Happy Birthday to ME!!

June is my birthday month. When I was a kid, I loved that my birthday was six months from Christmas. Presents every six months. The perfect set up when I was a kid. With back to school time and easter falling somewhere in the middle, I got stuff every six months. Which mostly meant new books for me, because I am a giant book dragon. Or, if it wasn’t new books, it was new music. Or movies. All three were my go to presents. Until I started writing, then all I wanted were notebooks and pens. It works out great for me.

As an adult, I value the time I get to spend with my friends and family more than physical items. Now when my birthday rolls around, I spend some time reflecting on the previous year. The personal wins, the personal losses. I flip through them like a memory book, and decide what I will and what I won’t go into the next year with. I let go of emotions that do not support the goals that I plan to achieve in the coming months. This year was no different. When my birthday hit on the seventh, I took stock of my life. Of the past twelve months and did what I always do. So here, is my manifesto for the next year.

Amber Marie, Age 37

This year, I will not be putting up with things that do not serve me. I will not tolerate Racism, Homophobia, Transphobia, or anything that you want to call a phobia but isn’t because you aren’t really afraid of it. I will not tolerate negligent and purposeful stupidity. I want to level up. I want to surround myself better, both in mind and in body.

I’ve been going to the doctor, I’m going to physical therapy for my knees. Next will be for my back. I’m only 37, I’d like to be able to play with my grandson as he gets older. I have an appointment at the VA to see how bad my carpal tunnel, ulner tunnel and my tendonitis has gotten, and take the steps necessary to fix it if I can. I’m seeing specialists to see why I get dizzy when I’m sitting down. It’s all a little scary, but I’m doing what I can to get it figured out. I’m drinking my water, taking my vitamins, and doing my yoga. I’ve started a low-impact boxing regimen from home with Dribble Up boxing gloves (which I absolutely love by the way).

In addition to all of those changes, I’ve made the decision to go back on my ADHD meds. It’s been chaos around here and I need to focus up a little better. So back on the meds we go until I can get the coping mechanisms readjusted. Which isn’t something I’ve ever shied away from, nor will I ever. My neurodivergence will never, ever go away. I made my peace with that a long time ago. So, now we go through the cycle of coping mechanisms, and medication as is needed. It’s fine with me. I don’t mind. It helps.

Theo, the newest addition to our little family.

In addition to the mental and physical health stuff, I have goals. By the time I turn 38, I will have all five of The Bluebird Chronicles books written and turned in. At least the first drafts. Two down, three to go. I’ve outlined the third book, and have started writing it. I just have to finish it, and the next two. It’s an achievable goal if I keep working like I have been.

I also have other ideas that need to be fleshed out and edited. No Ordinary Love is in the midst of a re-write, turning it from Third person to First person. Reworking it so that both Ember and Mason have an equal voice in the story. I think it will strengthen it and make it better. Then I think I’m going to shop it around a bit. Once that’s finished, there’s a few more projects I’m going to work on. Starting with It Could Be Monsters and Black Balloon. The goal is to get these published, whether I do that with self-publishing or finding a traditional publisher like I did for The Bluebird Chronicles, that’s yet to be determined. My goal is simply to finish them.

Me and My Grandson. He’s 3 months old and amazing.

In addition to my personal writing goals, I’ve made some professional ones. I like my job, don’t get me wrong. That picture there, that’s in my home work office. Different from where I create, it’s where I do my job. I get a lot of downtime some days while I work. I like it, don’t get me wrong, but it doesn’t make me happy. It pays the bills and I get to help people. It is fulfilling, it’s a fabulous opportunity, yes, but I don’t want to do this forever. So, I’m making some changes. I’ve reworked my resume, found a way to add my writing experience into it. I would like to write for a living. I’ve signed up to do some ghost writing through a company, and while it might not pay enough to quit my job, but it’s enough for a side hustle. At least until I can get my feet wet in that kind of industry. But being able to write all day, everyday, that my friends is the new dream.

I once said that I wouldn’t want to write for a living. I wouldn’t want to take something I love so much and turn it into something I didn’t want to do at the end of the day. I’ve grown, I want to write. So, I’m going to make that a reality. If I can’t be writing full time by the time my next birthday rolls around, well, I hope I have some more professional work to make my resume shine. Even if all it does is help pad my professional Freelance career. Here’s to hoping it works.

Theo, helping me write. Or so he thinks. He’s not very good at it, but he tries.

Speaking of side hustles, I’m working on a few other things that would help with my passive income. Help me build a little more than I currently have. I keep joking that I’m building an empire, but that really is what I’m trying to do, just on a small level. I want to be able to live a happy and free life, doing what I love. These are just the first steps. Hopefully by next year, I’ll be ready for phase two, or phase three. Cross your fingers.

I’m not taking anyone, or anything into the next year that doesn’t help help me achieve these goals. I have two kids turning eighteen before my next birthday. Another one right behind them. All but one of my kids are high schoolers now. Two freshman, one Junior, and two Seniors. It’s insane that it’s happened so fast. I blinked, so don’t do that. I swear. Don’t. Before I know it, my grandson will be walking and talking and I don’t know what to do with that.

My Cousin Stephanie and I at the Halsey concert she bought me tickets to for my birthday. Was an amazing show! I will never forget it!

So, happy June everyone. I hope your summers are amazing and fun and full of adventure. I hope you create memories that you cannot forget. I hope that everything you want to happen this summer, happens for you.

Until next time my wonderful friends, drink your water, don’t eat yellow snow, and have an adventure. ❤

Friends Forever?

Face claims for Bailey (L), Penelope (C), and Callie (R)

One of the primary things that holds The Bluebird Chronicles characters together is the friendships that have before the story starts, and the ones they make along the way as well. While I like writing romantic stories, my favorite ones are always those that have something more going on than just a romance. I hope that I can do that as well. As most of us know, there isn’t always just one thing going on in our lives, when romance hits. It’s never just that. There’s always something else as well.

I hope that by sharing some of these friendships, everyone can get a deeper understanding of these characters before you get to meet them on the page. I’m so excited for it. So, this first one is probably the most important. Penelope being the main character and all, it’s important to know where she comes from. Who her people are. Perhaps the most important people that she has, are her best friends.

Katie McGrath: Penelope’s Face claim

Penelope Sawyer was four years old when she met Bailey Stills-Parker. They were kind of thrown together while their family’s spent time together. Penelope, for her part was overjoyed to finally have a new friend to hang out with instead of just her brother Cohen, and his friend Micah. Micah, was finally happy to have a baby sister of his own, just like Cohen. It didn’t take long for Bailey and Penelope to form a fast friendship that couldn’t be severed, no matter what.

Melissa Benoit: Bailey’s Face Claim

By the time they were in high school, they were more like sisters, along with their brother’s, the four of them spent most of their time together. By the time that Cohen and Penelope left Illinois to move to Michigan, even the distance couldn’t dampen the friendships they shared and they continued on into adulthood unfettered.

Chyler Leigh: Callie’s Face claim

When Penelope joined the military after high school, she met Callie Gracen. They’ve became fast friends and that hasn’t changed. Through Penelope, Callie met Cohen and after a few meetings, the two began dating. They were about to get engaged when the unthinkable happened. Penelope and Callie were both due to get out of the military and while Penelope did, Callie didn’t. That change did nothing to dampen their friendship.

Photo by APG Graphics on Pexels.com

Penelope introduced Bailey and Callie and the rest is history. The three get on like a house on fire. Though the distance between them is vast, the advent of technology and group chats has made everything easier. The girls regularly talk in the group chat they’ve created. Though they don’t get together often, when they do it’s always chaos. There is drinking and adventure and they renew their bonds of friendship in the oldest ways.

Emilia Clarke: Nora’s Face Claim

Though not as close Bailey or Callie as Penelope is, Nora Whitley is the fourth member of their little group. She is dating Penelope’s cousin Rich, and has been for a number of years. She’s met Bailey, and Callie at different points, and though they don’t get a chance to hang out as often as they’d like, with Nora living in London, when they do it’s always special. She rounds out the group. Bailey and Penelope are ride or die for one another. Callie and Nora are the same. For some reason the two developed an immediate bond and that doesn’t ever diminish. The four remain fast friends.

Photo by vjapratama on Pexels.com

As a writer, I had a lot of fun creating these characters. Though they might have been defined by events out of their own control, they have a lot of fun together and show that it really doesn’t matter what life throws their way, the four of them will face it together. In spirit if not standing back to back. Everyone deserves a friend like that. A friend that is ride or die, and always has your back. I hope that everyone who reads The Bluebird Chronicles thinks of their best friend when they see how the four of them interact. I hope that everyone has at least one friend as good as these four are to one another.

I’ll see you guys next time. As always, be safe, drink your water, and don’t eat yellow snow.

Book Review – Left Behind by Vi Keeland and Dylan Scott

Happy Thursday everyone! Ready for the next book review? I’m not gonna lie, I’ve been struggling this week, I’m still not done reading next week’s book review book, but I’m farther into the next book on the list. I need to do something about that. For now though, let’s talk about Left Behind. Once again, I read this book with my cousin Steph. Since I picked the last book her and I read, she got to pick the next one. She chose this and one other. For me they were blind picks, all I knew was that they were more Vi Keeland books, until they arrived at my house. So, without further ado, let’s get to it!

Left Behind is not like the last Vi Keeland book I read. It’s a little different, and I liked it. Steph liked it more than I did probably, but everything else I’m reading right now is a little different so it stuck out. It isn’t that it’s a bad story, on the contrary, I had some really strong feelings about it.

Nikki Fallon is a 17 year old girl living in Texas. When her mom dies and she finds out some family secrets, it turns her life completely on its head. She struggles with unraveling a past she never knew about, and the typical horror of high school all in a new place with family she didn’t even know existed.

Zack Martin has everything. A beautiful cheerleader girlfriend. A spot on the Varsity football team. Everything a high school senior would want. Until it isn’t. Until it all goes wrong. How will he pick up the pieces and learn to live again?

Can Nikki and Zack come together to help one another through their own personal trauma and still manage to graduate on time? Or will the things they don’t know tear them apart?

Thelma & Louise Book Club Chat

Q: Why did you choose this book?
Amber: Steph actually picked this one since I picked the last one. It was a blind draw for me.
Steph: I chose this book because I got to read the first couple of pages from the first chapter online, and it intrigued me. It was a little different than the last one, but I thought it would be good. And obviously because we read a really stellar book by her before this.

Q: Which character did you like best?
Amber:
Zack. I felt like he was the most “real” of the characters. With that amount of grief, sometimes it only takes one small thing to pull you out. Or Kellar, I like characters that make me laugh.
Steph: Nikki. I could relate to her character with some real life events of my past.

Q: Which character did you like least?
Amber:
It’s a toss up between Nikki’s mom and Mrs. Bennet. Her mom because she should have told Nikki the truth and Mrs. Bennet, who is obviously not handling ANYTHING well and took it out on a clueless Nikki.
Steph: Emily, just because of the way she treated Zack and everyone else just because of her popularity. Or maybe Mrs. Bennet because she never gave Nikki the chance to get to know her before she started attacking her.

Q: What was your favorite part of this book?
Amber: My favorite part was either the night at lookout where Zack and Nikki finally opened up to each other and a little about their past.
Steph: The day they went to the lighthouse. Because when they were at the lookout, she mentioned she loved lighthouses and he remembered. And because of the epic kiss they share there as well.
Amber: That is probably my second favorite. Do you think it’s weird that both of our favorite scenes are more toward the beginning?
Steph: That’s because that’s before everything got complicated!

Q: How did the setting impact the story?
Steph: I think that the setting was perfect. They’re both athletic and the setting allowed them to explore that more and be outdoors.
Amber: I think it added depth to the characters. They were able to interact with their surroundings. I like that the differences in not only environment, but the setting between Nikki’s life in Texas and her life in California showed how far she was growing as a character, without it actually being shoved down your throat.

Q: Are there lingering questions from the book you’re still thinking about?
Amber: YES! What actually happened to Emily? Like I get the big picture, but what happened? And why did the writer portray the two funeral scenes exactly the same? Was it for parallels? Cause that was obvious enough without it feeling like it was copied and pasted.
Steph: I feel the same way. But I also want to know how Aunt Clare moved on with her life after Nikki and Zack left? Like, what happened with their relationship?

Q: Did you like the heat level of this book?
Amber: Because of the age of the characters, there wasn’t a lot of heat. I liked how it was done, but I could have used a little more build up maybe? They talk a lot about what happened between them in kind of an off handed way and while I like good Fade to Black spice scenes, I felt like it wasn’t even that most of the time.
Steph: Right, like it was more of just teenager teasing and flirting.

Q: Was the couple’s connection believable? If so, when did they click for you?
Steph: Yes, they clicked right away. They didn’t even have to speak to know that there was a connection.
Amber: Their first couple of meetings were really cute, with the not speaking to one another thing. I liked the little notes, especially when Nikki wrote one to Zack at the end.
Steph: Mmhm

Q: Are there any characters that you’d like to deliver a lecture to? If so, who? What would you say?
Amber: I have a list! OMG! Aunt Clare, why did you give up so easily on losing touch with your sister and your niece? Especially if you knew your niece could potentially be in danger? You knew where they were, why not reach out? Mrs. Bennet, WTF? Mrs. Fallon, dude. I know you had some mental health issues and some other health issues, but your daughter is NOT your caretaker, you are hers. Emily, CHILL OUT HOMEGIRL! It’s not that serious!
Steph: My first one is to Nikki’s Mom, I understand mental illnesses, but I am also a mother with those and I don’t understand how you could let your child down so harshly throughout her entire life. Aunt Clare, wanting children and never having any should have been the biggest reason to stay in touch with your sister so you could have a relationship with your niece. Mrs. Bennet, [redacted cussing] had you gotten the chance to get to know Nikki you would have realized how alike she was to the daughter you raised and hope that now that it’s all said and done, you regret your actions.
Amber: We did good at this. We done?
Steph: No, I’m gonna call Zack out as well. I understand you went through a tough loss at a young age, a lot like Nikki, but it wasn’t kind of you to treat Allie the way that you did. She was just trying to be there for you.

Q: Would you recommend this book to anyone? Who?
Amber: I don’t know. Teenagers maybe? It was a good book, I mean my mom stole it off of my shelf already.
Steph: Yes I would recommend it. It was a good read, a fast read, and I think that I’d recommend it to anyone between the ages of 16 -25 because I think they’d enjoy it more.

Amber: Do you think that the trauma experienced in this book and the recovery, or beginning of that recovery, is believable or would be relatable? We’ve both been through some of those things, the grief of losing a parent is something we both understand. Do you think the authors did a good job portraying that turmoil?
Steph: Yes I do. I think that they showed that the mental and emotional state with Zack dealing with his grief and trauma was so different from Nikki dealing with a similar issue because Nikki had been through so much with her mom already but Zack had never dealt with anything like that before.
Amber: I think it was done well. It was two vastly different reactions to similar situations which is often times true to life.

Our Ratings

This book was good, like I said. We both really enjoyed how quick it was to read. It kept us hooked, I’d call it a beach read, or maybe a good plan book. You could get through most of it in a few hours. The romance angle kept you intrigued, as well as the personal struggles of each character. The characters were well developed, even the background characters, and they were true to their personalities. They were consistent. This was the second book we’ve read by the same author, and so far the writing style is consistent and still good. It wasn’t quite a five star, however. It got a little predictable in the sense that I figured out who Nikki’s long lost sister was long before she did. It didn’t stop the lump in my throat or the pain in my chest when she finally figured it out though. It was rough. I like things that make me feel something.

Disclaimer on the heat level: Due to the ages of the characters, there wasn’t the same level of heat in this book as the last by the same author. It wasn’t even quite fade to black, though the kissing scenes were intense and made both of us a little breathless because we remember being young and being kissed like that, and the fear/excitement of our first times. It was really well written, there just wasn’t a lot of it. So our rating reflects that. It isn’t meant to be judgmental or bad, not this time. There just wasn’t much to judge. Again, given the age of the characters, I’m okay with that.

This book deals with a lot of heavy emotions. Grief, Foster Care, Death, Mental Illness, Depression, First Times, the list goes on. It’s heavy in a lot of ways. What really stuck with me was that the authors never shied away from portraying these things accurately. As someone who has lost a parent (two in my case, one in Steph’s), has their own diagnosed “Mental Illness”, and remembers being a teenager, I appreciated that these concepts were dealt with maturely and were a good representation for how life really is. Zack was still grieving months after everyone else had started to move on and everyone started to get worried about him. That’s realistic and it happens. Sometimes you get stuck there and can’t get passed it. My favorite thing, as someone who is diagnosed Bipolar, is Nikki’s constant and consistent correction of anyone who called her mom crazy or anything else besides sick. I can’t remember now exactly how it went, but there’s even a moment where she’s talking to her best friend, and even though her friend makes an offhanded comment, that Nikki knows she doesn’t mean in a bad way, it’s an automatic correction. I appreciated that. I’m lucky, I don’t have it as bad as some others do, but I’m not crazy, my brain just isn’t always a rational place to live. I loved this book. Please go read it. Give it to your teens, or anyone really. My mom took it off my bookshelf the day after I finished it.

That’s it for this week. I hope you enjoyed the review. See you this time next week!

Book Review – Dark Prince by Michelle Hercules

This week I bring you one of the books I read on my Kindle App. It was available through Kindle Unlimited, and I blew through it so quickly. It took me two days, and it wouldn’t have taken that long except I was busy doing other things in between when I got to read it. If you like Vampires and the paranormal, you have to put this on your reading list. It’s part of a series, and you will not be disappointed.

So, our story revolves around Lucca Della Morte and Vivianne Gale. Lucca is a blueblood vampire and nephew of the vampire King. He’s also cursed and his hibernations are taking longer and longer for him to wake up from. Vivianne is just trying to save her brother from a Dragonshifter, who wants her to steal Lucca’s necklace in exchange for her brother’s life.

After Vivianne fails to steal the necklace the first time, she ends up enrolled at the same school as Lucca and his inner circle. She’s given a glamour so that no one knows she isn’t a vampire, but Lucca sees through it immediately. At first he is dead set on making her miserable due to her attempt at stealing his necklace, but he somehow can’t bring himself to do so.

I liked this book, and I’m reading the second one right now, which I find to be so much better than the first, but the first was good. A lot of reviews talk about how many cliche’s there are in the story, and while they are accurate, this story is chock full of them, I found it an amusing quick read.

What was your favorite part of the book? I really enjoyed the back story on Vivianne. I liked learning about that particular twist.

Did you race to the end or was it more of a slowburn? It was quick. I loved it. I finished it rather quickly in just a couple of days while only reading before bed.

What surprised you most about the book? The backstory of Vivianne and who she really is. That plot twist took me by surprise for sure.

Are there lingering questions from the book you’re still thinking about? Yes, I had several, but now that I’m halfway through the second book and I’m finding that those lingering questions are being answered. It was all background character stuff anyway, so now I’m working on that.

Which characters did you like best? Karl and Aurora. I loved them, even though they’re background characters. Aurora was sweet to Vivianne when she was new and helped her out, even though she could see through her glamour as well. She didn’t ask questions and she didn’t judge her too harshly. Karl was Vivianne’s best friend, and though he tried to be secretive and seemed like they weren’t close at the beginning, everything ended up working out for them to remain best friends.

Which characters did you like least? Manu and Ronan. I just don’t know enough about them to understand why they are standoffish and rude to everyone. I don’t understand it, but if anything I’m learning that I’ll find out eventually if I keep reading the series.

Did you like the “heat” level of this book? I did. I felt like it was appropriately paced and increased. I felt the heat and I didn’t feel like it was forced. I liked it.

Was the couple’s connection believable? If so, at what point did they click for you? I felt like it was. I felt that they handled it well since they started off as enemies and slowly settled into lovers, with the pauses where they examine their own conflicting feelings was believable.

Would you fall for either of the leads? I love Vampires, so yes I would. Though I don’t think it would work out in the long run.

If it’s part of a series, did this book compel you to read the next one? I already know that it’s part of a series, and I am actively reading the second book. I went looking for it immediately. I have the third book downloaded to my Kindle app already waiting for me to finish the second book.

All in all I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a quick read and doesn’t mind cliches. It’s a good read. I swear.

My Ratings

I gave this book four stars because while it was good, it wasn’t the greatest thing I have every read. I liked it, but it wasn’t amazing.

I gave this four flames for heat level. Just because the heat was good, and the spice was spicy, but it wasn’t the spiciest thing that I have ever read. So, four flames.

That’s it on this week’s book review. So, feel free to check out Dark Prince by Michelle Hercules, you won’t regret it. It’s good. Until next week my loves, I’m out.

Short Story Saturday: The New Guy

Short Story Saturday is back! Sorry it’s taken so long to get back on track. Things have been a bit crazy the last year. After all of the ups and downs over the past year, I’m finally getting back to what I love. That includes Short Story Saturday. We’re going to continue the story of Port Shadeau, and if you haven’t read the first two entries (or just need a refresher) check out the first two parts here: Unwrapped, Leftovers. So now that we’re back and you’re all caught up, let’s get this show on the road! Here’s the newest installment of Port Shadeau, and be warned, this one is longer than the last two. I’d apologize but I’m not actually sorry. Enjoy this while you’re drinking your coffee and then have a great weekend you guys!

The following week had been long and frustrating for Ailee. Due to a scheduling conflict, she ended up working more hours than she’d planned and hadn’t had much time to spend with her new friend. Marlowe, it seemed, was having the same problems but they’d caught a few minutes here and there throughout the week. She was surprised when Marlowe appeared in the doorway to her office Friday afternoon. 

“I know you’re almost done, you have plans tonight?” She asked, a smile on her face. 

“No, thought I’d just relax, this week has been crazy. Melodie’s sister is in Initiate right now, so she’s been out most of the week. I get it, but I forgot to plan for that so I’ve been picking up the slack.” Ailee told her, turning in her chair to look at her friend. 

“We’re going out. Meet at mine around eight, and dress cute. We’re getting drinks with Wilder and some of his work friends. It’s time you met some new people.” Marlowe told her decisively. 

“I don’t know Mar, I kind of want to just relax.” 

“Nope. I won’t take no for an answer. You have to come along and save me from these damn Diffusers. All they talk about is fire.” She told her, rolling her eyes. “Eight. Don’t flake, I know where you live.” She added before turning and walking away before Ailee could respond.  Ailee shook her head but got back to work. 

Promptly at eight, Ailee knocked on Marlowe’s door. It was pulled open by a man with medium length dark hair and kind eyes. He smiled and pulled the door open wider, inviting her inside without words. 

“You must be Ailee, Marlowe told me you were coming. I’m Wilder.” He said, holding his hand out once he’d closed the door behind her. 

“Nice to finally meet you. Our work schedules have been crazy, it’s amazing we haven’t met before now.” She told him, shaking his hand before following him into the apartment proper. 

“I agree, seems odd. It’s been a few weeks now hasn’t it?” He asked as he leaned against the counter in the kitchen. 

“Something like that, zip me up.” Marlowe said, coming into the room and turning her back to her husband. Wilder smiled at Ailee before zipping the back of Marlowe’s dress up. He placed a kiss on her shoulder as he smoothed his hands down her arms. 

“You look great.” He told her with a grin as she stepped away and turned to face him. 

“So do you.” She commented as she leaned forward to kiss him quickly. “Ready?” She asked, pulling away and looking over at Ailee. 

“I guess. I have no idea where we’re going.” Ailee told her with a grin. 

“You’ll love it. Come on.” She told her as she moved toward the door. Wilder helped her into her coat before the three of them were out the door. 

It didn’t take long to walk down to the bar they were headed to. Ailee listened to Marlowe and Wilder talk the entire way and she could see why they were so perfect for one another in a matter of minutes. She envied the way he looked at his wife, she used to have that, or so she’d thought. She wanted it again. 

The bar was warm when they made their way inside and toward a table that already had a few people gathered around it. 

 “Hey guys, this is Ailee.” Wilder motioned toward her as everyone greeted the new arrivals. 

“Hi.” Ailee said shyly, slipping her coat from around her shoulders and draping it across the back of a chair. 

“Ailee, meet Milo, Noah, Travis, Declan and his wife Daisy, and Max. Where’s Lexie?” He added pointing each person out in turn. 

“Lex had to work late, but Kestral texted, he’ll be here soon.” Max told him with a grin before taking another drink of his beer. 

“Good.” Wilder helped Marlowe hang her jacket before he turned to head to the bar. “Ailee, anything specific you want?” He asked pausing before he got too far. 

“Whatever you’re getting Marlowe will be fine.” She told him with a smile. She liked Wilder. She turned to Marlowe as the rest of the table got back to conversation. It wasn’t long before they’d started talking to Daisy and the three of them were deeply entrenched in a conversation about one of their favorite authors when a beer was set down in front of Ailee. She nodded her thank you at Wilder before continuing with her point. 

They were so caught up in their own conversation Ailee almost missed the arrival of the last of their party. He had sat down next to her and she probably wouldn’t have noticed him at all if he hadn’t accidentally hit her with his elbow as he settled into his chair. 

“Sorry.” He said briefly, before turning back to Noah and continuing whatever he’d been saying before. Ailee just smiled slightly and turned back to her own conversation. It wasn’t until Ailee stood up to go get the next round of drinks for herself and Marlowe that she was faced with the stranger again. 

She made her way toward the bar and waited for her turn with the bartender. While she waited, someone stepped up closer to her near the bar as well. 

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you.” He said. She looked up at him, and smiled. It was the man who’d been sitting next to her at the table. 

“Not a problem. You’re friends with Wilder right?” She asked him, keeping one eye on the bartender. 

“Yeah, Kestral.” He said, holding out his hand. 

“Ailee. I live next door to him and work with Marlowe.” She told him as she took her hand back. 

“Right, he’s mentioned you a couple of times. So you guys finally met then?” 

“Yeah.” She smiled. “I can’t believe it took so long.” 

“It does seem rather ridiculous if you live next door.” Kestral smiled at her. “So what brought you to Port Shadeau?” 

“My dad died and I needed a change of scenery, so I’m here.” She said with a shrug. 

“I’m sorry about your dad.” He said softly, touching her elbow. 

“Thanks. I try not to think about it too much, but it is what brought me here.” She shook herself visibly. “So, what brought you to Port Shadeau?” 

“I grew up in New York, actually, but wanted something different. So I moved out here about six years ago. I love it here.” The bartender interrupted them then and they placed their orders before going back to their conversation. “So what do you do?” He asked her while they waited. 

“I’m the manager at the coffee shop that’s located inside the Librarie. It’s new for me and I kind of love it.” 

“That’s awesome. Is that what your goal is or do you want to do something else?” 

“I’m not really sure. What about you? DId you always want to be a Diffuser?” She asked as they accepted their beers from the bartender and started making their way back toward the table. 

“Sort of. I’m good with fire, so that kind of makes it the perfect career.” 

“So are you a fire then?” She asked as he motioned to let her sit down before he did. 

“No, I’m an Elentori, not an Arkane actually.” He said, a small smile on his face as he tipped his bottle to his lips. 

“Oh, I didn’t mean to assume.” Ailee said quickly. 

“No it’s okay, I work with mostly Arkane so it isn’t a stretch of the imagination.” He told her with a chuckle. Ailee breathed a sigh of relief. Kestral was cute and she didn’t want to offend him so early into their aquiantenship. 

“But you like being a Diffuser?” She asked, steering the  conversation back on track. 

“Yeah, I love it.” He told her, his dimples showing as he smiled wide. 

They spent the next two hours talking, and Ailee was surprised when Marlowe tapped her shoulder and told her they were going to head out. She had a knowing grin on her face and Ailee knew she’d get the third degree from her friend the next day. 

“If you want to stay and finish your drink I can walk you home.” Kestral told her softly. It seemed he wasn’t any more eager than she was for the night to be over. Ailee smiled wide. 

“I’d like that.” She waved at Marlowe as she followed Wilder from the bar. Looking around, it seemed that almost everyone else from their party had left as well and she couldn’t remember when that had happened. It had been a long time since she’d gotten so caught up with someone that she stopped paying attention to the world around her. 

“So, we sort of changed the subject earlier and never went back to it.” Kestral started as he held her jacket out for her to slip her arms into a half hour later. “But I think it’s safe to assume you are an Arkane?” He asked, pulling his own jacket on. Ailee smiled. 

“Yes I am. An air actually. My gift isn’t really useful for most things, but it works for me.” 

“So what is your gift?” He asked as they made their way toward the door. 

“I can infuse the air with scent, like magnify it somehow. It works great at the coffee shop, I just make the whole place smell like old books and delicious coffee and everything pretty much sells itself.” She told him with a grin, accepting the arm he held out to her as they ambled their way down the snow-covered sidewalk. 

“I bet that comes in handy sometimes, though I can’t imagine it was a good survival skill.” 

“Not really.” She agreed with a laugh. “Though it has its advantages.” 

“So are you seeing anyone?” He asked. Ailee looked up at him then, and smiled softly at the way he was worrying his lip between his teeth like he wasn’t sure why he’d asked that question. 

“No. I was before I moved, but I’m not now.” She watched as he exhaled and smiled down at her, his dimples on display once more. 

“Then would I be overstepping if I asked you to dinner next week?” 

“I’d love to go.” She told him, squeezing his arm where she still held it. 

“You’ll have to give me your number so I can call you later in the week and we can set something up.” He told her with a smile, laying his hand over her own on his arm for a moment. 

“I can do that.” 

They talked the rest of the way to her apartment, and when he left her at her door, she felt like she was walking on air. For the first time since Gideon had stopped returning her calls, she felt happy.  She couldn’t wait to see him again.

Well? What’d you think of this installment? Was the length daunting for a quick weekend read? I’m so excited for where this story is going, I can’t help it. It’s going to be amazing, I hope.

So that’s it for today, go enjoy the sunshine (provided you have some) and make today wonderful. If you haven’t already, sign up for the newsletter as the first one gets posted today. There’s a link at the bottom of the page, but you can also follow this link. Have an amazing day you guys!

Setting Preview – Penelope’s Apartment

Hello all! How’s your Friday? So far so good over here. Today’s setting is Penelope Sawyer’s apartment. Since she is the main character in the Ashes & Stars series, I thought it important over the next couple of weeks to show you exactly where my characters live and what their spaces look like. Maybe tell you why certain things are there. You can tell quite a bit about someone by the things they surround themselves with. So, without further ado, let’s explore Penelope’s apartment.

Penelope lives in a two bedroom apartment that she used to share with her brother. Cohen wasn’t there often, but it was his home of residence when he came home on leave. He got the bigger room because Penelope liked the access to the outdoor patio from the smaller room. After her brother died, it took months before she was able to convert his room into a guest room, a feat that was only accomplished with the help of both her Mom and her best friend Bailey. Now the room lacks a lot of personality, which is the way Penelope likes it. It was easier. After which it has unofficially become Bailey’s room at her house, since they live in different states, it’s important to both of them to have a room that feels like their own.

While she isn’t very fond of living in an apartment, she’s made a home for herself there and doesn’t see herself moving. Though she’s thought about it, she hasn’t seriously made plans to do so. She is comfortable with her small kitchen, since it’s always just her.

All of the rooms in her house, besides the guest room, have a common theme that connects them. Specifically the use of the colors of gray and dusty rose. It’s comforting to her as the dusty rose is her favorite color. She loves it and it shows. (I certainly can’t blame her, I use that color with Navy blue in my office and absolutely love it!) While her apartment does appear feminine, and why shouldn’t it, it’s not overly so.

Penelope tends to spend a lot of time in the warmer months out on the patio or on the balcony. She likes to curl up with a good book, or bring her tablet out to relax in the sun with a movie. Some of the important conversations she ends up having take place in these two spots. Despite it’s smaller size, she enjoys that she can turn music on in the living room and anywhere on the first floor she is, she can hear it without the volume being so loud that it disturbs her neighbors.

Since she lives by herself, the separate dining room didn’t make sense to her, so she added bookshelves and a smaller table to the room to make it into a library/game room. When she has company they can sit in there and play cards or board games and have a good time. She eats either on her couch or at the island so there isn’t really a good place to play cards in the living room. Unless there are a bunch of people, like when her and her friends play poker at the coffee table for her birthday. There isn’t room at the table for that so they congregate elsewhere.

Normally, however, there aren’t that many people in her apartment at any given time. Since it’s been just her, she doesn’t have company too often and often ends up feeling isolated. Her parents live a couple of hours north of her and her best friends both live in different states. It’s one of the reasons she keeps coming back to the decision to move elsewhere, though she can’t seem to commit. It would mean leaving behind the last piece of her brother that she has.

I hope you enjoyed this brief look into Penelope’s apartment. A lot of the plot happens here, so I hope you got to look around and get familiar with it. Stay tuned next Friday for the next setting. What do you guys want to see? Do you have a preference? Reid’s house? The cabin? Bailey’s house? These are other important settings. Quite a bit of the series actually takes place in and around Vampire House (Reid and Asher’s house). Let me know what you think.

Book Review – The Summer Proposal

Hello lovlies! How are you this wonderful Thursday? I’m starting a new thing and so every Thursday you’ll get a book review from me. I used to do them all of the time on the old blog, but now I think I’ll do them here. You guys should see what I’m reading and recommending, or not recommending for that matter. This week, we’re talking about The Summer Proposal by Vi Keeland.

*SPOILER ALERT*
There are potential spoilers ahead, ye be warned!

The Summer Proposal
by Vi Keeland

You guys have seen those Ads on Facebook and other places like that about books right? Well, that’s what happened to me. I saw this ad, and the story sounded interesting so I followed the link to Amazon and downloaded a preview of the book to my Kindle app. I read the first three chapters and then immediately ordered two copies, one for me and one for my cousin Steph who loves reading as much as I do. This book had everything we enjoyed; a romantic plot, hockey, some spice, and I learned in the first three chapters that the writer was funny. There were so many times while I was reading that I laughed out loud, scaring whoever was around me.

So I took this book to Stephanie, and together we read it. It was a pretty quick read, only 330 pages, but oh did those pages have me hooked! I read through it so quickly that it only took a couple of hours while I was at my cousins, and then a Friday night by myself in my apartment. We got together and asked ourselves ten questions about this, book club style, and here are the answers to those.

Q: What was your least favorite part of the book?

Steph: I was a little disappointed that no one attended the funeral, but seeing as how it was a side character, I’m not surprised.
Amber: I was too, I felt like there should have been some mention of Max attending if he did. It seemed to me like he just skipped it. Rude if they were actually friends.

Q: What was your favorite part of the book?

S: The staycation and the end.
A: I think my favorite was that he never belittled her work and tried so hard to support it. I liked medicine when she was sick.

Q3: Which character did you relate to, or empathize with, the most?

S: Georgia because I’m an anxious creature like she is and I overthink everything so I can relate to how she feels during most of the book.
A: Maggie. I want to be her when I grow up. She was a fabulous friend and I absolutely adored her personality.

Q4: Did you like the “heat” level of this book?

S: Absolutely! It was steamy steamy! I was certainly effected.
A: Yes, I felt it was a good mix of spice and story. The spice was definitely well written.

Q5: Was the couple’s connection believable? If so, at what point did they click for you?

S: Yes, I felt like they were meant to be as soon as Max walked in and pretended to be her blind date.
A: Same, I felt like the moment he gave her the Yoda to hold on to it was a done deal. They were adorable. Especially when she showed up at the Garden.
S: Do you think he left it there on purpose?
A: Oh yeah he totally did. He was hoping she’d return it.
S: Yeah. It was a ploy to see her again.

Q6: What do you think happens to the leads after the ending?

S: They both continue to be extremely successful and have a couple of babies.
A: Adorably dimpled hockey playing babies.

Q7: What do you think of the romance’s pacing?

S: Vi had me hanging on the edge of my seat the whole time waiting to see what would happen next. I loved it.
A: I felt the pacing was good. It definitely lent to it being unputdownable and a quick read. I HAD to know what was going to happen next.

Q8: Would you fall for either of the leads?

S: Oh most definitely. Max is a hockey player, with dimples. I love hockey players, and dimples.
A: Max is on my book boyfriend list. I’d date him. He’s sweet and amazing and loyal.

Q9: Did this book melt your heart? Make you believe in love again?

S: Absolutely. It was a testing time for me.
A: Of course. It made me feel my single status so much more! I want a nice man who’s good in bed, ha ha.

Q10: Did the plot proceed in a way that felt natural? Or did you feel manipulated by the storyline?

S: I think the plot line proceeded perfectly. I liked the way it flowed and it seemed real to me.
A: I think it was perfect. At first I was a little confused as to the purpose of the flashback chapters, but that became clear as I read. They were misleading though, so that was a fun twist in a predictable “I know they’re gonna fall in love no matter what they say to the contrary” type plot.

Final Ratings:

We give this book five stars. We bought two more books by the same author that we can’t wait to read, so definite five stars.

We give this book four flames. It was steamy and really good, but it wasn’t overly abundant. We were satisfied by what was there, but Gabriel the jerk blocked more of what could have been.

In summary, if you like hockey, or romance, or just good spicy scenes, we highly recommend this book. It’s hilarious and a great read. Check it out. Until next time my loves.

I’m getting published!!!!

I am writing today with fantastic news! I am very very pleased to announce that I have signed a contract with a publishing company to publish the Ashes & Stars series! The first book is due out sometime next summer and I am very very excited to go through the process of getting it in print.

The publishing company I signed with will only be publishing my Paranormal Romance stories starting with Ashes & Stars and possibly progressing from there into other stories that I have written within the Arkane world that has been created. I am over the moon enthused to have signed with Clan Whelan Publishing.

Clan Whelan Publishing is a smaller publishing house just starting out and specializing in Paranormal Romance and Paranormal Women’s Fiction. Anne, Liz and the other writers with this publishing company have been extremely welcoming as I’ve gone through the process of joining this family. I cannot express how grateful I am that they have taken a chance on me and my story. I believe in these characters with all of my heart and I believe in this story.

Please take a moment to subscribe to my newsletter, and join the Facebook group for my readers, both called The Arkane Archive. Stay tuned here for the same wonderful content that you’ve grown to appreciate and enjoy from me. I am so happy with these turn of events that I am overwhelmed with happiness.

The last couple of years have been rough on me emotionally, as you well know, but the sun is beginning to shine once more in my life. It is all the brighter for the dark clouds that have graced my world. It is beautiful from where I sit, and the view is only getting better. Greener. I only hope that if you’re dealing with dark clouds of your own, that you will see the sun soon enough. That all of your hard work comes shining out all the brighter and restores your hope.

That’s all for today my loves. Remember to follow the link for the newsletter, which will publish the first Saturday of each month and join the Facebook Reader group, The Arkane Archive, for exclusive details not found anywhere else.

Until next time my loves,

Character Profile – Kestral Sherwood

Today’s Character profile is about a character that first shows up in this upcoming weekend’s Short Story Saturday. He’s going to be the counterpart to the main character of Ailee Creed. The two of them will go on an epic journey that you’ll get to read about but only here on the blog. So, without further ado, let’s meet Kestral Sherwood.

Kestral is a Gorlass, a descendant of long ago Dragon shifters. They can no longer shift but retain several characteristics of their previous Dragon ancestors. Kestral himself is the only son out of five children. He’s the youngest and his sisters live to make his life complicated. While his sisters all have jewel colored eyes, his are the same gold as his fathers. When threatened, his skin takes on a golden sheen that is strangely reminiscent of scales, and though his skin is impervious to fire, it is not impenetrable. 

Kestral works with Wilder as a Diffuser. Since he is fireproof, it made sense to him that he could use his gifts to help people. He moved to Port Shadeau two years prior and despite his willingness to settle down, no one had yet caught his eye. 

When he isn’t working, he loves to read books and drink coffee. His favorites are mystery and detective stories and he can spend hours on his days off doing nothing but sitting in his favorite chair and devouring books. When he has enough time to leave the city, he prefers to spend time in wide open spaces. He loves stargazing and watching the night sky while he sleeps next to a campfire.

Ten get to know you questions with Kestral Sherwood:

What makes you happy? A good cup of coffee and a good book on a rainy day.

What is your favorite flower? Sunflowers

Who was your childhood hero? My father. He was honest and unfailingly kind.

What would you do if you won the lottery? Buy a house out in the country and some land. Then build a room that was all windows and fill it with books and comfortable chairs to relax in when the rains come.

Are you a dog person or a cat person? Dog person more often than not. But I don’t mind cats. 

What would you name your future child? Lawson Sherwood, after my father, if it was a boy. And Caroline Sherwood if it’s a girl. I’d be willing to compromise on the middle names, but the last names are fixed in my mind. 

Something you hate that you used to love? Spinach. When I was a kid I’d eat it all the time, but now I can’t stand it. 

What did you want to be as a kid? I’ve always wanted to be a Diffuser, so I guess I did that right. 

What is the last thing you bought? [laughs] Groceries. I bought groceries, though they were minimal. 

That’s the brief introduction to Kestral Sherwood. At least as much as you’ll get for now. Tune in this Saturday to actually meet him in the story. Let me know what you think so far. For now, I’m off to get some work done around the house. Enjoy the rest of your Tuesday friends!

I’ve been thinking

If you’re on my personal facebook, or even follow the Amber Marie Writes facebook, you may have seen this already, but I felt it worth repeating here. I had a bit of a rough year last year, as did everyone. It hasn’t gotten much better this year but I’m pushing through and I’m determined to make something good this year. This post kind of came to me after I saw a graphic in my memories and I thought it was important enough to share here with maybe a little more detail than I’d put on my facebook. Some of it is a little difficult to talk about but the overall idea is about making art out of the difficult stuff that happens.

As most of you know, if you’ve paid any attention at all over the last year, I lost my Dad March 13th of last year. What only my brother knows, is that the night before Dad died, Damien and I were at the hospital until two in the morning. We were emotional and trying to distract ourselves. I had been gearing up for Camp NaNo which happens every year in April. I had written out an outline that I had spent the last couple of months creating from a random thought into an actual story. It wasn’t easy but dealing with everything those last couple of months with Dad gave us, it gave me something else to focus on while working nights. So, my brother and I sat there, three foot from my dad, talking about this outline, talking about my ideas, to distract us from what was happening in the bed right next to us. Dad died the next afternoon. And despite everything that happened in the years leading up to that moment, and no matter how many time we told ourselves we were, we weren’t ready. I wasn’t ready.

Then the world shut down in almost the same breath as we lost Dad. We were trapped at home. People were scared. I was grieving. Hard. I had no idea what to do and my brain desperately was searching for something to do. So a couple of weeks later, when April started, I did what I had planned to do. I did Camp Nano. I set goals, and I smashed them. Quickly.

It had been a very long time since I had finished anything besides a short story. I’d get almost to the end of something and then I just couldn’t finish it. It was frustrating. I started to feel like that with this but I pushed on. I made myself write every second I wasn’t working, or helping the kids with school, or cleaning the house. I did my best. I distracted myself to escape the pain. And this amazing thing happened. On April 25th, 2020, I finished Hold On. Sure, it was just a first draft. Sure, it wasn’t anything spectacular. It was just a piece of fanfiction that I may or may not publish anywhere. It was for me. I wrote my emotions out. I took that grief and turned it into something beautiful.

My goals, as you can see, were simple, 10k words minimum. That was my goal. just something on paper. Anything. Create Art, which I created a lot of art. I really did. And to finish it. Which I did. 25 days and I finished it. Ending with 18 chapters and a total of roughly 63, 457 words. I have never won a full NaNoWriMo before since I started competing in 2013. And the goal there is only 50k in 30 days. I wrote 63k in 25 days. It was huge.

That feeling allowed me to keep going. It allowed me to keep writing and to write everyday. When it’s not a NaNo month (April and November are when I participate), the timeline I give myself is somewhat more relaxed. And by the time October of last year rolled around, I had finished 3 stories, one was primed to go to my editor, and I was working on three more, as the ideas struck. I was making art, so much art, I had perfected my writing process. I was doing so well and I knew, without a doubt that I was going to kick NaNo’s ass in November. If I could do it in April, I could do it in November.

Then my Mom died. And it was, ugh. I shut down. Immediately. It was like my brain had a moment where it went “We’ve already done this, we are NOT doing this again!” I tried to do what I’d done earlier in the year, but I’d stare at the screen and couldn’t make the words come. I just couldn’t. They were gone. The words, the ideas, they were still there, I could feel them but they were silent. For once in my writing life, the voices that guide me were silent. And it was deafening.

I didn’t do NaNo last year. I barely made it through November. Dad’s funeral, finally, then Mom’s the next day. It was, a lot. Then the kids started acting out. Jay almost missed Thanksgiving. Emily hated her 16th birthday, even though I tried. Emily has been acting out since. Sneaking out, and taking off for weeks at a time. This has been constant since November. It hasn’t made the words come, if anything they feel farther away.

I’ve started editing again, because despite everything, life goes on. As much as I’d love to sit and never have to process the things I put off at the end of last year so that I wouldn’t have to deal with it, life doesn’t work that way. So, while I still can barely write, I’ve been editing. I’ve been plotting. I will make it through whatever I have to, and not lose my identity as a writer. I have to, because who am I if I’m not?

My 2k20 Camp NaNo Goals graphic was in my memories recently, and I saw it before I’d even had my first cup of coffee and when I saw it, I immediately remembered that sense of pride I felt when I was done. I felt my chest swelling with it again. I felt my shoulders squaring and my head lifting just a bit. It may be just a simple fanfiction that got me through a large portion of my grief. 63k words that I wasn’t sure I’d ever show to anyone. But I’m so glad that I did. It was officially published on August 31st of last year. Since then I’ve gotten 22 comments telling me what a great story it is. 22 comments telling me I was good at this. 22 comments that helped me get through the hardest year of my life, so far. As of yesterday, I’m up to 107 kudos, which if you read anything on AO3, you know that isn’t that great, but it’s not bad either. And the newest Kudos was just yesterday, according to my email.

I created something that will last. I created something. I took my grief and shaped it into a stepping stone for my goals. This stone may be a bit harder and I’m still working on it. I may be juggling more than one stone right now, but that’s all they are. Stepping stones to my dreams. Stepping stones to my goals. Each painted a different color of memory. I can take this, and I can use it. Art is emotion after all.

If you read all of this, thank you. It’s really just to remind myself that even when it hurts, even when it feels like you’re going to break, you never know what’s going to happen next and that next thing, may be everything you ever needed.