Oh. You Write Romance?

I’ve noticed a trend in the last few weeks after talking to a handful of my friends in the book industry and frankly it’s upsetting.

We are a stigma.

To everyone outside of the indie book world and romance readers everywhere… we are not taken seriously.

For a long time, I assumed (and wrongfully so) that if you hit a best-sellers list like USA Today or the New York Times, it gave you the kind of accolades that made the average person take notice of your accomplishments. However, it doesn’t seem to be the case. At least not for romance writers.

Earlier in the week, I read a blog post from one of my favorite people, Penny Reid (find it here) and I was blown away by what I read. Even she had been snubbed after someone found out she wrote romance. What? My cheeks flushed with heat.

I was defensive immediately and it wasn’t even a slight against me. How dare that woman judge Penny! Penny Reid not only writes some of the best romantic-comedy on the market, but she writes strong, smart and capable women. There has not been a time I haven’t walked away from one of her books without having learned something. The following she has is as diverse and far reaching as you could begin to fathom, but her fans stick together in a tight-knit group. It’s a beautiful thing to witness and be a part of. Her sharks are fierce and protective. I bet McJudgy-pants had no idea.

If we’re being honest, we base some of our self-worth on what other people think of us. It’s human nature. We want to be liked. Maybe we find ourselves asking questions like: What do we bring to the table. What do we offer the world? Do my books make a difference? Is the world going to take me seriously?

Being a writer is hard work. Writing a novel is like purging your soul onto the page for the rest of the world to judge, but you do it because you can’t imagine not writing. Being judged comes with the territory of putting your work out for the masses to see and consume. But for someone to judge you – not by your work, or your accomplishments, but based on the genre of writing you do alone… is a sucker punch to the gut that leaves many of us reeling and feeling embarrassed.

Why? Why should be we embarrassed for doing something we love? When that labor of love gives some of us the ability to write full time, supporting our families, it’s one hell of an accomplishment. Being able to put food on the table and provide for our households… how is this a bad thing? How is it any different than someone who starts an Etsy shop selling crafts and is able to do it full time?

Most days, when we’re working…staring at the cursor on the screen, pecking away at daily word count goals and deadlines— editing, marketing, interacting with our fans… none of that matters.

It usually seems to come up when you’re at a social event, or something going on at your child’s school and the ever dreaded question inevitably comes up more than once.

What do you do?

I loathe this question for many reasons because my answer is complicated.

I never know how to answer. How much do they really want to know? When it comes to my history and the things I’ve struggled through, I get defensive easily. And maybe I shouldn’t, but I wear my heart on my sleeve and the numerous times I’ve been unfairly judged effects me.

For ten years I was an ASE certified Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, and Ram technician. It was a huge part of my identity. And then I got really sick and had to have heart surgery and was diagnosed with a debilitating illness. Fast forward five years and I’m unable to return to any job because my body can’t handle it. 

I was deemed disabled by twenty-six and I’d worked since the age of twelve. I didn’t know how not to work. A lot of judgment comes with being disabled so young and looking healthy even though you’re the furthest thing from it.

That was when I started writing seriously. I needed an outlet. Something to do to keep my mind sharp and myself occupied on days I couldn’t physically get out of bed. I’ve published three full-length novels and have three more due out soon.

I’m also home with my youngest daughter, but am I really a stay at home mom? I was stuck at home long before I had her. And don’t get me wrong, I know I am fortunate to be able to be home with her during her early years, but it’s not all fun and games when you’re sick. So how am I supposed to answer that question?

I have no idea how I identify myself anymore.

I used to identify with being a heavily tattooed, female mechanic. People wanted to talk to me about that and it made me feel good. 

Now? I’m lost.

Even though I’d love to be able to say I don’t care… I do. I’m human and susceptible to things other people say. I hold back telling anyone I don’t know that I’m an author because that opens a can of worms of its own.

They ask things like: “Who is your publisher?” 

I give them a small smile and reply with, “I don’t have one. I am an independent, self-published author.”

The response is always, “Oh.” and then they walk away without another word.

As if that means my worth in their eyes has diminished. Would their response have been different if I wrote crime novels and was published by one of the big six? Do I need to show them my direct deposits from Amazon to gain their respect? That’s craziness. 

Another favorite question which seems harmless enough is: “What kind of books do you write?”  When your response is romance, their faces automatically twist into a sneer and ask, “So you write smut? Like sex?” They generally don’t give you time to answer before they’re clutching their throats as they hightail it away from you.

It’s almost laughable, but some part of me shrinks back a bit. Feeling embarrassed. While my books aren’t saturated with sex scenes, I still enjoy reading books that are. Why do I allow these people to make me feel less than? I know I’m not the only one.

“I went to a dinner party and a close friend asked about my books and we were having a discussion about them. A person I didn’t know came up and asked me what I did and my friend who is very kind said I write books. They (the stranger) asked what kind and I said part time romance author and full time…. Before I could say clinical therapist they said…. Oh like HBO stuff? Lots of sex? I was a little embarrassed and said, well kind of. They immediately walked away and didn’t talk to me the rest of the night and then I felt mad at myself for feeling a little embarrassed. Like, would their reaction have been different if I started by saying I’m a therapist and see patients privately for counseling mental health and addiction would they have treated me differently?? It left me feeling oddly vulnerable and angry with myself.” –  M.C Cerny, Author of A Night Own Series.

It’s always long after these encounters I wonder— Do these people not have sex? Is that why they’re so against it? Non-readers have the idea that all romance novels are like Fifty Shades of Grey. A book they probably never read but judged based on the media following it had. And guess what? I loved those books, but mine are nothing like it. A lot of romance authors write fade to black sexy scenes and you don’t see much of the nitty-gritty.

Other authors write BDSM but do it under a pen name so they’re not judged by people in their real life and have a wonderful following. Other’s write dark and dirty romance, romantic suspense and they’re some of my favorite stories to read. I have zero problems telling people what I love to read and giving them a list of books to check out. I’m not ashamed of what I read. That’s why I’m a co-blogger for My Daily Romance Books. I want to shout about it from the rooftops. 

Why is it any different when it comes to admitting I’m an author as well?

For some authors, it’s not strangers who judge them but people in their circle of friends.

“My friend opened one of my books, crinkled her nose and asked, “Do women read this stuff to, ya know, get in the mood?” I told her no that it was a story with sex not faded out, not a sexual aid.” – Morgan Jane Mitchell, Author of Asphalt Gods MC Series

On the opposite end of the spectrum, people make assumptions about us doing everything we write about.

“When we’re out as a couple and we let someone know I write romance, my husband usually gets an elbow nudge or a high five. It’s usually assumed we use the positions/places we write about.” Josie Bordeaux- Author of the Alluring Promises Series.

I don’t know what it is about being an author in the romance genre and sub-genres that make it seem sub par to others, but it shouldn’t be.

“I often tell people that I write fiction instead of romance because I’m tired of reactions like “oh, that’s nice” or “when are you going to write a real book?”  I’m tired of love and Happily Ever After being treated like diseases, despite the fact that Happily Ever After is what we all want from life. Our society is starving for love and we need to start being loud and proud about our work!” Heather Novak– Author of Hunting Witch Hazel

No matter what the nay-sayers think about what we do, we need to remember that to our readers, we matter. Our stories mean something. They’re an escape. They make a difference to someone, somewhere and we should wear the badge of indie romance author proudly. We’re living our dream by being writers as a profession.

Branded — Like a cow.

Everyone has been talking about branding for quite a while and I just nodded and ‘mmhmmed’ without really thinking about it. What I had before was a half ass brand. I wasn’t fully committed to it or what it was all about. I watched other big authors brand themselves, my friends were doing it and then I got off my lazy ass and watched Rachel Hollis’ class about branding. She said something that made all of the gears click together in my brain and start turning like a well-oiled machine.

“The cattle rancher is going to look at the brand on the side of the cow to know who the cow belongs to. That’s branding. When you can look at something and immediately know- That’s my cow.” – Rachel Hollis

I had an author logo and I loved it. While it had elements that I felt helped define me and my amazing designer did exactly what I asked her to… something didn’t sit right. I wanted a sleeved Rosie the riveter and I thought yup, that’s me. I have a huge Rosie tattoo on my inner bicep, I’m heavily tattooed, I was a mechanic for ten years and I love what that icon stands for. But somewhere deep down it didn’t feel quite authentic and maybe because that is only a small part of who I am.

While I watched Rachel’s video the first thing she said was:

Be authentic.

It was as if I was trying too hard to be cool and relevant with the overdone Rosie. Let’s face it, every rockabilly chick out there has a thing for Rosie the Riveter. So how do I stand apart from everyone else? How did this logo and this brand say anything about being a chronic reader who also enjoys writing?

I am part retro-obsessed/part nerd/part tattooed rebel/part snarky and sarcastic nut and part bookworm. How could I throw that all into a giant bowl and make that work for me in all areas? I had no idea. Talk about sounding like the world’s worst tattoo client — strolling in off the street saying I want all these elements in a two-inch space. They’d laugh in your face and throw your ass out the door. None of this even came down to me reaching deep and finding out who I am. Do you want to know the truth? My best friend was playing with something for her own logo and for our blog when she showed me what she’d made to represent me.

I fell in love immediately. Maybe it takes someone who knows you a little better than you know yourself to help you navigate your way back to who you are. The avatar she created for herself is to die for and it encompasses everything she is. Somehow she managed to capture that for me as well. 

Over at My Daily Romance, we’ve been working on ideas for the brand of our blog for a while and Jenni Moen has come up with something fabulous. Jenni and Josie Bordeaux are the visually creative ones while I’m more design impaired. They carry my dead weight when it comes to that stuff. We decided cross promotion between that blog and our individual pages would be a great way to go.

Saturday, I made the leap and now I finally feel like I found something authentic. (It’s all her doing.) I wear glasses most days because I’m too lazy to fool with my contacts and they’re my security blanket. My nose is always stuck in a book, and I don’t smile often. A symbol of a heart encompasses all I’ve been through with my health and I use one every time I sign something. The font looks exactly like my signature. My new logo couldn’t be more perfect.

I belong to a few author groups and in one of them, branding as a topic comes up often. One author posted about not knowing where she fit in or how to market because she wrote in different genres. Another prominent author took a look at her website and replied she had no specific brand.

After thinking about it for a while, I thought Oh shit. I have the same exact issue. I have books in different genres but then I realized they all fit under the umbrella of my brand ‘Sass, snark and a dash of romance’. Each of them has all of those elements.

So I finally feel like I’m moving forward because I figured out who I am as a blogger (I use that term loosely) and writer… What I want my voice to be and how I’m going to do this writing gig. All of my books are being reformatted and it’s exciting to feel like I’m actually putting “my stamp” on them.

Bookworm Problems

2016 has started off with a healthy (my daughter says otherwise) obsession with fictional characters. I’ve been on a binge read since the beginning of the year, making my way through popular series who have taken the world by storm. They’ve sucked me in and spit me out at the end, not knowing which way was up.

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On more than one occasion I’ve wondered how will I go on? What am I going to do with myself now that it’s over? Some book hangovers are of epic proportions and nothing else on deck appears like it could fill the void. If you’re a fellow bookworm, I don’t have to explain any of this to you. You understand. We’ve all traveled and lived many lives through the power of the written world.

The funny thing is trying to explain this to non-readers. My husband asks me constantly: 

“How do you read so much?”

The answer is simple. I would rather read than do anything else. Maybe there are other hobbies out there, I doubt it, but they will never compare to a good book. The goal I’ve set for this year is to devour ten books a month. Which isn’t really a lot… but that keeps me from being completely consumed by a fictional realm and forgetting things I have to do — like be a wife and mom, write a few books and be an all around functional human. The last bit is questionable at best, but hey I’m not trying to impress anyone.

No matter where I am or what I’m doing, I have at least one book with me. Typically, I don’t leave the house without my kindle and a paperback. The few times I have, I felt naked. If someone else is driving — I’m reading. My family complains I am the worst travel partner ever. If we have to wait anywhere, my nose is stuck in a book. The other night we went to go see Allegiant and I was in the middle of reading Stars Above from The Lunar Chronicles. During the previews — I read. I can’t help it. It’s a problem I don’t really see as a problem.

#SorryNotSorry

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I finished The Lunar Chronicles last night … all 3,072 pages of it and there is a stack of new loves waiting for me to fall for, but I can’t bring myself to move on yet.

Maybe tomorrow.

Calling on Flawed and Damaged Characters.

I don’t know about you, but I love nothing more than reading about flawed characters. Through their pain and misfortune, we as readers are able to connect to them on a real level within a fictional realm. No one’s life is perfect and if they say it is, they’re a liar. Our imperfections and perceived flaws make us who we are. There is no difference when it comes to fictional characters, or as far as I’m concerned there shouldn’t be.

When I can connect on a level of brokenness with a literary hero or heroine, it opens the floodgates of emotion, making me step into their world one page at a time. Sure there are so many angst-filled books out there, but some of them lack the depth of reality.

“I read to escape my mundane or chaotic everyday life.”

No shit. So do I. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to be on the same level with a character in some way through their pain. I’m sure we’ve all experienced pain in one way, shape, or form. It may not have to be in the same context in order to have sympathy for someone else. I’ve never had cancer nor has anyone in my immediate circle, but when my best friend told us her mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, I immediately made a care package to send to them both. Was it actually helpful? Who knows. The one thing I do know is it raised their spirits– if only for a moment. I felt a level of sympathy with them that even though I had no experience of that issue, I know what it’s like to be sick and afraid.

Whether a character is ill, a victim of abuse, dealing with loss, tragedy or any other form of grief, it makes them better, full of depth and real. Maybe I’m a little morbid because I want to connect with characters through their pain, but if I can walk in their shoes through their sorrows that only lifts my spirit when they experience joys.

Reading is such a subjective thing and they say no two people read the same book. We all have our opinions on what we like to read, when and why. I’m a mood reader. That can take me from something gut wrenching and have me blubbering like an idiot to reading a rom-com, grinning so hard my cheeks ache. I’ve lived a thousand lives and traveled a million miles through the eyes of other characters and their journeys. This is why I read. It’s a part of who I am. What about you?

Fall in love with a book…fall in love with the author.

The next feature I want to talk about can’t even be summed up into one book. It’s more about the author and the obsession I now have with her. So I may not have reached stalker status quite yet but, give me time. One day, I will force her to be my friend. (If she ever reads this she will probably start filling out the restraining order immediately.)

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This is really another case of me seeing her name thrown around a lot in the indie community, but never really putting on my inspector gadget hat to do any further investigation.

inspector gadget

How stupid was I? But then I saw the cover of the first book I want to talk about and everything about it made me gigglesnort, elated and just down right giddy. The cover alone told me everything I needed to know to capture my interest and sent me scrambling to Amazon. I one-clicked before I ever read the blurb.

run

Go ahead. Take a gander.

I’ll wait.

Oh, and make sure you look closely…  At everything.

HATH

Okay, seriously? Wipe the drool off your mouth. Be a lady! We can openly gawk, but you don’t have to be disgusting about it. 

You just went and one-clicked didn’t you?

JenLaw

Yes, yes you did ya’ liar!

Here’s why I don’t blame you, nothing about this book disappointed me. Not only was it a sports story which I’m finding I enjoy more and more with every read, but I found it refreshing. It was snarky and funny and the shy girl got to make fun of the hot guy.

How awesome is that? Total freaking roll reversal from every 80’s to late 90’s movie out there. This wasn’t Pretty in Pink or Sixteen Candles. (I’m not hating on Molly Ringwald. She’s my girl and no there’s no restraining order there either, or is there?) Here, the nerdy girl doesn’t get the guy because he just never noticed her before. Oh, no no. In this story, our heroine owns the hero from the second she lays her eyes on him, he just doesn’t know it yet… Dun, dun, dun!!!!  

iown you

Okay, it’s obviously more subtle than that… but you get my drift.

While I read this story, I laughed my ass off and I also fell in love with Penny Reid. 

kissing unicorns

Sure, I’ve read plenty of books that have made me smirk or smile, however, nothing has ever made me laugh out loud the way this did. When you have a sweet character with a foul mouth like Annie, nothing makes me happier.

snowwhite

The Hooker and The Hermit had everything I needed. Equal parts hilarious and angst. As far as I’m concerned, the balance was utter perfection.

So if you haven’t read this gem yet… Get off your butt and do it. I promise you won’t regret it.

                                                   Check it out here –> amazon-logo-iconamazon_co_uk

I’m sure you’re wondering why I consider myself a stalker after reading one book right? Well, as soon as I finished reading The Hooker and The Hermit, I ran my happy, large, cookie eating ass right back to Amazon and one clicked the first book of Penny’s Knitting in the City Series, Neanderthal Seeks Human. It’s free. I had nothing to lose. There was no risk. I already adored a title she co-penned, surely this one would be just as awesome, if not more so. Once again I found myself clapping like a seal who’d just found the very last fish in the sea.

clapping seal

My husband told me he was left to fend for himself over the next week as I devoured every available book Penny had in her series. That was a total of 1,913 pages in a matter of eight days. For me, that’s a damn accomplishment and I deserve a medal.

standing o

Thank you. Thank you very much.

When an author can create a group of friends so tight knit (Tehehe, see what I did there Shark fans?) and make each character so three-dimensional you wish you could jump right into the story and be a part of this crazy group of friends, that’s something special. These may just be fictional characters to some but, to Penny fans, they’re real. 

I now care deeply about Quinn, my favorite quirky lovable Janie, hard as nails Elizabeth, No-nonsense Sandra, Sweet and loveable Ashley and I’ll kick your ass mama-bear, Fiona. They all come with hunky men we come to love in the forms of Nico, Alex, Drew, and Greg. If you could ever belong to a group of people, these are the people you would want in your corner. End of! 

Lily and marshal

Each book follows a different girl from their merry group of awesome on her quest for love and self-discovery. Penny is my drug of choice when it comes to Rom-Com. She was my first introduction into the genre and I have to say no others have been able to top her genius. A lot of the time when you read a book with big words or trivia in it, it makes you feel stupid, but after every book I read of hers I come to realize two things.

  1. Penny Reid must have a Mensa level IQ. If she hasn’t taken the test I call shenanigans and say it’s because she doesn’t want to make anyone feel bad about themselves. If there was an island where she was the leader, I would gladly be a minion. How about you?
  2. I learn something. Janine, for example, from Neanderthal Seeks Human, rambles useless trivia when she gets anxious or nervous and can’t handle normal social interactions. Every time she does this, I not only love her more and want to be her, but I walked away a little taller because not only did I enjoy a fiction story, I learned something too.

This is where your journey to your own obsession with all things Penny will begin. You can thank me later. Seriously.

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You’ll wish you were Janie and Quinn was your leading man.

 NMH

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You’ll never get enough of these two. 

FWB                                                         amazon-logo-iconibooks_logo125xkobo-iconSmashwords-square-icon-1

The push and pull between Elizabeth and Nico will have you pulling and pushing at the pages to find out what happens next.

LH

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Sandra and Alex made me believe in the unbelievable.

BATM

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Ashley and Drew pulled on my heartstring until they broke and the Winston brothers strung everything back together again. (My new neighbors are named Drew and Ashley. This is a sign Penny and I should be BFF’s!)

HEN

I can’t wait for this freaking book!!!! Fiona, I can’t wait to know ALL your secrets!!!

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And finally we have the one thing Penny fans couldn’t get enough of. A series of short stories with all of our favorite couples. Huzzah! Plus it gave us what we’ve all wanted. Fiona and Greg.

SFTC

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Now that we’re all caught up on our knitting let’s just move over to another fast favorite of mine.

walken knit

I was getting ready to jump on a flight to Las Vegas and I wanted to load my kindle with plenty to read. Flying is not my favorite thing in the world, and I never dig having my personal space cramped by strangers. The illusion of seclusion with my noise canceling headphones and my kindle are a sign that say, “Piss off.”

My charger was packed, I had two paperbacks in my purse as a backup, the problem was I just didn’t know what I wanted to download. And then I saw Penny was releasing a serial called the ELEMENTS OF CHEMISTRY. Instantly I downloaded the first book, ATTRACTION which was available and pre-ordered HEAT. They both arrived on my kindle the day we left town.

Immediately I was sucked in by Kaitlyn and Martin and this aggravated my husband, who loves to talk on planes. Sorry, babe but a girl has to get her read on! While he made excited, mindless chit-chat about my hometown with the woman on the other side of me, I ignored them both and devoured the first book. Playing tourist isn’t high on my priority list when we visit Vegas, but the hubbz still gets caught up in all the hub-ub the city has to offer. Other than seeing my sister, all I could think about was what happened next with my new favorite duo.

sheldon

I finished HEAT and was dying from the epic cliffhanger Penny left us with. CAPTURE wasn’t going to be released for another couple of weeks and I thought I was going to die. (She warned of the cliffy, I knew what I was getting into but I’m a complainer anyway.) Now, let’s be real here. Penny did us a huge solid by releasing a few weeks apart and not making us wait months for the next part, but I’m more impatient than my two-year-old and I want it now! 

I want it now

A few weeks later the last book popped up on my kindle and I squealed in delight like a pig whose family decided they no longer liked bacon. (Chumps. Bacon is next to Godliness. I’m kidding. Not really? You don’t mess with a lady’s bacon.) Kaitlyn and Martin had all the feels and just as much laughter as you’re used to with any Penny book. So, if you’re slacking and haven’t picked these gems up yet, do it to it. And the best part is you don’t have to wait, they’re all available for mass consumption!

EOC

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And finally let me tell you about an amazing set of brothers you were first introduced to in the Knitting in the City Series.

The Winston Brothers.

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The first book in the series TRUTH OR BEARD follows Jessica James and the beautiful, ginger bearded, twin Winston brothers, Beau, and Duane. Mistaken Identities, infatuation, first love, over-protective families, and a biker gang?

Um Hello? Is your clicky finger primed and ready?

TOB

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You won’t be sorry.

Your status as a bonafide Penny freak will be complete for the time being.

And you will thank me for yelling about so much awesome in one place!

Get your laugh on.  Xo- Vanessa.

ALL GIFS ARE FROM GIPHY(DOT)COM AND THE COVERS HAVE BEEN PROVIDED BY THEIR AUTHORS. I DO NOT OWN ANY OF THESE IMAGES. I AM SIMPLY USING THEM FOR YOUR GIGGLE, SNORTING AND VIEWING PLEASURE.   <3 

When the kettle gets kicked by POTs.

For those of you who don’t know, I have a chronic illness. Some days are better than others and some days I’m just a whiny bitch. For the last few weeks, I’ve been stuck in bed on and off with my most recent flare. How my friends haven’t killed me for my incessant pity party of one? I don’t know, but y’all deserve a damn medal.

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I’m convinced my body hates me and it is hell-bent on self-destruction. There are triggers for people like me, whose autonomic nervous systems act as if they’re strung out on meth and don’t know which body functions should operate properly.

robot

Sometimes I want to yell at myself, “Hey asshole, I’m already part bionic, shouldn’t I have a co-pilot and maybe an autopilot button?” I mean, I have a pacemaker and his name is Sparky. He’s my bionic buddy and yes, we named it and yes it’s a dude. Don’t hate. Congratulate.

knight rider

My trigger this month was the dentist. While I’ve always been an Anti-Dentist kind of girl, I finally found one I liked. And then he tried to kill me. With shots and scrapers and drills, oh my! Have you seen the torture devices used in this profession? You’re paying someone to put you through hell. Obviously, because here I am. Half dead. (Not really.) For twelve years, I have avoided the dentist like the plague and when I finally show up to keep my chicklets from falling out of my head, what do I get?! My body revolting in every way possible.

john candy

This is what my dentist looks like each time he comes at me.

Now this is a public service announcement. Listen to your mama, kiddies. Brush your fangs twice a day and don’t forget to floss, or you’ll end up like me. With meth mouth, lying like the corpse bride somewhere in the middle of Kentucky.

hillbilly smile

Okay, my teeth aren’t quite that bad, and I’m not really dying, but it feels like it and I have a flare for the dramatics. Also, my addiction to cookies and general lack of flossing shows with the number of cavities I’m rocking. Not so jealous of my awesomeness because of my bionic buddy now, are ya’?

So when I’m stuck in bed and my mood shifts as rapidly as my body’s unwillingness to cooperate, and the fact I’m basically insane, I get frustrated. As do most people living with Dysautonomia. I can’t even enjoy reading because my brain won’t cooperate and it literally takes too much energy to try to focus on what I’m doing. It’s as if someone turned on a sink and all the energy pours out until you’re nothing more than a leaky faucet with the incessant drip, drip, drip.

leaky faucet

Pathetic right? What are you a girl or something? Yes. I am. A sick girl.

Am I the only thirty-year-old who still refers to herself as a girl instead of a woman? Calling myself a woman just sounds odd. Don’t ask me why, it just does.

When you have a lot of time to think and you’ve had a couple of mini-strokes and a hunk of junk tells your heart when to beat you tend to think about mortality a lot. Here’s a few thing that have been decided. And please realize I have a sick and twisted sense of humor, so don’t get down in the dumps reading the following, I don’t plan on dying anytime soon, but here goes anyway.

During the last week, I’ve made a contingency plan with one of my best friends. If I croak before FOSTERED is published, she is to publish it for me. So don’t be afraid people if you see shit getting sent to presses from beyond the grave…

ghosty

Is it me? Is it she?

If I’m pushing up daisies before my brother, he is to be dressed as the Grimm Reaper and stand at the back of my funeral watching everyone. He can point at people too for shits and giggles. But the question will remain, is it really him? Or is it the real Grimm? Would you touch him to find out? I mean seriously, you’re just mad you didn’t think of it first!

GR

Next up. My gravestone is to say, “one bad bitch.” Okay, not really. I highly doubt my mother would go for that, but I don’t want any crying nonsense. So if anyone ever visits my grave bring army men and nerf guns. You are to set up a plethora of little men on top of my gravestone and take quick draw shots off the hip  Mr. McLintock style. If you don’t know who I’m referring to, you’re fired, get off my page and go look up John Wayne.

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I’m quite disappointed with the lack of John Wayne gifs. *cries*

I’m still looking for that perfectly morbid song to have playing that will make everyone look around and laugh. It’ll probably be Bye, Bye, Bye from NSync. 90’s kid here. You have one direction, I had a good boyband. Whatevs.

bye bye bye

And someone has to make sure my kids are raised and armed with the proper amount of snark in their arsenal. Sending them out into the world unprepared to shoot when fired upon with quick wit is completely unacceptable. It takes a village, people.

step brothers

So what is the point to all this nonsensical ramble? Live. Do stuff. I’m not telling you any of this for pity because I don’t want it. I’ve accepted this is my place in the world now. What’s yours? Make plans. Don’t put things off tomorrow you can do today unless it’s dishes because doing dishes sucks and everyone hates them. Those can wait.

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No, that’s not my kid. But it is kind of funny in the most disgusting way.

Other than that. Get busy living while I’m lying here getting busy dying…because of my dentist. It’s all his fault with his tools of torture and my dumb-ass paid him to send me off the deep end has not gone unnoticed. Trust me. Not really, but blaming him is fun.

Xo-Sparky & Vanessa (He just had to go first.)

ALL GIFS ARE FROM GIPHY(DOT)COM. I DO NOT OWN ANY OF THE IMAGES USED. I AM SIMPLY USING THEM FOR YOUR GIGGLE, SNORTING AND VIEWING PLEASURE.   <3 

Hot Male Authors…In Books?

Do you ever see that book cover blasted all over Facebook, everyone is raving about how amazing the book is, but for some really dumb-ass reason you’re just not ready to jump on the bandwagon yet?

mmhmm

I find myself doing this all the time. It’s not like I’m hesitant to eat the cookie, we all know how I feel about cookies. And yes, my analogy is about food people. Get your damn minds out of the gutter. (Ironic isn’t it? Since that’s where my mind typically lives.)

Anyway, back to our topic… I know the book will be good, all of these people wouldn’t be raving like loons about it if it wasn’t, right? So, the only logical conclusion I can come up with is the fact I choose what I read based off my moods.

My kindle still has things I one-clicked a year ago that I just don’t feel like reading yet, so I’m not going to. Ugly cry type-stuff. Nope, I’m just not ready. You know you do the same thing. Don’t act like you don’t do it too.

Ellen Page

By now I’m sure you’re tired of my babble and you want to know what book I skipped over for far too long. I’ll give you a hint. It had a super hot guy on the cover, scrabble tiles and you practiced saying the author’s name aloud like thirty times trying to figure out how to pronounce it…

That’s right it’s Word Play by Amalie Silver.

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No? Was that just me?

yes nod

You’re a damn, liar. You know damn well you practiced saying her name too. For the record, I found out it’s pronounced like Emily but with an Ah at the beginning. (Ah-mi-ly.) You. Are. Welcome!

Now on to the book. Huzzah! I remember I started this book at like ten in the evening after I’d put my kids in bed. Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m a cover to cover kind of girl when I’m interested in something. And that’s exactly what happened.

speed read

This story was beyond refreshing. A hot male author writing romance under a pen name that no one knew was actually him. Let’s face it a lot of authors have pen names for various reasons, but this gave us an inside look into what happens behind the scenes in the author world. Or that’s what it felt like anyway.

At the time, I was still a newbie (I still am, don’t burst my bubble) and I found myself wondering Ermergerd, is this what really happens? Is that what it’s like at a convention? To meet with an agent?This book is so freaking cool! I want to be this author when I grow up! 

Alter egos, mistaken identities, hot bathroom sex, and a plethora of snarky banter?

oh snap

Um, who the hell wouldn’t want to read all of that?

shhh

Secrets. Secrets could destroy everything. Will they?

I guess you’ll have to one-click this bad boy to find out won’t you?

There were parts I sat on my bed yelling at my kindle, hoping to God my baby wouldn’t wake up in her crib. (which was next to my bed at the time.)

morons

I know all of this sounds so vague and I’m not giving a ton away, but hey, I don’t want to give you a summary of the entire book. What fun would that be? I want to tell you I loved it and I think you will too.

word play condom

Now go buy the damn thing so we can gab about it! Xo- Vanessa

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ALL GIFS ARE FROM GIPHY(DOT)COM AND THE COVERS HAVE BEEN PROVIDED BY THEIR AUTHORS. I DO NOT OWN ANY OF THESE IMAGES. I AM SIMPLY USING THEM FOR YOUR GIGGLE, SNORTING AND VIEWING PLEASURE.   <3 

THE LOVE HATE RELATIONSHIP….. WITH FICTIONAL MEN…

I’m new to the Indie game. Pretty much an unknown and hey that’s totally okay. With time, five people might know who I am. Huzzah! There are still a lot of well-known Indie Authors out there I’ve never even heard of. When I’m talking to a fellow book junkie and they ask if I’ve read something by someone not on my radar… This is usually what my face looks like.

Amy P

Some of these authors have hit USA Today, and The New York Times Best Seller lists and I’m still like, who? It has nothing to do with them or their work and everything to with the fact I live under a rock, what can I say?

peekaboo

That was how I came across the next author and her total mind f*ck of a masterpiece I want to shout about, with my big fat mouth. Last year, I found out about a signing in Cincinnati and went completely bonkers I hadn’t heard anything about it. How dare someone not tell me right? Hah. I didn’t really run in any book club circles and what I knew about signings was limited at best. All of the tickets to the event were completely sold out and my soul was crushed into a million pieces.

smashed tv

So, I contacted the promoter about the following year, wanting to know what the skinny was on everything. She told me they had an available spot for me for the upcoming event if I wanted it.

I love lucy

After I was done running around like a pre-pubescent girl who’d just won concert tickets on the radio to One Direction, I scrambled to get things in order for my first signing. Heartless had just released a couple weeks before hand and I was one giant ball of nerves. (There’s a point I promise, I’m getting to it.) At the signing, I was submerged into greatness. There were so many household names there that I *did* actually recognize and whose books I loved, but I was too scared to actually talk to them. As far as I was concerned, in no way was I on their level or considered a peer.

JenLaw

No. Just, no.

There was an author to my left who had a line a mile long with readers who couldn’t wait to talk to her or get her Jane Handcock in their paperbacks. At the time, I had no idea I was sitting next to a freaking Mastermind! No wonder these chicks were eating all the candy off my table with their sights set on only one person…. The one and only, New York Times and USA Today Best Selling Author, Aleatha Romig.

Consequences is the first book in Aleatha’s Consequences Series and it falls into the Suspense/Romantic Suspense categories. At the time, I was on a strict romance kick and wasn’t really looking to deviate from the genre. Total dumbass right?

Don’t be stupid and only stick to one genre. By doing that, you’re shutting yourself off to an entire realm of incredible books out there that will completely blow your damn mind.

terry crews

If you’re wondering what finally made me pick it up, I couldn’t tell you because frankly I don’t remember. All I know is I could kick myself for not doing it sooner.

horse kick

Let’s flash forward to when I was finally introduced to Mr. Anthony (Tony) Rawlings and Ms. Claire Nichols. Holy mother of God this book is messed up. Girl meets a tall, good-looking, mysterious stranger, and the next thing we know she’s been abducted. Dun, Dun, Dun!!!!

I mean here is the opening line of the book. If this isn’t a hook, I don’t know what is.

“The fade into consciousness happened slowly, like the melting of ice. The water was still present. It just changed form.”

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You’re afraid for Claire as this monster emerges from the shadows and she has no idea what to expect. Her entire world has shifted upside down and she’s forced to rely on her captor and his staff. The things he does to her are completely deplorable and you LOATHE Tony.

The way Aleatha crafts this story and weaves it together has you all… nailbite

And then at some point something shifted for me. I’m not sure if the expert mind games in which Tony played worked on me the way they were supposed to work on Claire…Or if I’m just a total freak with some kind of readers Stockholm Syndrome myself. But I kind of started to have a love-hate relationship with Mr. Rawlings.

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This story is not for the feign of heart. There were heavy themes of kidnapping, rape, domestic abuse and mental warfare. But if you’re able to separate yourself from the realities of the situations and look at the story for what it truly is…fiction…then you may find you’re a sadistic little twit that enjoys the darker side like me. This was my introduction to suspense, thrillers, and romantic suspense. I have to say I became a junkie because of how twisted and brilliant this story is.

genius

Maybe I say this a lot, but it’s how I feel. If a story can evoke so much emotion from me I don’t know whether I’m coming or going, or if I should love or hate a character then they’re a mastermind. That is talent and that’s the kind of stuff I want to read.

So, this is a challenge to all readers out there. Take a chance on something new. I know I am thrilled I did. I found a new author I can’t get enough of. There’s now an entirely new genre for me to explore because of her. Thanks, Aleatha, you are my gateway drug to a new sadistic paradise.

READ THIS BOOK! It will leave you reeling and then you’ll scramble for the next one because you’re dying to know what happens. You won’t be sorry.

Consequences cover

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If you’re like me and you one-click the entire series at once. Here’s everything you’ll need.

Truth

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Convicted

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revealed

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BTC

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 I hope you enjoy as much as I have! Xo – Vanessa

ALL GIFS ARE FROM GIPHY(DOT)COM AND THE COVERS HAVE BEEN PROVIDED BY THEIR AUTHORS. I DO NOT OWN ANY OF THESE IMAGES. I AM SIMPLY USING THEM FOR YOUR GIGGLE, SNORTING AND VIEWING PLEASURE.   <3 

Thinking Outside The Box

Diversity.

Lately, this topic has come up amongst readers and authors more often than Steve Urkel used to ask, “Did I do that?” on the Friday night line-up when I was a kid. Don’t act like that reference is no longer relevant. If you’re a 90’s kid like me, you remember Boy Meets World, Step by Step, Family Matters and Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper. Back when T.V was good and we could all sit down as a family to watch. Each of these shows on prime time had diversity in them in one way or another.

Not that this has anything to do with this, but I met Jaleel White in a Las Vegas airport when I was a kid and that was probably one of the few fan-girl moments I’ve had in my life. You’re jealous, it’s okay. I would be too.

urkel          Ri clap

That little tid-bit of information is completely irrelevant, but hey, sharing is caring. Right?!

Back to the matter at hand. What is diversity when it comes to books? For all of us I think it means different things. Whether it’s being able to identify with a character’s race, creed, religion, sexual orientation or how they identify with gender, readers want more than the same kind of characters. From an author’s perspective these can all be topics that are scary to write about because of that deep seeded fear of offending someone while at the same time trying to stay true to your characters without blindly following stereotypes.

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I’ll wait a moment while you digest these powerful six images.

Within contemporary romance and new adult romance genres, it seems like a huge chunk of heroine’s are all skinny, white and perfect or the alpha male has the body of Hercules. I don’t know about you, but I don’t fall into those categories. After my baby, I was so busy stuffing my face with every kind of cookie I could find, my ass grew to the width of Texas and let me tell you, it’s never gone back. If kryptonite is Superman’s weakness, then mine is any kind of cookie. And that’s okay. We should be able to embrace who we are. 

What does any of this nonsense mean for characters in fiction novels? It’s fun to have a character as vivacious and in your face as Moxie from, THE CHRONICLES OF MOXIE by Z.B. Heller. She’s a plus size girl living in a modern day world and she faces the same insecurities a lot of us are up against, but it felt real. It was something I could connect with. As a reader, I loved that she was a size 16. According to Government statistics, 64% of women in The United States are plus sized. And the fact she was hilarious and didn’t base her self-worth on the size of her clothing was fantastic. She also had an awesome gay BFF who got a story of his own in the spin-off TIED TOGETHER. Click on the covers to check them out!

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“There are a variety of things that make us who we are as a person. But it’s the differences that make us each unique. The world would be a boring place if we were all one size, one color and even one gender. Life is like a martini; you need to shake it up for it to be great.”

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I’ve been working hard on a new project FOSTERED, and I will admit freely I was very nervous to write what I had in my head because of possible backlash. Dante, a young Black foster kid who’s on his last strike is taken in by a White eccentric family. It’s a coming of age story that shows Dante’s journey as he learns that he deserves more from his life, than the cards he’s been dealt and learns to trust despite the hell he has been through. 

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It deals with race and real life situations. These are hot buttons for some people and I had to make a decision; does my fear outweigh my love for the story? No. This story is near and dear to my heart, these characters have become a piece of me. I was asked by one of my beta readers why I chose the races I did. As authors, should we be limited to writing only about the race, religion or sexual orientation we are?

JenLaw

Sometimes I wonder if this is what my face looks like to my kids every time I tell them “No!’

Leigha Lewis wrote a gut-wrenching tale of a mother’s loss and finding her new beginning. It was tragic and beautiful and took me on a roller coaster ride of emotions. This story is one of self-discovery when it seems all hope is lost. JUST ONE MORE BREATH stole mine. It’s diverse and something incredibly different than what seems to fall into the industry’s norm.

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“Most romance novels are about a “certain guy” falling in love with a “certain girl.” Whenever there’s a beautiful story written with some diversity, about the under dog, or the least likely person finding love…. It melts my heart” -Leigha Lewis

If there’s one book I am totally geeking out about reading it’s WORK SONG by Danielle Allen. It releases on September 27th and it follows Tati Green as she navigates through life when people always seem to be putting her down for not fitting into society’s norms. Um, Hello! We need more stories like this because let’s face it: Most of us don’t fit into society’s little boxes. I live in a pretty conservative area and my arms look like (some pretty badass) coloring books because of all of the ink I have. It’s beautiful, but I don’t fit into the norm around here.

                                                          Click on the covers to check them out

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Danielle brought up a great discussion in one of our author groups a week or two ago and when we talked about it further, she had some really great things to say.

“In our small, Indie Community, the authors are so diverse. But when you check out the selection within the Contemporary Romance genre, it’s all the same. In the Indie Community, when you pick up a Contemporary Romance novel, it is likely to feature a straight, White couple. The heroine will be slim, beautiful, with virtually flawless skin. The hero will be muscular and rich…maybe he’ll have a tattoo, maybe he’ll be brooding, but definitely, he’ll be hot. They will be able-bodied and healthy. The cities in which they live seem to be void of diversity. For the most part, their group of friends will be void of diversity (OR there will be one one-dimensional person of color that serves no purpose, but was thrown in as an afterthought.) The majority of the fantastic worlds that are being created out of brilliant and creative minds are void of diversity. But the world we live in is so incredibly, beautifully diverse. We should celebrate that diversity.

In my latest novel, Work Song, the heroine is a beautiful Black woman with curves and natural hair. She is driven, confident, and intelligent. Writing characters across socioeconomic backgrounds, races, cultures, ethnicities, ages, sexual orientations, body types, disabilities, etc. is not only a way to expand your writing as an author, but it gives readers the chance to not feel as though they are considered “other” or “token” any longer. As lovers of romance, writing and reading love stories comes down to one thing. Love. It’s about the butterflies and the heart palpitations. It’s about meeting THE ONE. It’s about the angst, the passion and the fairytale. It’s about the fantasy, the eroticism, and the heart. But most importantly, it’s about love. And love doesn’t know race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, etc. Love is love.” 

XOXO

Danielle

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Author Niquel offers us something different than the norm with her tale of a Muslim woman taking over as CEO of her family business. Which is completely unheard of right? With a brother in trouble with the wrong kind of people and possible spies inside her company, Sheila Quinn must do everything she can to hold everything together.

CEO

                                                             ^^ Click on the cover to check it out ^^

“Diversity: the art of celebrating and accepting another individuals quirkiness with an open mind and heart.” -Niquel

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USA TODAY Bestselling Author Donna Fasano writes RECLAIM MY HEART and I can’t even summarize better than the blurb.

Check this out.

I’ll wait.

Sixteen years ago, Tyne Whitlock cut all ties to her past and left town under the shameful shadow of a teenage pregnancy. Now her fifteen-year-old son is in trouble with the law, and she is desperate for help. But reaching out to her son’s father, high-powered attorney Lucas Silver Hawk, will tear open the heart-wrenching past in ways Tyne never imagined.

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I don’t know about you, but after reading that my one click finger is twitchy and ready to buy. I know a few mom’s that were teenagers when they had their first babies and this is just another level of diversity to connect to. (And I’m not talking about Teen Mom, no matter how much we love to watch that train wreck.)  Add in the fact the father of the baby is Native American and this book pushes the limits with racism and bigotry… Sign me the hell up. These are real world issues that aren’t always discussed and they should be. This kind of material makes me almost giddy because it is bringing awareness to issues happening in everyday society.

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“Only through the celebration of diversity and the practice of acceptance will we find a place where everyone in the world can live in peace.” — USA TODAY Bestselling Author Donna Fasano

Are you a paranormal junkie like me? Don’t lie, you enjoyed seeing Eric Northman in all his nekkid glory on True Blood. Ohh, that has your attention now doesn’t it? NEW YORK TIMES and USA TODAY Bestselling author Brandy L Rivers pens an exciting tale of a white human who falls for a black angel. Together they have an interracial Nephilim. (Half human, half angel) Lincoln ends up with a Shadowstalker which is THE WORST kind of vampire Mrs. Rivers’ pens and then they have the HARP (Hunters Against Radical Paranormals) after them! What!!! If that doesn’t scream diversity and have you scrambling to the nearest retailer, I don’t know what will.

 BR LID

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“Our world is made up of all colors, sizes and different types of people. Why shouldn’t our books have the same diversity.” — NY TIMES and USA TODAY Bestselling Author Brandy L. Rivers

Another part of our diversity discussion that is near and dear to my heart is illness. As someone who fights and deals with a chronic illness on a daily basis, I want to see more novels with sick characters. Sure, there have been plenty of books out there about side characters who have cancer but it wasn’t the main character struggling. (No, this doesn’t mean they aren’t out there.) THE FAULT IN OUR STARS is a widely popular book that highlights a young girl’s struggle with cancer. Because I don’t want to ugly cry, I’ve avoided that one. Yes, I’m a wussy and probably missing out. One day I will pick it up along with BRIGHT SIDE by Kim Holden.

I want to see more novels that deal with issues like diabetes, heart disease, or even Lupus. As authors, we have this amazing platform in which we can educate as well as entertain. It’s so important to create characters that are flawed in ways that touch our lives. I’m completely biased here, but I feel like I did that with my CHASING HEARTS SERIES and my first book HEARTLESS.

Shameless plug, I know.

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Yes. Yes, I did.

Charlie is a young girl fighting a life long battle of heart disease. Heartless puts you in her shoes, seeing what it’s like to be young and have to struggle to survive because your body won’t function. Add in her inability to let anyone new in because she’s so scared of the inevitable, it will either make you fall in love with her snark or question why she does the things she does.

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                                                        ^^Click on the covers to check them out^^

“People are not like houses in a subdivision. We’re not cookie-cutter images and we shouldn’t strive to be. Our differences and the things that make us unique are what make life interesting. If we could learn as a society to accept and embrace the diversity in all cultures, the world wouldn’t be such a negative place.” — Vanessa Marie

While at a signing last year I discovered USA TODAY Bestselling Author Elizabeth Reyes and her wonderful THE MORENO BROTHERS SERIES. Each book in the series is a stand-alone and follows each of the characters on their personal journey’s to find love. My favorite part about this series was the way this tight-knit Hispanic family sticks together. As someone who is very close to their family, it’s refreshing to see that kind of togetherness even with everyday kinds of dysfunction. Overprotective brothers, a gang of best friend’s who have grown up together, boyfriend’s intimidated by opposite sex best friends, and family drama all center around working at their family’s restaurant. It’s the best. Her latest serial, DEFINING LOVE is the tale of two best friends who decide to take their relationship to the next level when one comes out as a lesbian and declares her feelings. Add in a hunky hero and we have magic.

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“Our differences shouldn’t mean rivalry or competition. The beauty of diversity is the celebration of our differences.” –USA TODAY Bestselling Author Elizabeth Reyes

You, as readers have been calling to read more. You want something unique that mirrors real life and we’ve found a collection of Authors offering just that. Fiction is fun because it allows you to escape the realities of your everyday life. However, finding more novels out there that you can relate to or enjoy because the stories are so different, is an added bonus. I know there are many more diverse books out there and we want to hear about them. Let’s us know what your favorite book is or what you’d like to see from authors.

XoXo- Vanessa

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ALL GIFS ARE FROM GIPHY(DOT)COM AND THE COVERS HAVE BEEN PROVIDED BY THEIR AUTHORS. I DO NOT OWN ANY OF THESE IMAGES. I AM SIMPLY USING THEM FOR YOUR GIGGLE, SNORTING AND VIEWING PLEASURE.   <3