illegal surgeries. The sub-culture of Gearheads is full of kids with robotic body parts from poorly done surgery in less-than-sanitary conditions, and these are surgeries that don’t always take.

Blaze Tuesday is New York’s most accomplished private investigator. A former police officer with a bone to pick with the corruption in the city, he’s earned a name for himself as a guy who gets results, and who is willing to uphold the moral values so many others have forgotten, even if he has to break a few faces to do it.

Blaze is hired by Wayside Firms, one of the medical firms that produces the Clockwork, when a charity doctor who worked specifically with less-fortunate kids who have had botched illegal, is found murdered. As Blaze investigates the unfortunate death, he discovers a conspiracy that stretches from the lowest gutters in Hell’s Kitchen, to the highest corporate fat cats at the medical firms who create the Clockwork body parts.

Can Blaze get justice for the dead doctor, and bring some hope back to the kids in Hell’s Kitchen who were counting on the Doctor’s help? Or will he get caught up in the underworld of body modification and the big money it brings in?


A writer of many things and many genres, Kai is currently working on a novel (you can pretty much always assume that she’s writing something!) that involves murder, mayhem and probably a ghost or some other form of otherworldly creature. She is also working on some non-fiction but she’s not entirely sure why.

Kai has been writing for far too long and she’s convinced that both her “to be read” and “to be written” lists will never be completed before she dies. She has a diploma in palmistry and can read hands with an accuracy that scares even her sometimes. She is also accomplished at tea leaf reading and crystal divination, both of which she has also achieved a diploma for and scares herself with the accuracy of the things she has predicted.

A time-travelling, demon hunting, Asgardian geek, with an affinity for Pokemon and Shakespeare, you can be sure that there will be general insanity and dubious wisdom dispensed no matter where you chat with her. As always, she requests that you “be excellent to each other” while she’s away.

Kai currently lives in Canada, but if she told you where, you’d have about fifteen seconds to assume the party position before the special ops team arrives.

She can be reached by email at

Getting the Point Across in a Hurry

Today’s Brew:  I’m not sure coffee is going to cut it today.

by Kristen

Sure, I did get to go to the beach with Johnny Depp this summer (but it was Revere Beach and he was in costume as Whitey Bulger), but for the most part, my job isn’t that glamorous.  I do a lot of corporate work, and my job is to make sure CEOs don’t get shiny when they sit in front of a green screen and read from a Teleprompter.

One of my regular clients asked me to do one of these jobs over the weekend. I actually like corporate work.  The productions are usually small, everyone is nice, and the hours aren’t crazy long.  Since this one was for a medical company, I got to do some wound and bruise work  (Yesssssssss!).

When the spokeswoman began to read the copy from the Prompter, the director stopped her.

“We need to fix this,” she said.

Once the script was  read out loud, the problems came to light.  There were many repeated words, and three sentences were being used when one would have got the message across. It had a sing-songy rhythm.  This was a sales video aimed towards medical professionals. Busy people who don’t have time to waste. Every word needs to do a job, and do it quickly.

As they started to work through the script, I asked if I could join in. The director knew that I wrote, and was happy for the help. We all worked together, eliminating redundancy, unnecessary backstory, and weak wording.  One sentence read “Blah blah product is unique.”

Unique means nothing. You could put any adjective at the end of that sentence and it would have as much meaning as unique.

Show me why it’s unique.

We took that word out, and went straight to the features that made this product unique.  “Blah blah product does this and doesn’t do this.”  Take away: this product is unique.

Some voice-overs were meant to compliment power point presentations. We gave the words purpose, didn’t repeat the information the viewer could see, and didn’t complicate things.

By doing all of this, we cut the length of the video significantly. Not only did we save people time, but we ensured that the viewer would actually make it to the end of the video, taking away the message the company meant to convey, and hopefully be excited about the product.

This all made me think a lot about Pitch Wars. (waves to anyone who is considering entering.)  You’re selling your story. You’re pitching mentors, and once you’re published, you need to sell readers on your book and then keep them reading.

You get so close to your own work, and it can be  hard to see clutter and confusion on your own. These things will help make sure everything works:

  • Read your work out loud to someone else. Have them listen for clarity.
  • Make sure you have a variety of sentence lengths.
  • Give every word power. Eliminate weak words that tell or aren’t specific.
  • Once you use a descriptive word in a scene, try not to use it again.
  • Get to the point. Give backstory only when needed. Keep description lean.

Happy editing!



Rock Stars, Heroines, and Friends with Mina Vaughn

Today’s Brew:  I’m mixing it up. I got sweet cream creamer instead of  french vanilla. I am a wild woman.

by Kristen

Mina Vaughn and I have a lot in common. We live near each other, we both have books about vampires, we both love pin up anything, and now, we have something else in common. Rock star books.  HOW TO REPRIMAND YOUR ROCK STAR , the second book in the Domme-Nation series, came out a couple weeks ago and Keaton’s backside isn’t the only thing that’s glowing. So aren’t the reviews.  Mina likes to mix things up with her characters, and here’s a look into her writing process:


Guest Post: The Power of a Heroine’s Friends

By Mina Vaughn

As a writer, sometimes I try to make heroines both flawed but loveable. I try to make them complex, interesting, compelling. Then, what I do next is throw in a best friend as a foil, someone totally different from the heroine with another set of values and quirks. In How to Reprimand Your Rock Star, I selected two very different best friends for Thea.

One is a goofy roommate who always makes dirty jokes. Because we all have one of those.

The other is a seasoned Dominatrix. Because most of us do not have one of those.

Thea, my heroine, is conflicted. She’s got a dominant personality, but she’s a freshman on a national champion team and her voice isn’t heard. Here, having a friend like Callie helps. Callie is on the team, so she can act as a sounding board for Thea’s college and basketball gripes. She’s silly, where Thea is serious. She completes the part of Thea that needs someone her age and knows her struggles.

Then, when Thea is propositioned to dominate uber rock star Keaton Lowe, Thea needs the kind of help Callie could never provide. Enter Scarlett. Scarlett lives in town and operates a New Age shop that has a kinky back room. Thea is drawn to Scarlett’s intimidating personality and strength, and she soon learns that they are alike in one very important way—they are both dominants. Scarlett fills the other need in Thea’s life—a sexual role model. Thea knows she wants to dominate Keaton, but she doesn’t know how. Scarlett, however, is a professional in the field and she teaches Thea the lessons she needs to know if she wants to proceed in her relationship with the celebrity musician.

I added these characters for plot reasons, never expecting more than their use for various arcs. Then, once I sent this book out to beta readers, I found something surprising. It appeared that people were wanting more from Scarlett. I had no idea that this feisty and funny Dominatrix would get so much attention from my readers.

Then it dawned on me—she was the friend that many people didn’t have. Most groups of friends have a funny one, a serious one, a wacky wild card, and maybe a weird one that doesn’t quite fit in. Nobody has that friend who’s a Dominatrix, who can lecture you on the proper use of a violet wand and also lend you a vinyl bustier. I realized she was a fantasy in herself, a wild woman who did what she wanted and didn’t care about the confines of society or what people thought of her. My readers wanted to be friends with Scarlett as much as they wanted to bang the bejeezus out of Keaton.

So I think writers should think not only about what’s going to make a hero desirable, but what else can a story do to draw you into the fantasy? While I created Scarlett subconsciously, when writing my next book I am trying to consciously try to think of how else the story could capture a fantasy that maybe isn’t romance.

Thanks for having me, now go hug your own best friend!


minaKink with a wink! Mina Vaughn is an international woman of mystery and a shoe whore with a heart of gold. When she’s not writing her unique brand of fun smut, she’s plundering Sephora for any pin up girl makeup she can find. Mina’s debut novel, an erotic comedy entitled How to Discipline Your Vampire is about a punishment-seeking vampire who meets a quirky Domme with a serious role play fetish, available now from Simon and Schuster’s Pocket Star. How to Reprimand Your Rock Star, a sexy New Adult contemporary romance about a basketball phenom and a world-famous rocker, arrives Summer 2014.  How to Punish Your Playboy arrives Spring 2015.


How to Reprimand Your Rock Star:


B and N:

Other Formats:


Add it to your goodreads!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Pitch Wars…Pick Me!


Hi!  If you don’t know me already, I’m Kristen, and this is my first year participating as a Pitch Wars mentor. I’m excited about this, because I think writing the book is actually the easy part. Getting it out in the world is HARD. Like a hard I never even imagined. I write NA paranormal and contemporary romance, but more about me later.

I want to talk about you. If you have:

NA and Adult romance.  I want NA that’s out of the box, not your traditional college student meets bad boy story.  I want heroines/heroes that start at a disadvantage in the story, or as I call it, less than zero. But not “broken.” I’m tired of broken.  I want them to make the best choices they possibly can, but they don’t have to be the stereotypical “strong” character with no flaws. Give me your flaws, baby. Turn them into strengths.

Diverse characters.

Musicians or anything entertainment business. I’m your girl. I work in the industry, my day job is doing makeup for film and TV.  I can help you make sure your story is realistic, and might have some behind the scenes info that makes your story shine.

Paranormal Romance. I’m so happy I get to say this!   I wasn’t going to, because agents keep saying that it’s almost impossible to sell right now, and this is a contest to get an agent.  After the RWA conference calling it something to watch and Cora Carmack’s announcement that she’s releasing a NA PNR trilogy, I think publishers are going to change their mind.  BUT. I like my creatures dark. If I fall for your supernatural character, I want that attraction to burn my soul.  We’ve heard over and over that paranormal needs to be exceptional to get the attention of a publisher, so originality is really going to be key.

What I’m not looking for: zombie books (I just don’t connect to them), dystopian, cozy mysteries, faith-based stories, or memoirs.

So why should you pick me?  You’re probably thinking, “But Kristen, you’re….indie.”

Yes. I’m an indie author.  I have been agented, so I’ve gone through the querying process, placed in writing contests, have been on submission, and have worked with publishers. The more I got involved in publishing, the more I realized I’m a control freak. Okay, I already knew I was a control freak. I like having complete control over all aspects of the production of my book. I hire my own editors, formatters, and cover artists.  I set my own release schedule and participate in my marketing.  If I am your mentor, your manuscript will get that same level of attention.

If we work together, we’ll be doing exactly that. Working together. I am a straight-forward, honest critique partner.  I’ve been through the editing process on six books now, and I can share that experience with you.

You will not get gifs from me. They give me motion sickness. Sad but true.

So show me what you’ve got!!   For more information and how to submit your entries go to

Mister Linky’s Magical Widgets — Easy-Linky widget will appear right here!
This preview will disappear when the widget is displayed on your site.
If this widget does not appear, click here to display it.

Living For Now

Today’s Brew: All the coffee my keurig can make. And it doesn’t cost 5.19 a pop.

by Kristen

Now I know what I’d take with me if I ever had to evacuate my house.

Monday night started out normal enough. I was sitting on the couch, hanging out with McGee, writing a book, and I heard an emergency vehicle drive by.  If you follow me on Twitter, you know that emergency vehicles aren’t anything remarkable on Whiskey Tango Boulevard.  Other neighborhoods bond over cookouts and block parties, we meet each other when we come out on our porches to see what the frig is happening this time.  It takes a couple of emergency vehicles to get our attention, so when the third fire truck showed up, we started to pay attention.

There had been a very small fire in the building next door. The people’s TV sparked, like from a power surge. The fire was small enough to stomp out, but the spark went back in the walls and shorted out the entire building’s cable and power, and traveled underground and zapped one of the apartments downstairs from me.  That building had been evacuated, and no one was sure if there was actually a fire. The fire department used heat sensors to make sure there weren’t any problems.

Not much later, there was a knock at the door. They want everyone out of the building.


I grabbed Gee, my laptop, a picture of my mom, and my makeup.  I know that sounds really shallow, unless you realize that’s how I keep up the lifestyle I’ve become accustomed to.  I couldn’t go anywhere, a firetruck blocked my car in. Even though I was fairly certain it was just a precaution, it doesn’t make it any less scary.  I stayed near my car because I needed to put Gee there, so I got stuck talking to my drunk neighbor who kept calling me Jen, and getting pissed that I wouldn’t answer her.

Once we were able to go back in, there was still no power. They needed to find where the spark went and replace the wires, which took most of yesterday.  Like you don’t realize how much you use your back until it hurts and you can’t move, dude, electricity makes everything so much easier. I had to go out and get coffee. Then lunch. (And a fifty dollar camping lantern for McGee because he’s afraid of the dark and not spoiled at all.) After showering in the dark, I went to the gym to do my hair. So all I did was eat and take a shower and it required like 4 trips out of the house.

I wouldn’t have bothered with the hair but I had concert tickets for last night. Soundgarden and Nine Inch Nails, baby.

The concert, of course, was incredible, but kind of an intense pairing. Even though they go together on paper, they aren’t similar bands at all. They’re both so full throttle in such different ways, that after sitting in a completely quiet house all day, I’m still exhausted.

I love live music, for so many reasons. I realize things that I consider to still be contemporary are now classic rock, and I’m not apologizing for that. The songs stand the test of time, and I think if I heard them for the first time today, I’d love them just as much as I did when they came out.  That’s the great thing about music. It’s timeless, and there to enjoy when anyone is ready for it.

Concerts are always consistent. Especially when you go see an act that’s been around for a while, everything looks just the same as whenever you left it, because they people are all the same.  There’s something extremely comforting about the ritual, this little slice of home that I can’t get any place else.

But it’s not nostalgia. I HATE nostalgia. There’s something apologetic about it, like the person is ashamed to be enjoying Soundgarden and Nine Inch Nails in July of 2014. (Can I tell you, my favorite person in the crowd was a dude who was about 55, who looked like a math teacher, his face lit up during March of the Pigs.) I’m not there to relive my youth. I lived my youth quite well, thank you. If you’d like a fictionalized chronicle of that, buy my books. The last thing I’m at a NIN show is for a 1994 redo. The music was perfect. If I need to go back and fix anything about that year, maybe I’d get a gym membership and take school a little more seriously. I’m at a concert because I want to enjoy my 2014.

So if you can learn anything from my week, make it this:  You never know when you’re going to be in your pjs, standing in front of a fire truck, with a traincase full of makeup in one hand and a cockatiel in the other. Get it right the first time. Live for now.


Julie’s Never Humble Opinion on Publishing Trends, Rejection and Doing What You Want

TODAY’S BREW: Coconut Crème until my heart explodes

By Julie

Whether you write in the genre or not, if you write and are on Twitter, you heard about the Romance Writers of America conference this past weekend plenty. I pay attention because you can always learn more, and any good book has SOME level of romance in it, in my opinion.

What I was particularly pleased to see was that paranormal seems to be on the watch list again for agents and publishers.

For as many vampire, weird-new-creature-we-made-up, werewolf and other paranormal novels out there being enjoyed as there are, there are as many publishers and agents saying that there’s no market for it. Editors aren’t looking for it.

I’ve always been of the opinion that if you write a novel that begs to be read, there’s a place for it and readers who want to read it.

Of course, I say this with THE HARPY still sitting on several editors’ desks, waiting for its big break.


You’ll hate this answer, probably, but OH WELL.

I’ve had rejections from publishers on THE HARPY. It’s been on submission with them for months now.


I’m kind of a jerk. I get my sights set on an idea, and by shit, I am going to make it happen. I will take this insane idea (i.e, harpies), and make every goddamn word on the page burn with how much I need to get them out. I’ll perfect the fucking thing by my standards. And when it’s perfect, I’ll ask people to read it and tell me what’s not perfect. While they do that, I go back through the book and I ask myself, does this character breathe life and have a voice and a story that makes them bursting with energy, fear, doubt, determination, anger, love, lust, failure, success, need, and every other complex human emotion that doesn’t work together?

Do I exploit each and every one so that they all seem important at the time they take precedence?

Do I love this character and hate some of their choices?

Do I hate this character but see how that could be me one day if I just thought or acted a little differently?

And I take those notes from the readers, and I pore over them. Sometimes I disagree, sometimes I wonder how the hell I didn’t see what they said before. But I always make sure that every word on the page has a purpose.

And when I put it out into the world of publishing to smite me down, I know that it only takes one to love it the way I do.

And I don’t cry when rejections come, for THE HARPY or any other book of mine, (and they all get rejected, trust me). Not because I did the best I could do–but because the book got read. It got rejected, but it got read, and that’s a step in the right direction.


This is a hard, ugly truth, and yet it fills me with excitement.

I’ve been writing and editing the whole time THE HARPY has been roaming free, experiencing the world. I’d be a fool to think that if I got my hands on it again that I wouldn’t want to change anything. Or that if an editor says it just isn’t strong enough in a certain aspect that I couldn’t make it stronger.


So when I hear that paranormal is back, or that editors are looking for a romance between eagles and chickens, or that zombies are over, I nod politely and write whatever I was going to write anyway.


No matter what the subject matter, or the trend, a book that bleeds is a book that people want to read. It may not happen tomorrow, but tomorrow isn’t your last chance, either.



Post Navigation


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 383 other followers