Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Three Ways Thanksgiving Kills My Mojo

by Elizabeth Otto

Three Ways Thanksgiving Kills My Mojo

I rarely take a day off from writing. I’ve been known to type away at inopportune times, like my daughter’s volleyball game, during my husband’s hernia surgery or grandma’s birthday party. I know that I have to meet a certain word count per day to meet deadlines, so I keep going and going no matter what else is going on that day. Because, I have mojo! Holidays pose a particular challenge in keeping with the word count, Thanksgiving specifically because the sheer amount of food and proximity to so many family members just yanks the writing mojo right out of me. Why?

Food Coma: You know that feeling you get when you’ve been out drinking too much, or have a head cold, and your mind is all throbby and thudding around inside your skull? Well, most authors I know can power through most any reason for the dreaded “brain fog” except when it’s been caused by a food coma. Yes, food comas are a much more serious problem. All that turkey, stuffing and pie goes right into the creative centers of the brain and turns off the lights for a nice, long nap. Unfortunately, food comas can last for a couple days, which means my word count is going nowhere. I go ahead and pop the button on my jeans and wait it out—there is no way to reverse a food coma except to wait—and resist more food. Good luck, right?

Pinterest Withdrawal : There is simply no way to stare at all the hot men on my Pinterest boards with that many people around. No way at all. I mean, there are children around for crying out loud. And I can’t write without my visual inspiration, so again, all my efforts to be productive and ogle man candy are thwarted. Thanks, Thanksgiving!

Guilt: My family loves to tell everyone that I’m an author. Since all the relatives are gathered from far and away for Thanksgiving, it only makes sense to shine that spotlight on me in front of relatives I barely remember and people who try to look interested, but really aren’t, and make me talk about my books (it happens every dang year). Which of course gives me anxiety that I’m still sitting there, sipping wine and mulling over whether or not to stuff down one more slice of pie, instead of writing. Then I spend the rest of the evening feeling guilty over my lack of word count, which only increases the guilt I feel for shoving down one more piece of pie…or two. It’s a vicious circle, people.

So, tomorrow, I’ll be cozied up after the festivities with wine and my kindle. I already know that writing anything tomorrow will be out of the question, so I might as well read, right? How do you plan to spend your after-dinner quiet time?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Interview: Mark T Perini

So... this really happened. Jessica and Marisa convinced an international model to visit Hot WIPs & Sassy Chicks! Enjoy and you're welcome!

Hi Mark! Thanks so much for stopping by!

Jessica: Do you try to portray the book's character for a cover shoot?

Marisa: Or does someone give you direction? Do you read the arcs before the cover shoot?

Mark: Usually, when I get to a cover shoot all I know is the name of the character and the title of the book. Sometimes they have a comp. (Which is a stock photo that they use for inspiration.) Other times, the art director is there or the editor is there, and they usually give you an overview of the story and the characters arc. I don’t get to read the arcs or anything… I wish I did because there have been a lot of cool shoots I’ve done where I would really have liked to read the book. To be honest, a lot of times I don’t even see the finished product because they are shot a year before the book is actually available in print. Sometimes when I am perusing the bookstore I’ll randomly find a cover I did from a year before that I had forgotten about!

Jessica: I love the idea of you stumbling across yourself at the bookstore. Too cool! How are covers different from your other modeling work?

Mark: Cover modeling is a lot more like acting than modeling is. You have to portray a dynamic character that changes from the start of the book to the end. With print or catalogue modeling, you are portraying yourself in a static moment that the art director has dreamed up.

Jessica: What do you want to be when you grow up? (I, personally, have decided not to grow up.)

Mark: I’m with you Jessica, Neverland forever! I went to school for Business and Spanish, I had always wanted to do international relations or some sort of management consulting. Recently, I started an online custom suiting business called Stature with my cousin, so I’m a part of that. And of course, the modeling stuff has kind of given me the freedom to travel and pursue the things I always wanted to do, like writing. I would like to be a writer forever. I find that it’s freeing and for me has been an amazing creative outlet.

Jessica: When you joined our agency, I bragged how I "knew" an international supermodel. No question here, I just wanted to tell you to feel free to brag about how you know me too. ;)

Mark: Well I’ve “E-met” very few authors. So you are on a very exclusive list in my book as well!

Marisa: ...and what about that one website for that one book where you're wearing only a towel?

Mark: … I’ll point you in the right direction but I won’t give you a direct link! Click HERE to view the Wild Cards Reality Show on YouTube. I shot the cover of Wild Cards, which is an awesome book by Simone Elkeles. I portrayed Derek who is a class clown that doesn’t play by the rules, although he’d rather die than hurt the people he loves. He’s fiercely loyal but he likes to have a good time. When I finished shooting the book cover, Simone contacted me and flew me out to Chicago to film a pilot for Wild Cards. It was an amazing experience; Simone is such a great writer and an awesome person to collaborate with.

Jessica: And where would one get a poster-size--OW! (Marisa just elbowed me.) Okay, okay. I'll be good. Mark, I hear you co-author with Julie Cross. Tell us a little about the book. What's it like to write with someone else?

Mark: Hahahaha… Well, our book Halfway Perfect features eighteen-year-olds Alex and Eve so it’s New Adult, but would fit the mature YA bill just fine, too. Alex is a model on the rise, he’s living and working in NYC full time and his career is skyrocketing. Eve was that model on the brink of stardom two years early, having begun her career at fourteen years old. She vanished from the scene and is now she’s back in NYC as a photography student at Columbia University. When Eve’s photography professor offers her the chance to spend a day on the job with famed photographer, Janessa Fields, an ex-protégé of her professor, Eve doesn’t hesitate to accept this amazing opportunity. In a strange turn of events, Eve finds herself following Janessa onto the set for a Seventeen Magazine shoot. Right back in the world she has so desperately been trying to avoid. To make matters worse, one of the male models agents is none other than Wes Danes — the other half of the torrid love affair that ruined her life the first time.

To be honest working with Julie Cross has been awesome. Writing can be a really lonely undertaking so it was so nice to have someone that is just as invested as you are that you can bounce ideas off. Plus Julie let me in on all of this knowledge about the publishing world that would have taken years to glean on my own. I’m really thankful for the opportunity to be working with her.


Marisa: So what’s the major difference between the girls/women you’ve met as a model and the girls/women you meet as a writer?

Mark: Well right off the bat I can say the girls I’ve met being a writer are a bit better read. Honestly, I think there are a lot of similarities with the two professions, maybe more than you would think. But, both offer you a lot of freedom, the ability to be your own boss and are both pretty independent careers.

Jessica: Writing is like modeling? I love this analogy! If you had to write in a genre other than the one you're writing in now, what would it be?

Mark: I would love to write a Sci-Fi, Fantasy book. I grew up reading R.L. Stein, Harry Potter and I really loved the Bartimaeus Trilogy. Something set in a dystopia where the hero has to conquer the monster of government that’s temporarily been put in place to keep the peace. Reading this back I’m just proposing a re-write of 1984. Well that’s why it’s my favorite.

Marisa: How can fans connect with you?

Mark: I am really loving Twitter nowadays @MarkTPerini and I have an author/modeling page on Facebook


Oooooh! Hot WIPs & Sassy Chicks can't wait for Halfway Perfect to release! Yay, Mark and Julie!


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Huge Announcement!

Hi everyone! Pens & Peonies is now... HOT WIPs & SASSY CHICKS!
Same great authors, same savvy discussions, but we felt this name represented our personalities better. So what are you waiting for? Change your bookmarks, join the site if you haven't yet and get your wine glass, let's dish! ~Jessica

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Self Promotion makes me feel like a douchecanoe

But it's necessary if you want people to read your book, watch your show, buy your paintings, listen to your music.

I'm pretty confident, and due to many jobs in the public sector, mostly administration, I'm fine chatting to people. When I worked at a health food store, I had people coming in talking to me about their bladder infections, and herbal viagra. I am pretty unflappable when it comes to things you want to talk to me about.

Talk to me about my writing/ singing? I'll stammer and blush and feel embarrassed. I've gotten WAY better as time goes by, but there's always that moment of hesitation where I expect this:

But I digress.

The other day, I went ahead and got bookmarks made for my debut from Swoon Romance, The Best Laid Plans. Aside from the fact it has a topless guy on it (basically my cover), there's a bawdy line right at the top of it. 'She said his name like he was already inside her.'

So I'm already feeling blushy about handing this out to people in my town. I live in a SMALL town, and it's a pretty conservative place. But I had them made and am putting myself out there. As you do when you're OWNING it.

So I walked into the ONE bookstore in my small town, feeling like hey. THESE are my people. They love books, and went through the flood just like I did. SOLIDARITY! I'll see if they will take some of my free bookmarks to set on a table somewhere to give to patrons for some promotion of a local author.

Imagine how losery I felt when the disinterested woman behind the counter said, 'No. We don't really "do" that.' I was shocked, and felt like I'd been asking to take a steaming dump on the counter. She literally couldn't care less. The sum of all the fucks she gave could dance the tarantella on the head of a needle, and still not spill their tiny cocktails.

I left the store feeling dejected. Husband told me I should have pushed more, but what was the point? The experience had already been soured for me. You only get ONE debut. One first time with all the experiences, good and bad. This was a bad one.

I found out a few days later from other local authors, that they've also had horrible experiences with this store. It made me feel both better and worse that it wasn't just me.

But one of the ladies in the writers group I went to owns an art gallery. And SHE is a delightful woman who is all about promoting authors and artists from our area. She told me to give her whatever and she'd make a spot for it.

THAT is how people should be. If you can help - help. Lend a hand, a word of encouragement, a word of praise. Do what you can when you can. I'm not saying put yourself out, but if you can help, why aren't you? It made me even more determined to help more people with their journeys.

As for that store? They've lost me as a customer forever. Not because of her decision, but because of her attitude. Most people, upon hearing someone has a book coming out in a week, would at least smile, or say Congratulations! This was an owner of a BOOKSTORE who didn't give a crap about a local author.

And I can tell you one thing - I remember those who help me. I will promote the crap out of the art gallery owner, and my library. They have helped me out so far and I appreciate them. If The Best Laid Plans takes off, I'll do signings there. But the bookstore lost their chance. Never mind as an author, as a CUSTOMER I was treated poorly.

We've all been promoting shopping locally, helping out local merchants since the flood. I've referred so many people to them, and encouraged so many people to spend the extra buck there. Not anymore.

You never know the bridges you're burning with a bad/ unhelpful attitude. It doesn't cost anything to smile and be nice. I promise.


Friday, November 8, 2013

Interview: Kate Meader

Super excited to have contemporary romance writer, Kate Meader, on the blog today! Kate's book, All Fired Up, released this week!

Here's our interview with Kate:

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your writing career. When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?

About three years ago in November 2010, I was approaching a milestone-minus-one birthday and realized that something I had wanted to do for a while was still on my To Do list: write a book! So I put away fifty thousand words during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), patted myself on the back for a job well done, and then promptly ignored it—but I couldn’t ignore the voice in my head nagging away and asking what was happening to my characters! Coming back to it in March 2011, I knuckled down to get it in shape. I ended up rewriting everything but the opening, which I loved. That was my first foray into writing and about eighteen months later, my fabulous agent, Nicole Resciniti sold that book (Feel the Heat) to Grand Central as part of a three-book deal! (There was a lot of painful rejection and heart wrenching in between, of course J)

What has been the most thrilling part of being published?

Getting reader emails! I love it when someone takes the time to email me and tell me they loved my book.

How did you come up with the idea for your book All Fired Up? What was the hardest part of writing your book?

I had already written Book 1 of the Hot in the Kitchen series, Feel the Heat, about Jack, a celebrity chef and Lili, the daughter of his cooking show competition. Jack’s TV show producer, Cara, is the sister of the heroine from Book 1 and I knew she’d get her own book, but I didn’t really know much about her when I wrote Feel the Heat. Cara and Lili are polar opposites: slender versus curvy, career girl versus homebody, hard-nosed versus soft-hearted. As I was working up Cara’s character sketch and conflict, I thought it might be interesting to explore a woman who feels disconnected from her family and that’s when I hit on the idea to make her a recovering anorectic. Food is the lifeblood of the DeLucas, so a person who isn’t tapped into that might have problems, and as I’d already characterized Cara as Type A, this was an issue that would fit. Cara is a model of self-control and has always felt like she’s a failure as a daughter, a sister, and especially an Italian. She’s already on a knife’s edge before our story starts so then I tried to imagine the worst thing that could happen to her (yes, evil writers do this). Playing with tropes is something I love doing, so I hooked her up to an Irish pastry chef in a drunken Vegas marriage and then watched the sparks fly.

I realize there’s something a little subversive about writing a foodie romance where the heroine has psychological issues about food, and I hope I’ve pulled it off! The hardest part was the research—I read a lot of memoirs about anorexia and checked out message boards. The stories of denial and sorrow are heartbreaking, but my heroine’s a survivor and I knew that with the help of the right guy, she’d come out the other side stronger than ever. Not necessarily cured, but a little less broken.

How long does it take you to write a book?

It takes me about six months to write a single title length book (90-100K words), of which two months is a fast draft and the rest is rewriting and editing (a lot of rewriting and editing).

How many books have you written, and which one is your favorite?

I’ve written three books: two are published and the third will hit the shelves in 2014. All Fired Up, my latest release is my favorite so far. Both Cara and Shane are so broken and resistant to the possibilities of love. Bringing them together was incredibly satisfying.

How did you get published?

I entered my manuscript for Feel the Heat on the RWA chapter contest circuit in 2011 and after a few false starts, I started making finals, winning outright, and getting requests from the judging editors and agents. At the same time, I began cold querying to increase my chances because I was determined to get an agent first. Between February and July 2012, I sent out a batch of queries and had a fairly high request rate for fulls, but still no bites. Enter Nicole Resciniti! I’d heard of her because she represented a friend of mine, Julie Ann Walker, and she raved about her like a fangirl. (Julie Ann Walker, tell me about your agent. Cue symphonic orgasm of slobbery gushing. I got it. She was good.) I sent along a query to Nicole with the first five pages. A few hours later, she asked for the full and told me she was very excited to read! Despite this rush of enthusiasm, I wasn’t holding my breath. I’d been there, done that, got the ‘out of office’ email—and I was still waiting for psyched agents to get back to me on fulls sent in February. Three days later at midnight on a Saturday night, I got an email from Nicole with this in the first line: I WANT TO WORK WITH YOU! (all caps so I knew she wasn’t screwing around!). Then she made me wait until Monday afternoon to actually talk to her. Agh! It was the most nerve-wracking 36 hours of my life. The moment we spoke, I got a great vibe and we agreed to work together. On Nicole’s suggestions, I rewrote the last third of the book in three weeks and she sold it to Grand Central two weeks later.

For the full version of this story, including how I woke up my husband and freaked him out, see:

Who is your favorite author and why?

I’m a big fan of Jill Shalvis, who writes really funny, sexy, and heartwarming romances. I want to be her when I grow up. She and I share a publisher and while, I’ve been to a couple of publisher soirees, I’ve yet to meet her! One day…

Do you prefer ebooks, paperbacks, or hardcover?

Ebooks all the way, baby!

What were the last three books you read?

I usually read a couple of books a week and right now, I’m on a Cara McKenna glom. She writes amazing erotic romances that are so thoughtful, smart, and sexy. I just finished After Hours and Unbound, her most recent releases. Before that, I read Lucky in Love by Jill Shalvis. Two completely different authors and I adore them both.

What do you do when you're not writing?

I’m a librarian at a medical library.

Fast Facts:

Coffee or tea? Tea. It’s the national drink of the Irish and back home I would drink 8-10 cups per day! Now I’ve got it whittled down to a respectable two.)

Morning or night? Night

Rivers or oceans? Oceans

White wine or red? White

Champagne or liquor? Champagne. I’m particularly partial to a Kir Royale, which is a type of champagne cocktail.

Cupcakes or ice cream? Ice cream

Laptop or desktop? Laptop

Casual or couture? Casual

Ponytail or headband? My hair’s too short to need either.

Shower or bath? Shower

Summer or winter? Summer

Motorcycle or bicycle?  Bicycle


Author Bio


Kate Meader writes contemporary romance that serves up delicious food, to-die-for heroes, and heroines with a dash of sass. Originally from Ireland, she cut her romance reader teeth on Catherine Cookson and Jilly Cooper novels, with some Mills & Boons thrown in for variety. Give her tales about brooding mill owners, oversexed equestrians, and men who can rock an apron, and she’s there. When not writing about men who cook and the women who drool over them, she works in an academic library. Her stories are set in her adopted home town of Chicago, a city made for food, romance, and laughter – and where she met her own sexy hero. For news, excerpts, and recipes, check out her website at


Social Media Links




Twitter: @kittymeader




Book blurb


ALL FIRED UP by Kate Meader

Hot in the Kitchen, Book 2


Her sweetest mistake . . .


Cool as a Chicago winter, private events planner Cara DeLuca is a model of self-control . . . until she meets the one temptation she can't resist: Shane Doyle. The sexy, Irish pastry chef is too hot, too sure, too young, and after a crazy night in Vegas-her new husband. While at first Cara wants nothing more than a way out of her sham marriage to Shane, she soon finds that beneath his farm boy demeanor lies a man who can match her drive, both in and out of the bedroom. How can the wrong guy feel so deliciously right?


. . . Tastes so, so good


Shane has carefully structured his career and life around one goal: connecting with the family that doesn't know he exists. Marrying a woman with more issues than a magazine stand wasn't part of the plan, but melting Cara's icy exterior is so worth the detour. Now as the annulment date nears and long-buried secrets are revealed, Shane will have to fight for the one thing guaranteeing the perfect life he craves . . . the current Mrs. Shane Doyle.



Short snippet from All Fired UP (use if you want, lose if you don’t! If you want something less risqué, I can provide that…)


“We can get an annulment because we didn’t…Well, it wouldn’t have mattered if we did.” She hesitated, and he could see the gears going round as she rethought her position.

“What if we did?” Shane asked, tamping down on the glee in his voice.

“What if we did what?”

“What if we did sleep together? What if we had sex?”

The way he said it could be construed as past sex or the promise of it. The promise of can’t-walk-for-a-week good times between a man and a woman. “That wouldn’t make a difference?”

“But we didn’t.” Her brow creased in puzzlement and horror descended to her mouth. “But we didn’t,” she repeated, less sure now.

He couldn’t keep it up but every inch of him—every hardening inch—wished it were true. “Nah, we didn’t.”

“Shane!” She socked him in the side and broke into that laugh that he’d fallen in love with the minute she’d graced him with it in the third bar of the crawl. It had taken him that long to get it but it had been worth every bad joke, every cheesy pun, every flash of the dimple Aunt Jo said would be a woman’s downfall.

The old girl had neglected to mention it would be his downfall as well.



Book Buy Links




Wednesday, November 6, 2013

My Very First P&P Blog EVAH

For my very first post EVAH (*throws confetti*) on Pens and Peonies , I wanted to make sure I delivered what you came here to find. Since the P&P banner says we are here to discuss Writing, Sex, Men, Emotion, and Life, I thought I’d pick one of those to talk about.

lemmon.temptingthe billionaire.eb As a contemporary romance writer who claims to write “sexy, sassy romance with a squeeze of humor” you may have already deduced which topic I’m about to tackle.

MEN. (You were thinking SEX, weren’t you?) ;)

I love men. There. I said it. What’s lovely is that my (long-suffering?) husband of a decade-and-a-half understands that I love my heroes and that my heroes and I have a very intimate relationship with one another. Of course, I’m talking about fictional men.

After loading up Shane (Tempting the Billionaire) with baggage, wading through sorrow with Aiden (Hard to Handle) and digging deep to find out how Landon (The Millionaire Affair) really feels about love, I’m certain I’ve ended up with the right man by my side. (I liked it. I put a ring on it.)

Which leads us to the topic of the men I didn’t marry: the ones in my books. 

I believe every heroine deserves a good man, and crafting one isn’t as clean and smooth as their last close shave (or not, in Aiden’s scruffy case). To make sure you get a hero to drool over, and sometimes want to hit over the head with a shovel (Shane, I’m looking at you), I am sure to give these rock-hard-bodied males a few traits that aren’t so perfect.

And I don’t mean a hook nose or a lazy eye, not that there’s anything wrong with that. Heroes of romance may be physical gods who know their way around a mattress, but make no mistake, they are flawed. Those flaws are deep-seated, ingrained in who they’ve had to become to deal with their crap. Either they fear ever getting close to someone (Shane), get way too close way too soon (Aiden), or believe that love can be broken down into an itemized, manageable list (Landon, you poor clueless millionaire, you).  At this point, any self-respecting, modern-day woman should be poised for two snaps of the “Oh No You Didn’t” variety.

The trick to finding these finely flawed heroes their happily ever afters is to set them up with a woman who is understanding, patient, and sometimes as stubborn and set in their ways as they are. And that’s where the fun comes in. Because why else read about an Adonis if we don’t get to watch them fail miserably? Why put a woman in his arms if she’s not going to eventually find herself wanting to get out of them?

The key to every great romance is the push and pull, the yin and yang, the unexpected discovery of watching these characters find the person they weren’t even looking for.

Each new book I start begins with casting the hero. (As you can see showcased on my hero-laden Pinterest board HERE.) I’ve heard a good man is hard to find, but I have no problem finding a nugget of goodness in each of my male characters. The hard part is dredging up the past that left them scarred in the first place, and then helping them get over it.

Once that barrier is broken down, he and the heroine will live happily ever after. And at that point, there’s not a damn thing either one of them can do about it. :)


Jessica Lemmon writes sassy, sexy contemporary romance with a squeeze of humor. She blogs at Pens & Peonies the first Wednesday of every month. You can also find out more at, LIKE her at, and tweet her in 140-character bursts on Twitter: @lemmony