So You’ve Finished Your Novel. What Next?

This week on my blog I have special guest J.L. Gribble, author of Steel Victory and its brand new sequel, Steel Magic! J.L.’s going to talk about the revision process, something to keep in mind if you’re doing Camp NaNo this month, and will have a great big mess of words in a file by the end of the month.

Congratulations! You’ve finished a novel. It could be your first novel, or it could be your tenth. Either way, I’d like to share my revision process with you. This doesn’t mean my way is the best way. Just that I hope you get some ideas that work for you, no matter your level of experience.

Step 1

Write “The End” after the final paragraph. This doesn’t mean it’ll make it into the final print of the book when published. But it feels really good.

Step 2

Have a celebratory drink and/or snack! Wine, chocolate, potato chips—It’s up to you! You just completed something that very few people do, statistically. Acknowledge that you are a rock star. Call your best friend/spouse/parental unit/biggest supporter so they can cheer for you. Post a picture of that “The End” on social media so everyone else knows how awesome you are, too.

Step 3

Put that sucker in a drawer (metaphorically speaking) for a minimum of 24 hours. Work on another writing project. Go for a walk. Play a video game. Visit the people you live with who may or may not have seen you for however long the final push of “I’m almost done!” took. Do absolutely anything else except think about the book.

Step 4

Get back to work!

At this point, I do a complete read-through of the entire novel. This is my basic coherence check. Are the scenes in logical order? Do events in different timelines match up? If it’s noon when the characters get into a car, it shouldn’t be dusk when they get out if they only drove across town. Even though I’m a complete “plotter” who writes from a detailed outline, things may still jump out at me that I need to tweak because I changed a subplot later. Feel free to take extensive notes as you write, so that it’s easier to return to issues or check behind yourself. Was the hero wearing a coat in the previous scene? Did the villain have short hair or a braid?

This is also where I catch a lot of my more glaring grammatical errors, though it’s not my actual focus right now.

Step 5

Once you’re happy with the major storytelling issues (plot, characterization, etc.), send it off to your beta reader(s)! This does not mean your mother. This doesn’t even mean another writer. This means someone who can read your work critically and not be afraid to point out the bad along with the good. Hopefully, this person is able to write notes in the margin that range from “This scene made me wonder who was cutting onions since I was getting emotional about your characters” to “This scene was cute, but total fluff. Cut it.” When you get these notes, address them the best way you see fit. Even if I don’t always take my beta reader’s suggestions, I always thing about the issue critically because they saw a reason to call it out.

Step 6

Search and destroy. Over the course of my last few novels, I have put together a list of words that I search with using the “Find” function. Here are a few examples (my current list actually has nearly 100):

Fluff words that can usually be deleted: “very” and “that.”

Words where the surrounding language needs to be punched up instead: “ly” to search for adverbs, finding stronger words for “went” and “walked,” describing what the character is seeing whenever they “look” somewhere.

Bobble-head-isms: “nodded,” “shook,” “shrug,” etc. A great resource is The Emotion Thesaurus to find better ways for your characters to use body language.

Consistency issues: I do a search for “ward” to make sure that my toward, backward, forward, etc. are all in that form rather than with an “s” at the end. (Having the “s” at the end is fine, but the key is having them all be the same!)

Passive verbs to strengthen action: “was,” were,” and “been.”

Phrases that I know I personally overuse when I’m cranking words out: My characters really like to put their hands on the hilts of their swords and “materialize” next to people unexpectedly.

And finally, words and phrases specific to my world: “Mercenary Guild” is always capitalized, and Europe is actually “Europa.”

Step 7

Squeeze your eyes shut as you hand over the credit card to get the full text printed out at your local copy shop. The last project I printed out came to $26. That’s like 6 whole lattes! But this step is important, because at this point, you’ve read your own words so many times that it’s easy to miss things. Changing up how you’re reading your text is important, and reading a physical page with pen in hand is different from staring at a computer screen.

This is the final critical read-through, where I look for grammatical errors and dropped or repeated words. It’s okay if you still find bigger things to fix at this point as your brain scans the text differently. Jot down notes for yourself in the margins and return to Step 4 for a bit before continuing on to…

Step 8

Submit! It’s time for the bird to leave the nest for real. In some cases, this is the hardest part of the process, regardless of whether you’re querying agents with your first book or sending the latest in a series off to an editor you’ve worked with for years. Someone who is not you, or even your trusted beta reader, now has your baby in their hands.

This is usually where I have another glass of wine.


This is the revision process I have used to complete all of the books in my urban fantasy/alternate history “Steel Empires” series. Please check out book 2, Steel Magic, which is available today!

_Steel Magic-Jacket.indd

Funerals are usually the end of the story, not the beginning.

Newly graduated warrior-mages Toria Connor and Kane Nalamas find themselves the last remaining mages in the city when a mage school teacher mysteriously falls ill and dies. But taking over the school themselves isn’t in the cards. They’re set to become professional mercenaries—if they make it through the next 18 months as journeymen first.

The debate over whether to hunt mutated monsters in the Wasteland or take posh bodyguard jobs is put on hold when a city elder hires them to solve the mystery of the disappearing mages. Toria and Kane’s quest brings them to the British colonial city of New Angouleme, where their initial investigation reveals that the problem is even greater than they feared.

But when a friend is kidnapped, they’ll have to travel to the other side of the globe to save her, save themselves, and save magic itself.

Gribble photo colorBy day, J. L. Gribble is a professional medical editor. By night, she does freelance fiction editing in all genres, along with reading, playing video games, and occasionally even writing. She is currently working on the Steel Empires series for Dog Star Books, the science-fiction/adventure imprint of Raw Dog Screaming Press. Previously, she was an editor for the Far Worlds anthology.

Gribble studied English at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. She received her Master’s degree in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, where her debut novel Steel Victory was her thesis for the program.

She lives in Ellicott City, Maryland, with her husband and three vocal Siamese cats. Find her online (, on Facebook (, and on Twitter and Instagram (@hannaedits).

Cover Reveal: What’s Left of Me by Jennifer Loring

I am so excited to be able to announce this book! I loved Firebird and I’m looking forward to the next chapter for Aleksandr and Stephanie!

WHAT’S LEFT OF ME by Jennifer Loring
The Firebird Trilogy, Book #2
Cover Designer: WICKED BY DESIGN
Recovering from years of living the superstar hockey life wasn’t easy, but now Aleksandr Volynsky finally has everything…

He’s married to the love of his life, expecting a daughter, and has a new job as an assistant coach with his old team, the Buffalo Gladiators. His happiness is short lived, however, when a sexual assault allegation surfaces, and Alex is forced to cooperate with an investigation for a crime he didn’t commit.

Stephanie Hartwell is juggling her dream job with marriage and motherhood, but she’s not convinced she’s doing any of it well…

Stephanie’s stress level goes from bad to worse when she’s diagnosed with a serious illness. Battling declining health and the critics who question her commitment to Alex in light of the allegation, she makes a decision that could change their relationship forever.

Alex is afraid he’s about to lose everything—especially when he sees Stephanie’s friend kiss her…

Devastated that his life is spiraling out of control again, Alex turns to his friend, Natasha, a Russian pop star. Convinced that Stephanie and her friend Brandon are having an affair, Alex resumes his self-destructive behavior.

What Alex doesn’t know is Stephanie has been conducting a secret investigation of her own. She learns the truth behind the sexual assault—a truth no one, especially Alex, expects.

With everything now out in the open, can Stephanie and Alex commit to a fresh start for the sake of their daughter, or will the ghosts of their pasts finally tear apart everything they have left?

Jennifer Loring’s short fiction has appeared in numerous magazines, webzines, and anthologies. DarkFuse published her novella Conduits in 2014, and her debut novel, Those of My Kind, was published by Omnium Gatherum in May 2015. Jenn is a member of the International Thriller Writers and the Horror Writers Association and holds an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. She lives in Philadelphia, PA, with her husband, their turtle, and two basset hounds.

Con Report – In Your Write Mind 2016


The Seton Hill Campus. Image courtesy of

I can’t believe I haven’t already waxed enthusiastic about Seton Hill on this blog, but let me take a brief moment to say: if you are an aspiring writer, or a published writer looking to up your game and make new connections, consider Seton Hill University.

The Writing Popular Fiction MFA program is a big investment in terms of time and money, so if you aren’t sure if you want to take the leap, every June the alumni of the program host a writing workshop called In Your Write Mind. We bring in agents, editors, and guest authors to give workshops and be on panels, as well as accepting pitches from attendees. Alums of the WPF program and current instructors in the program also present workshops, and next year they are planning to schedule an “unscheduled” day of writing sprints, pitch practice, critique workshops, and more.

If you can’t tell, I absolutely love the Seton Hill experience, and keep coming back for In Your Write Mind. There’s a reason that alums call SHU “Hogwarts for Writers.” But why might you want to give the workshop a try?

For one thing, it’s low-key. We come here to have a good time, and there’s no sense of a hectic pace or the need to be somewhere or do anything. If you want to hang out and talk shop with other writers, you’ll have lots of opportunities. But if you like go to go classes, the programming tracks focus on craft and networking, and there’s a good mix of information about writing a better book and being smart about the business side of the industry.

Here’s what I did this past weekend, to give you an idea of what the workshop is like:


I had some childcare issues and so I wasn’t able to arrive early on Thursday. But I drove in on Friday morning and went straight to campus. I planned to move in to my dorm room* right away, but I immediately started talking to people and got pulled along for the first two workshops of the day.

I took Plotting the Mystery with Victoria Thompson, author of the Gaslight Mysteries, and The Zero Draft Approach to Novel Writing with Symantha Reagor (who runs the social media for the workshop) and my very own editor, the lovely Anna LaVoie. Plotting the Mystery reminded me of where I’d lost my focus when I wrote my cozy mystery about a kitchen witch, and the Zero Draft module gave me permission to write a crappy draft just to get the story on paper. A blank page can’t be revised!

In the afternoon, I pitched to all three agents and editors: Diana Pho from Tor, Kimberly Brower from the Rebecca Friedman Literary Agency, and Eric Ruben of the Ruben Agency. As I’ve mentioned on the blog before, I want to be a hybrid author, with books both traditionally published and self published. I got some requests and will be sending queries out next week. Cross your fingers!

I also went to a workshop about method writing (using the tenets of method acting to better understand your characters) and a panel on freelance editing (to support the best editor EVER).


Yours truly, signing copies of Essential Magic!

That evening was the mass booksigning on campus. I idiotically forgot a handcart and had to lug a million-ton box of books from my car to the gymnasium, but I survived, and sold some books, so that was awesome. There were over 40 authors there signing books, and I got to be at the table next to my mentor, Maria V Snyder! I love her to death, and it was awesome to be between her and Andi Adams, who recently hosted me on her blog and will be featured here in a few weeks.


The 40+ authors at the book signing. I’m way up on the top left, near Andi Adams, Kristin Dearborn, and Maria V Snyder!


Saturday was the guest presenter day! First, I got to hear Kimberly Brower talk about the things that grab her – or turn her off! – in a query. Then Eric Ruben broke down some legal issues for writers and was very entertaining in the process. Everyone got to have lunch with guest author Daniel José Older, who has a magnetic personality and sold me on his books within five minutes of being in the same room. Then came another fantastic and fun panel with Eric about the future of the industry (takeaway – nobody knows!), and a presentation about Writing Across Difference by Diana Pho that was informative and eye-opening. The workshop sessions for the day closed out with an AMA-style panel with all four guests. They gave thought-provoking and often hilarious answers, and the whole room was filled with laughter. It was a blast!


Our amazing guests! Daniel José Older, Eric Ruben, Diana Pho, and Kimberly Brower!

That night I went out to dinner with my editor and then we descended on a local restaurant for the yearly costume ball! That’s right – this workshop has a costumed event every year! This year’s theme was “Trope Your Genre” and we saw many interesting interpretations, including a billionaire romance hero, a ripped bodice, and a secret baby! Next year’s theme is “International Persons of Mystery” so start planning your spy-themed garb now!

Also at the party they raffled off baskets donated by workshop attendees. The proceeds go to a scholarship fund for the WPF program, and the baskets are always awesome. This year, I won one! I forgot to take a picture of it before I dismantled it, but it had a bunch of kitchen tools and recipe books. If you follow my other pseudonym, you know that I’m into cooking and baking and have written a cozy about a kitchen witch, so I was very excited to win.

I’ll be honest. Except for the fact that the booksigning was on Friday, Saturday was my favorite day of the workshop. The guests were amazing presenters, I learned things I had never known before, and I got to go to a fancy dress party!


I may have chosen to sleep on Sunday morning instead of getting up early enough to go to the 9 am workshops. I’m sorry! By Sunday I was so exhausted that I needed the extra rest. Note to self: next year, do not schedule your book release for the same week as IYWM!


Symantha Reagor teaches us about character flaws.

I did, however, go to two fabulous workshops later in the morning. The first was on strengthening character by exploiting flaws by Symantha Reagor, and the second was a scorching-hot workshop on erotic romance by the amazing Anna Zabo.

Every June we have a fancy lunch where the alums welcome the graduating students into the alumni association, and that is always good times. Then we have a business meeting, which sounds super boring, but isn’t because our committee rocks.

I didn’t want this year’s workshop to end, but it finally did, and I had to say goodbye until 2017. But many of us are going to World Fantasy in Columbus in October, so that’s only four months away. I can’t wait!


*One of the nice things about IYWM is that you have the option to stay in the dorms rather than booking a hotel. Now, they are definitely not glamorous. They’re your typical college dorms with very few amenities. But there’s a bed, WiFi, a shower, and electrical outlets for my devices, so it’s all good. And they are much, much cheaper than a hotel. So if you need to save a little cash – consider the dorms.

Writing Sex Scenes

Writing Sex Scenes Blog Header (2)

If you have looked at the cover image on my website, with the sexy couple in the center, you can probably tell that I write steamy romances. I chose to write sexually explicit material for a few reasons.

  1. I like it.
  2. I think we need to be more sex-positive as a culture. Sex-positive, by the way, means also respecting people who choose not to have sex, for whatever reason. The idea here is that everyone gets to decide and no one else gets to judge them for their decisions.
  3. I like it.
  4. Because sex and intimacy is an important part of the kind of romantic relationships I’m exploring.

I write steamy romance, but you don’t need to be writing romance to have sex scenes in your book. For that reason, I wish writers in other genres would pick up a romance book or two before attempting to write a sex scene. Sometimes, the sex I encounter in other genres is amazing and well-done. Sometimes, it makes me want to cry. So, even if you don’t write romance, if you want to write sex into your books, please pay attention.

How to Write a Sex Scene (The Basics)

The first thing to acknowledge is that, like any kind of writing, a reader’s enjoyment of a sex scene is very subjective. There will be lines that they are uncomfortable crossing, or that they wish you would have crossed. There will be certain terms that give them a negative reaction, or that inspire unintentional humor based on their life experiences. You can’t avoid any of these things except by not writing the scenes at all.

Instead, let’s focus on what you can control.

Here are my “rules for sex scenes in books.” Note that these apply to any kind of story with a sex scene, not just romance.

  • There must be a story reason for the sex scene. Or, to put it another way, we should learn something about the characters, the plot, or the relationship through the scene. Otherwise, even if well-written, the sex is gratuitous.
  • It must be physically possible, or at least plausible within your world. Your mileage may vary on this one, but very creative sex positions have the potential to throw me right out of a story. Or even conventionally “daring” positions that could just not happen – like the tall hero and petite heroine getting it on—standing up—in the shower. Unless he is so tall that he can kneel and have their genitals line up, I call foul.
    • Adjacent issues – if you’re going to write about types of sex you know nothing about, do your research. Try it out if you have a willing partner. Don’t make assumptions about people living other lifestyles than you. Talk to them.
  • Everyone must consent, without manipulation or coercion. If there is no consent, even if the other person ends up feeling pleasure, you have just written a rape scene. Now, there is such a thing as dubious consent (such as when the reader knows that a character is attracted, but the character denies it to the world, or in historical romance when heroines are so sheltered they have no idea what they’re getting into with that marriage of convenience), but it’s very difficult to write without crossing lines. I don’t suggest attempting this until you get a lot of practice writing enthusiastically consensual sex first.
  • Don’t try to get too creative with your language. Overly flowery descriptions, unusual euphemisms, and a plethora of analogies can obscure what’s going on in the scene, and confuse your reader (or make them laugh). But don’t get too literal, either. If you talk about a penis entering a vagina, it’s going to sound like a science book on the mating habits of humans. I like to pick somewhere between one and three terms to replace the more technical-sounding ones, and then alternate those throughout the scene. That gives consistency without destroying the rhythm and beauty of the prose.
  • Be confident. If you don’t feel comfortable writing sex scenes, don’t write them. It’s better to shut the door or pan to the curtains than write a very awkward, un-sexy love scene. Now, it is also possible to be super confident and still write an awkward scene. That’s why we have editors and beta readers. Use your network. But more often, it is a writer’s hesitancy that comes through on the page. I doubt you will have read this far into the blog unless you’re interested in writing sex scenes, but if you have come this far and still don’t feel right, just don’t do it. You can be sex-positive and close the door. Don’t let anyone tell you how hot or not to write.

So, bottom line: Sex is good. Unless you don’t want to have sex, which is totally your choice and no one should ever force you to do it.

Mal and Etta have some very steamy scenes. If you want to check them out, Essential Magic is now available!

To get the eBook edition, check out one of these fine retailers:

Amazon | iBooks | Kobo | Nook

Or if you like holding a physical copy of the book in your hands, visit:


Sex and Magic


To continue this week’s theme of romance and sex, I thought it was a good time to discuss how I bring the fantasy elements into my fantasy romance.

Often in fantasy stories, the mages or supernaturally-inclined folk are more open about sex and sexuality. I think this might be a holdover from the real world, when free-thinking men and women were accused of witchcraft by the church and their narrow-minded neighbors. But whatever the cause, I embrace this trope utterly. It allows me to give my female characters more sensual experiences prior to the story, when at this point in the real-world history, Victoria’s repressive views of femininity forced any expression of feminine desire into hiding.

Of course, the woman herself was an example of the hypocrisy innate in such actions. The queen was a passionate woman, who flew into rages and was obviously quite sexually active with her husband. But that was in private. In public, women were expected to be circumspect, moral, and largely silent, deferring to their husbands in all things.

Clan Fay does not operate that way. For my world, I have emphasized a real-life Scottish tradition that allows the females of a bloodline to hold titles and power in their own right. I have also pushed a little harder on matrilineal descent as the most important factor in a magical family. But there’s real-world precedent for that, too. In ancient times, the Scottish kingship passed not from father-to-son, but uncle-to-nephew. The women were seen as the consistent bloodline because the father of a babe could not be proven. I’ve taken that a step farther, though, and given the women the right to rule.

Because of that history of female leadership, the Scottish Clans never embraced the patriarchy as their English neighbors did. Women in Scotland are free to take lovers, and any children born of such unions are raised by the clan no differently than any born to a married couple.

In Essential Magic, I show some of the problems that arise when families from both heritages mix. Viola (sister to the hero, Malcolm) takes a lover, and no one on the Scottish side of the family cares when she gets pregnant. But when her English father and her socially-conscious mother find out, she is forced to marry Ian, the father of her twins. (This isn’t a spoiler – it comes up in chapter two).

So on the one hand, we have a society that embraces female sexuality. On the other, we have a close facsimile to the real Victorian England.

And then we add magic into the mix. For my main characters Etta and Mal, they quickly discover that literally mixing their magic can bring intense pleasure. I’m writing book two now, and I’m enjoying the way that magic adds a fresh layer of description and emotion to my sex scenes. I can describe the characters literally feeling what the other feels while they make love. It’s a great way to bring depth and character development into the scenes.

If any of this sounds intriguing to you, Essential Magic is out today! You can get it at all of the major internet book retailers.

To get the eBook edition, visit:

Amazon | iBooks | Kobo | Nook

Or if you like holding a physical copy of the book in your hands, check out:


Sex and Romance Part Two: Steamy or Erotic?


In a previous blog post, I defined romance as follows:

Romance as a genre is any story where the relationship between two (or sometimes more) characters is central to the plot and structure. If your story is structured around a mystery that happens to be solved by two people who fall in love, it is a romantic mystery. If your story is structured around two people who fall in love and happen to also solve a mystery, it is a mystery romance. Another way to think of it is this: if you can take the romance plot out and still tell the same story, it isn’t a romance.

Steamy or spicy romance is really just an acknowledgement that there is at least some sexually explicit material in the book.  In some novels, all of the sex is at the end. In others, the sex begins soon after the characters’ first encounter. Some are very graphic and eschew pretty euphemisms, while others obscure things a little with metaphor and analogy. But while the sex on the page is (or should be!) important to character and relationship development, it’s not usually the primary force that drives the story forward and the characters together.

Erotic romance is when the sexual encounters are the major factors that drive the storytelling and relationship forward. The plot focuses on how sexual intimacy changes the characters, and how it both draws them together and keeps them apart. Think of this like the mystery example in my romance definition above. In a mystery romance, the mystery plot is used to help develop the romance. In erotic romance (also called erom), it is the sex life of the characters that is used to develop the romance. So while you can have a “steamy” romance in almost any subgenre, in order to be erotic romance, the sex has to be intrinsic to the plot.

And just like in the mystery example, if you can take out the romance and still have the same erotic story, you’re writing straight erotica. If there is no story, just sex scenes? You’re writing porn.

No judgment on any of these things, by the way. They all have their place. But they’re not all the same things, and just because a romance includes explicit sex does not make it porn. This is a concept that readers on the no-sex end of the romance spectrum sometimes have trouble with. When reading about sex at all makes a reader uncomfortable, steamy romance and porn don’t seem that far apart.

But I’m here to tell you – there is a difference. Any romance—including steamy and erotic—is still interested in telling a story, and in building characters. It wants to develop a core relationship and see two (or more) people come together in ways that make them stronger than they were apart.

Erotica is interested in stories where sex plays an important part, but where the characters have no greater emotional attachment. Porn is interested in sex purely for titillation, where the characters and plot aren’t important. And there’s no shame in wanting to read either type of writing. They just aren’t romances.

I’m a steamy romance writer. My characters fall in love and have lots of amazing sex. If that sounds like fun to you, come check out my series. The first book, Essential Magic, is available now at all major online book retailers.

To read my steamy fantasy romance as an eBook, check out one of these fine retailers:

Amazon | iBooks | Kobo | Nook

Or if you like holding a physical copy of the book in your hands, check out:


Blog Tour Update:

Today I’m visiting Jennifer Loring, author of Firebirda super-steamy romance about a hockey player and a sports reporter with a history of passion – and pain. Can they figure out how to co-exist without tearing each other apart?

Sex and Romance Part One


If a romance focuses on two people (or more) falling in love, does that mean all romances must have sex?

Of course not. For one thing, not everyone in the world wants to have sex, even if they become romantically attached or even married. And for others, their religious beliefs or personal preference means they don’t want to read about sex. All of those preferences are fine – as long as you don’t shame someone else for not sharing yours.

I am very sex-positive, and what that means for me is that I want there to be no judgment or derision levied at anyone regardless of their sexual choices, in fiction and in life.

But sex can be a divisive issue in the genre community, so I want to examine its place in the romance canon. There are books where the characters don’t have sex at all, books where sex is intrinsic to character and plot development, and books of every sort in between.


Romance titles with no sex at all (even implied) are typically published as inspirational or Christian romance. I’ll be honest and say that I have only read a few books in this category, so my experience is not broad. In the books I’ve read, the characters’ religious beliefs determine their level of intimacy, and even if married, they will often not be physically intimate on the page (including kissing).

Sweet Romance

In other books, there’s sex, but it isn’t on the page. Or if it is on the page, it isn’t explicit and the author focuses on the emotions of the characters during the experience rather than the physical realities. These are typically called “sweet” romances. There’s a movement lately to call them “clean” romances, but I’ve got to be honest and say that label makes me cringe. “Sweet” makes no value judgments about sex. “Clean” does – it implies that sex is dirty. And as I said above, I’m sex-positive. That means I don’t care if you want to read Christian romance or outright porn. But don’t judge me or anyone else for what we choose to read or write.


What I write is steamy or spicy romance, where there’s explicit sex on the page. But even in steamy romances, there are variations in how much or how little sex happens. What makes a book spicy is that when sex happens, we talk about it. There are no curtains drawn or doors closed. Again – no judgment on any genre that pans to the windows or avoids the conversation. Do what feels comfortable for you. I just happen to like writing and reading about sex.


At the far end of the spectrum from “no sex” is erotic romance, where graphic sex is intrinsic to the story, and can’t be removed without damaging the character development and plot.

In part two of this blog, I will explore the difference between steamy romance and erotic romance more carefully, because it’s easy to get confused (even for people who write in these genres).

But here’s my final word on sex and romance – do what feels right for you. If you like to read about sex, find books with lots of sex in them. Kinky sex, vanilla sex, multiple partner sex? It doesn’t matter. Go for it. If you don’t like to read about sex, then there are romance books for you, too. Intimacy grows in many ways, not all of them physical.

Bottom line – there’s a romance book out there with a heat level right for you.


To read my steamy fantasy romance as an eBook, check out one of these fine retailers:

Amazon | iBooks | Kobo | Nook

Or if you like holding a physical copy of the book in your hands, check out:



Today’s guest blog is an author interview at Jessica Knauss’s website. Click here to read it!

Guest Blog by A.J. Culey

YA and children’s author A.J. Culey is visiting today, with a fun article previewing the events to come in her newest paranormal humor book, The Trouble with Antlers, which releases June 23, 2016.

Human Proofing Shifter High

by Norris Raccoon

Moving through the chaos of construction at Shifter High, it’s increasingly clear that the school has the greatest burden of all the buildings in Shifterville, in terms of preparing for our newest human arrivals. Bad enough that the only applicant for our veterinarian position is a human, but for him to have a teenaged daughter is an absolute disaster for Shifter High and its principal, Steve Armadillo.

Armadillo has had to empty out the prized trophy case in the school’s main hall, removing his own championship trophy for claw put. All the other school awards, including its ten pawball championships, seventeen 100-yard burrow medals, and twenty wrestling (predator and prey class) trophies are no longer displayed in the great hall of Shifter High. When asked what will replace these items in the case, Armadillo simply replied, “Something human, no doubt.”

The cafeterias are also undergoing a transformation. No longer labeled herbivore, carnivore and omnivore, these cafeterias will now be known by the generic titles of A, B and C. Let’s hope incoming freshmen don’t become confused. No herbivore wants to be trapped in a cafeteria full of hungry carnivores.

The art classroom no longer has art displaying shifters in mid-transformation. The music room’s shifter songbooks have been locked into a storage closet, no doubt to be replaced with more human-friendly songs. No more school chant about the triumphs of all species working together. No more predators vs. prey songs for Halloween. No more Shifter Clans Gone By to ring in the New Year. It is truly a sad day for Shifterville and its teenaged residents.

While the high school is being human-proofed as swiftly as possible, it is obvious Principal Armadillo has quite the challenge in front of him. When asked what his plans were for the school crest, with its human silhouette morphing into those of a turaco bird, a jaguar and a hedgehog, Armadillo simply threw up his hands and shouted, “Do I look like a miracle worker?” and stormed off.

One thing is for certain. Armadillo will need to work miracles this summer if he intends to keep his newest student, the human named Amelia, from discovering the truth of Shifterville and its residents.

Norris Raccoon is a reporter for The Shifterville Times (formerly known as The Daily Shifter).

Author Bio:

A.J. Culey was not born a shifter, much to her dismay.  Despite her limitations as a human, she enjoys spending time with cats, bunnies and other animals. She hasn’t met a shifter yet, nor has she had any antlers spontaneously appear in any classroom she’s taught in, but she hasn’t given up hope that it might one day happen. In the meantime, she has fun writing about the possibilities.

Author Links:

What Makes a Romance Novel?


First of all, let me come right out and say that no genre should be disparaged for existing. Many people look down on romance as though it is worthless or “too formulaic.” One of my favorite quotes upholding the romance genre comes from Diana Gabaldon, who said: “Harlequin romances have very strict guidelines as to length and content. So do sonnets and villanelles. Neither length nor guidelines have anything to do with the quality of writing or story.”

Lots and lots of novels have romances in them, and it drives me nuts when any story is dismissed as being “just a romance” because it happens to have a romantic subplot or pairing. Because, you know what? Being “just a romance” is pretty awesome.

But what does romance mean, exactly?

Romance as a genre is any story where the relationship between two (or sometimes more) characters is central to the plot and structure, and where those characters come together in at least a semi-permanent way. If your story is structured around a mystery that happens to be solved by people who fall in love, it is a romantic mystery. If your story is structured around people who fall in love and also happen to solve a mystery, it is a mystery romance. Another way to think of it is this: if you can take the romance plot out and still tell the same story, it isn’t a romance.

Romances can be paired with pretty much every other genre. I write fantasy romances, or romance novels with magic. But the Fay of Skye series is also alternate-history based on a fictional Victorian period, so you could say that I write “alternate history Victorian fantasy romance.”

There are also paranormal romances (typically the romance version of urban fantasy), contemporary romances (with a million subgenres, from billionaires to secret babies), historical romances (often set in the British Regency around 1800 or medieval Scotland), science fiction romances (usually space opera rather than Hard SF), military romances (SEALs are big), western romances (both Old West and contemporary cowboys), and just about anything else you can think of.

Notice that I don’t include LGBT or multi-cultural romance as specific genres, even though the publishers do. I don’t include them because ANY of those story types in my last paragraph can be told with minority or queer characters. I don’t feel like the skin color or sexual orientation of the main characters should define what genre they live in. The same is true for a lot of Christian romance. The character’s religious beliefs are just like skin color and sexual orientation – not genre-defining. In my opinion, anyway. Now, there are inspirational or Christian romances where the story is built around the religious experience (say, a mission trip or a pastor dealing with his congregation) and those are legitimate genre-defining qualities. But just having Christian characters should not define your story as a Christian romance.

Another thing I don’t include as defining a romance sub-genre is heat level. I’m going to do a different post about sex and romance, so I won’t go into too much detail here, but suffice to say that while heat level can help a reader determine if a book matches their comfort level/preferences, I don’t think it’s a useful distinction otherwise.

But here’s the heart of romance – the idea that relationships are important. That love is important. That connection, and family, and friendship (and, yes, sex, or being able to make one’s own decisions about sex), are all important. That hope is important – hope for the future, and hope for a better world. A Happily Ever After (or Happy For Now) ending doesn’t make romance an unrealistic genre. It makes us the genre of eternal optimism. At the end, after all of the trials and conflict and pain, our characters come together and are stronger because of their love. And that’s an idea worth celebrating.

To read my fantasy romance, check out one of these fine retailers:

Amazon | iBooks | Kobo | Nook | Print through Amazon

And if you want to check out my guest blog over at A.J. Culey’s website, here’s the link!

Essential Magic Blog Tour


The print cover for Essential Magic!

Essential Magic releases in less than a week!

To celebrate the release, I’m going on tour! I will be visiting various blogs all next week. Here on my blog, I’ll be posting a series on sex and romance, and I’ll be hosting A.J. Culey on Tuesday!

Here’s the tour schedule (click on the host name to go to their blog), so be sure not to miss a day:

If you’re looking for something to read, all of their books are amazing! A.J.’s book releases the same day as Essential Magic, but all of the other books are already out and available for purchase.

And of course you can pre-order Essential Magic now at any of the following retailers:

Amazon | iBooks | Kobo | Nook

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