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Diva Spotlight: Shay Savage’s Newest Release Commodity.

Posted by on Nov 2, 2015 in Diva Spotlight | 2 comments

Diva Spotlight: Shay Savage’s Newest Release Commodity.

I’m a big fan of dystopian books. Well, to put it more bluntly: I like dystopian romances. If you all haven’t figured it all by now, I’m a romance junkie. Not gonna lie. I’m dang proud of it. Anyhoo… Shay Savage’s wonderful mind came up with a spontaneous book (according to her author’s notes, this book wasn’t on her writing schedule this year) called Commodity.  I’m a huge fan of her work because not only does she write such raw, gritty characters, she is a master at writing from the male perspective. There is no fluff in her work and I really appreciate it in this genre. Her characters do not go where you think they will go or act in the way you’d expect. It’s refreshing, to say the least, that every book Savage writes is one that I know will be fresh and imagined so well. With all that being said, what is Commodity? Here’s the synopsis: A woman hunted by human traffickers. A hot and dangerous bodyguard. Utter destruction. The end of civilization. The beginning of a new form of currency. Women are now the highest COMMODITY. A little vague, I know. But intriguing enough. I’ll give you a better rundown. Commodity tells the story of two people perched on the brink of the end of the world as we know it. In one catastrophic event, all women, children, and most animals disappear off the face of the earth. The men left are instantly killed on the spot. The lucky ones who managed to be underground or in remote locations are the only ones to survive and build what they can out of the rubble left behind. With social disorder taking over humanity, the only thing of value left on a planet full of men are the few woman who managed to not be taken. As you can tell, they are now a commodity. I kinda like my synopsis better. Ha, Shay Savage! Commodity didn’t disappoint. I love reading this genre so much. I like to see what authors come up with in terms of character survival. Savage’s book Surviving Rain was also a survival book, and it was very well done. This book is also very well done. I loved how her lead characters, Hannah and Falk, battled to get food, water, form alliances and survived when, at times, it seemed like the best thing to do was give up. Hannah was an extremely strong and weak character at the same time. I know that sounds weird, but it she was a good balance between a female who didn’t give up and a woman who needed saving. Falk was the undying force behind her strong will. I loved seeing their push and pull and the love they shared. Falk reminded me of any man who loved so fiercely there wasn’t any limit what he would do to protect what love. You can pretty much guess what that would be. The romance was good, although I would have loved more plot in this story. I get the idea of the commodity thing, but it wasn’t a strong focus of the story. It was mostly Falk trying to get his lady when she was taken from him. We didn’t see too much “commodity” happening, per se. Not much...

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190 Ways to Say “Said” OR 187 Creative Dialogue Tags to Avoid

Posted by on Oct 27, 2015 in Featured Articles | 0 comments

190 Ways to Say “Said” OR 187 Creative Dialogue Tags to Avoid

Over the last few days, a picture has shown up in my Facebook timeline over and over again. The caption reads “190 Ways to Say ‘Said.’ ” Grammatical issues aside—the synonyms are actually all present tense, so they’re 190 ways to say say—it was causing a buzz in my timeline. If you’ve seen it, chances are you’ve had one of two reactions: 1) woo hoo, more synonyms or 2) oh no, creative dialogue tags to avoid. And after reading the comments, it seems like people are pretty much divided along those lines. There are those who believe said and asked are the only necessary dialogue tags ever required in a novel. Then there are those who feel they should be able to use whatever they want to describe everything in their written work. I’ve read comments from many students saying they’ve been taught that “said is dead” and they should try to be more creative in their writing. I absolutely agree with the second half of that statement. However, as an editor, I tend to lean on the “less creative dialogue tags” side of the equation. Editors like words like said and asked and replied—words that describe ways of speaking—as opposed to words that could—maybe, possibly, but not necessarily—indicate speech. Why? Well, like you’ve probably heard before, words like said and asked tend to become invisible to the reader, allowing her to focus on the dialogue… not the dialogue tag. But editors would also rather encourage the author to use creative, descriptive narrative to show the character sobbing and not state that someone cried. Editors will ask authors to describe why a character is angry and show examples of that anger in the narrative through actions and setting rather than use dialogue tags like screeched or howled. Sure, it’s easy to say he cried, she screamed, she ordered, or he agreed. And yeah, most times it gets the point across. But what’s better—harder and more work—is taking the time to create the scene, to write the character, and show the character’s body language ordering or agreeing. Imagine how that would look… Does any of this mean that you should never use words other than said or asked? No, of course not. The best part about being an author is choosing your own words. But what an editor wants you to do is to stretch your writing, think outside the box, and draw a picture for your reader instead of handing them the details on a silver platter. With NaNoWriMo starting soon, I’d like our readers to think about their dialogue tags. Focus on one scene and write the narrative so that your readers will know exactly how your character says his words, even without a dialogue tag. How would your character act? What does his body language portray? Do his words match his mood? How can you describe this to the reader? The more you do this, the more automatic it becomes and you’ll rely on creative dialogue tags less. Happy...

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NaNoWriMo is coming. Are you ready?

Posted by on Oct 19, 2015 in Featured Articles | 2 comments

NaNoWriMo is coming. Are you ready?

Yesterday my son reminded me that November is almost here, and I realized it’s almost time for NaNoWrimo aka National Novel Writing Month! I know, some of you are thinking I have such a thoughtful son, right? Hah! He’s more concerned that I don’t forget his school play and less about me being ready for NaNoWriMo. But I digress. November sneaked up on me. I’m still in the process of creating my writing space after playing musical bedrooms when my daughter left for college and my son wanted her room. But we finally got my new computer desk put together in my new office, which will double as my writing space. I have my comfy chair, computer, headphones, music, chocolate and caffeine. If your plan is to participate in or support someone in NaNoWriMo this year, I’ve put together a few things to make NaNoWriMo go a little smoother. Have a plan. How many times have you heard “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”? Too many times, I’m sure. Will having a plan guarantee NaNoWriMo success? Nope. But it just might make life a little easier, especially with all the demands on your time. Do you know what story you’re going to write about or are you waiting for inspiration to suddenly strike on November 1st? If you haven’t already decided what your story is about, it’s not too late. Make a decision today. You’ll still have time to bounce around ideas with your favorite betas to flesh out the story before you start writing. Whether you’re a plotter or pantser, you still need to have the premise of your story and a vision of where it’s going. Print off some character sheets and write down the basics of your main characters. Do the same with your plot and setting. But don’t get so hung up on the details of character names, physical attributes, and world building that you forget to do the big picture stuff to be ready to start. Know where you are going to write. Do you have a designated place to write? Whether it be your office, the coffee shop or the cupboard underneath the stairs, pick your designated writing space. Can you have more than one? Of course! Have as many as you like. Just know where you plan to write and then have a backup for those unexpected hiccups along the way. Then stock your writing cave, nest, nook, or whatever name you want to call it with those things that help you get into that creative mode. Make sure you have all the equipment you need to get the job done. If you’re going to write on your computer or laptop, make sure it is in working order. And save often. There’s nothing worse than reaching your goal for the day only to have your computer crash, leaving you sobbing in your coffee and bingeing on Haagen-Dazs. Okay, that last one doesn’t sound that bad. Who doesn’t love Haagen-Dazs! But the idea here is to make sure your tools of writing aren’t causing you grief. There is no crying in NaNoWriMo! If you like to use your tablet or your phone or multiple devices, store your manuscript on the cloud for easy access so you don’t have to deal with multiple...

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Diva Spotlight: Author Jay Crownover

Posted by on Oct 12, 2015 in Diva Spotlight | 0 comments

Diva Spotlight: Author Jay Crownover

What was the last book series you fell in love with and felt gutted when it ended? Mine was the Marked Men series by Jay Crownover. I haven’t found a book series so well-written that delivered such real, gritty, and heartfelt romances in a long time. After reading Rule, the first book in the series, I knew I was in for the long haul. In the Marked Men series there are six main books detailing a different marked man: Rule, Jet, Rome, Nash, Rowdy, and Asa. Each man has their own strengths and weaknesses that are developed throughout each book with a female protagonist that is equally able to balance and challenge the male lead. I must say my favorite books in the series are Rome, Nash, and Rowdy. They seemed to show the most growth out of all the marked men, and I felt they sent a more powerful punch in ways of plot and development that stuck with me more than the other books. Asa from the last book, Asa, was hands down the sexiest of the bunch. The character Asa first appeared in the series in Jet, book two, where he was a side character and subplot. So to finally see his story come to fruition and played out against his female lead, Royal, was the icing on a perfectly baked hot male cake. I loved it all. Strong, tatted men, even stronger women to counter their masculinity, and a bold mixture of love and hate and attraction and strong sexual tension made these books hard to put down. Throw in some smart writing and eventful arcs, and you have a well-paced, pulled together book series. I would recommend these to anyone. Hell, even dudes will like them. Along with authors Shay Savage, J.R. Ward and J.M. Darhower, Jay Crownover really writes a solid male perspective. I find that difficult to really nail, too. So, kudos, Jay! And Lord help me, Crownover is continuing the Marked universe with Built, the first book in her new spinoff series The Saints of Denver. She’s picking up a subplot story about Sawyer and Zeb. DED! I was hoping Zeb would get a book in the Marked series but pleasantly surprised when I realized he’s kicking off the inaugural book in her new seriesone. Did I mention that I have listened to all of these book on audio? Well, I did and I think it made them even more amazing. Crownover is my go-to Audible selection anytime her books come out. Such great voice talents bring these characters to life and make them so personal for the listener. I have also started Crownover’s other series Welcome to the Point. It’s a completely different group of men unrelated to the Marked Men, but in the same universe… or Denver, to be exact. I have only listened to Better When He’s Bad and know it’s going to be another series I’m not going to be able to put down. That’s the best thing about finding an author you really love, anything they write is something you’re going to like. You can expect certain themes or elements to stay the same but each story is so unique and every character’s voice so different from the rest that it makes reading that particular author’s work engaging. It’s a great skill to...

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What Your Editor Expects From You

Posted by on Oct 5, 2015 in Featured Articles | 0 comments

What Your Editor Expects From You

We often talk about what to expect from your editor during the editing process, but how many of us have thought about what the editor should be able to expect from the author at the same time? Sure, I know what some of you may be thinking. Authors pay editors to do the work, so why should they have any expectations at all? The words “that’s what I’m paying you for” come to mind. But the truth is, the better shape your manuscript is in when your editor gets it, the easier the edit will be—on both of you—and the faster things will go. So here are a few things you should consider having ready when it’s time to edit your book: A completed manuscript that has been read through at least twice and self-edited accordingly. First drafts are not ready for editing. First drafts are called drafts for a valid reason. Most of us do not self-edit as we write. Therefore, all drafts should go through several revisions, and definitely some beta reading, before they’re ready for editing. An open mind. There are generally two kinds of editing, objective and subjective. Objective editing is the technical editing—the spelling, punctuation, and grammar that is, for the most part, rule driven. An editor says, “No, the closing quotation marks go there,” and you’re probably going to nod and smile and follow along. However, there is a lot to editing that is subjective, or based on opinion. One man’s poetic narrative is another man’s wordy prose. All editors may agree on the stages each novel should have, but they may disagree as to when they must occur. As an editor—and reader—I happen to enjoy descriptive narrative. Other editors may see it as a waste of words or find it excessive. All of these things are subjective based on the situation and the manuscript. No two editors edit exactly the same, even those who work closely together. So the open mind is necessary when disagreements happen. Keep in mind that your editor has only one goal. To make your book the best book it can be. There are no ulterior motives to her changes. When you come across a suggestion or a change you disagree with, step back and look at it from a different angle, trying to see where the editor is coming from. Talk to your editor about the change. Walk away and sleep on it. If you still disagree, reject it. You know your book best. But don’t simply reject changes you disagree with without giving them a chance. An open line of communication. During any edit, prepare to speak with your editor several times. Most editors will try to anticipate questions ahead of time, but no one can anticipate everything. A lot of conversation happens after the edit is returned to the author and the author is going through the changes, additions, deletions, and suggestions. You may want additional clarification on a change your editor has asked you to make, or you may not understand the reasoning behind the change. By all means—contact your editor.  Absolutely. I tell every author I work with to email me if they have any questions or concerns about anything to do with the edit. If they disagree with something and want to...

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Voice Drift: Does your manuscript have it?

Posted by on Sep 28, 2015 in Featured Articles | 0 comments

Voice Drift: Does your manuscript have it?

You know when you’re around that one friend who speaks in an accent (Southern, British, Spanish, etc.) and after a while you find yourself using the same words and phrases or speaking with a similar accent as that friend? This is called voice drift. It happens in writing too. Have you ever read a book where the characters all sounded the same, the narrative (especially third person) sounded like all the other characters, or all the characters had a white bread feel to them? This too could very well be due to voice drift. Voice drift is when the voices of the characters start to sound like other characters, destroying any efforts you may have made to give each character a unique voice. When voice drift happens, it is often the default voice that has taken over. What is the default voice? Well, it’s quite simply the voice of the author. It’s a shift from the voice of the story. It’s no longer the voice of point of view character telling the story. It is the voice of the author. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the author is now the POV character, but rather the POV character now sounds like the author. Many times it’s not clear at first because you, the author, have created unique voices for each of your characters. However, as the story progresses, the characters’ voices might gradually start to sound alike. Books in a series are particularly vulnerable to this phenomenon. In fact, it is an aspect of writing that even experienced writers must watch for. But is voice drift something authors should be concerned about? If you want unique memorable characters that will stick with your readers, then yes. There are a some ways to determine if your book suffers from voice drift. He Said / She Said Have you had any of your readers or anyone in your support network have a hard time keeping track of who said what in conversations, whether it’s a two-person conversation or a room full of people? Unique Word Combinations Make a list of any unique phrases, sayings, idioms, etc. your characters use verbally and/or internally and who said them. Do more than one character unintentionally (as in you, the author, didn’t mean to do that) use the same phrase or saying? Unless there is a compelling reason for them to use these same elements such as siblings who pronounce “especially” as “exspecially” because that’s how their mother pronounced it, your characters’ voices shouldn’t be that similar. Sense of Humor Another red flag is if your characters share the same sense of humor. While we might have two characters who will generally laugh at humor, rarely do you find that all friends, family member, coworkers, etc. find the same things funny. Humor is tricky. One person might find something hilarious, another might find the same thing cruel. Part of the Crowd If your core group of characters—or if all the periphery characters—agree on everything and have the same opinion, take a closer look to make sure the characters aren’t too alike. Now I’m not talking about things that most people will universally agree upon, for example, most people will agree that world hunger is an awful thing. But what people don’t agree on how to rid the world of hunger and...

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Diva Spotlight: Author Emma Scott

Posted by on Sep 21, 2015 in Diva Spotlight, Uncategorized | 4 comments

Diva Spotlight: Author Emma Scott

I haven’t been reading like I usually do. Between the kids going back to school, soccer, softball, gymnastics, homework, editing, and my husband starting his own company I had little time for myself. So I’m going to go back in my archives and tell you about a book I fell in love with this year: Rush: New York City (City Lights #3) by Emma Scott. By the way, ROMANCE ALERT. (It’s all I read) I was scrolling through Facebook one day—okay, it’s an everyday occurrence—when I stumbled on a sale of Rush. Being the frugal lady I am, I snatched it up. The summary hooked me right away. It was a modern day take on Beauty and the Beast. A win/win in my book. But see for yourself what you think of the summary.   To be blind is not miserable; not to be able to bear blindness, that is miserable. –John Milton Charlotte Conroy, Juilliard-trained violinist, was on the cusp of greatness when tragedy swooped down on dark wings, crushing her hopes and breaking her heart. The music that used to sing in her soul has grown quiet, and she feels on the verge of setting down her violin for good. To pay the bills, she accepts a job as a personal assistant to a bitter, angry young man who’s been disabled by a horrific accident … Noah Lake was an extreme sport athlete, journalist and photographer. He roamed the world in search of his next adrenaline high, until a cliff-dive left him in a coma. He awakes to find his career gone, his dreams shattered to pieces, his world an endless blackness that will never lift. Charlotte begins to see that beneath Noah’s angry, brittle exterior is a young man in a pain. She is determined to show him that his life isn’t over, that he has so much to live for, never dreaming that she would become the only light in his darkness, or that he would help her find the music in hers. The life he knew is over. The life she wants is just out of reach. Together, they must face their fears and rediscover what it means to really live. Do you hear that? It’s my loins quivering with anticipation of unrequited love and lust. Just kidding—maybe. Emma Scott has it all here: strong female protag who is hell-bent on making it on her own. A broken male protag who wants to be left alone but yearns for more even as he is faced with his failure. And a burning romance between that is not only smart and well played, but mature and unshaken. I think Charlotte and Noah are a pair who won’t give up when it really seems like that’s all they have ever done. Scott’s writing is beautifully poetic as it is structured in a classic romance. It’s a standalone book which means that we aren’t left hanging at the end. Score! I really felt for the characters as well as wanted to shake them. That to me is an impression, if conveyed correctly, can carry the book with the reader for a long time. And I read this book a good four months ago. Sometimes I get my romances mixed up and can’t remember one from the other, but...

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Start With A Bang! Opening Scenes and First Chapters

Posted by on Sep 14, 2015 in Featured Articles | 0 comments

Start With A Bang! Opening Scenes and First Chapters

There! Got your attention, didn’t I? Now that I have it, let’s talk about opening scenes and first chapters. What makes an opening scene great? What is it about an exceptional first chapter that makes a reader want—or need—to continue on with the story? What should an author include or stay far, far away from in her opening scene to engage the reader and give her the need to continue reading. I read somewhere that the opening scene is the bait an author uses to draw the reader to the hook, what makes this book worth reading. By the end of the first chapter, I know whether I want to continue reading or flip that book into the not-for-me pile. That’s what I mean by bang in the title of this article. I don’t necessarily believe that all books should start with an action scene or high drama. There are many other ways of pulling a reader in without a huge action sequence. First, you must start with a protagonist your readers can care about or an antagonist whose actions are a cause for worry. Your reader doesn’t actually have to like your protagonist—that’s what character development and growth throughout the story are for. And your antagonist doesn’t have to be the epitome of evil and evoke hatred from all for your reader to worry about how her actions will affect the story. Antagonists should be more than one-dimensional wicked witches or ax-murderers. That makes them more fun. But if your reader cannot connect with the character at all, you’ve already lost her. Feel free to throw a little dramatic arc into your opening scene or your first chapter. It doesn’t have to necessarily mimic the arc of your story, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. Stories that begin with conflict or mystery draw the reader in with the need to find out, sooner rather than later sometimes, what’s going to happen. Make sure to start the scene right at the good part; don’t add too much lead-in or backstory or your reader can become bored quickly. A bored reader won’t continue to chapter two. If the conflict in your scene is the slamming of a door in your protagonist’s face, don’t begin your scene with the drive to the house. Start with the knock. Or better yet, the slam. You have the rest of story to explain to the reader what happened. Just make sure you don’t regurgitate all that information in chapter one. Take your time and weave your story—add bits and pieces of backstory as the tale unfolds so your reader can infer the information and not assimilate an info dump on page seventeen. Part of this weaving includes dialogue. Not just banal, everyday dialogue, of course, but from-the-heart, gut-wrenching dialogue that gives your reader the feels. Take that door slam from the last paragraph. Dialogue with that slam could include something like, “I hate you!” Yeah, okay. Boring, right? But something like, “Do the words restraining order mean nothing to you?” might make your reader more inclined to keep reading. Keep opening scenes and first chapters brief. Long scenes with gobs of detailed description, narrative, and backstory are going to bore your reader. Think of the first scene as the one that grabs your reader by the...

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Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Posted by on Sep 8, 2015 in Featured Articles | 0 comments

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

I have found that the old adage actions speak louder than words is especially true in writing. One of the more difficult elements for a writer of fiction is the use of subtlety to show who your characters are. Especially when it’s so much easier to simply have your character say, “Derek is a jerk! Can you believe what he said to Sharon?” Then there’s the narrative that is oftentimes the author’s long inner-monologue about the various failings or perfections of various characters. It’s so much easier to tell your reader what you want them to know about your characters without allowing said reader the opportunity to discover who your characters are as the story unfolds. When I really think about the reasons for all the telling, several come to mind: Fear that readers won’t like your characters and that your readers won’t understand who your characters really are unless you tell them. Insecurity that your words won’t be good enough for your readers to see what kind of people your characters are if you try to show those attributes instead of simply stating them. Lack of understanding of what everyone has been going on about when they say “show, don’t tell.” If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. In other words, if your readers aren’t complaining, why should you change how you write? Time constraints. You simply don’t have time to figure out the subtlety thing, but when you have a free moment, you’ll look into it. And… so on. Here’s the deal. If you’re serious about your writing and it’s more than just a nice little hobby, it’s time to look at how you write. Every book should ideally improve upon the last. Those who have worked with me before know I don’t try to correct every issue in an author’s writing with a single edit. Depending on the author, that can be a lot to take in and my goal as an editor is not to discourage, but to point out the biggest issues with the current book and the way the story was written. Once those have been tackled and the next manuscript comes in, my hope is that the author learned something from the first edit and has improved her skills so that we may move on to improving other aspects of writing. I learn something new with each edit, and I hope my authors do, too. Developing your skills as a writer is a process that takes time and practice. Telling is the ultimate safety net! If you want to use subtlety to show who your characters are, do it through their interactions with other characters. What they do and say are just as important as what they don’t do and say. Never give too much information and lead your readers around by the nose. Frankly, you insult your readers’ intelligence when you do this because it says you don’t trust your readers to come to the right conclusions. Have a little faith. I get it. It’s a scary thing to work without that safety net, and that’s exactly what telling is: a safety net. But your readers will connect emotionally with your characters if they can identify those characteristics through words and actions. Remember, a story full of telling makes for a boring book....

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New Release: Tied Together by ZB Heller

Posted by on Sep 7, 2015 in Diva Promotions | 0 comments

New Release: Tied Together by ZB Heller

Ryan Keller has it all: a great supportive family, friends, and no limit to his self-confidence. Coming out of the closet was not as traumatic as he would have thought. In fact, it was glitter, unicorns, and rainbows. Navigating through life isn’t easy for any man, let alone a gay one. Rest assured that Ryan has it handled. Brandon Ford comes from the wrong side of the tracks. With a dark past, he doesn’t have much going for him, no money, no friends, definitely no charisma, and his family makes people on Jerry Springer look like total winners. Life can’t be worse—until it becomes unbearable. When Ryan helps Brandon out of a bad situation, chemistry sparks between them. Only Brandon has one problem: He’s hiding in the closet with no way of finding his way out. After years apart, Ryan runs into Brandon as he has his head between his friend’s lady business to deliver her baby. This spells emotional turmoil for both Ryan and Brandon. Can years of resentment and bad feelings pull them apart or force them to work on their relationship so they can end up Tied Together. No Amazonian Hybrid Anaconda Turtles were harmed in the making of this book. I was outed by accident when I was seventeen years old. I had a whole elaborate plan how I was going to tell my parents I was gay. I was going to decorate my family’s living room with rainbow-colored flags, cook up some rainbow Jell-O, and have a Cher CD playing. I didn’t even like Cher, but from what I heard, she was a gay idol. My outing was going to be the baddest bitch of a coming-out party known to man. Even though I had the elaborate plan in my head, the other part of my mind had horrible images of my parents sobbing on the couch, holding each other for support. They would ask themselves what they did wrong in raising me to make me want to stick my dick up another guy’s pooper. I imagined my baby sister, Cara, would point and laugh at me, asking if I wanted to wear her high heels to homecoming. The answer would be no, I was a flats only kind of guy. Just because I was gay didn’t mean I dressed in drag. My folks would then throw me out of the house, and I would be forced to live on the streets and turn tricks for some pimp named Rocco with diamond-studded grills. I was in my father’s woodshed making out with Peter Collins. We were both seniors but went to different high schools. Peter was the definition of California Valley girl—but the male counterpoint. He was hot, sexy, blond, and built, but as bright as a broken light bulb. His lack of brain cells worked in my favor because, unfortunately, I was a complete moron when it came to anything that had to do with sex. The only relationship my dick had was with my hand and a bunch of gay porn sites. For some miraculous reason, there I was, sticking my tongue down Peter’s throat. I would never forget the conversation we had in that shed. “You have the sweetest lips,” I said. I tried to sound as romantic as I possibly...

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