Car Culture

Except for four years, I’ve lived all of my life in suburbia USA. When you live in the suburbs, you rely on cars for so much. This is one reason why car culture has always been alive and well in my novels.

In my novel Nesting, there is a Ford Maverick (my first car) and in Flight I included a Ford Gran Torino (my sister’s first car), a Dodge Arrow, and a scooter. I have also included a Honda Accord (before getting my current Civic coupe), a Toyota Camry (I’ve personally had a Paseo and a Matrix), a Mini Cooper, a Toyota Prius, and the list goes on.

My characters race, flee for their lives, argue, make up, and have sex in cars (oh, and on a scooter in Flight). Here are car/driving excerpts from two of my novels:

From Flight:

The lopsided headlight cast an upward beam as it rounded the corner from Princess Anne Road and the motor scooter pulled up beside the lighted marble fountain. Kate grasped her library book tighter to her chest and stared, unable to look away now that she’d finally come face to face with the woman she’d been watching for months.

The young woman’s smooth, tanned legs easily balanced the scooter, and she sat with her torso erect. She wore her thick, dark hair pulled back in a ponytail, leaving her face unframed and her neck exposed. The illumination coming from beneath the surface of the fountain reflected onto her skin, a rich mocha with a touch of cream. Kate’s eyes met hers, and the playfulness she found there made her heart race.

“You go to school here,” the woman said.

Kate nodded.

“Get on, rich girl,” she said, patting the seat behind her.

“Get on?” Kate echoed.

“Unless you’re scared.”

“Scared of what – a little scooter?” Kate’s short laugh was drenched in nervousness.

“Or of me.” She gave Kate a challenging look, a smile that came as much from her eyes as it did from her full lips.

Click here to buy Flight

 

From 23 Miles:

When Talia passed the pull-off near Ringfield Park, a dark van pulled out behind her. It sped up until it was right on the bumper of her Honda. She increased her speed, and so did the dark van. She couldn’t tell if it was black or dark blue; she only knew it was too close for comfort.

What if it’s the cops? she wondered in her marijuana-induced paranoia. No, no way they’d be out here in a van. Besides, she was on federal land. It’d be the park service rangers patrolling there, not the state or county. Right?

Talia turned the music way down, as if to help her concentrate on driving. She sped up further but the van stayed right on her. The buzz she’d worked so hard to get disappeared and fear took over.

The van flashed its lights like it wanted her to stop. She felt a little sick. Again, it flashed its lights—off and on, off and on, low beams to high beams. Then the inside of her car lit up with what she assumed was a spotlight. A voice screaming in her head told her if she stopped, she’d be dead.

Click here to buy 23 Miles

 

Here is an unrelated note: Many characters from Flight show up in 23 Miles, which is set in 1986, three years after the events of Flight.

Another note: 23 Miles was written as a way to shine a much needed spotlight on the cold cases attributed to the Colonial Parkway killer. It is a fictionalization of the 1986 real-life double homicide of Cathleen Thomas and Rebecca Ann Dowski, the first two victims of the Colonial Parkway killer. The novel fictionalizes the event, but I kept the crime scene and setting of the crime true to life in the hope that it might jar someone’s memory of the parkway during the years of the murders.

 

Letting the Music Move Me

In my fiction, I often mention music that has moved me. One example can be found in my novel Flight, set in Virginia in 1983.

When I was first coming to terms with my sexuality, I would drive around in my bright orange, 1977 Ford Maverick listening to one song in particular on my Joan Jett and the Blackhearts cassette.

Here’s the fictional version of this:

Kate stretched out under her sheet, pulling the coolness of the cotton up over her head to block out the morning sun seeping through her curtains. Eyes closed, she pressed her fingers to her lips. It hadn’t been a dream. She still felt Lana’s lips on her own.

She took a deep breath and tried to identify Lana’s scent. It was a blend of honeysuckle and a chemical. She figured the honeysuckle was perfume, and the other was some kind of paint thinner or cleaner. Lana was an artist. An artist who wouldn’t tell Kate where she worked or lived.

Kate reached for the cassette player on her nightstand and flipped it on. The tape inside had been a source of courage when she’d been trying to define the quaking she felt inside every time she saw Lana sputtering around the periphery of the campus on her scooter. Pressing the rewind button, she counted. One-one-thousand, two-one-thousand… When she got to thirteen-one-thousand, she hit stop, then play.

Crimson and Clover started out slowly, but the beat was unmistakable. Kate’s heart skipped a beat of its own.

Oh, God, Kate thought. The song – its building and repeating, faster and harder, sweeter and scarier – it was a lot like kissing Lana at the marina.

She knew what people meant when they described butterflies in their stomach, but this was much more. Birds or bats or the whole winged world were doing their thing in her belly.

The voice on the cassette was sweet, yet possessed an edge of craving that perfectly matched Lana’s expressions and words and breath-stealing touch. When the song mentioned love, Kate felt the wings stir and stretch, trying to unfold and expand inside her.

The song ended and the silence taunted her, making her want to fill the void with Lana’s scent and sounds.

Click Here to Buy Flight

In 23 Miles, some of the characters have come to visit from the novel Flight. In 1986 the emphasis, however, moves from Kate and April to Shay and Talia.

Talia Lisher is a flawed woman whom I couldn’t help but fall in love with. And Talia was in love with the music of Sam Harris. I wore out two cassette tapes of Sam’s debut album. (Yes, I know this dates me.) Then, decades later, I got the download of this record and listened to it a ton while writing 23 Miles. (It’s a great treadmill listen.) Here is an excerpt from 23 Miles:

Talia sang along to Sam Harris as he belted out “Over the Rainbow.” She loved his first album and had already worn out one other copy of the cassette. In between songs, a yawn snuck up on her. She was about to turn around and head home when she saw the flash of police lights.

A parade of law enforcement vehicles filled a pull-off. There were York County deputies, Park Service rangers, and state troopers—some had their lights on, strobes of color lighting up the trees, and some didn’t. Parked to the side was a black van. The hair on the back of Talia’s neck stood on end. Was that the van? Or was the van that had chased her dark blue? Her stomach twisted.

She turned off the music and drove by at a crawl. She could hear a cacophony of broken radio chatter from the different law enforcement officers.

She noticed the back end of a car protruding from the heavy brush to the right of the pull-off. A park ranger walked in her direction. He was big and scary and when he motioned for her to move on, she did. She glanced back at the black van one last time and saw a white bundle being loaded into it. She had always thought that body bags were black. She shivered—and got the hell out of there.

Click Here to Buy 23 Miles

The premise for my first novel to be published, Confined Spaces, came to me while I was spending a lot of time in my work truck, as an environmental field sampling tech, and listening to a lot of Melissa Ferrick’s music. Melissa Ferrick was my Melissa, and Etheridge was my partner’s.

Here’s how that made it into my fiction:

Andie jumped off the loading dock and climbed into the F-150. Not wanting to take the chance of being intercepted, she pulled away from the dock and stopped only when she was at the driveway. She stuck her favorite live CD into the player. She clicked through tracks to get to the song she wanted to blast. “Nebraska,” Melissa Ferrick style. Her Melissa. Marla had her own Melissa—Etheridge, but Andie’s favorite was Ferrick. She cranked the volume. She played that song twice, then skipped back to the fifth song. “Burn This Guitar.” Oh, to be able to extinguish the burn in her gut. She turned up the volume and stepped on the gas.

Click Here to Buy Confined Spaces

While writing my sixth novel, Pausing, I frequently listened to the Charlie Puth / Wiz Khalifa song “See You Again.” I heard this song for the first time right after a good friend of mine from high school died. It will forever make me think of him, so I decided to infuse that emotion into Keira’s memory of her brother. Here is an excerpt:

Keira was tempted to go home for the day, but she knew she should go back to the store. She promised herself that she wouldn’t stay at the store more than a couple of hours.

She almost turned off the radio to escape an obnoxious lawyer’s advertisement, but didn’t. When the first seconds of piano came out of the car’s speakers, she reached to turn the sound off, but instead she turned it up. Charlie Puth’s crystal clear voice started and Keira felt her breath catch in her chest.

She would never forget the first time she heard that song—March 15th, 2015, on the three-year anniversary of her brother’s death. That first time, it was like having her heart lodged in her throat with memories of Will. Then, after hearing it a few times, she started looking forward to hearing it again. Some days, it caused a joyful montage of “Will Moments,” as she called the video of memories that played in her mind. But other days it could floor her without warning.

Click Here to Buy Pausing

Ah, music. Now to decide what I will listen to for inspiration on my next novel.

My Year in Colorado


One year ago, I rolled into Lakewood, Colorado with only those items that fit in my 2-door Honda Civic. I brought mostly books, clothes, and dog-gear. Pam made the drive out with me, and stayed for a week while I got settled into my 641 square foot apartment. It was cozy, to say the least.

I started a new job with the same agency, but oh how different it was. And the weather? Yep, very different. I traded the swamp for the mountains but have still enjoyed seeing and photographing a lot of wildlife.


So far, I have added 38 new birds, one snake, and eight mammals to my life lists. I’ve logged 430 trail miles, hiking in fifteen areas that include three National Parks, four state parks, and four Jeffco Open Space areas. I recently drove to Nebraska to eat a meal (and hike at a National Park unit) so I could check those items off my list of things I want to do while in Colorado.

But it hasn’t all been positive. I’ve only written about 30k words, which means I’m still working on the same book as when I first arrived in Colorado. It hasn’t just been because I’ve been busy taking a ton of photos and seeing some of the most gorgeous sights in the world though. I’ve also been all but paralyzed at times when I’ve tried to write. The last year has seen many false starts and dashed hopes, but the last couple of weeks have been quite productive. Send good writing juju if you have any to spare.

Then there is the part where I miss Pam. Terribly. But we do talk, text, email, and chat on Facebook. How did we ever make things work without all these options?


Sabrina stayed with me in Colorado for seven months. She wasn’t acclimating well to the area. We thought the excessive eating and drinking was from the high altitude. Twice when she had unexplained abdominal bruising, I took her to the vet for blood work, and once for an ultrasound as well. Nothing stood out as a possible culprit. I left her with Pam in Florida for a planned two-month stay and the symptoms didn’t go away with the change in altitude.


Sabrina’s veterinarian in Florida repeated the tests I’d had run in Colorado and the new numbers told the rest of the story. My little girl was diagnosed with Cushing’s disease. This is treatable, but not curable. Pam and I were devastated, but hopeful. Three months into treatment, and she is much more like the happy, energetic little darling we know and love.

That diagnosis changed everything. Sabrina is thriving in Florida and I cannot justify bringing her back out to Colorado and the cold weather. So, now I will do whatever I need to in order to return to my girls in Florida.


Colorado has been good to me. I’ve made some awesome friends, seen amazing scenery and wildlife, had some “firsts”—first concert at Red Rock Amphitheater, first Rockies game, first time watching roller derby in person, first gay rodeo, first time playing laser tag—you get the picture. It was also huge for my confidence to live on my own for a year. I drove myself places that surprised even me. I’ve learned to spend time with myself (and the voices in my head) and to comfortably eat alone in restaurants.


Yes, it was been a good year, but home is in Florida and I will be trying to get back there. It won’t be next week, or even next month, but I will get back there as soon as I can. Florida—you’ve been warned.

Life and Legacy

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Two and a half years ago when I went to Lakewood, Colorado for training, I had no idea I would end up moving there. I start the drive out there one week from today.

This is monumental in more than one way. My partner of three decades will remain in Florida for the time being so we will be doing the long distance thing. Also, I’m returning to the place that most influenced the land of New America/Karst, where the Karst Series is set. I will be finishing up the third book in the series surrounded by the mountains that inspired it.

The Karst Series may end up being a bit of a misnomer. I do not plan to write more than three books in this series, so perhaps it should have been called the Karst Trilogy. I just wasn’t sure when I first started writing it. I should have known though, since three is my favorite number and I tend to do a lot of things in threes. Having said that, after a short break from dystopian fiction to pen the sequel to Pausing, I plan to write a novella-length prequel to the series set in a more contemporary time.

I believe Kai’s Heart and Naomi’s Soul are my best work. And I believe Misha’s Promise (coming out in Spring 2019) will be even better yet. But “best work” and “best selling” is not interchangeable. Someone recently asked me, upon hearing that sales of both Karst books are not as high as my contemporary work, why continue something that isn’t selling as well? My answer was this: Legacy. The collection of books I write over my lifetime will be my legacy. I want to be able to look at the collection as a whole and say “I did this. I did this and it is good.” And I want to be able to look at each individual book and be proud of it. In order for me to be able to do this, I must be convinced that my books aren’t all telling the same story, over and over. It’s fine (better than fine even) to have a common thread, but it can’t all feel the same.

My common thread? Love wins. Love wins in every book that I have written. Love will win in every book I write in the future.

I know dystopian fiction is not for everyone. And I know that the beginning of Kai’s Heart may seem too bleak to some readers. My mother told me she almost put the book down in the first chapter, but once she got past those first, harsh scenes, she couldn’t put the book down. My mom isn’t a fiction reader, so this felt amazing to hear. I’m so glad Mom gave it a chance, and I hope that others who think it might not be for them will do so as well.

A big part of Kai’s Heart (aside from the love story) is the set up for New America. In contrast, Naomi’s Soul , while still moving the big picture forward, focuses more on the interpersonal relationships. If you haven’t already given it a try, why not pick up the first two books of the Karst Series. You may just do as I did and fall in love with Kai, Rachel, Camryn, and Naomi.

Kai's Heart

Karst Book 1

 

Click here to buy Kai’s Heart on Amazon

Click here to buy Kai’s Heart at Affinity

Naomi's Soul

Karst Book 2

Click here to buy Naomi’s Soul on Amazon

Click here to buy Naomi’s Soul at Affinity

It’s always about the love story

My stories always start with characters—specifically the women I want to bring together romantically.

On a trip to Denver in early 2016, Kai and Rachel presented themselves to me. I knew instinctively that their relationship needed to be in a different time.

I didn’t set out to write a dystopian novel, but Kai and Rachel belonged in post-WW3 New America. Of this I was certain.

I also didn’t set out to write a series, but I fell so in love with Kai, Rachel, and the other inhabitants of New America (and Karst in particular) that I couldn’t walk away from them after Kai’s Heart.

If you’re into dystopian fiction, check out Kai’s Heart.

If you’re into romance, check out Kai’s Heart.

Kai and Rachel truly came from my heart, and I’d love for you to make room in yours for this couple. When it’s all said and done, for me, it’s always about the love story, whether it’s set in Virginia, Georgia, Florida, or New America.

Happy Clean Slate Day, 2018!

 

Happy Clean Slate Day! I love a fresh start on a new year. But first, I’d like to take a quick look back. 2017 was a busy and amazing year for me.
I participated in 11 book events that included 7 panels and 11 readings. Included were two GCLS (Golden Crown Literary Society) events, the big conference in Chicago and another in Amelia Island. This is such a great organization for LGBTQ readers, writers, and publishing professionals. Check out the GCLS website. The 2018 conference will be in Las Vegas. I can’t wait!

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I also had the honor and pleasure of participating in the Lone Star Lesfic Festival for the second year. Austin is a beautiful city and the folks at the festival are wonderful. Lone Star is also where I get to see the most of my Affinity Rainbow Publications family at the same time—always brilliant fun.
2017 also brought my second attendance at the LCLC conference in Palm Springs. Readings and panels and hanging with lesfic friends around the pool in beautiful Palm Springs? Hell yes. This is a must-do for lesfic lovers.
Rounding out my diverse book events was Provincetown. I’d been to events during Women’s Week twice, but this was my first July visit for an event. I joined Lucy J. Madison and Kim Baker for a reading and Q&A. I admit, although it’s more expensive to go to P-town in July than in October, I was so glad not to be shivering like the first two times I went.
Sabrina made her debut in Pausing and traveled to three book events with us—Austin for Lone Star, Provincetown for GirlSplash, and Palm Springs for LCLC. She is such a calm and cool traveler, and hasn’t let it go to her head that she has a part in one of my books.

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I continued working closely with my Florida writers group, Sappho’s Scribes of Florida, and four of the events in 2017 were with them. Thanks again Ali Spooner, Alison Solomon, and Barbara Clanton for being friends and part of my writing life.
Pausing quickly became my most successful book to date and I couldn’t be more proud of, or happy for, my sixth novel with Affinity Rainbow Publications. This was such a fun book to write. I’ve been asked about the third-mile confessions in the book and I must say that the best parts of the conversations during the running scenes were taken word for word out of my real life runs. I whined more than Jordy does while running, but didn’t look nearly as hot as she does while doing so.
In June, I signed a contract with Affinity Rainbow Publications for my seventh novel, Kai’s Heart. This is the first of the Karst books, a dystopian romance series set in New America, post WWIII. This is unlike anything I’ve ever written and I am thrilled to have this first in the series coming out on March 1, 2018. Check out this original art by Samantha Brodek. Having this visual helped to hone the story.

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I admit that sometimes it seems like all I think about is writing. Now to prove that it isn’t, here are a few other things from my 2017:
I continued running, but only ran in one race, the Marco Island 5-Mile Hill Run on December 23rd. But I played a lot of Pickleball, including being one half of the winning team for my neighborhood’s 1st Annual Turkey Bowl Pickleball Tournament. I have to say, Pickleball is addictive. And it’s a great workout.
After two years of exercise and increased calcium/D3/K/Mg intake, I had good news in November. I went from mild/moderate/severe osteopenia to mild/mild/normal. Exercise and supplements work!
Naples surprised me with a huge, wildly successful Women’s March (January) and its first Pride event (June). The number and diversity of the attendants made me so proud of my current city.
September brought Hurricane Irma to my town. The stories that unfolded around me were at once heartbreaking and uplifting. So many people stepped up to assist their neighbors that it helped rebuild my faith in people after a year of divisive and derisive politics and news stories.
October saw my biggest vacation ever. After four days in Palm Springs for LCLC, my travel companions (including Sabrina) and I drove up the California coast, then inland to go back south. The trip by the numbers: 19 days, 12 hotels, 3 National Parks, 4 state parks, and >1700 miles driven by my partner Pam. By the time I got back to Florida, I’d been away from work for seven weeks due to the hurricane closure and vacation. Yes, it was quite hard to go back!

renee cali oct 2017
Big Cypress National Preserve continued to play a huge part in my life. I was able to hike, bike, and photograph the landscape and critters of the unit of the National Park Service where I work. The swamp is still one of my all-time favorite places in the world.
I went to Virginia in December to visit family and friends. It’s always great to spend time with my mom and sisters. It was cold. I had a book event at the Hershee Bar in Norfolk, where I once worked and where I met my partner, Pam. It snowed. And it was damned cold. And it was so worth it to see my Virginia peeps.
Earlier this year Pam and I invested in a cider taproom. As I type this, we are making plans to go to Asheville, NC in a few days to attend the official Grand Opening. TreeRock Social had a soft opening in November that I was unable to attend, so I am thrilled to be going to this shindig on January 6th. All six of the women who own this bar will be there for the party. TreeRock will be the setting for my upcoming contemporary romance series. This is going to be so cool!

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Overall, 2017 was a pretty terrific year for me. I want to thank everyone who brought love and joy into my year. I cannot wait to get my hands on the clean slate of 2018. Something tells me it’s going to be monumental.

Summer 2017 – Hot in More Ways than One

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I have a few events planned for the summer, with more to be added.

St Pete, Florida, June 25th: Sappho’s Scribes of Florida, my group of superb Florida Lesfic writers will have a table at the marketplace during St. Pete Pride this year. Come by our table (at location C5) if you are enjoying the festivities this year. Join scribes Ali Spooner, Alison Solomon, and Renee MacKenzie to check out what new and exciting things we have going on in our publishing lives.

Palm Tree Illustration
Chicago, July 5-8th: check out the vendor area where I will be working the Affinity table for the duration of the conference. The GCLS conference has been changing lives for 13 years now. This will be my seventh one and I must say, it gets better and better every year. Never been? Come lose your virginity (conference virginity…) with us in Chicago this year. I for one cannot wait to see old friends and meet new ones. This is something worth planning your summer vacation around!

girlsplash
Provincetown, July 19th: Love, American Style! I am so stoked to be joining Lucy J. Madison and Kim Baker for this amazing event during GirlSplash! I’ve been to P-town twice now, both times in October, and am so excited to be going in the summer this time. And the bonus? This will be Sabrina’s first time in P-town. Here’s a picture of my girl, in case you haven’t been introduced.

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Coming soon: I have a new series in the works, the Karst series as I call it, and I could not be more excited about this! In Kai’s Heart, the first dystopian romance, you will be introduced to the Brodies and to the wonderful folks at Karst, a cave city in New America. You will notice a change in not just the style and subject matter from my other work, but also in the name on the book. This one will be Renee MacKenzie writing as Kenzie Nova. New beginnings are amazing. And scary. But mostly amazing.

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Do not fear, those of you waiting for the sequel to Pausing. Jordy, Keira, and their friends will be back soon. Do you remember when Jordy went shopping at the art gallery? How about when Keira thought her baby-dyke maintenance worker was her secret admirer? Well, gallery owner Lauren and hot-stuff Maddie are getting a story of their own. This is going to be hot, hot, hot!

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It will be nice to get out of the swamp and away from the mosquitoes in the swamp several times this summer. But it will also be nice to stay holed up inside to get the sequels to both the upcoming dystopian romance, Kai’s Heart, and my latest contemporary romance, Pausing, written.mosquito nettingI
I hope to see you at one of this summer’s events, if not, I’ll see you when the water and bugs are under control and my next two stories are well under way.

Finding Fortune

6 book covers and me

Recently, as I contemplated my financial position, I came upon a new truth. My fortune is found in relationships. I have been so fortunate for the people in my life: family, partner, friends, publishing and writing peers, coworkers, and neighbors. And an extra big shout-out to extraordinary animal companions!

sabrina blog

The past few days have seen a microcosm of sorts, a perfect example of how I am so blessed. Friday night, friend and fellow Sappho’s Scribes of Florida cohort Alison Solomon met me in my community for a reading/signing in Artesia Naples’ clubhouse. The audience of about twenty-five consisted of my neighbors, friends, coworkers, and my partner, Pam. Every time I have a local event where all my favorite local people are gathered, I look around and think, Wow. Look how lucky I am! Ten of us went out for a late dinner after, continuing to enjoy the company and mild weather.

The next morning Pam and I played in a neighborhood Pickleball tournament. Did we win? No. Heck we didn’t even get to be on the court as partners. But it was a lot of laughs and great exercise. After, we went to a new restaurant in town for lunch. Shortly after ordering, some of our friends (who’d been to the reading and the after-event dinner the night before) came in, unexpectedly, and joined us. Then a coworker and her husband came by our table to talk, and some neighbors stopped to chat on their way out of the restaurant.

Sunday I played Pickleball with all of the usual suspects, then test-drove a neighbor’s car that is for sale. After I wrote (not much but I’m easing my way back in after an eight week respite) and walked dogs (one is mine, one is a guest for a month), I put a deposit on my neighbor’s car. In a couple of weeks we will make the transaction complete and my savings account will be down to nothing. But, the amount of money in my account isn’t where my fortune is, I remind myself.

Back to work on Monday, I looked around and continued to be so very thankful that I work in an amazing place with terrific people. Big Cypress National Preserve is a truly special place and the people who are responsible for keeping the 729k acres the wonderful place it is are some of the most generous, passionate people I know. The coworkers who hadn’t made it to my reading on Friday all inquired, and those who did attend gave me additional words of encouragement. Oh, and then it was Pickleball time again after work.

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Tuesday morning brought a pleasant surprise: Alison Solomon’s debut novel, Along Came the Rain, was shortlisted for a Goldie (award)! My own novel didn’t make the cut it its category, Romantic Intrigue, but the disappointment barely registered thanks to my elation over Alison’s success. Oh, then after work we played Pickleball with a different pair of women.

It’s Wednesday now and I will work hard on property inventory during the day, then go home this afternoon and really dive deeply into my work in progress, a romantic sequel to my novel Pausing, which gave me quite the surprise when it was released last month and did better than any of my previous five novels. Each of my six novels are special in their own way, each is like a child that brings me different kinds of joy, each are a part of what I hope will continue to be a collection of work I can be proud of. As I work on the next one, I will do it for the honor of presenting my work to my amazing readers, and with the desire to make my Affinity publishing family proud.

My fortune is immense, indeed!

Happy Clean Slate Day!

Happy Clean Slate Day!

I’m not one to celebrate holidays, but I do love the idea of a new year, with a clean slate and plans to make the upcoming year even better than the one in the rearview mirror.

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First, I’d like to look back, then I will look forward.

January 2016 came in strong. At this point I’d been running (run/walk, actually) for about three months and had finished a 5K and 5 mile race. My second 5K came the end of January, when I did the Run for the Paws. I was so happy to help the animal-related cause, but decided running with that many dogs wasn’t really my thing (it got a bit messy). At least Pam and Sabrina (who wanted to run, but with her short little legs (Sabrina, not Pam!) I thought better of it) were waiting for me at the finish line.

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On February 1st my 5th novel, Anywhere, Everywhere was published. There is nothing in the world quite like having your work come to life in paperback and e-Book form. As if that wasn’t enough to make February a stellar month, I was offered the job I’d been pining for at Big Cypress National Preserve! Same agency (NPS), same unit (BICY), same building (HQ), same commute (still with Pam), just a new position.

beautiful girl on the beach

On March 4th I had a reading and signing at the clubhouse in my community, Artesia Naples. It was a great night with friends, coworkers, and neighbors.

AIso in March, Pam and I embarked on our first trip to Austin, TX. We fell in love (not with each other, that was decades ago…) with Austin! We went to San Antonio, saw the bats under the Congress Ave bridge, walked around downtown and at Mount Bonnell, and went to Enchanted Rock while we were there.

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April 1st brought us to the reason we went to Austin, and the highlight of the trip, the Lone Star Lesfic Festival. It was amazing to hang out with much of my Affinity E-books Press family, meet new people, and see old friends. One evening while hanging out with the Affinity folks, I got cocky and said I would get them a romance in six months. I’d never written a manuscript in less than a year and immediately went into panic mode over my bravado.

When we returned to Florida, I went right into my new job as Big Cypress National Preserve’s Supply Tech and Property Officer. I was excited to be challenged and learn something new, and it didn’t disappoint.

In May, I committed myself to writing the new romance, and based some of the story on my weekly running and sushi dining with my friend Carrie. The need to immerse myself in my new characters’ lives kept me running when I just wanted to be lazy, and the running kept me motivated to keep writing about the location/characters when I felt stuck. That’s what I call a win-win.

Also in May, I started playing Pickleball more regularly. Never heard of it? Google… it’s amazing. And it’s quite a good workout and very addictive. (Oh, I just found the right workout for my next main character.)

June found me traveling to Denver, CO for the first time. On the plane and at the airport, I found myself stepping away from that romance I’d promised and taking notes on something else – a dystopian romance that was/is totally out of my comfort zone. I stayed in my hotel room most nights while I was at training for my new job and worked frantically on this new story. I did manage to get out twice with some guys I’d met in class, once to Buffalo Bill’s gravesite and once to Red Rock. I don’t think I’d ever seen landscape so majestic before, but oh wow was the altitude wreaking havoc on my head.

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I returned from Denver late on July 2nd and then Pam and I left on the fifth for the GCLS conference in DC (Alexandria). We managed to see some family and friends while at the conference, I did a reading and then mostly worked the vendor table, and had an overall amazing time. I spent my writing time this month split between Pausing (my promised romance) and Kai’s story (my dystopian romance).

On August 20th, I officially finished my first draft of Pausing. Off to my beta readers (Kit and Christine rock!), some tweaking, and marinating…

 

I submitted Pausing to Affinity on September 14th, five months after starting it. I had done what I planned to do and felt like it was my best book yet. I signed the contract on the 26th.

September also brought me to the first Sappho’s Scribes of Florida event, in St. Pete, FL. Back in July I’d talked to some other Florida writers about getting together and doing events in Florida as a group. The Scribes are me, Alison Solomon, Barbara Clanton, and Ali Spooner. Our first gig had three of the four of us (we missed Ali!) doing a workshop on writing with an amazing group of writers and readers.

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October was an exciting month, I went to my first LCLC con in Palm Springs, CA. I fell in love with Palm Springs, Casitas Laquita, the con, and so many wonderful new friends. What’s not to love about doing a reading while sitting on the edge of a pool and reading to a swimming/sunbathing audience?

Later in October, I had my first ever professional photo shoot. Eileen did an amazing job!

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November found me going home to Virginia. Hanging out with family and friends is always a great way to reinvigorate. I had a signing at 37th and Zen in Norfolk, then went to hang out at the Hershee Bar. HB’s always feels like going home. And there’s the extra nostalgic angle in that I met my partner there in 1987.

After going between three different stories, in late November I committed to working mostly on the dystopian romance, its working title now Kai Brodie after the main character.

December 1st I had a reading/signing at Mary Martin’s Gallery of Fine Art in downtown Naples. Art and books… a great night. On the 17th I ran my second Marco Island 5 mile hill run – just like Jordy in the upcoming novel Pausing.

On this last day of December, I have hit the 25K word mark on Kai Brodie. And I feel oh so excited about where this story is going!

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Wow, 2016 had some really cool experiences.

And upcoming…

January 13-14 I will be with the Scribes at Silver Threads celebration in St. Pete, and on January 28th we will be back at the Metro Wellness Center (also St. Pete) to do another workshop.

February 17-19 I will be hanging out with GCLS friends at the Amelia Island Book Festival. Beach and books… I can’t wait.

April 1st is back to Austin for the 2017 Lone Star Lesfic Festival. And… it’s pub day! Pausing will be available in time for this great festival!

July brings us back to GCLS, this time the con is in Chicago. This will be another first for me. I’m so excited about seeing all the great women of GCLS.

October is LCLC again! This year I’m combining it with a family trip up the coast of CA with Pam and Sabrina. This is going to be epic.

So, these are just some of the dates. There will be much more to come with Sappho’s Scribes of Florida, another trip home to Virginia, and of course the completion of Kai Brodie, and possibly another romance. I will keep everyone posted on the dates of the additional events as they are confirmed.

I cannot wait to dive into 2017!

Coming up (and out)…

Woohoo, things are moving so fast!

Back in April, while at the Lone Star LesFic Festival, I made a promise I wasn’t so sure I could keep. I promised my illustrious leaders at Affinity eBooks Press that I would deliver a romance to them in six months. For some folks, that’s not even a challenge. But for me? Heck, up to that point the quickest I’d ever written a book was in a year. I admit there were a few moment of what was I thinking?

When I got back to the swamp after leaving Austin, I went into a new position (at the same location) with the National Park Service. Starting a new job and a new novel in the same week? Had I lost my mind? Perhaps I had, but for the most part I just worked really hard to write evenings after work and on Sundays. I ended up writing Pausing in four and a half months. Then I sent it off to my beta readers and had it delivered to Affinity well within my time frame. Before my deadline, I had a signed contract in my hand.

In the middle of this whirlwind of writing the promised book, I also outlined and wrote 16,000 words on a lesbian dystopian romance and 6,000 words on a thriller. There were also trips to Denver (NPS job) and Alexandria (GCLS con). During the con, I spoke with some fellow Florida writers about working together to promote our books. Sappho’s Scribes of Florida was born. There are four members – me, Alison Solomon, Ali Spooner, and Barbara Clanton. Our inaugural event was September 24th in St. Pete, where I was joined by Alison and Barbara to put on a workshop geared toward writers. It was a resounding success, if I do say so myself.

Here is a list of upcoming gigs, both solo and with the group Sappho’s Scribes of Florida:

October 8, 2016 – All four members of Sappho’s Scribes will be at Come Out with Pride Orlando, where we will have a table set up in the marketplace to meet people and sell/sign books. If you’re in the area, we will be at location G6 in the marketplace and would love to see you.

October 12 – 16, 2016 – I will be at the LCLC at Casitas Laquita in Palm Springs, CA. This is so exciting as I’ve never been to Palm Springs. I get to see a beautiful part of the country while hanging out with a group of amazing writers. I will participate in a reading and a panel on Friday, the 14th.

November 5, 2016 – 37th & Zen will host me for a reading/signing. Norfolk, Virginia is still very much in my heart, even after I’ve been gone for over 20 years. I’ll probably go by my old stomping grounds, The Hershee Bar, after that event. Who will I see there? 37th and Zen is located at 1083 W. 37th St, Norfolk, VA.

December 1, 2016 – I am honored to be featured at a reception at the Mary Martin Gallery of Fine Art, 365 5th Avenue, Naples, Florida. This promises to be a super cool event, so if you’re in Naples come by and check it out. Books and Art… does it get any better than that?

February 18, 2017 – Amelia Island Book Festival in Fernandina Beach, FL will surely be an amazing event. Books and beach…another winning combination. GCLS will have a table and host a reading at this event.

April 1, 2017 – Lone Star LesFic Festival! I fell in love with Austin during my first Lone Star festival and can’t wait to go back. Those folks sure do know how to put on an event. I am excited to be showing off my new novel, Pausing, at that event. It’s going to be an amazing day, I just know it.

Sappho’s Scribes of Florida is in the process of putting together our calendar for 2017. Things to look forward to? Pensacola Pride in May, various LBGTQ centers across Florida, and a bookstore or two. Do you want us to come to an event in your town? How about your book club? Just let us know! You can contact me at reneewrites3@gmail.com if you want to talk about an upcoming event.

Check out our new logo. Nancy with Irish Dragon Designs did an awesome job!

Palm Tree Illustration