This has been a hell of a year. And, yeah, I know it’s too early for a year in review thing, so I’ll save that. But, like, for real.

First of all, the publisher for my Vegas books isn’t publishing books anymore. Right in the dang middle. Well, two-thirds of the way through. So, I self-published. Which has been a long learning curve. (I’m totally still learning because there is so freaking much to learn.) For now, they’re all three available in Kindle Unlimited so go read the hell out of those, lovelies.

Second, I went back to the day job. It’s a different day job but it’s at the same place. I work with some of the same wonderful people and some new, really cool people and I pretty much love this decision every day, except when it’s time to get up and get ready and I think… I used to spend every day in my pajamas, writing.

And then I get paid or I think about how good the routine, the socialization, the productivity has been for my personal mental health and it’s okay.

Third, I don’t know if I’ve ever discussed this here (maybe when I talked about creating a character who lives with depression?), but I… live with depression and anxiety.

I’d been on the same antidepressant a long time and the side effects had started to outweigh the benefits. I mean, there are other antidepressants out there. It’s a complicated story I won’t bore you with, but I finally convinced my doctor (who I have a wonderful working relationship with) to try me on something new. 

Before that, between the self-pubbing and the day jobbing and the depressing side effects and the marketing the books I had out/coming out? I’d become blocked. Writer blocked, which is about a million times worse than any other time of blocking.

I was working on the third Infamous. Well, let me rephrase: I was supposed to be working on the third Infamous book. Now, before I got blocked, I’d written nearly 70,000 words on the story. I was well over 2/3 of the way through the story. I had an outline. It should’ve been smooth sailing to the finish line.

It was not. 

Anyway, long story short–well, I never was very good at shortening stories. I got my antidepressant change, and it was like a fog began to clear, creatively. I made some hard decisions that I don’t really want to go into because I don’t want to have to defend them. 

But I made a very easy decision to work on a second Cupid’s Cafe story. The original will be re-released next year by Inkspell Publishing. Some of you may (or may not) remember that Aidan, the hero, had a best friend. He wasn’t the nicest of guys, but readers liked him. Kurt, his name was, and he came to me fully-formed. And, he was a lot of things, but he was funny as well.

And his heroine, Wynona? She came very fully-formed herself. The great thing about Cupid’s Cafe is that these are less-than-conventional romance characters. 

You know what? It’s way too soon to go into this much detail. I’m just in the planning pages, though I think I’ll have it written in the next three months or so. At any rate, I’m writing again, and that’s a beautiful thing.

I plot. I spend weeks figuring out characters, locations, and flaws. And then I dig in deep. I plot my story out, by acts and beats, down to each and every scene of my story. And, sometimes, those scenes have beats and entire stretches of dialog in the notes.

Thinking Through Our Fingers: In the Mind of an Outliner – Arcs and Structure.

This is front loading a story with lots of work. I know this. But as a teacher, mom, wife, and all the other things, I realized I was doing more work trying to keep a story in my head than taking the time (several weeks) to really think through where I was going. Having a structured system lets me see the big picture and the small picture.

Like the quote says, I realize it’s a lot of work. I once bemoaned how long my writing process takes me and the wise K.M. Weiland tweeted back to me, to paraphrase, that’s the least important thing in writing I could worry about. And she’s so freaking right. Getting the story right, and layered with resonance, is the most important thing. How we get there are just details.

I have to add that once I start writing, it goes pretty fast. I can do up to 6k a day because everything is already in place, except the actual words. That becomes the easy part, at least in the first draft. I sprint with my friends, the words flying from my fingertips because I know where I’ve been, I know where I’m at, and I know where I’m going. Need to foreshadow–no problem.

I highly recommend that people try plotting, to their own comfort level. There are some things in your story that you will need to work out. Doing that ahead of time prevents writer’s block.

Best resources for plotting

Good luck!

P.S. Don’t forget my new novella, out now, My Fake Vegas Boyfriend. It’s book one of my Viva Las Vegas series set in 1958. Books 2 will be out in early April and book 3 in mid-June. Read chapter one here.

Today my book, My Fake Vegas Boyfriend, was released. (Did you know you can read Chapter 1 right here, on my site? Check it out.)

This is book one in my Viva Las Vegas series and the other two will be released in April and June. There’s so much I love about this series–the characters, the setting, the clothes, but today? The music.

There were 3 songs that inspired this book (and then, in turn, it became a series because I wasn’t ready to leave that world). The songs may not have been out in 1958 (when the stories take place), they may be older or may not have been out yet. But when the bud of an idea for this story first began, it was about evoking a feeling for the time and the people who occupied it.

The first song was Sway by Rosemary Clooney. That beat, the passion in the lyrics, the back-and-forth of two people falling in love was my foundation for the story ideas.

In writing this story, and after listening to Sway, I knew there would be a dance scene. I’ve never written one of those before, and the logistics of how to write that without it becoming, “He twirled her. She spun,” was intimidating indeed. I think I pulled it off. In fact, it was one of those things like dancing, where I just let myself access the moment and went with it and when I was done, I thought, “Damn. That’s actually good.”

But then to pick the song they would’ve been able to dance to. It had to be something I connected to, something that spoke to where they were emotionally in the story at that point, and something released before or in 1958. I chose Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You by Frankie Valli and, seriously, if you listen to the song and read that scene… it works well.

Finally, a song that helped me access the core conflict for Layla. It’s not an exact replica of her feelings, but it speaks to the situation she finds herself in. I don’t want to say anything spoilery, so I’m just going to leave the song here and hope you enjoy it– Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow by The Shirelles.

I’ve very much enjoyed this walk down memory lane with you. These stories came about when I was in a dark place emotionally and I literally wrote myself out of a depression. They’re magical, I’m very proud of them, and I hope you’ll enjoy them as much as I did.

My Fake Vegas Boyfriend

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Note: This post is about Exactly Like You, which is on sale this week until December 1. Here’s a quick buy link from Amazon or hop over to the book’s page for a list of retailers.

Further note: I discuss in this post heroines I’ve written with depression and one who is a former cutter, so trigger warning.

When I wrote my last book, Exactly Like You, I wanted to do something I didn’t often see done–tackle depression in a hero/heroine. I know I’m not the first to write about this, and won’t be the last. And that’s great news because the stigma associated with mental illness needs to be blown away.

Roxie’s life had been decimated by some difficult situations (her sister’s suicide and a traumatic event at her former job as a social worker). She’s not sad or down; she’s lost in the quagmire of clinical depression. And it scares her parents and, eventually, Aidan so much they sort of stop seeing her and only see the disease.

I wanted to accurately portray the illness; no instantly getting better because of true love’s first kiss or anything. And I think I did a good job. The Genre Minx, who reviewed the book, had this to say:

I loved that Ms. Sizemore was able to write a story dealing with a difficult subject and not make it cliche or overly dramatic. Roxie’s struggle is real and she owns her struggle.

Natalie Rowe gave this glowing praise on the topic in her review on Goodreads:

The story tackles an issue of depression, it also portrays it so well! Roxie’s mental battle is so well written, you can really understand her anxieties and irrational thoughts that come with depression. I’ve read a lot of books where somebody is battling with depression and everything is just constant sadness. Which isn’t what depression is. This book portrayed it perfectly.

Falling in love doesn’t solve every problem and it shouldn’t make a character complete. What it should do, in fiction and in real life, is make us want to be a better version of who we are, the whole person we can be–if we’re willing to put in the work.

It’s why I love writing romance and why I’ll keep creating messy, real characters to populate my books. Next year, the first book in my Viva Las Vegas series, My Fake Vegas Boyfriend, debuts on February 6. The heroine of that book is a former cutter who uses photography as an outlet for the strong urges she still has to bring emotional relief with cutting. I love her, I love the hero and heroine’s journey.

For now, check out Exactly Like You while it’s on sale and get ready to Vegas it up next year, fifties style.

Since I started writing, I’ve wanted to see my name on a cover.

I wanted the surge of joy, of knowing I made that! I started this blog in 2007, and it’s always been Because, this is me. I have a thing about being real and I don’t want to hide anything about myself. (Yes, I recognize the irony of including my web address name on the image. Wait, is that irony or idiocy?)

In the last few months, though, I’ve started to feel a little discomfort.

Writing is highly personal. I’m not saying I act out the risque scenes in my novels at all, but I do fill every sentence with a bit of my soul. And that, for me, is far more personal. Do I really want to deal with people being able to climb inside my head that way?  Not people, reader people or other writers–they get it. But, say, those I come in contact with at work or who attend church with me.

The argument in favor of #writing anonymously. #pennames Click To Tweet

I just keep bumping into this wall.

Don’t post that, someone who comes into the office might take it the wrong way. Don’t talk about your feelings, you have to look people in the eye. And then, I feel fake. It’s not about being fake, it’s about the freedom to be MORE real because there’s a seperateness. My personal life, my professional life, my writing life, my basketball mom life–all different. My life.

And, in the end, it’s my choice.

So, I’ll give you plenty of warning. If you get here by RSS, email, twitter, or my Facebook page, you won’t have any trouble finding me.


P.S. On the writing side, I’m writing a novella for a submission call. It’s romance set in the 1950s, which I adore. If I don’t get picked up, I may publish it here. Someone’s going to read the damn thing. ;-)

Image was created using images from and Mel’s Brushes.

We are finally at the end of what heroes and heroines do and don’t do for love. Because that title was such a mouthful, I broke it up into 4 segments. Again, I welcome all comments and thoughts below. Without further ado:

Five things your heroine should never do because she’s in love and that makes everything okay (because it, in fact, does not):

1. String two guys along. Not speaking of menage stories here. I’m saying a heroine does not spend the entire story unclear on whether she loves the hero enough to cut loose her backup guy. I don’t like women who do this in real life, I don’t respect them. I will not respect a heroine who pulls this trashy crap.

2. Run away. I know, I know this one happens all the time. I’ve read them. And enjoyed them. But… it’s not entirely satisfying. Yes, he chases her down and she knows he really cares. But… what did she put on the line? She’s gone. It’s all on him to solve the black moment. What’s going to happen the first time they hit the next crisis in their relationship? Because happily ever after doesn’t mean easy ever after. It means this couple has proven they will stick it out and make their relationship work.

I have to clarify, though, that this isn’t the same as the heroine offering him her sacrifice and giving him the choice, then going so that he can make his decision. On the other hand, I’ve also read books where the heroine arced and ran away for no other reason than that it was time for a black moment. If that’s the big crisis they need to solve, there’s no motivation for her to run–it’s not really a crisis. Your story already ended and you forgot to write it that way.

3. Stalk him. Caveat: Stalk him in a way that doesn’t involve an external plot detail. For example, if she’s a detective hired to follow him around, then that’s not stalking. She’s doing her job. If she’s sneaking around to see what he’s up to because she’s a jealous psychobeast or she doesn’t trust him–there’s not a happy ending in their future.

4. Belittle him. Remember, I’m describing actions after the two have come to care for one another, whether they admit it or not. She doesn’t have to realize she likes him yet, she doesn’t have to stop with the witty banter. But she does have to not be cruel, demeaning, or humiliating in the way she speaks to him.

People have arguments, you say. Might these things not slip out? I suppose they might. But she’ll feel bad for it. And when we truly feel remorseful, we make sure not to repeat the mistake. You’re supposed to be writing a character who is growing, who is learning from her mistakes. This is a mistake.

5. Trade sex/her body for anything. I don’t care if it’s the house her grandmother grew up in. I don’t care if it’s the last jelly doughnut. Don’t do it! Don’t send the message that the heroine’s only worth, especially to the love of her life, is her body. It’s demeaning and sad. Do you think it’ll crank up sexual tension? Yeah, someone having sex they don’t want to have because it’s a trade-off for what they need, because that’s the only shred of power they have left, is not at all sexy.

Sure, it happened in Pretty Woman (a romantic comedy). But, the writer made a distinction between the sex she was paid to have and the sex she wanted to have (with the kiss). Not to mention that she spent the entire movie fighting against everyone’s belief that she held no worth because she traded sex for money. And, come on. You know and I know, that was prettied up for a story. Sex workers don’t do that job because it has perks. They do it, often, because life or bad choices have led them to a place of desperation and, more often than not, a man takes away their choice. I could rant all day on this. But, I won’t. Just don’t do it.

But writers break these rules all the time!

That’s because they’re not rules. First of all, I made them up and who am I to give anyone rules? Second, like most of writing’s rules, they can be broken with wonderful results. But you better be good. And I don’t mean talented. You don’t send the fella who is a genius at filleting fish to the hospital to remove a brain tumor. Talent does not equal skill. Skill is acquired through learning and practice. So, you’d better be good skilled.

And you don’t break any rule because it makes the story easier to write or it puts this character where you need them to be. There are only three reasons to break a rule: character, character, character. Yeah, I lied. There’s only one reason. Because your character is well-motivated, fleshed out, and it serves their story. Good writing never serves the writer.

And this concludes my whackadoo ideas series of blog posts on how heroes and heroines should and should not show love. Next week, my fantabulously brilliant daughter will be guest blogging (unless she stands me up) about stories in video games. I’m excited.

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–Credit for suggestions 1,2, and 3 go to my critique partner, Landra Graf (Twitter, Site). She thinks way faster than I do, apparently. Because, while I was coming up with 4 and 5, she was rattling them off.

Photo used with permission from stock.xchng. Photo by: Przemyslaw ‘env1ro’ Szczepanski.

Last week, I added a parenthetical remark to my list of things a heroine should do. That aside sparked the idea for this post. I’m limiting myself to ten randomly chosen ideas (broken into two weeks–my words go on and on!), but there are probably a million more. Please  add yours in the comments.

Five things your hero should never do because he cares (in no particular order)

1. Beat her. I would have believed this self-explanatory as well as perhaps negated by the-hero-is-flawed-but-always-acts-heroically rule. I was wrong. Sophia Martin (Twitter, Site) shared a story she remembered in which “the hero BEAT the heroine for a transgression AND SHE FORGAVE HIM.” Then, she (the heroine) found herself charmed by a promise to beat their children and send them to her for comfort.

Heroes never assault women. Any women, but especially the heroine.

2. Cheat on her. Nothing says, “I couldn’t care less about your feelings,” like cheating. I’m not talking glittery hoo-ha here. There’s a line where the couple starts the you’re-my-potential-mate dance. Heroes don’t step outside that line.

I might, and that’s a doubtful might, forgive a hero who cheated in the past. But a hero, in the story of loving the heroine, who has sex with someone else after they’ve kissed, declared their intentions, or become intimate? No. Just no.

3. Dump her because he has trust issues. And is a stupid ass-hat. This, and the one above, were shared by Carinae L’etoile (Twitter, Site). She read a book where the heroine has a twin. That she doesn’t know about. Who stars in porn. See the big misunderstanding coming?

Hero sees new, unknown twin in porn (how did he explain that?) and, according to Carinae, “viciously kicks the heroine to the curb.”

What?? So, heroes with trust issues? That’s fine, if it’s fear of the future or of being hurt. The fear that his heroine is a big whore? That’s abusive, not heroic.

4. Manipulate her. I’ve read lots of books where the hero or heroine try to make the other jealous. And I’ve enjoyed them despite the fact that this is a form of emotional manipulation.

In real life, as it should be in romance writing, it’s never okay to act in a non-genuine way to force an emotional response.

All I can say is that there’s a line. As a subplot, intended as a comedy, or maybe even as a flaw the character arcs from, you can pull it off. But, be aware, that’s a fine line. Go over it, and he becomes an emotionally abusive asshole.

5, Dismiss her. Does he misjudge her at the beginning? Fine. He doesn’t even know her and maybe he has really valid reasons to dislike her.

But once he beings to care for her, once she shows vulnerability, then don’t treat her like she’s not smart, or capable, or enough.

Do you know how many women have felt this way? Pretty much all of us. I know I don’t want to identify with a heroine because the future/current love of her life makes her feel that way. That drives me right into wallbanger territory.

Disclaimer: I’m sure these have all been done. Some of them even successfully. I’m not criticizing anyone or calling anybody out. It’s just… my blog, my opinion. But, I’d love to hear yours! Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

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Photo used with permission from stock.xchng. Photo by: Przemyslaw ‘env1ro’ Szczepanski.

Last week, I went into ways to show your hero’s feelings for the heroine, despite engaging in conflict. A lot. This week, I’m flipping things around.

Ways to show your heroine cares, even though the hero is the most arrogant/insufferable/stubborn man she’s ever met.

1. Men have a tendency to get caught up in themselves, in this persona they’re showing to the world–macho, manwhore, major asshole. Whatever. The heroine doesn’t take him too seriously.

She knows he’s strong and virile–and he’s a big baby when he’s sick. Maybe he has been spreading his love all over town–but she doesn’t sweat the girls who came before her. Okay, maybe a little. Who wouldn’t, a little? But, she knows he wants her. Insecurity? Please. And that alpha who can make people cry with a withering stare? She’ll step up and give it right back to him. He doesn’t intimidate her.

She calls him on his BS because she sees right through it.

2. Life has knocked her down, in some fashion, like it does all of us. Maybe she had a rough childhood, maybe she was deserted, left holding all the responsibility, by another man. Maybe she’s just been a doormat her whole life and needs to grow as a character enough to stand up for herself. It doesn’t matter how she learned it, she knows that most people let you down. But there’s something about this guy. A thousand things scream to her, he’s a good man. And even though part of her tells her she’s crazy to believe it… she does.

She trusts him, even though a lifetime of experiences have taught her that people suck.

3. When he screws up (and I don’t mean by being unfaithful), when his back is against the wall, when the whole worlds hangs in the balance–she doesn’t wait at home and hope he can put everything right again. She’ll be right by his side, standing up for him or wielding a gun and shooting it out with the bad guys. It’s not about him needing her help–though he does, we all need help when we reach our biggest crises–it’s that she wouldn’t dream of letting him face it alone.

She will always stand by her man.

Again, I’d love to hear ways that struck you that a heroine showed her true feelings or even examples from your own stories.

Got ideas on all the wrong ways characters show their true feelings?

Next week, I’ll be writing a post about absolutely messed-up ways to have your characters show that they care. If you care to contribute your ideas, please email me, tweet me, or PM me on my Author page. You can find all of those links on my contact page. I promise to give full credit next to your ideas!

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Photo used with permission from stock.xchng. Photo by: Viktors Kozers.

Yesterday my husband shared this photo with me. My man, he’s not a showy, affectionate guy. So, this was particularly sweet to know that he thinks about the ways we love each other. And, it’s a truthful depiction of us, really.

But then, I started thinking about romance and how we have our characters show their feelings for one another, particularly our hero, when they’re in all this conflict.

Ways to show your hero cares, even when he kind of wants to throttle your heroine (even though he’d never do that because he’s a hero. And he loves her.)

1. He can’t help himself from taking care of her. And I don’t mean in the old-fashioned way, that she can’t take care of herself. She absolutely can take care of herself. Maybe she’s this super independent woman. She’s educated, she’s successful, she can change her own flat tires. But she has this silly fear of spiders. And she can call an exterminator. Of course, she can do that. It’s just, there’s one in her bedroom, right now. And she can’t go back in there. She maybe can’t even stay in her home, knowing that ginormous, mastermind spider is just waiting, biding it’s time, to catch her off guard and spring at her. So, he spends an hour searching for the pesky arachnid before ultimately finding it and killing it with one of her sandals.

Because time + effort = love. This will always be true.

2. He can complain about her all. day. long. He has a million reasons why she’s a crazy-making, devil of a woman. But nobody else can say a bad thing about her. Or he will all up in their business.

This is our modern day version of defending her honor. And heroes will always do that, from knights to astronauts. To vamps or weredragons, come to think of it.

3. He sees things in her that others don’t. Maybe that she doesn’t even see in herself. Take my super independent chick from above. Everyone else thinks she cold-hearted, calculating even (because, hey, that’s what our society thinks of women like that–but that’s another post). But he sees that she has a soft side. Maybe he recognizes it in the way she take time to comfort a person because she can relate to them. Maybe, instead of kicking someone when they’re down and climbing on top of their unconscious body to plant a conquering flag in their backside, she offers to help.

We have to give our heroines some traits that people can identify with. That’s key, and it’s also another post. But he sees those traits in her when everyone else writes them off or doesn’t even bother to notice.

Heroes recognize their heroines. They get who they are and they respect them for it.

Can you think of other ways for a hero to show his growing feelings for a heroine? I’d love to hear from you in the comments. If you’re a writer, feel free to include examples from your own stories.

“How do we write our heroes to show their feelings, in spite of conflict?” ~ Click to Tweet

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I could not find the creator of the lovely image above. I looked. I’d buy a print of it, if I could find it and gladly give credit / remove it, as they wish. If you know who owns this image, please let me know.

In my not-writing day job, I do therapy.  I spend my day encouraging people to accept and care for themselves, helping them search for balance, and examining what, in their lives, isn’t working.  As day jobs go, it definitely doesn’t suck.  But I have learned that bad things happen to people who don’t deserve it and then we’re left to pick up the pieces and deal with all the ensuing emotions.

To me, especially when writing romance (which, I do), the two main characters have broken places*.  It’s not that they couldn’t get past what’s dug in deep or that they’re incapable of healthy relationships.  It’s that, just like in real life, we sometimes make bad choices when it comes to who we date and those bad choices can often be seen through a filter of our experiences.  I know people can grow into their thirties, forties, fifties or older before finding what makes them choose people who are wrong for them.

In romance, to me, it’s about coming upon this person who is actually a perfect fit.  Not perfect.  Perfect is dull.  But perfect for the character.  And then it comes down to this push-pull that they’re just right because of how they not only soothe, but embrace, the broken places except the character isn’t ready yet because they need to grow.  Need to arc, if you will.

Jennifer Crusie wrote, in her essay Dating Death: Love and Sex in Buffy the Vampire Slayer:

“I love you because” is conditional love, based on what the object does for the lover; the “You complete me” statement that sounds good but is really a threat: “Complete me or lose me, it’s all about me.” Mature love, goes beyond that and says that it doesn’t matter whether the object is wonderful or not, the love is just there, like the air we breathe.

In romance, our characters push past the lust and infatuation and all the reasons this person is wrong (which are sometimes also the reasons that person is right) and come out the other side in a mature, healthy relationship.  And then they get the happily-ever-after.  It’s because they examine the broken places, they find a way to heal or embrace them, they stop doing what isn’t working.  And it’s not because love heals all wounds, it’s because real love makes you want to be a better you.

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*Broken places is a term I personally use.  It’s not clinical in any way.  It comes from many conversations I had with a friend about how our broken places make us who we are.  They make us grow and become better at being ourselves.

“…because real love makes you want to be a better you.” ~ Click to Tweet