Sign up for my newsletter!

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Spill the Tea Tuesday: F*ck That and Other Profanity in Novels

Today, author Katie O'Connor is here to spill the tea...

First off, thanks to Kara Leigh for having me here today. I love chatting with readers. Not just romance readers, but readers of any genre. This makes me super excited to be here with you. I always want to know what readers think about things because without readers, an author is nothing.

What I’d like to talk about today is profanity.

Let’s begin with a truth bomb, or in Kara’s words, spilling the tea. It’s no secret to anyone who’s ever met me that I love swearing. I find it satisfying. It helps me express my feelings, and sometimes it is just plain fun. My dad could out-cuss anyone on the planet. He made up combinations that nobody else could even think of. Maybe that’s where my love of profanity originated. Like father like daughter.

Recently, I’ve had two discussions on the use of profanity in fiction. One online, the other in person at a reader’s tea held for me by a fan. The readers attending this tea were all sweet romance readers, some read exclusively sweet. Their consensus was no F-bombs, but an occasional cuss word for emphasis was acceptable, just keep them few and far between. I can handle that, though it isn’t always easy. Sometimes, I write my first draft with the profanity in it and edit it afterward. Thank heaven for a good editor who catches the ones I miss.

The online profanity discussion was another animal entirely. As was strolling through social media, as most of us do, and this person comes onto a writer’s group and makes a post which flat-out stated that if you include ANY profanity in your book, you drive away most of your readers. It was, in their opinion, paramount that swearing was banished from all books.

I know nothing about the original poster’s life or beliefs, but to me, it seemed a rather bold and combative stance, like they were picking a fight. Or maybe just full of righteous superiority. Either way, it got my hackles up.

Of course, me being me, I had to disagree. An argument ensued. It was pretty tame, but at the same time, a bit heated. Dozens of people chimed in, each with their own opinion. Most of the combatants believed that some profanity was acceptable. They agreed that unless you were writing erotica of some fashion, cussing should be used sparingly. One author who wrote dark detective stories, claimed their readers LOVE the swearing. Eventually, the original poster went silent though the discussion continued without them. I don’t know who won the argument as there were fighters on both sides of the issue.

As you might have guessed, I don’t have an issue with profanity in books. Primarily, I read sweeter romances with closed door sex and a bit of heat. Some swearing doesn’t bother me, often it passes by unremarked and barely noticed. I picked up a title last week. It was listed as a sweet romance. Partially true. Some kissing, no sex. But lord love a duck, there were enough curses that it bothered even me. When I popped back onto the web, I found that the book had a few five-star reviews, but most were one and two-star. All the reviews mentioned the excessive profanity. This leads me to believe that for most readers profanity is okay, within limits.

This brings me around to you. What do you read and where do you stand in regards to “bad” language in a book? Are there words you NEVER want to see? Does it matter to you one way or the other? 

Come on, readers, it’s time to spill your tea and share your reader opinions. Can’t wait to hear from you.

Katie O’Connor lives in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. She married her high school sweetheart and is living her happily ever after. 

She’s dabbled in writing since high school because something drives her to create stories. She swears that it’s impossible for her NOT to write. Unsatisfied with one genre, Katie writes contemporary romance, erotic romance and erotica. Recently, she’s crafted her first cozy mystery with the intention of publishing a cozy mystery series.

She believes in all things magical; including dragons, fairies, UFOs, ghosts, and house pixies. But most of all she believes in love, romance and hope.

Katie likes to make it up as she goes along and dreams of publishing a mixed genre novel. It is going to be an erotic, shape shifter, vampire, steampunk, sci-fi, murder mystery, adventure, romantic, western, historical, thriller. It will be her biography. 

She lives life with humor, hope and copious quantities of caffeine. You can find more about Katie on her website, newsletter, Facebook, BookBub, Instagram, Goodreads, and her readers' group

The tea has been spilled! Who's gonna clean it up? 
Drop your thoughts in the comments!

Friday, October 21, 2022

Fighting Fibro: A Spiritual Awakening?


In my last update post, back in August, I'd mentioned I was in the midst of yet another medication change. Well, I've been back to the doctor once since then, and I'm now completely off the Cymbalta--YAY for that! 

I've upped my dosage of Prozac to 20mg per day, which I now take at night, a couple of hours before bed. This has helped tremendously! I'm sleeping so much better at night, and I wake up feeling more refreshed than I used to. 

Unfortunately, I still don't feel like I'm at my best.

While I'm not napping every day anymore, I'm still kinda sluggish. I still feel like everything around me is foggy and distorted. I'm struggling like you wouldn't believe to focus on tasks and writing. Ugh -- my writing has suffered so, so much lately. Now, I should mention I've been dealing with some family, friend, and financial stress, too, which I know doesn't help. Plus, the weather is changing, temps are dropping, and that has always affected me in negative ways. Increased joint pain, a drop in mood, etc. 

The only way I can truly describe how I've been feeling is like I'm carrying chains around on my body. I feel weighed down. Heavy. Not just physically, but mentally and emotionally, too. And I'm doing this in a constant fog, like I can't truly see anything clearly, everything is dull and fuzzy, and I'm slow to comprehend and process things. 

This is constant. Non-stop. All day. Everyday. 

Until last weekend...

My aunt -- God love her -- dragged me to a local psychic and holistic healing fair. Now, I went because she wanted me to and because I knew there'd be local vendors selling their wares, and well, I love to shop for Christmas gifts at these types of things. 

I need to preface the rest of this post by stating the following facts:

1. My aunt is spiritual but not necessarily religious. She leans toward Wiccan beliefs.

2. I grew up going to church. I've been baptized. I've always believed in God. 

3. I do not judge anyone for their beliefs. Ever. 

4. I also believe in science and medicine. If I can see it, feel it, touch it, smell it, taste it, etc., I tend to believe it. Yes, I realize this is in direction opposition to the entire concept of faith. BUT! I also firmly believe that just because *I, personally* haven't experienced something doesn't mean it's not real. I've never seen a ghost. Or an alien. Doesn't mean those things don't exist, right? 

So, now that I have that out of the way... We're at this fair and having a good time. I'm enjoying myself. My aunt stops at a Reiki healing booth. She's so excited! Asking me if I've ever had Reiki. I said no, because I haven't. And I'm not a liar. My aunt then asks if I want to--she's insistent it can help me with my Fibro pain (and all those pesky negative thoughts and emotions I've been battling lately). She tells me to try it, to keep an open mind. 

I'll admit, I was skeptical. But--and I swear this was the exact thought that went through my mind--what harm can come from trying this? It's not like it will hurt me or cause anymore pain than I'm already in, right? So, I took a deep breath, promised to keep an open mind, and I sat down in the Reiki Master's chair. 

She asked me (1) what I've been struggling with lately, (2) if I believed in God or some sort of higher power, and (3) what I wanted from our session. My answers to those: (1) pain in my left knee, across my lower back, along my shoulder blades, extreme fatigue, emotional stress about certain personal relationships, (2) yes, I do, and (3) to not feel so "heavy" all the time.

Then, the session began. I closed my eyes and listened to her soothing voice, the soft music playing, and the jangle of her bracelets. 

Thirty minutes later, she was done, and I opened my eyes...

The pain I'd been in when I'd first sat down in her chair was GONE! The constant fog surrounded me lifted. And I just felt lighter. My mental attitude was vastly improved. I wasn't suffering from bone-weary exhaustion. 

I'm not sure I can fully explain what she did or how it helped, but it did! Remember point #4 above: if I can see it, touch it, taste it, smell it, etc., I believe it? Well, I felt an actual physical difference. One minute, I had very real pain. When she was done, that pain was gone. The world around me was suddenly clearer. The weight I'd been carrying disappeared, and my shoulders just felt lighter. 

It's been a full week now, and I'm still feeling incredible. Yes, I've had some pain again, but I'm still taking my medication, still working out, still eating a low-carb diet. I'll continue to follow my doctor's orders, but I am absolutely including regular Reiki sessions into my treatment plan. 

This experience wasn't something I'd ever expected, and if not for my aunt, I probably never would've taken this leap of faith. But I am so glad I did, and I cannot wait to see how much better I continue to get with this new opportunity open to me. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Spill the Tea Tuesday: Writing with Disabilities

Today, author Leigh Titler is here to spill the tea...

Hello everyone, my name is Leigh Titler, and I am a Dark Fantasy/ Paranormal Romance Author, and this is my story. I have always had a love for the written word. Growing up I had to teach myself different ways to read. I found out that I have Dyslexia. 

My biggest dream was to be a Best-Selling Author, but with my disabilities I was told it was out of my grasp. My mom and dad had always told me I could do anything, and the sky was never my limit so aim for the stars. Knowing my dream of being a writer was out of the question, I began a career in the mental health field. I worked in that field for over 20 years. One day I got severely hurt and was told I could no longer work in the field that I gave my heart and soul to. I fell into a deep depression and lost my spark.

My beloved husband of 20 years was cleaning out some packed boxes in my home office and came across short stories that I had written. He dropped the folder in my lap and told me to start writing again so I could escape and be happy once again. When my sister Sonya overheard us talking, she became a force to be reckoned with when I told her my writing would never go anywhere. 

Everyday she would hound me, “Did you write today? How much have you written?” When I finally finished The Curse of Aadya, she pushed and pushed me to publish it. So, I did, not knowing anything about the industry. It did not go well, only because I didn’t know anything about marketing or how to promote my book. I ended up loosing over 10 thousand dollars because of this mistake. 

With the help from some well-established authors, I fought for the rights back to my books and did a rewrite and republished. Aadya’s Curse and Returning to Aadya was born. With the help of Twisted Wolf Graphix, the new me was born. My family has supported me in every way. Sonya is still to this day telling me and pushing me to grow and love her for it more and more each day. My mother in law helps me with proof reading to help with my Dyslexia, my nephew Randy and my sister in law Spring help with make videos for TikTok and making merchandise for my swag shop. One of my very best friends Jill is my final editor. My two childhood best friends were the inspiration for two of the main characters in the Princesses of Aadya Trilogy, Adrienne is my Acelyn and Michelle is my Zanderley. Savannah and Crespin from Twisted Wolf Graphix are my saving grace. They do amazing work; they listened to me and took my ideas and brought them to life.

I am about to take my career one step further, my first book under my new pen name will launch a new series. The pen name I will be using for my new adventure will be Kitten. I will still be writing Dark Fantasy/ Paranormal Romance under Leigh Titler, but Kitten opens a door into BDSM Erotica romance. I have hidden my true self from the world for way to long. At 41 years old I finally feel like I am living, not just existing.

I also want to help other aspiring authors to go after their dreams. It does not matter if you have disabilities, just scared that no one will read their work, or don’t know where to start. To all of you I am here to help in anyway I can. You can do it because I believe in you.

Leigh Titler is a Dark Fantasy/ Paranormal Romance Author. She hopes her readers love her stories as much as she does. She is always open for suggestions or ideas for stories. When she's not in her writing cave, she loves to spend time with her  family and friends. Leigh finds great joy in many things. Here are just a few, Fishing in the Gulf of Mexico, playing video games, reading and writing, and most of all sitting around talking with family and friends when her husband BBQ's. 

Growing up, learning was very hard for her; she was diagnosed with ADHD and Dyslexia when she was in junior high. Because of her love for books, she didn't let it slow her down. She pushed her way through and found ways that worked for her to learn. Her advice to anyone that wants to be a writer or anything they want; is don't give up on your dreams. The only person that can hold you back is yourself. Her mom and dad always told her that the sky was the limits... So, she reached for the stars. You can find more about Leigh and her books via Amazon and her Facebook page. 

The tea has been spilled! Who's gonna clean it up? 
Drop your thoughts in the comments!

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Spill the Tea Tuesday: The Scary Part of Being a Writer

Today, author Audrey Grace is here to spill the tea...

What’s scarier than publishing your first book? 

Delving into a completely new genre, one you haven’t spent much time writing in decades. 

That’s me, taking the plunge into the horror and thriller genre. Let me call it horror light because there’s more thriller in it than horror, but it still doesn’t count as straight up thriller. The ghosts involved and some of my deepest darkest fears come alive on paper would agree it’s a horror book. 

Like anything else in my life, I jumped in without thinking too much. It all started with a challenge--to write a romance with horror. Somehow, I pulled it off and loved it. It reminded me of the old days when I could stretch my writing fingers and have no limits to my creative flow. This book isn’t romance at all. As a matter of fact, I gave myself a higher challenge of making it a YA book, where teens and adults alike could enjoy it. And I jumped right in and forgot to plug my nose. 

Maybe jumping is too harsh - It was more like tiptoeing for a year while finishing other projects and then getting the green light to go, go, go. And go I did. This passion project started with a cover, one that sparked a Google search and a legend I couldn’t pass up. I threw in a few cups of  my passion of lesser known history, and sprinkled in a dash of ‘what am I doing?’ before baking up a wonderful finished novel that my early readers say they would love as a movie. 

Did I stop in the middle and wonder what was I thinking? Yes, yes I did. But I wouldn’t change it for the world. Spinning interesting stories with twists and turns is my passion, one I’ll keep doing for as long as I’m able. 

Paper Flight might be the first book for Audrey Grace, but it won’t be the last. With my love of urban legends and huge cover collection, I won’t run out of ideas anytime soon.

Audrey Grace lives in the Midwest and grew up with the influences of some of the greatest horror and thriller writers of all time. Her own writing journey began with short spooky stories to tell around the campfire and eventually, she started writing them down. As she did so, they grew into full books. With the nudge of her friend, she decided to throw caution to the wind and become an author. Her favorite stories to write are terrifying spins on urban legends from around the world. 

While Audrey likes to write on the dark side, she loves romance, Victorian era cosplay, musicals, and history shows. You can find her visiting haunted locations whenever she gets a chance. You can also find her on Facebook.

The tea has been spilled! Who's gonna clean it up? 
Drop your thoughts in the comments!

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Spill the Tea Tuesday: K-Pop Rocks!

Today, author Judith Gonda is here to spill the tea...

I’m thrilled to join you today to spill the tea! I’m so excited to share how the K-pop boy band Stray Kids has inspired me as a writer and brought me great joy! 

I first discovered Stray Kids two years ago. 2020 had been a rough year. One night I was scrolling through my Twitter timeline as I often did in the wee hours when pandemic angst haunted me. The February 2020 release of my debut mystery novel, MURDER IN THE SECRET MAZE had coincided with the beginning of the pandemic. Not ideal. Did anyone want to hear about a newlywed landscape architect convinced her missing husband had met with foul play when the whole world was grappling with a terrifying disease?  Everyone, myself included, was preoccupied about their own survival, not some fictional character’s. 

As I randomly scrolled, I happened upon a post by a book blogger I followed. It included a link to the official Stray Kids music video for their hit “God’s Menu,” an ode to their unique flavor of music. 

Stray Kids were the joy I didn’t know I needed. I was immediately mesmerized. I’ve always loved music, but this was different. Their amazing stage presence, the precise execution of their synchronized dance routines, the beautiful range and harmony of their voices—it was all breathtaking. Like other K-pop groups, they wore flashy fits, glitter makeup, and sported hair colors in every shade of My Little Pony. Each of the eight members had his own unique charm and charisma. I was instantly drawn to Felix, the member whose angelic face belied his deep voice. And then there was Hyunjin, the sexy Adonis of the group, whose hypnotic gaze pierced through the computer screen and captured my heart. But there was something special about the Stray Kids that went beyond their brilliant talent. They seemed to be very nice people too. Decent human beings. Authentic. Sincere. Humble. Polite. Compassionate. Warm-hearted. With nary a hint of the narcissism often seen in so many celebrities. Their cheerful demeanors and playfulness always put me in a good mood.

It's so difficult to pick my favorite thing about them. But if pressed, I’d have to say it’s the mental health related themes of hope, optimism, inclusivity, resilience, love, caring, and perseverance. These themes infuse their songs, especially in relation to how they impact their own professional journey in the very competitive Kpop industry. Their lyrics are uplifting, humorous, and feisty. A few songs focus on love and sexual attraction, but most are about loving yourself, valuing your own voice, and not caving to feelings of self-doubt. They thumb their nose at haters, using the hate of others to fuel their artistic journey to always try harder. They let criticism and rejection roll off their backs. 

It wasn’t long before I realized the challenges they faced as Kpop idols, the self-doubt, the doubts of others, the subjectivity of critics and reviewers, were similar issues that writers faced. 

I soon found out I wasn’t alone in my admiration of Stray Kids. They were gaining popularity internationally. And this past July, I had the chance to see them in person when their Maniac concert came to Los Angeles.

I was convinced the positivity I felt from their videos would be the same if I saw them in person. And I’m happy to report, I was correct. They were even warmer and more joyful than I’d expected. Their positivity, love for their fans, and determination to give their all came across so strongly, whether it was playfully adding a couple of cartwheels to a number, thanking the fans profusely, or respectfully acknowledging the ASL interpreter signing their rap songs with gusto. When they spoke to the audience it mirrored the message of their songs, acceptance. They even asked how many in the audience had come alone. The show of hands was met with supportive applause. 

They communicate with their Korean and international fans often (most members speak some English and two are Australian), which builds bonds. I liken it to the Facebook cozy mystery groups where authors and their readers interact and make friends. They not only have music videos, they have practice videos, and Vlives and Bubble, apps where K-pop idols talk to fans in real time, and where discussion of their TV viewing habits led me down the K-drama rabbit hole (but that’s another blog post). Their humor and that of their fans, keeps me buoyed and hopeful for the world because I’ve encountered so many positive-minded people. Really sweet people. 

Of course, there are some villains, as in any good story. The antis, as they’re called, who are the haters notorious for starting malicious rumors about Kpop idols, somewhat analogous to the trolls who write random mean-spirited reviews. But like resilient writers, Stray Kids focus on the positive and keep moving forward.

I’ve gone on a lot about how uplifting the Stray Kids are, but what have I learned from them as it relates to publishing? Parallels abound. Focus on producing a lot of high-quality content, not only books, but for blog posts and social media. Be authentic, be sincere, and embrace your own voice. In keeping with this sentiment, in MURDER IN THE COMMUNITY GARDEN, the third Tory Benning mystery, my MC has become a Stray Kids fan.

I’m also trying to model the way Stray Kids interact with their audience, by putting myself out there more, despite my introvert tendencies. I see how brave the Stray Kids are about not only expressing their talent, but promoting it as well, and writers must do the same, despite all the potential rejection we face. Positivity begets positivity. And determination leads to success. If you need some sunshine in your life, check out the Stray Kids!

Judith Gonda is a mystery writer and Ph.D. psychologist with a penchant for Pomeranians and puns, so it's not surprising that psychology, Poms, and puns pop up in her amateur sleuth mysteries. To learn more about her books, please visit her website. You can also follow Judith on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

The tea has been spilled! Who's gonna clean it up? 
Drop your thoughts in the comments!

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Spill the Tea Tuesday: Writing Inspiration

 Today, author Leah Dobrinska is here to spill the tea...

Aren’t you ever afraid you’ll run out of ideas?
I get this question a lot. 

How did you come up with this story?
That’s another FAQ.

Today, I thought I’d spill the tea on writing inspiration. The cool thing about writing—or creating in general—is that it’s a constantly evolving process. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Inspiration will strike me in a different way than it’ll strike Kara or any number of the other authors.

Here are just a couple examples:

Some authors I know are deeply inspired by photos and visuals. They’ll spend hours upon hours crafting Pinterest mood boards, finding images that spark an idea or reinforce a vision they have. Or they visit a certain place and, in their mind, a fictional world immediately springs up around it.

Some authors think first of famous people who fit the look of their main characters. They find photos that they pin up for reference when describing physical features.

Some authors are inspired by certain color schemes. I know an author who carries around sticky-tabs that are the same color scheme as her book’s cover, just because it makes her feel happy and close to her story.

Some authors require certain scents to write. A particular brand and scent of candle gets associated with a book, and it must be burning each time they set out to put pen to paper (or fingers to keys). 

For me, I’m a music person. In the early stages of brainstorming a new story idea, I start to compile a playlist. Sometimes the songs I add to it are tied to specific plot points. For example, my entire debut novel, Love at On Deck Café, was inspired by “The Long Way” by Brett Eldridge. I heard the song on the radio, and immediately a scene and two characters—complete with their backstories—popped into my head. While much of the plot changed from first draft to final draft, that scene—the late-night drive around town that Julia takes with Samson—remained at the very center (literally!) of the book. 
In other cases, when I’m picking songs for my playlist I’m considering the overall vibe and how it overlaps or calls to mind how I want the book to feel. Perhaps no one but me would understand why the song makes the playlist, but there’s just something about it that connects it to the story for me. My second book, Good To Be Home, features Daniel, a side-character from Love at On Deck Café. I knew his personality, and when I heard the song “Hold My Girl” by George Ezra, I felt a pang in my chest at how perfectly the desperate sentiment of that song captures exactly how I imagined Daniel feeling about his ex-girlfriend, Isabel. He just wants a chance to hold her! (Don’t worry…I gave him that chance!)

My third book in the Mapleton series is out today, actually! It’s a Christmas small town romance titled Together With You. I had already drafted the first version of the book when Taylor Swift dropped “Christmas Tree Farm” a few years back, but it immediately went on the playlist just for the general merriment it provides and for the fact that Together With You is set on a Christmas tree farm. Likewise, there’s an ugly Christmas sweater scene, and the song “You Look Good” by Lady A basically inspired the entire tone of it—kind of flirty, kind of feisty, and so much fun. 

I build my book playlists before I begin drafting and tweak them as I go. Then I play them. Over and over (and over!) again—not while I’m writing, but pretty much any other time of day. My family really loves me for it (ha!), but this is one way I stay connected to my story—mulling over ideas and scenes—even when I’m not actively working. Listening to the music that’s connected to what I’m creating makes me eager to get back to my projects. And it always amazes me how the right song can call to mind the exact right emotion I’m trying to convey.

So to answer the question at the top of this post, no! I’m not afraid I’ll run out of ideas. I’ve got too much fodder for stories all around me! I think most authors would agree.

Leah Dobrinska is the author of the Larkspur Library Mysteries, a cozy mystery series set in the Wisconsin Northwoods (Level Best Books, 2022), and the Mapleton novels, a series of standalone small town romances. She earned her degree in English Literature from UW-Madison where she was awarded the Dean’s Prize and served as a Writing Fellow. She has since worked as a freelance writer, editor, and content marketer. Leah lives in Wisconsin with her husband and their gaggle of kids. When she's not writing, handing out snacks, or visiting local parks, Leah enjoys reading and running. Find out more about Leah, join her newsletter community, and connect with her through her website, Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok.

The tea has been spilled! Who's gonna clean it up? 
Drop your thoughts in the comments!

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Spill the Tea Tuesday: Writing with Your Love

 Today, author Ashby Frost is spilling the tea...

Writing short stories and novels with your significant other can be challenging but extremely rewarding. I love collaborating storylines and ideas off Crespin; bouncing that level of imagination at work off each other is incredible, and I'm blessed to have a husband who supports my writing and understands each book's creation and publishing process. 

Do we clash on some ideas? Of course, we take a step away from that WIP and work on another or start a new one, then return to the last one with fresh eyes and a clear mind to tackle the storyline again. I love writing with Crespin, and although we write together and co-write short stories and novels, we also write our own projects. 

I highly recommend writing with the one you love but be sure you have enough coffee, wine, and chocolate.

Ashby Frost is a thriller author who recently delved into the horror genre while writing with her husband, Crespin Frost, a horror author. Ashby & Crespin went to high school in North Central Texas, where they developed a bond of love and friendship and married as teenagers. Residing in a small lake town in Texas with their dog Odie Beau they embark on many adventures and enjoy writing together and running their business Twisted Wolf Graphix. 

Ashby has been writing almost all her life; she has found that her love of writing thrillers and murder suspense is her favorite. She loves not knowing where a story or character will take her at the beginning; she just lets the words and imagination flow onto the screen and is usually very pleased with the new short story or novel she has created. Ashby is fascinated with female serial killers and loves to use them in her stories; she also writes stories of strong women; even if they get knocked down, they get back up and do whatever they must to save their own life!

You can learn more about Ashby on Amazon and Facebook.

The tea has been spilled! Who's gonna clean it up? 
Drop your thoughts in the comments!