SALT+STILETTOS Interview & Giveaway


Today, I’m beyond excited to get to interview my two favorite South Beach residents, Miami’s chicest go-to image consultant, Brett Fontaine, and the hottest chef to hit the culinary scene, Will Te’o. I first met Brett and Will back in June 2017 and let me tell you, it was love at first paragraph. It’s been a privilege watching them grow and develop these last three years and I’m so excited the rest of the world finally gets to meet them.

Stay tuned for giveaways happening after the interview…


Pre-order graphic Brett 4

Welcome Brett and Will, stars of SALT + STILETTOS! Thank you both for inviting me into your beautiful home via video chat. And I’m especially happy to see The Hounds snoozing nearby. Now that we have coffee and Will’s freshly baked pani Popo is making me drool all over my keyboard, let’s begin with the inquisition—uh, I mean interview. I promise to go easier on you than a certain food critic.

Anne: “We’ll start off easy. Empty those pockets and purse and show me what you got!”

Will brings out his phone and key ring. “I’m kinda basic.”

Anne: “That’s…an actual metal car key? Do they still make cars that use those?”

Will: “Uhh, my truck is-“

Brett cuts in: “Vintage.”

Anne: “Ahh. Right. What is that on your key ring?”

Will holds up the photo-embossed ring: “My American Samoan family.” Turns it over. “My Miami family.”

Anne: “Brett, your turn.”

Brett: Opens this season’s Birkin bag, and begins lining up the contents. “The coordinating mini wallet, pen and card case. Phone, of course. My current favorite Chanel sunglasses. My—our keys.” Gives Will a small smile, and he drapes his arm along the back of her chair, returning the smile. Then pulls out another bag from within her bag and goes to town unloading bottles, brushes, and cases. “Concealer—because we’ve all had those dark undereye circle days. Refresher shadow and highlighter palettes. Refresher setting spray.  A lippie color for day and evening in a gloss, and another in a matte formula. Dry shampoo for touch ups—Miami humidity is killer on blowouts. I love these foldable flat sandals. Perfect for those events where you dance until dawn, but are tired of stilettos half-way through the night. Sewing and wipe kits, plus double-sided tape. We DO NOT allow our clients and friends to experience wardrobe malfunctions. This moisturizer and sunscreen combo is perfect for Summer, and has another formula for neck and cleavage and hands.” Quirks an eyebrow. “You’re from a sunny area. Obviously, you’re diligent about sunscreen—your complexion is luminous.”

Anne blushes because THE Brett Fontaine just gave her a compliment.

Brett: “Of course, this is just my pared-down personal kit. My client bags are in the car.”

Anne: “Pared down. Right. Brett, I see you’re not wearing your Pearl Jam tee. Tell us about that t-shirt collection hiding out behind the Jimmy Choos in your closet.”

Brett glares at Will, who busies himself looking anywhere else and petting the snoozing dogs. “I suppose I have a few.”

Will: “You have a whole color coordinated shelf. And they’re all ol—uh, vintage. And my favorites, because if you’re wearing one, that means we’re relaxing at home.”

Anne: “Vintage?”

Brett: “There were several concerts I would’ve enjoyed during my high school and college years. But my situation and maintaining scholarship requirements left no time. The shirts are stand-ins. Although there are several new shirts now.”

Will: “I asked her to do a concert bucket list, and now we’re working our way through it. Making new memories, yeah?”

Anne: “You’re both very ambitious and successful individuals, in your own fields. Do you have a motto or mantra that has helped you find success?”

Brett: “I suppose my motto is ‘work for it, don’t wish for it.’ No one has the right to tell you what you can or cannot achieve or your own worth. You get to decide that.”

Will: “Community and family are important. Those ties, they give you a reason to excel, and the support to carry through. You have good people in your life, then good things happen.” He looks at Brett, who seems to be blushing.

Anne: “Okay, now that I’ve grilled you on some serious questions, let’s get back to some fun ones. Name three things you CANNOT live without.”

Will answers almost before Anne finishes asking: “Brett says I’m too easy, but any tech that let’s me talk to my family, a kitchen, and Brett.”

Brett, linking her fingers with Will’s: “My circle—Will, Richard, Tara and CeCe and Annalise, coffee, so that my circle can tolerate me every day, and the freedom to be who I am.”

Anne: “What is in your pantry or refrigerator? Right now. Be honest, Will, we know there’s some Spam hiding out in that kitchen of yours. And don’t try to duck out of this, Brett. We all know your mac ‘n cheese secrets.”

Brett: “Fine. I’ll admit to a few comfort foods—which by definition contain sugar, salt, and possibly, preservatives. Although Will has been an excellent influence on my at-home pantry.”

Will winces and shakes his head. “Uh, let’s say her side of the fridge is a work in progress.”

Anne: “Will, you can turn the most humble of ingredients into a Michelin star worthy dish. Give us your favorite, quick and easy Spam recipe we can all try at home.”

Will: “Don’t hate on Spam—you gotta give it respect. Nobody can try a Spam musubi and not be a convert. Slice it about two inches thick, use a hot pan and good, homemade teriyaki or soy and fresh ginger marinade and do a quick sear. Put it on top of sticky rice, then wrap it with nori.”

Anne: “Brett, we know you got Will into watching Outlander, but what other binge-worthy shows have you guys been watching together?”

Brett just smiles, decidedly satisfied. “Our binge-watching has taken a hit recently, thanks to other extracurricular activities.”

Anne gives a sly look at her guests. “When did you have your first kiss? Will, no need to blush. Give us all the PG-rated details, both of you.”

Will: “I’ll let my image consultant field that question.”

Brett: “Our first kiss wasn’t planned, but was quite spectacular, as well as on a sound stage. Which reminds me—I have a styling appointment with Elias Cane tomorrow.”

Anne: “Since we’re all mostly stuck at home right now, indulge us with your travel plans. What destination would you love to visit and why?”

Will and Brett share another one of those looks, and Will answers. “We had tickets for home—Tutuila. My mom and sisters can’t wait to meet Brett in person, instead of Skype every week. As soon as it’s safe, we’re going. Richard, too.”

Anne: “As I’m sure you both know, Janet is my ride-or-die bestie. Who are yours? If you were to be arrested for some crazy criminal activity, who would be sitting next to you in the jail cell and who would you call to bail you out?”

Will: “I’m gonna say I’d need bail because of Richard.” Brett makes a sound of whole-hearted agreement and Will continues. “I’d call Javie for bail instead of Brett, but only cause Brett might end up in with us if she lights into Richard in front of police.”

Brett: “That is a valid concern. Were I to ever end up in police custody, undoubtedly it would be Richard’s fault. My first call would, of course, be to Tara. Along with a reminder for her to have Analise walk my hounds while we sorted out the problem.”

Anne: “If you were ever quarantined and confined to your house, who would you want to be stuck with? And, perhaps more importantly, what would you buy on the black market?”

Brett and Will answer at the same time. “Will” and “Brett.”

Brett: “Coffee. Definitely coffee. Although La Mer moisturizer is a close second.”

Will: “Produce. Any kind. I can make it work.”

While Brett and Will were distracted, I snuck in a quick bonus question for her Irish wolfhounds.

Anne: “Phoebe, Inari, what do you think of this new arrangement? How’s it been sharing Brett with Will?”

Inari, the kid, tail swishing and nearly knocking the laptop off the table: “Another people, another pet-er. More pets. More walkies!” Her ears come up. “Cat!” Bolts for the fence and the feline sauntering along the top, well out of dog reach.

Phoebe, the First Dog, sitting politely: “Pups. Bad manners.” Snort-sneezes. “Boss Lady brought Will-friend and new giant bed. Will friend-has ugly couch, good for napping too. Also Will-friend has better snacks. Better snacks accidentally fall into our mouths when Boss Lady isn’t looking.”

Luna, Anne’s Boerboel pup, sits up beside her: “Did Tall-woof say snacks?”

Anne: Laughs at the fur babies while Brett and Will return from sharing another of those looks.

Brett: “Anne, thank you so much for visiting with us today. Here’s my personal number—give me a call next week, and plan to block off a good bit of time. We’ll discuss my ideas for your new capsule wardrobe. I think you’re a Winter.”

Anne: Slightly intimidated, slants a look at Will and gets a nod of encouragement from the gentle giant. “You know me well. Winter is definitely my season.” Smiles brightly, though sad to say goodbye. “A huge thank you for joining me today. It was a blast catching up and we’ll have to do it again sometime.”


Keep reading for details on giveaways!

9 download

Sweet Home Alabama meets Top Chef when Miami’s most determined image consultant clashes with Samoa’s most uncooperative chef in a race to rebrand him as South Beach’s newest star.

Brett Fontaine learned early that appearance matters and not to count on anyone but yourself. Trading her red-dirt roots for the title of Miami’s go-to image consultant, she refuses to let anything jeopardize her new life.

Not an influential client-turned-stalker who’s up for parole.

Not post-kidnapping panic attacks.

Certainly not the stubborn, attention-phobic chef she’s challenged to transform into a celeb in ninety days.

Will Te’o can almost taste the dream he sacrificed American Samoa, culture, and cherished family ties for—opening a four star restaurant in the most cut-throat culinary location in North America.

Unfortunately, that requires navigating it’s equally cut-throat social scene. When his first public performance ends in a social media spectacle, his only option is turning to the stiletto-wearing nemesis who’s invaded his kitchen.

Neither expected to share anything but barbs, yet somewhere between accidentally bonding over comfort food and office-wrecking sex, they’re named South Beach’s hottest pairing. Until Brett’s stalker engineers a reputation-shattering reveal. She may be going down, but she’s not taking Will’s dreams with her. Now Will’s pulling out all his new skills and cooking up a last-ditch event. He’ll prove to Brett that relying on the right person makes for the perfect recipe—or be left heartbroken in the spotlight.

Grab your copy now!

Amazon GlobalB&NKoboiBooks

Pre-order graphic Will 4


Want to enter a Rafflecopter giveaway? Stand a chance to win these awesome, SALT+STILETTOS-themed swag items. Janet *may* also be throwing some more fun stuff into the mix, so keep an eye out on her Twitter for details. Winner will be announced at the end of Janet’s blog tour–May 5.

US Residents only.

S+S Blog Tour Plus Graphic[24301]


I’m also doing a giveaway over on Twitter. Winner will receive a free eBook copy of SALT+STILETTOS. Head on over and reply to this tweet with your favorite Jason Momoa or Dwayne Johnson gif (yes, in Will’s honor) and I’ll pick a winner on Friday!


Have you met the author of SALT+STILETTOS?


Janet Walden-West lives in the southeast with a pack of show dogs, a couple of kids, and a husband who didn’t read the fine print. A member of the East Tennessee Creative Writers Alliance, she is also a founding member of The Million Words craft blog. She pens diverse Urban Fantasy and inclusive Romantic Suspense and Contemporary Romance.
A 2X PitchWars alum, 2019 Pitch Wars Mentor, and Golden Heart® finalist, her debut multicultural Contemporary Romance, SALT+STILETTOS, is due out April 21st 2020 from City Owl Press. She is represented by Eva Scalzo of Speilburg Literary Agency.

Janet Pic

Find her at:
Website  | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | BookBub | Amazon

Two questions with… Romance Edition – BONUS ROUND

Two Questions With . . .

Our blog tour might have come to an official close, but this week we’re doing a special recap. And two bonus questions. I’ve been waiting to tackle a particularly important topic I saved for this final week, so grab a cup of coffee (or tea!), here we go…


Q: How important is consent during sex scenes?


Sexual consent, or in fact any kind of consent, is extremely important! We’re well past the days of women (or men) not getting a say. Both in real life and fiction. And to be clear, I’m not talking about dub-con (dubious consent for those unfamiliar with the term) here. That’s a different device that serves a purpose, but it has to be explicitly stated before a reader dives in. I consider that a kink, and I’m not here to judge. I’m talking mainstream, non-kink romance.


The genre has gone through the wringer on this subject. I know some believe consent isn’t sexy in the midst of a heated moment, but honestly, and frankly, this is a ridiculous notion. It’s born from archaic beliefs and it’s about time we move past that. I think consent is very sexy. Allowing someone control of their own body, or even mind, is common decency. The fact that there is even a question about this baffles me to no end. No matter the situation, people should have the absolute say in regards to their body.


Having an integral moment where sexual consent is given within heated moment is vital, in my opinion. For those saying it isn’t sexy, I counter with it depends how you tackle it. Whether that’s an outright question/answer, or a subtle go-ahead, it’s so important to add this element. I’ve seen sexual consent done in ways that actually add to the sexiness. Imagine that! You can actually use consent as a device to make those encounters stronger and more satisfying for the characters and your readers.


herbal-2560601_1920A few years ago, probably about ten, a friend of mine (a male friend, in fact, who I would class as a classic cinnamon roll/beta sort of guy who rode a big ol’ motorbike), posted THIS video on Facebook. It’s stuck with me ever since. The video was made by the British (Thames Valley) police, where they explain sexual consent using TEA. Of all things. It’s funny, because if you can understand how ludicrous it is to force a person to drink tea when they do not want tea, or are unconscious, you can understand how utterly insane it is to force someone into any kind of sexual encounter. Again, or pretty much anything they do not wish to do.


Yes, this turned ranty. That’s why I kept it for my own blog week, because it needs to be said and understood by everyone.



Q: What’s the most difficult aspect of writing romance?


Emotions and sex scenes. These are my kryptonite. Which is probably the silliest thing for a romance writer, right? These are the foundation blocks of the genre, but they always cause me trouble.


These are the two aspects I have to work the hardest at getting right, and still depend on CPs to point out what works and what’s lacking. It’s an ongoing struggle, but we all need things to challenge us and our writing. What would be the fun of it if everything was easy?


Q: How do you tackle romantic elements in your writing?


So, I’m mostly a romance writer. My first love was paranormal romance. I was a late-bloomer in terms of finding my love of books, and when I did, I ended up in the slightly older section in my search for all things vampire—definitely inspired by my love of Buffy the vampire slayer. Enter Lynsay Sands and Sherrilyn Kenyon. While their older works are perhaps a little dated by now, I devoured them, and I’d say they had a pretty big influence on my writing.


But, I was terrified of the amazing worldbuilding needed for fantasy, so when I started writing, I went for contemporary romance. For me, that’s what came naturally. Not saying it’s easy. And I struggle with it all. The. Time. But while I’ve grown from my panster roots and now plot, I generally plot the action elements ahead of drafting. The “this happens here” key beats, and layer in the romance more organically as I draft.


Probably not the smartest decision, but for now, the system is working. I find it difficult to plan out the romance ahead of time. I like my characters to grow together and for their feelings to develop as I write. Once the first draft is done, I go back and layer on more emotional depth, which can take several rounds for me. See? Not easy. It takes time to get those emotions on the page and create the perfect chemistry between your characters.


I think romance is often viewed as an easy genre to write. It has a bad reputation for this, although I cannot understand why. I’m a firm believer that every genre has pros and cons, things that are easier and things that make an author pull their hair out. No genre is “easy” to write. We just decide which one is worth it, and for me, that tends to often fall into romance. Even when I find it difficult.


Q: Melding the outer action plot and inner romance arc–fun times or cause for day drinking?


I’d say fun times most days, with the occasional day drinking hiccup.


Most often, this is the fun part. Getting that wonderful romantic tension mixed in with the action. The two feed off each other. You can bounce the action against the sexual tension. Or create outer circumstances that put your couple into a bind that elevates the romance. When you do this well, the two work in conjunction. Whether that’s in a contemporary romance, and the action comes from a meddling family. Or a suspense, and the couple are racing against time to stop the protagonist from blowing up an all-important building. Or paranormal romance/urban fantasy where they’re caught between waring species.


You get the idea. As I said in the above question, I started writing contemporary romance, but branching out into paranormal romance and romantic suspense (not to mention my current WIP—a slow burn thriller) has been so much more fun. Action and romance go hand in hand, or at least they can, and adding action lifts the romance to a whole new level. Melding the two together can be gloriously rewarding. Of course, there are days where this gets tricky, so it’s good to keep a bottle of the hard stuff on hand. Just in case.


Q: What is your favorite romance trope to read; frenemies-to-lovers, second-chance romance, fake marriage, or forbidden love?


While I really enjoy frenemies-to-lovers and forbidden love (haven’t delved much into fake marriage), I’d say second-chance is my favourite. By far. Whether reading or writing. There’s something about that detailed past that calls to me. I tend to write pretty complicated backgrounds/pasts for my characters that give them (and me) a lot of headaches in the present timeline.


In fact, I was recently ranting to today’s blog host—the lovely Janet—about this exact problem. I overcomplicate backstories and then have to figure out how to get all the details onto the page. Preferably without an info-dump or beating readers over the head with all the information.


But, I love having rich backstories to work with, layering the emotions. Like the perfect mille-feuille, with flaky puff pastry and a decadent filling—oops, I digressed. It’s possible I’m hungry, but the analogy fits. Adding an intricate backstory that works with the present events deepens the romance and the couple’s connection. When they work together, you create the ideal, delicious balance.


Q: Slow burn or insta-love?


I’m all about the slow burn! Look, an insta-attraction is always fun to read or write. I’m going to be a little different from your average romance-reader (I suspect, anyway) and say that I generally don’t buy into the insta-love. Sorry! You can totally have insta-lust, but love? That needs time. At least in my opinion.


My preference is always going to be the slow burn. Not surprising, given my love of second-chance romance. These go together really well. By having that backstory, you can slowly build up to love.


I’m mostly a romance writer, but I’m busy with a thriller at the moment (the very same WIP I ranted to Janet about with its overcomplicated backstories I mentioned above), and that will have a slow burn romance in the background. I’m very excited to torment my characters—uh, I mean draw out the romantic arc over several books. It’s really satisfying when done well, so fingers crossed it works out!


Q: What’s the UF romance trope you wish would just go away: fated mates a la shifter romance or december/may a la vampire?


Hm, this is a tricky one. I’m not sure there is a trope I would outright like to disappear. Especially since writers are always coming up with new ways to tell stories. But, it largely depends on how it’s handled. Some tropes I may not be super fond of can be written in a way that makes you fall for the story.


That said, there are some that can be problematic, no matter how unique or well written they are.


Namely, the controlling guy who He-Mans his way around the heroine, being all possessive in the name of protecting the poor damsel, and she just falls for him because—well, who knows? I find the idea of the heroine swooning for no good reason very unrealistic. Especially these days. I’ve always stated that I love alpha heroes, but this doesn’t give the guy carte blanche to be a jerk. Or controlling. There are a great many alpha heroes who are perfectly comfortable allowing their heroines to make up their own minds.


The love triangle is also a slippery slope if not portrayed well. I’ve seen the odd one work, but in general, this is a hard pass for me. Aaaaand… I’m probably forgetting a bunch of other ones and will immediately remember them when this goes live. *sighs* Forgive me.


Q: When writing fantasy/UF/paranormal romance or any genre really, how important are the romantic arcs, or how much page time do you dedicate to the romance?


As a romance writer, these arcs are pretty important, and I’ll often give them a good amount of page time. For me, that generally means about half of the story is focused on action beats and the other half go to romance beats. And I’ll admit that sounds far more organized than I usually feel. I’m a recovering panster, and I still can’t plot my romance arcs in advance. I’m working on that, but in general, I like writing the romance in a more organic way.


But it’s also very dependent on the genre/subgenre, and each of those offer an idea of how much focus the romance should have.


Fantasy would get a hint of romance, a little or a decent amount sprinkled into all the lovely worldbuilding and adventure. Urban fantasy could have a bunch more, maybe even a lot with a solid romance arc which is often spread out across the series in a slow burn. Also, I think we tend to see some side-character romances here, which I always find fun. And paranormal romance should probably have a 50/50 ratio with action and the supernatural. Or at least 40/50. Straight up romance or the many subgenres, like romantic suspense, are a whole different story. For these, the romance is integral to the plot, and without it, the entire book would crumble. A good rule of thumb is that if you had to remove the romance, what would you be left with?


And check out the rest of our series on these fantastic blogs:

K Bird Lincoln’s What I Should Have Said

Janet Walden-West’s Blog

Ken Schrader’s It’s All In My Head



Two questions with… Romance Edition – Ken Schrader

Two Questions With . . .

It’s week three of our Romance Edition blog tour, and today I’m honoured to host our fearless tour leader, Ken. So, grab your coffee of choice and pull up a chair as he tells us how he incorporates romance into his writing!


Q: How do you tackle romantic elements in your writing?


A: Whoo. Up until this most recent manuscript, I hadn’t even tried. Recognizing that as an opportunity to add to my writerly toolbox, I sat down to specifically incorporate romantic elements in this next work.


Here’s what I did: I focused on reading stories that had romantic elements. I talked to writers of romance, picked their brains about how they do what they do. As it turns out, for romances, there is an underlying skeletal structure. It’s not the same for every book, just like my skeleton isn’t exactly like yours.


Now I wasn’t setting out to write a full-blown romance, so I didn’t use the entire structure, but it gave me a reference that I could – loosely use.


During the actual writing, I drew heavily on memory. Granted, the lens of memory loses focus the farther away a memory gets, but I don’t need the detail – I need the feelings associated with those memories.


That’s what I try to get on the page. My internal reactions, mixed with sensory input that the characters are experiencing in their environment.


How does that work? I won’t be able to tell you until I get my MS back. I hope I stayed true.


Q: When writing fantasy/UF/paranormal romance or any genre really, how important are the romantic arcs, or how much page time do you dedicate to the romance?


A: For me, they are growing in importance. Stories are, at their most basic level, all about people. People fall in love every day. If you’re not including romance or elements of romance in your story, you’re limiting yourself.


Even if the romance isn’t front and center (that would depend on the kind of story you’re writing), it’s still going to need attention. If you’re three quarters of your way through your book and, suddenly, two characters are in love with one another – without you having set down some kind of groundwork for it – you’re asking your reader to accept quite a bit. Maybe more than they’re willing to. Yes, love at first sight can happen, but that’s reality, not fiction. As a writer, you’ll be doing yourself a favor by giving that relationship some page time even briefly.


Ken Head shot and profile picBIO

I am a science fiction and fantasy writer, a shameless Geek, a fan of the Oxford comma, and I make housing decisions based upon the space available for bookshelves.

I sing out loud when I think there’s no one around, and I try to get a blog post up once a week – one of which I have managed to do consistently for the past few years.

I love music of all kinds, books, the big sky off my front porch, Star Wars, Firefly, Blind Guardian (to which, I write almost exclusively), Rugby, star gazing, jasmine tea, and the smell of rain on the air.

My favorite flavor of ice cream is chocolate. My favorite food is a grilled steak, and I can suspend disbelief embarrassingly quickly.

I live in Michigan, am co-owned by several dogs (especially the Border Collie), and I am one of the rare breed of folk that enjoys mowing the lawn.

My short story “Haven” appears in the “Weird Wild West” anthology.
My short story “The Price of Power” appears in the “Trials” anthology.
My short story “The Intern” appears in the “Chasing the Light” anthology.


Follow me on Twitter @kenschrader4882

Chasing the light

I’m super excited to be hosting the following authors on these dates:

February 4: K Bird Lincoln

February 11: Janet Walden-West

February 18: Ken Schrader

February 25: Don’t miss the recap of all my answers across the series, plus a bonus pair.


Stayed tuned for all the interviews! And check out the rest of our series on these fantastic blogs:

K Bird Lincoln’s What I Should Have Said

Janet Walden-West’s Blog

Ken Schrader’s It’s All In My Head



Two questions with… Romance Edition – Janet Walden-West

Two Questions With . . .

I’m extra, extra delighted to be hosting my CP bestie on my blog today as we continue our blog tour. And look, she brought treats… Janet always knows how to woo me!



Pours the coffee and slices a lovely Red Velvet cheesecake, in honor of Valentine’s


I’m thrilled to be back on the “2 Questions With” blog hop, discussing one of my favorite topics, with my favorite critique partner. I can’t wait to jump into the discussion, and you guys should pop over to my site next to see Anne’s answers.


Q: Slow burn or insta-love?

I appreciate that some writers and readers are all over insta-love. It can certainly provide interesting problems for the fated couple to overcome. If that’s your catnip? Embrace it.

My catnip? Let’s put it this way—#TeamSlowBurnForevah.

Much like good barbeque (because I cannot leave the food metaphors alone, anymore than I can leave foodie moments out of any of my stories), a tasty relationship should marinate and cook at a sensual, low heat until done.

Slow burn has allll my love.

For me, seventy-five percent of the fun is the buildup, the will-they-or-won’t-they anticipation, the little touches and surprise glances. The building heat and intimacy (and adorable awkwardness) as two people either discover or acknowledge their attraction is delicious. I kind of revel in that extended period of getting to know the characters, and them getting to know each other—especially if at least one is an avowed anti-relationship grump. That’s my recipe for the perfect read.


(Anne: See? This is why Janet and I are such good friends…)


Q: What’s the most difficult aspect of writing romance?

Honestly? Plotting. Plotting in general is my nemesis. Ask Anne how many times she’s talked me off an I-can’t-write-this-story/kill-it-now ledge. She deserves a lifetime supply of cheesecake for her service above and beyond the required CP code of conduct.

Because my stories always start with characters, and are largely character driven, I’m then left to create the perfect plot to drop them into. Invariably, I either under-plot, my most common mistake, or go wild an over-plot, cutting into my romance arc and leaving too many threads to try to tie together.

Beat sheets and group CP brainstorming sessions have saved my stories more often than I can count, yet another reason to cultivate your writing community and nurture those friendships, y’all.


(Anne: It’s true! Find your writing people. Because that ledge Janet mentioned above? She’s saved me from more than I can count.)


Janet MeCCJanet Walden-West lives in the southeast with a pack of show dogs, a couple of kids, and a husband who didn’t read the fine print.  She has an unseemly obsession with dusty artifacts, great cars, and bad coffee. A founding member of the East Tennessee Creative Writers Alliance and The Million Words craft blog, she is also a member of Romance Writers of America member. She pens Urban Fantasy that escapes the neat confines of the city limits in favor of map-dot hillbilly towns, and inclusive Romantic Suspense and Contemporary Romance. A #PitchWars alum, her first short story, Road Trip, is included in the Chasing the Light anthology.


Find Me At:


Twitter: @JanetWaldenWest

Instagram: janetwaldenwest

Chasing the Light


I’m super excited to be hosting the following authors on these dates:

February 4: K Bird Lincoln

February 11: Janet Walden-West

February 18: Ken Schrader

February 25: Don’t miss the recap of all my answers across the series, plus a bonus pair.


Stayed tuned for all the interviews! And check out the rest of our series on these fantastic blogs:

K Bird Lincoln’s What I Should Have Said

Janet Walden-West’s Blog

Ken Schrader’s It’s All In My Head



Two questions with… Romance Edition – K Bird Lincoln

Two Questions With . . .


It’s a new year and a new round of our blog tour! I’m very excited about this round because we’re embracing Valentine’s month and going ROMANCE… So, dive into that heart-shaped box of chocolates with me as I welcome K Bird Lincoln.


Q: What’s the UF romance trope you wish would just go away: fated mates a la shifter romance or December/May a la vampire?


Go to your kitchen sink right now. Take all those insta-love fated to be mates stories and stick them down the drain. Run the garbage disposal.


I’m serious. I am a proud Romance Junkie (Smart Bitches, Trashy Books is my go-to site for new eBooks) who started reading Harlequin and Johanna Lindsey/Kathleen Woodiwiss in grade school. Old Skool romance populated with Alpha heroes just this side of stalker who fell in love with the heroine when he first laid eyes on her and girls in layers of petticoats who couldn’t tear their eyes away from muscled calves was my first introduction to LURVE. I swooned as a pre-teen over Cutter and Leetah’s fated love in Elfquest.


Then I grew up. Insta-love, which can be compelling when you’re a hormone-ridden teen, is not as compelling to me as an adult. And there’s nothing worse than Urban Fantasy where two powerful people come together against their will and are bonded with insta-love (not to be confused with insta-attraction which is totally fine) with no room at all for the lovely dance of courtship and anticipation of that first kiss.


One of the reasons I love Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson world so much is because her werewolves and shifters have to court each other under highly constrained rules. There are places where females are acknowledged dominant and roles within the pack they can play. This makes for courting with a slice of danger and excitement. And because Fate doesn’t force Mercy and Adam together, there’s a believable frisson of doubt about them getting together in the first place. There’s room for that relationship to mature, ebb and flow, and become something that encompasses the rest of the cast as well.


So, I’d be happy to say goodbye to insta-love fated mates. Now, if the mates hated each other from the first a la Pride and Prejudice, and then had to battle their own shifter hot blood and instincts to come to a relationship compromise—that would be lovely. Does that exist? Shifter Pride and Prejudice with smexy times? I’d read that…..


Q: What’s the most difficult aspect of writing romance?


I do have a couple romantic subplots in my Urban Fantasy Portland Hafu Trilogy. The first book, Dream Eater, introduces you to Koi Pierce, a college student struggling with a father suffering from Alzheimer’s and a secret that has kept her isolated from the rest of the world for years.


A mysterious stranger comes into her life that speaks the same Northern dialect of Japanese as her father just as she begins to suspect one of her professors is hiding a deadly secret.


Koi and the mysterious stranger definitely are interested in each other. The hardest thing for me in writing a believable romance is the lack of time Koi and Ken (aforementioned mysterious stranger) spend together. Dangerous and emotionally intense times do make humans bond with each other, but in action-focused Urban Fantasy its sometimes difficult to portray how a deeply introverted person like Koi would allow herself to trust a stranger. Or jump into physical contact so quickly with someone she literally met the prior day without resorting to fate or insta-love, or all that stuff I just finished complaining about in the prior question!


Every time I start to write a kissing scene, I hear all the dialogue in Tim Meadow’s voice from his SNL skit as The Ladies’ Man, wearing a silk shirt open at the neck, cradling a wine glass of Courvoisier. I burst out laughing and have to bite my tongue before I can keep writing the scene. Because the mechanics of lips and tongue and smooching are a bit ridiculous to actually type onto a computer screen. The tricky part is using those mechanics to convey the complicated emotions without defaulting to the smooth-talking seductive blathering of Tim Meadows.


Or resorting to all the alpha-male introducing innocent ingenue to her first kiss scenes I devoured in Old Skool Historical Romance books as an adolescent. It’s a tricky balancing act trying to create the circumstances where a social hermit (Koi) and a beta male (Ken) would actually come together. He can’t just sweep her off her feet. She can’t handle simple touching without totally freaking out. Ken has to be persistent, but also give her space to get accustomed to being close. It’s a tall order for a story that happens within a handful of days.


Writing believable romance is a tough job, but someone has to do it!



Last Dream Front (1)Last Dream of Her Mortal Soul, the stunning conclusion to K. Bird Lincoln’s The Portland Hafu Trilogy releases March 19th, but the pre-order links are all live now!


Even a dream eater can’t escape the final sleep…

After her trip to Japan, the Head of Portland Kind calls Koi home to help solve a murder. The body of a powerful magical being was found in the witch’s hut in Forest Park, along with a strange, haunting quotation about dreams and death written in blood. Can Koi discover who seems to be calling out a Baku before others from her new-found family die?



Bringer of Death Cover_finalYou can also get a free taste of Ken the mysterious stranger in the free prequel Novelette, Bringer-of-Death downloadable from Bookfunnel. (You can opt in to my newsletter when you download and make sure not to miss writing news, chances to win chocolate, and access to discounted eBooks. May your Kindle never be empty).


Will a Kitsune assassin have the courage to defy the Council and save a Baku?


Japan lost World War II, but the Tokyo Council still rules the magical Kind with an iron will. When the Council’s enforcer, Bringer-of-Death, receives orders to go after a veteran who happens to be a Baku—dream eater— he is caught between the threat of punishment and his desire to help the Baku escape. Can Bringer-of-Death find a way to both protect his family and the Baku? Or will he be trapped as the Council’s slave forever?

Download this novelette, Bringer-of-Death, to experience Fujiwara Ken’s very first meeting with the Baku Herai Akihito— way before he encounters Akihito’s daughter, Koi Pierce, at the start of Dream Eater, the first book of K. Bird Lincoln’s multi-cultural Portland Hafu Urban Fantasy Trilogy.



kirstenatraintaxiBird Lincoln is an ESL professional and writer living on the windswept Minnesota Prairie with family and a huge addiction to frou-frou coffee. Also dark chocolate– without which, the world is a howling void. Originally from Cleveland, she has spent more years living on the edges of the Pacific Ocean than in the Midwest. Her speculative short stories are published in various online & paper publications such as Strange Horizons. Her medieval Japanese fantasy series, Tiger Lily, is available from Amazon. World Weaver Press released Dream Eater, the first novel in an exciting, multi-cultural Urban Fantasy trilogy set in Portland and Japan, in 2017. She also writes tasty speculative fiction reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. Check her out on Facebook, join her newsletter for chocolate and free stories, or stalk her online at her What I Should Have Said blog.


Thank you to K for stopping by!

I’m super excited to be hosting the following authors on these dates:

February 4: K Bird Lincoln

February 11: Janet Walden-West

February 18: Ken Schrader

February 25: Don’t miss the recap of all my answers across the series, plus a bonus pair.


Stayed tuned for all the interviews! And check out the rest of our series on these fantastic blogs:

K Bird Lincoln’s What I Should Have Said

Janet Walden-West’s Blog

Ken Schrader’s It’s All In My Head