Retribution Release and Pre-Order


Writing your first novel is…hard. Publishing your first novel, whether you decide to go the traditional or self-publishing route, is hard. But do you know what’s at least equally as hard, if not harder?

Writing the next book. And the next. And the next.

I forget who this quote is ascribed to, but I’ve heard it said you never learn how to write a book – you only learn how to write this book. I’ve been thinking about that quote lately, and how true it is. I published the first edition of Reborn back in November of 2013. That’s…eight years ago, lol. It started out as a pretty simple idea: a story about a college-aged woman who runs into a man from her past. A tall, dark, handsome, broody man who is probably not human. And who is either her long-lost love or sworn enemy. Or a little bit of both.

I wondered who these two characters were. I wanted to root around their brains, find out what drove them, what scared them, what – and who – they wanted more than anything.

Then, quite suddenly, I didn’t have just Siobhan and Jasper anymore, these two fascinating but deeply flawed people. I had a whole world in my head I wanted to explore, a world where Greek mythology met Greek life but was also equal parts 90s syndicated sci-fi show and teen drama. If you would have asked me to describe Reborn when it first came out, I might have told you it was like Stargate SG-1 meets Greek (you know, the ABC Family – now Freeform – show from the late 2000s?). Which is honestly kind of accurate, but also who the heck would want to read that (besides me)?

If you’re new to the Reborn series, it’s essentially a modern retelling of the Eros and Psyche myth. My Psyche is Siobhan Elliot, a college student at the fictional Thurston University in Shadesburg (a Pittsburgh-esque city). My Eros is Jasper Hart, her hot teaching assistant for her World Myths and Legends class. The first two books in the series, Reborn and Relapse, mostly focus on their complicated, at times downright toxic, relationship, as well as Siobhan’s efforts to navigate this new world she finds herself in.

Pretty quickly, my ideas for the series expanded beyond Siobhan and Jasper’s story. It spawned two novellas and the third installment, Reclaim, which focused on a different main character: Siobhan’s sorority sister, Carly Dragonjac. While Siobhan’s interests began to clash a lot with her sorority’s, I think of Carly as the Gamma Lambda Phi sister who stayed. As Carly doesn’t have much of a family left, the sorority didn’t just become her home-away-from-home, but her home, period. And her storyline let me indulge one of my other favorite archetypes, the wicked (and sexy) trickster god. The fourth book, Retribution, picks up where both Siobhan and Carly’s stories left off and gives them a (mostly) happy resolution.

Oh, right. Did I mention I have a book coming out?

Going back to that quote at the beginning of the post, it took me four years (Reclaim was published in 2017) to learn how to write Retribution. Not that I was writing it that entire time. I was not. I did put out a novella in 2019, but mostly the ideas for the fourth book were marinating. And, sure, then there was a global pandemic in which I was like…okay, I’m at home way more than usual, there is literally no excuse now not to finish this book…

Although the major ideas and revelations in the book never changed, I think it would have been a much different book if I had forced myself to write it four years ago. It was always going to be about how Siobhan and Jasper both heal from their past traumas, how they finally find their way back to an authentic, healthy version of their relationship. But I was also thinking about several larger themes while I was writing it. For one: What would happen if our world was infiltrated by an alien civilization? (Slight spoiler alert: probably nothing good.)

And, in this era of movements like #MeToo, where we’re starting, as a society, to confront egregious abuses of power and privilege, I was thinking a lot about what we’re “allowed” or expected to feel as women. So, power is definitely one of the major themes in Retribution – confronting power imbalances, confronting those who abuse their power and, most importantly, reclaiming that power.

Now, there are definitely many light-hearted, fun, silly, sexy, and romantic moments in Retribution. But it does get rather dark at times. Rest assured, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. In the meantime, I let my female characters experience the whole gamut of emotions: happiness, love, desire, fear, desperation, despair, regret, hate, resentment. Each main character has an inner darkness to confront. One learns to accept and live with it. One rises above it. One embraces it.

You can pre-order Retribution for Kindle on Amazon! It releases July 1, 2021. While you’re at it, add it on Goodreads. I am planning to give out a few review copies (.mobi or pdf only), so email me at slstacyauthor@gmail.com if you’re interested. Heidi’s gorgeous cover art and the book summary are below!

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Siobhan has returned from a seven-month stint in Pandora to a world that’s falling apart. Literally.

She doesn’t care, though, about the holes in the walls between the worlds. Or that, according to a prophecy, she’s the only one who can stop Eric and his halfling army from taking over Olympus. All Siobhan wants now is to get back to some semblance of normalcy in life, and in her relationship with Jasper.

Meanwhile, combat training is Carly’s new normal. But while Gamma Lambda Phi prepares for certain war, she grapples with missing memories and a forgotten power. And just when a possibility for new love presents itself, an old flame is rekindled.

Electra is the new general of Eric’s army, but it’s a tenuous command. She is caught between love and fear, sanity and madness, a desire for absolution and a thirst for vengeance…

In the game of the gods, anything goes, and nothing is what it seems. And in this conclusion to the Reborn saga, these three women will learn just how far they’re willing to go to win.

Retro Book Review: Tithe


Happy Wednesday! As I announced last week, I thought writing some “retro” book reviews would be a fun summer goal for keeping the blog going. Last week, I did a re-read of Dark Visions by L.J. Smith (review here). This week, I’m reviewing Tithe by one of my new favorites, Holly Black.

Tithe is the first book in Black’s Modern Faerie Tales trilogy, originally published back in 2002 (which is very nearly 20 years ago? oh my…). Recently, the Modern Faerie Tales have been reissued with some gorgeous new covers. I would have been in middle school when Tithe first came out, but for whatever reason, Holly Black was not on my radar back then. The first book of hers I read was The Cruel Prince, and after that, I was hooked on her beautiful, brutal faery world and its characters.

Tithe is also excellent, although not for the faint of heart, I suppose. It’s a fairly dark, gritty urban fantasy, and, although it is a YA series, the Modern Faerie Tales deal with some pretty heavy issues. Black’s spin on the world of the fae is equal parts beautiful and cruel, pleasurable and painful. Its teen MCs are imperfect, its parents range from being selfish to downright neglectful, and no one is safe from the capricious, deadly fae.

At the beginning of Tithe, Kaye Fierch is on the road with her mother, a musician who survives paycheck to paycheck, and gig to gig. But a nearly fatal clash with one of her mother’s bandmates sends them packing for Kaye’s grandmother’s house in New Jersey. Kaye hasn’t been to school in years and, despite her grandmother’s insistence, isn’t about to go back now. She smokes, stays out too late, and is generally a bit aimless. In New Jersey, she reconnects with an old friend, Janet, and Janet’s loner brother, Cornelius (Corny) Stone.

Their New Jersey is one of abandoned warehouses, dark alleyways, and underground raves. But it’s also a world many of the solitary fae – faeries who have been exiled from the Seelie or Unseelie courts – call home. Kaye remembers some imaginary friends she made as a kid. In Tithe, those once imaginary friends turn out to be all too real and know the truth about who Kaye really is. Kaye’s journey is one of self-discovery, of survival as the human and fae worlds collide. And of new love in the form of white-haired Roiben, a Seelie knight who has been traded to serve the Unseelie queen as a show of peace between the two courts.

I am giving Tithe five stars. I love to read (and write) imperfect characters, and Kaye certainly fits the bill. I think some readers, and some perhaps concerned with what teens are reading, balk a bit when the character isn’t some sort of role model. But I don’t believe all characters, even those in YA books, are obligated to be role models. In fact, there are likely many teens out there who may relate to Kaye, a girl from a poor family, with a somewhat neglectful parent and a poor track record at school. Those teens have stories, too. And those teens need to see characters like Kaye who are overcoming odds and discovering their own strengths.

Also, Roiben sounds hot. So there’s that.

If you’re a fan of the fae, urban fantasy, and don’t mind it with a large helping of romantic horror, I recommend Tithe! In the coming weeks, I will also be reviewing the second two books, Valiant and Ironside. I am officially hooked on Holly Black!

Retro Book Review: Dark Visions


Context: I’ve decided to write some “retro” book reviews this summer. I’m defining retro as any book originally published more than 15 years ago. For all you L.J. Smith fans who may or may not be out there, today I’m reviewing a classic: Dark Visions.

I was originally introduced to L.J. Smith in middle school, when my friend handed me The Forbidden Game and said, “I think you’ll like this. Julian is hot.” LOL. Every few years, the nostalgia hits me, and I re-read TFG or Dark Visions, mostly because they’re my favorites, but also because I own them.

I’m not saying Dark Visions is perfect or anything. It was an older book even when I read it for the first time (it’s nearly as old as me). Although I do like L.J. Smith’s writing style, I can’t lie that the characters in Dark Visions sound like something out of a 1950s movie. Honestly, some of it has not aged well. But it’s still one of my favorite comfort reads.

Dark Visions is a trilogy (the three books are often found together now in an omnibus edition) following Kaitlyn Fairchild, a teen artist whose drawings are often prophetic. Because of her spooky powers, she feels out of place in her small town and is sort of viewed as the town “witch.” Then, destiny comes knocking when she’s recruited to an institute for psychics in San Francisco, where she joins four other teen psychics (Rob, Gabriel, Anna, and Lewis) to learn to hone her abilities. It becomes quickly apparent, though, that nothing is as it initially seems at the institute, and its enigmatic leader, Mr. Zetes, has recruited them for more nefarious purposes.

The first book in the trilogy focuses on Kait’s time at the institute and getting to know the other psychics. For the first time, she feels like she has real friends, and even falls in love for the first time, with psychic healer Rob. Unfortunately, she – and basically everybody, lol – butts heads with Gabriel, the bad boy of the bunch who may or may not have murdered someone.

Okay, maybe I just like these books because of Gabriel? L.J. Smith has always done misunderstood, broody antihero very well. Her books also tend to feature a central love triangle, between the main heroine, a well-liked golden boy (who is not without his own flaws), and a Broody McBroodypants. In Dark Visions, we of course have the Rob-Kait-Gabriel love triangle, with both guys appealing to different sides of Kait. I had sort of forgotten this until I re-read it (and this may be a bit of a spoiler, but these books are 30-years-old…), but it does come with the lesson that your first love won’t necessarily be your last, or only, love – and that you can love people in different ways. Which, duh…but still, I think it’s a nice lesson to impart, especially for teen readers. When you’re young, breaking up with someone can feel like the end of the world, but it’s definitely not. I promise you, you will love again, lol.

Part of the reason that Dark Visions (and L.J. Smith’s other books) might be so memorable/important to me, is because – back at the time I first read them – YA was not nearly the behemoth genre it is now. The YA section of our local library was several shelves against a wall crammed with delightfully pulp-y paperbacks. It was right before YA started to get really big in the mid- to late-2000s. Back then, I also read a lot of V.C. Andrews, which probably could be considered YA by today’s standards (perhaps except for all the, uh, incest…), it just wasn’t marketed as such at the time. I think it’s great there are so many options and subgenres of YA now. So many choices for teens! And for older millennials like me who read/write YA. Anyway, that was a bit of a tangent, but I think much of the reason L.J. Smith’s books will always hold a special place in my heart.

I just got some of Holly Black’s older books from the library (curbside pickup has been my best friend during the pandemic), so I think doing these types of retro reviews will be one of my summer projects. For now, happy Friday eve – and happy reading!

Monster Girls and Wicked Boys


Happy Thursday! I haven’t really done a book review on this blog for quite some time. But, I recently read Holly Black’s The Folk of the Air trilogy, and I have thoughts, lol.

It’s been awhile since I felt like anything pulled me in as much as this series did. And it was somewhat unexpected. I read the first book, The Cruel Prince, early last year, probably a month or so before the pandemic began. I really liked it! But it took me until this past month to read the next two (The Wicked King and The Queen of Nothing). I was so pulled in that I actually went back and re-read The Cruel Prince, then read the other two again before I had to return them to the library. I rarely re-read books at all, let alone this soon after the first read, haha. I was curious to see, though, what clues Holly Black might have sprinkled throughout the series leading up to its conclusion.

So, this post is sort of part book review, part discussion of themes that I liked in the trilogy. First, the review part: top-notch books, five million stars. Lol. (I should note, too, the title of today’s post is borrowed from How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories, a short story collection and companion to TFOTA.)

The series centers around Jude Duarte, a girl whose parents were murdered by the Folk and then raised by their murderer, a redcap named Madoc, in Elfhame. Jude and her twin sister, Taryn, have quite a different upbringing in Elfhame than they would have in the human world, to say the least. The fairy world is one filled with intrigue, epic political rivalries, debauchery, and violence. In the first book, Jude has aspirations of becoming a knight. She craves both physical armor and the respect such a position would grant her, but she’s also, in a sense, armored her emotions, her heart, just to survive as a human in Elfhame.

Jude is a great, and perhaps rare, type of character in YA literature. She is unapologetically ambitious and will do anything to take, and hold onto, even a little bit of power in the fairy world. Especially in the first book, she’s very nearly, if not entirely, a psychopath. She also has a bloodthirsty streak.

There’s actually quite a lot of political intrigue going on in this series, so it’s unfair to boil it down to its central romance. But, what a “romance” it is. Cardan is the youngest prince of Elfhame. When they’re in school together, he and his friends are bullies, and to say Jude hates him is an understatement. Cardan “hates” her at the start, too, although perhaps it’s more fair to say that he hates himself for not actually hating her, a puny human.

If you’re an enemies-to-lovers fan, this is the trilogy for you. And clearly from some of the reviews I’ve seen after finishing the series, not everyone is a fan of this, and that’s fine. This aspect of the book seems to have gotten some slack because Cardan is, of course, a bully at the beginning, and for some readers, that’s a deal breaker. But, although I think it’s fair to say a relationship like this doesn’t translate well to real life (and it doesn’t have to), I love the themes Holly Black is able to explore with this dynamic.

Because it’s true, Cardan is cruel at the start of the series (although some of his friends are arguably worse), but Jude is also horrible, in her way. Like I said, she will do anything to get ahead, to feel like she has at least some control in a world she knows is against her. And this includes tricking, lying, and controlling Cardan in The Wicked King. Cardan has a troubled past that explains much of why he is the way he is, and he grows out of this by the end of the series. One of the themes of the trilogy is that boys can change, and I actually think this is really important. Not in a sense that you should be in a relationship with someone who bullies you (you absolutely shouldn’t), but in a more general sense. Like, honestly, boys absorb a lot of toxic messages, whether they’re aware of it or not, about what it means to be a man. But, as you get older, you can learn new things – realize what you’ve been taught or raised to believe isn’t necessarily true – and change your perspective as a result.

Jude, too, goes through a learning process throughout the series. She comes to learn that loving someone doesn’t mean controlling them. The emotional armor she’s built around herself begins, slowly, to chip away.

I think this trilogy’s themes also resonated with me because (shameless plug alert), it reminded me of what I was trying to do in my Reborn series. In Reborn and Relapse, Siobhan and Jasper have a pretty toxic relationship. They could both use a lesson in love does not equal control. Jasper blatantly manipulates Siobhan in the first book, believing he has her best interests in mind. In the second book, I try to reverse their roles a bit. Jasper is starting to come around, disliking the darker version of himself he’s become. And, despite everything, he does love Siobhan. She knows this. She knows this, exploits it because she gets something from him, too – but can’t give herself entirely to him, emotionally. Siobhan, in this way, is hurting him right back; she’s aware of it, but she goes ahead with it, anyway.

Another aspect of Holly Black’s trilogy I appreciated was the way she reversed gender roles. In addition to wanting to become a knight, Jude has many of the personality traits that, if we do see them, we usually see them in male characters. Like I said, she’s shamelessly ambitious, needs to control everything, and has a penchant for solving problems with violence. And, this is a bit superficial, but I also love how Cardan is the “flashy” one, ha. Jude does get dressed up in the books, but she tends to gravitate toward more practical clothing, while Cardan’s closets are full of fancy attire.

Anyway, these kinds of role reversals are what I like to see in books, and also what I tried to incorporate in Retribution. I want to see heroines who are ambitious, complicated, controlling, bloodthirsty, unapologetic. “Monster” girls, as Holly Black might say.

If you are a fan of YA, fantasy, and romance, I highly recommend The Folk of the Air books!

Pieces of Me


This post by H.N. Sieverding about Resembling Your Characters got me thinking about the pieces of me, both the obvious and not so obvious, sprinkled throughout the Reborn series.

There’s the saying to “write what you know” – and in many ways I definitely did that in Reborn. Siobhan and I have several superficial similarities and differences. At one time, we were both blonde. Although, as I was just joking about with Ms. Sieverding, my highlights have grown out during the pandemic, so my natural brown hair is showing now. My hubby likes to tease me about it, but he says he loves my hair/me either way. (Good answer.) Siobhan is short, whereas I’m on the taller side.

Our backgrounds are probably the most similar thing. Like Siobhan, I grew up in a small town in western Pennsylvania (and Shadesburg is my fictional version of Pittsburgh). She also loves science, but I made her a biology major instead of chemistry. We were both in sororities. Luckily, my sorority’s president and adviser were not capricious Greek goddesses (as far as I know). Probably the biggest difference, personality-wise, is that I made Siobhan way more outgoing than I am. She also tends to blurt things out without thinking, whereas I am more cautious about what I want to say (or at least try to be).

That being said, although I was writing what I knew, I wouldn’t say Siobhan is me. She doesn’t make the same decisions I would. At the end of the day, I am trying to explore a character who isn’t you or me. I think sometimes, the author is purposefully doing this so you as the reader can insert yourself in the action or fantasy. (And, not to drag this series or anything, but Ana in Fifty Shades of Gray is sort of like that.) Not that there wouldn’t be aspects you can/can’t relate to with Siobhan or my other characters, but they go through their own changes as the series goes on.

Well, that was already a bit of a tangent. So, what other pieces of me have I inserted into the books? Personality-wise, I am probably more like Carly. I think at one point in the third book she mentions living in her head a lot – as a writer, that is definitely me, haha. I made her a math major because heroines with STEM-related interests are still not something I see a lot of in young adult books. Her obsession with 80s music and movies is also 100% me, lol. As is her close relationship to her grandmother when she was younger.

That’s where the similarities end, I think. It’s difficult for pieces of yourself to not end up in your work, whether it’s intentional or not. And while I think it can be important for authors to put themselves in shoes that are not their own (otherwise, you’re going to write about the same character/story over and over again), we also need to be cognizant of whether you are/aren’t the right person to do a certain storyline justice. Especially when you’re coming from a point-of-view that’s typically the majority or more privileged perspective. That’s another aside that could be an entire post of its own, but I just wanted to qualify that here.

I was also trying to decide if there is a male character in Reborn most like me? Jimmy is the punk rocker among the group, and I do love a lot of the music I have him reference (The Velvet Underground, The Stooges, David Bowie). Like, every book I write always has to have some not-so-subtle Bowie reference, bahaha. I guess Dolos and I have the whole vivid imagination thing in common, although he takes it to a whole new level (and I am not a trickster god, that I am aware of).

So, there you have it! Probably more information than you ever wanted to know about what parts of me ended up in the Reborn series. But I hope you enjoyed it!

Sale: Reborn Series Box Set


The Reborn Series Box Set (containing the first three books and two novellas) is on sale for Kindle! Grab yours here before it goes back to its regular price on Wednesday. Get caught up before the conclusion to the series, Retribution, hits this summer! 😉

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Siobhan Elliot’s World Myths and Legends class was supposed to be an easy way to get elective credit. Instead, she gets an unexpected—and unwanted—blast from the past in the form of the course’s handsome teaching assistant, Jasper Hart. He puts the cliché tall, dark and handsome to shame, but that’s the least of Siobhan’s worries. Because she’s met him before.

And he’s definitely not human.

Back then, their brief encounter left her with a unique but uncontrollable power, forever altering her young adult life. Now, the only person who can tell her the truth about who—and what—she really is doesn’t seem to remember her.

Even so, Jasper’s return opens a whole new world to Siobhan, one straight from the pages of her World Myths and Legends textbook. Her already bizarre life is about to be turned upside down, and nothing—not even her sorority, Gamma Lambda Phi—is left untouched. A world where Greek mythology meets Greek life, legendary lovers reunite, and nothing is what it seems.

And that’s just the beginning. This Reborn Series box set features the first three books in the series (REBORN, RELAPSE, and RECLAIM) and two bonus novellas (REVENGE and RECTIFY).

Interview with Author H.N. Sieverding


Happy Friday Eve! Today I’m really excited to have one of my author friends, and all-around cool lady, H.N. Sieverding back on my blog! I interviewed her some years back, around when I first started this blog, so we’re long overdue to check in with her. In addition to being a bestselling author of vampire and sports fiction novels, Ms. Sieverding is a fabulous graphic designer (she’s made all the book covers for the Reborn series!). She was also one of the first author friends I met via WordPress, and I’m so glad we’ve been able to keep in touch over the years.

Check out my interview with her below, followed by an excerpt from her sports romance novel, Verona Wolves.

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Author Bio: H.N. Sieverding is an author and graphic artist. Several of her novels have hit bestsellers’ lists, including the Christian’s Kisses, Nightwalkers, and Check Mate series. She’s known for her vampire and sports fiction novels, but writes in many genres, from horror and fantasy to sports fiction and suspense.

Outside of writing, she designs book cover art and promotional material for authors and publishers. Several of her cover designs have won cover art competitions for literary magazines.

Coffee or tea? – Coffee. I think I drink more coffee than I eat some days. I started drinking it to replace pop years ago. I don’t drink soda anymore, but coffee became a worse addiction. Less sugar, but…lol.

Favorite place to visit or go on vacation? – It’d be a tie between the smoky mountains, or bumming on the beach. I love the ocean.   

How long have you been writing? – If you mean “novels”, I wrote my first novel when I was about sixteenish, and wrote short stories when I was a kid. I’ve wanted to be an author for as long as I can remember. Though, after watching She-Devil as a little girl and thinking authors were rich, I thought writing would pay way more than it does.

Tell me about your current WIP. – I’m working on two. I’m editing Vulcan’s Nightmare (a paranormal/horror) and writing Astoria Foxes (a sports fiction/romance).

Since I chose an excerpt from Verona Wolves, I’ll introduce its sequel, Astoria Foxes

It follows the life of a professional hockey player, Firebird Callahan, and his move to a different country when he signs for a foreign team. Not wanting to leap on his own, Firebird marries his girlfriend on a whim and promises to become the perfect father to both her teenage brother and the couple’s new baby. Firebird struggles with the role of Dad, and at nineteen and still a kid himself, Firebird’s in way over his head.

Worse yet, he clashes with his new team’s alpha, Kai Tremblay, and the pair can’t find common ground. Firebird’s perfect life seems like it’s falling apart, and as he drowns in his mistakes, and all he worked for seems to slip away, Firebird fears he’ll lose more than his career if he doesn’t get back on his feet.

What’s the hardest part of writing a book? – Editing. Writing the first draft is like coasting down a hill. You can see the end, and it’s a fast ride. Editing feels more like climbing a mountain on a cloudy day. You can’t see the peak, the pace is slower, and it requires more work. You get tired as you go, and sometimes you feel like you’ll never get there, but if you keep trekking, you’ll get to the top. Once you’re there, the view is worth all the hard work. 😉

Tell me about your latest/upcoming book release. When will it be published, and where can we buy it? – My last book released last fall, and you can buy it on Amazon. It’s a sports fiction/sport’s romance called Verona Wolves and is part of the Firebird Series. I’m writing the sequel to it now, Astoria Foxes. It’s a comedy, so it’s lighter than the darker themed novels I’ve written. It’s fun to switch up genres.

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And now, an excerpt from Verona Wolves! (Sport’s Romance/Sport’s Fiction)

Book Description: When an accident takes the lives of her mother and step-father, Sophie moves to Verona to care for her brother, Christopher. Sophie struggles to connect with him, but can’t find common ground. Obsessed with anything hockey, its Christopher’s greatest passion and the one thing that will help her get closer to him. She finds an ally in Firebird Callahan, the loud-mouthed center for the Verona Wolves. Not only does Callahan school her on hockey, he gives her the cringe-worthy nickname, Mistletoe.

Get Verona Wolves on Amazon.

In this scene, Sophie meets Hunter after going to the wrong rink. She doesn’t realize he’s her brother’s favorite player on the Wolves, Firebird Callahan. To mess with her, he chooses not to tell her. 

– H.N.

Location: Wolves Ice Arena: Verona, Palisades

Five minutes later, Sophie arrived at the ice arena. Christopher told her to park in the lot, but she only found a parking garage. It said ARENA PARKING, so it should be fine. She paid the fee to park there.

Late, she scurried to the first door she saw. It didn’t have a sign posted near it, but women came out of it, so she assumed it was an entrance. It should take her where she needed to go. A lady on her way out held the door for Sophie, and Sophie thanked her with a smile. 

Sophie moved here in August and never stepped foot in the arena before. She took Christopher to buy hockey gear yesterday, and he left his stick in her car. Now, he had hockey practice and didn’t have what he required. She wanted his hockey season to be perfect, but it was already bumpy. 

She and her sister still scrambled to get the hang of this parenting thing, and Christopher didn’t give them any breaks. But given what happened to him in the last few weeks, he should be moody, so she let it slide.

When Sophie opened the door to the main arena, she peeked inside. They dimmed the lights, and a Zamboni made runs over the ice. Massive, the stands held thousands, and they covered the walls with screens and advertisements. 

Sighing, she realized this wasn’t the place. This was the arena for the Verona Wolves, a team part of World League Hockey. The league had teams all over the globe competing for the coveted Webley Cup. This was hockey royalty, and it showed. 

Annoyed with herself, she backtracked. There must be a hallway leading to the public rink. The ramp’s directions led her here and there wasn’t another rink on the street, so it was close. 

Frustrated and fretting about not getting to Christopher in time, she trotted through the halls searching for it. Weighted down, she toted a bag with her tablet and work materials in it, a zip-up hoodie over her arm, and Christopher’s hockey stick.

She wore Christopher’s Pup’s T-shirt, but it was tighter than she predicted, and her amble breasts stretched the logo. The long necklaces and bangles she wore didn’t match her casual shirt, and either did her black jeggings and tall boots.

When she fled the house, she took off her blouse and forced the tee over her tank. It was a splendid idea to cheer him on, but now she wished she didn’t do it. She looked silly.

Her phone sounded off with a text. Sophie tucked the stick under her arm to read the note from her boss. Distracted, her attention glued to her cell as she typed and walked to her destination. After banging into the wall a few times, she paused near an intersection to complete it.

Annoyed, Sophie tried to finish fast and concentrate on finding Christopher. She didn’t have time for this, and it showed in her stiff jaw and thinned lips.

A man dashed around the corner and knocked into her. The impact slammed her into the concrete wall. Shrieking when she landed on her brother’s stick, Sophie’s back burned. She gritted her teeth as she hissed, pain running down her spine. She dropped the stick and it fell to the floor.

The man startled and ripped off his headphones. He held a phone, and it appeared to be an accident. “Fuck, I’m sorry. I didn’t see you.” Apologetic, he spoke with a quick tongue. He slung a duffle bag over his shoulder and wore a tight black long-sleeved shirt and loose track pants. “You all right?” He shoved his earphones and cell into his sack.

“What are you composed of? Concrete?” Sophie pressed her lips together, her jaw rigid as she groaned and rubbed her back. She spoke under her breath in Italian, “Hard as rock.” As she readjusted the strap on her bag over her shoulder, she checked the floor for the stick.

“Shit, I’m told.” He smoothed his wet reddish-blond hair as he sought to make a joke. When she went for the stick, he swept it up before she did.

“Must be coprolite, because it really hurt,” she replied in a whiney tone as she ripped the hockey stick from him with a swift hand.

“Corpro what?” Still in a stupor, he gawked at her with a vacant expression.

She spoke with a quick tongue. “You know—fossilized feces—like rock.” She shifted her focus to the stick as she examined it for damage.

As he licked his lips, he ran both hands through his wet hair. Her eyes ticked to his and back to her task. Sophie gasped as she took note of the split wood. 

“Damn it,” she uttered in Italian. She stomped her foot as she ran her hand over the fracture, her pout growing. “I snapped it. Christopher will be so mad at me. I just bought this stupid thing yesterday, too.” She grumbled as she banged the butt of the stick on the tile and scanned the surrounding signs.

 “Lemme see.” In a lightning-quick action, he stole the stick and surveyed the damage.

She took a step closer and fawned over the stick’s injury. “It’s bad, isn’t it?” she whispered in a babyish voice.

She inhaled the cologne mixed with a spicy body wash radiating off him. The fresh scent ignited butterflies in her belly, but now was not the time to flirt, so she gulped and drove back the interest.

Because of this seductive-smelling man of steel, Christopher would have to sit out on his first practice, and he would be livid with her.

His eyes narrowed as he checked out the stick from various angles. “Ouch—sorry. You must’ve hit it just right. Happens with those cheaper brands.” 

“Cheap my ass,” she breathed. She crammed her cell in her back-jean pocket and was furious with herself. Stretchy, her jeans hugged her body and revealed the outline of her phone. “They are not.”

“Who’s Christopher?” His baby blues gave her a quick once over. His eyes paused on the logo on her T-shirt, then moved to her eyes. “Your boyfriend?” His question was sarcastic, but she couldn’t tell if it was a joke or he hit on her.

“My brother,” she corrected. She shied from the dapper man’s eyes. On closer scrutiny, she noted his roots were flaming red, and he added blond highlights to tone it down.

She wasn’t fond of redheads, nor did she date guys younger than her. He looked about twenty, so she guessed he could be younger. Though he was attractive, their age difference made her back off. His flirting wouldn’t get to her.

“He plays junior hockey.” She seized the stick and studied the damage further. As she ran a finger over the crack, she avoided his eyes.

“Junior hockey?” Confused, his eyes narrowed, but his manner was cordial. “The Wolves are a world league team.” He shifted a three-foot duffle bag on his shoulder. Black, it bore a prominent sports brand emblem on the side. It was like the hockey bag Christopher threw his gear in for practice. lea

“No, like kids’ hockey.” She was unsure of her answer and fumbled with her words. Flustered, she couldn’t think.

“Kids? Like pee wee? Bantam?”

“What’s that?” She met his eyes and though he found the exchange humorous, she didn’t. He had a cheerful smile, his teeth an unnatural white like he bleached them. His top row was perfect and straight, and she guessed they were false. If he played hockey, it wouldn’t surprise her.

“Kids’ hockey.” He slicked back his hair with both hands, but it tumbled down again and fell into his face.

After discharging a huff, she bounced the stick on the ground to ease her nervousness. “Christopher plays for the Pups. He’s a freshman in high school.”

Oh, he’s a Midget, eh?” He motioned toward her shirt.

“Huh?”

Midget,” he spoke in a deeper tone as he sought not to snicker. “That’s what they call kids his age.” He drifted closer and picked at the yellow tape woven around the rounded end of the stick. Christopher taped it yesterday on the car ride home, and this guy peeled it up with ease. It must not be stuck tight.

“Really?” She laughed off her ignorance.

He gave a slow nod as his attention ticked to the logo on her breast. His eyes lingered and he fisted the toe of the stick. “Now you know.” In play, he rattled the stick until she met his gaze.

She still fisted the shaft and kept the stick steady. “Sorry, I’m not familiar with hockey ranks.”

 “Apparently,” he quipped as he withdrew his hand to tuck hair behind his ear. “And I was just fucking with you.” He snickered and danced on his feet as he waved the discussion away with his hand. “I know who the Pups are.”

“And I don’t mean to be grumpy, it’s just—” Her phone beeped, and Sophie pulled it out of her pocket to view the message.

[Christopher] Did you bring my stick?

She huffed and palmed her forehead. Sophie pleaded with him, “You know hockey stuff. Can you help me? Is this fixable for the night?” She tapped the end of the stick on the tile and gestured to the damage. She joked as she shot him a stressed smile. “Like, with tape? Don’t you guys use it to fix everything?” 

“Tape doesn’t fix everything.” He threw her a mischievous smile and held in a chuckle. A genuine redhead with light skin, there was a troupe of freckles dancing over his nose and dotting his thick neck.

She pushed her lips together and studied the stick, her attention fixated on the break. “Darn,” she grunted. “I thought maybe it could be a temporary fix.”

He plucked at the tape on the curved end of the stick again and brushed against her side. The flirt caused her to meet his eyes. Dry, the skin on his fists bore a few splits. “But, hey, since it was my fault, I’ll get you one he can use. I’d hate to see the kid have to sit out on a game because he doesn’t have one.” 

“Thanks.” Her tone brightened with his offer. “And it’s practice, silly. They don’t start games until October.” She giggled as she took in his expression. “As a hockey guy, you should know.”

“’Ya got me there.” He shrugged and showed his palms. “Practice, then. How old did you say he is?”

“Fourteen—almost fifteen. His birthday is at the end of this month. The twentieth.” Shivering, she bounced the stick in a nervous action. They cranked the air conditioner here because of the ice, and there was a drastic temperature difference inside versus outside. She set her bag down and plunged her arms in the zip-up hoodie she carried. The emblem of Azure Magazine was on the front.

As she picked up her bag and hoisted it over her shoulder, she met his eyes. His eyelashes were a light brown, and his eyes an alluring ice blue. He trapped her in his gaze, and she averted her eyes.

“And thanks so much. You made a terrible day better.” She removed her hair from under the collar of her sweater. Her complexion was darker than his and her eyes a light greenish-blue. 

“Glad to help…” He gestured for her to fill in her name with his hand.

“Sophie.” With a sunny smile, she held out her hand in greeting. She repeated, “Sophie Moretti.” She introduced herself in the same generic tone she used with clients. 

“Hunter.” He shook her hand, his grip tight, and his hands rough and calloused. He peeked at her fingers, rings covering most of them. She loved jewelry, and it showed.

“Nice to run into you, Hunter.” Her cheeks reddened as they shared a laugh.

“How long’s he played?” Hunter motioned for her to go with him, and Sophie hopped to his side. The halls were silent, and their words echoed in the vacant hall.

“Since he was four. He’s my half-brother, so we didn’t grow up together. He’d call me when he won games and sent me videos and pictures, but I’ve never seen him play in person. So, I’m excited to get the opportunity to now.”

“Where you from?”

“The Marion Hills.”

“I can believe that,” he snickered and watched the tile at his feet as they strolled.

She ignored his remark. “But maybe I’m too involved. Like, he gets annoyed with me because he says I drill him about hockey like I’m interviewing him. Like I’m weird.”

She palmed her chest as she spoke, her words casual. “I don’t mean to. I just want to learn about it, you know.” She pouted her lips as she fidgeted with her necklaces. Her worry showed in her hurried words. “So, when I’m watching him play, I know what’s going on. I don’t want to say the wrong thing around his friends and embarrass him. He’s sensitive about stuff. I like to enter the scene researched and prepared.” 

He opened his mouth to speak, but she cut him off. 

“Oh, my gosh!” She covered her mouth and gasped as she talked over him. “Do you think I’m trying too hard? I don’t want to make him feel that way or smother him.”

He tried to speak again, but she continued.

“I am, aren’t I?” She pouted, a babyishness in her voice. “And I wore his shirt and I look so stupid.” She dropped her hand and groaned. “I’m such an awful sister.” 

“Naw.” He faced forward, his gaze bouncing over the banners in the hall. “It should thrill him you’re researching.”

“Maybe,” she whispered. As she adjusted the belt on her shoulder, her gaze bounced around the corridor. “So, do you play hockey? You look like an athlete. I mean—” She gestured to him, her eyes narrowing on his tight shirt defining his muscles. Before she grew flustered, she adverted her eyes to crush the wicked thoughts he kindled. “Like, you—” 

“Work out?” He caught onto her fumble and threw her a mischievous grin. 

“Yeah.” She refocused and swung the stick as she walked. She skimmed the wall lined with endorsements for the Wolves. “This complex is so huge, there’s like a million teams playing here.”

“Just so you know,” he gave his answer with a chuckle. “All the city stuff is at the rink across the street.” He pointed to his right. “This is the Wolves arena, so technically, you’re not supposed to be in here. I don’t even know how you got in here without a key.”

Seriously?” She halted as her jaw dropped. Wiping away her worry, she scowled and stiffened her lip. She resumed walking and mumbled, “Well, that explains why I can’t find the way to the public rink.” She spun to face him, irritation in her voice. “The signs on the ramp make it look like it connects all the rinks. They need to fix that.” She pointed the stick at him. “So, technically, it’s the sign maker’s fault I’m lost.”

“Don’t worry about it. It happens a lot,” he whispered as he peeked behind them and back at her.

 “Do you play for the Wolves?” Her lips filled with a grand smile flushing her cheeks. “My brother loves you guys.”

“Yeah.” Annoyance replaced his upbeat mood. She wasn’t sure why, but she overlooked it.

She signaled to him with her stick. “And this may sound a little silly but—” She shot him a smile, her eyes meeting with his. “—maybe you can autograph something for me? Christopher would be so thrilled. He’d forgive me for the whole ‘forgetting his stick’ thing.”

“Sure. I’ll get you something before we leave.” He nodded. “So, who’s your favorite player on the Wolves?” Hunter fished, his grin devious. From his expression, he wanted her to choose him. If she knew his last name, she would say it.

You, right now. So, what’s your name and number? I know players from that.” She giggled, but it was soft as she hopped ahead a few strides. Sophie palmed his shoulder and squeezed his hard bicep in play. 

He fired off a caustic remark. “Don’t I have to sleep with you before I give that out?” 

“Stop,” she quipped as she waved the stick as she walked. “That was a serious question.” Her sweetened tone showed he didn’t offend her. “Since I can’t choose you, I’ll go with Christopher’s favorite, Callahan. They call him Phoenix.” 

 “Firebird,” he corrected. His cheeks flushed as he shied from her. 

“I guess he’s amazing.” Her gaze ticked to a hanging banner of Callahan in full gear. Taken at a game, it was a shot of Callahan chasing a puck, his teammates near him. Though a helmet covered his face, she noted “24” on his sleeve. Christopher claimed Callahan was the VIP, though she didn’t know if that was true. Callahan was Christopher’s favorite, so it might just be his opinion. His dad liked Bellows, and she discovered a few jerseys in her mother’s bedroom.

“Christopher makes this dumb joke about him.” Her eyes ticked to the ceiling. The lights installed in it were sharp, but it was white light and not harsh yellow. “Stick with twenty-four. He always scores.” She scrunched her nose and grinned. “It’s so cheesy. He says it whenever I tell him I like his shirt.”

“I bet he could score in your five-hole.” He snickered and stared at his white sneakers as they strode. The remark amused him, and his cheeks flushed red. 

“Knock it off.” She punched his arm and sought to contain her laugh. 

“Seriously, though.” He shook her shoulder in play and revved for another dirty joke.

“You think I’m hot as fuck—” He fisted the fabric of his shirt near his chest and shook it. “—but I’m only the warm-up. ‘Ol Firebird’s the game, baby. Fucker brings more pussy to the ice than a bowl of tuna.”

“I never said either of you were hot, Bello,” she chirped as she faced ahead, and strolled at his side. “I said he’s Christopher’s favorite, and he has like ten shirts with his name on it. I think he plays middle and—”

“Forward,” he corrected her as he wet his lips with his tongue and rubbed his red stubble. “Everyone likes those guys.” He dodged her gaze and peered into an open door they passed. They were now in a section closed to the public, and he appeared uneasy to be here with her.

She sought to blow off the worry. “See?” she cooed as she patted his bicep. “I told you I don’t know much.”

He released a muffled chuckle from his nostrils and ran his hand up and down the strap of his bag. “Apparently.”

“Yeah, maybe I need to research him more to impress Christopher. Or you can teach me about your position.”

“Sure, then I’ll give you a ride on my zam-boner.” 

“Knock-it-off,” she said between laughs. She punched him in the chest, her face sore from laughing. “You’re horrible.” 

As he walked backward, he got in her face. He jabbed at the logo on her sweater. “Why? Gonna give me five minutes in your penalty box for misconduct, Sophie?” 

She filled the gap between them and tapped his nose. “It’ll take more than that to get in there.”

“I could check you from behind. Smash you to the boards. Make you go down.” Returning the advance, he scrunched his nostrils as he tickled her sides. “Huh, Sophie?” He was rough, his play making her drop the stick and her knees buckle. “Maybe you’ll give me a few extra minutes for high sticking?”

Giggles escaped her lips and echoed in the corridor. He held her hips, so she didn’t slip to her knees. He kept up the banter. “Let me beat on that box like I lost the winning shot with ten seconds in the game. Angry like a frenzied gorilla.”

Her eyes watered with her laughter. After a few seconds, she swatted him away and took a step backward. “Seriously, knock it off.” She plucked a strand of hair sticking to her lip. Smitten, he got to her. By his cocky smirk, he knew it.

She drew a deep breath and sought to calm her voice. “Okay, stop. I’m trying to be a good sister and get my brother his gear and you’re distracting me.” She paused when her phone beeped. She plucked it out of her back pocket and read the note aloud. “Coach had an extra woody. You owe me ice cream for being late and making me ride with Camilla.” She glanced at Hunter. “What’s a woody?”

“Stick.” He tapped the top of the stick as he retrieved it from the floor. He stopped next to her and read her new message from her brother. 

[Christopher] Next time YOU take me. Tell Camilla NOT to come to practice.

“Nice kid,” Hunter noted.

“He’s just grumpy.” She wrote a note back.

[Sophie] Sorry!

“Little pucktard.” Hunter chuckled.

“He’s not. He’s fourteen and mad at the world.” She grimaced as she opened her social media account. “My mother and stepfather died in a car accident along with three of his siblings two months ago. That’s why I moved here—to take care of him.”

Dumbfounded, he regarded her with a blank expression. “That’s horrible. I’m sorry to hear about that, Sophie.”

“Thanks.” Her voice dipped, and the loss was still raw. “Maybe you read about it. The Rosewoods? It happened out near the turn on Burden. Semi hit them coming off the ramp. Christopher was at a friend’s that night, so he wasn’t with them.”

“Actually,” he said with a drawn-out tone, “I think I remember that.”

“Well, that’s our story.” She opened Christopher’s social media profile and handed her cell to Hunter. “This is my brother.”

Great Expectations


[Note: As with most of my blog posts, this one jumps around a bit, so beware of some potential Queen of Nothing spoilers toward the end.]

Since I finished the (fourth? fifth?) draft of Retribution, I’ve been thinking a lot about my self-publishing journey. Things I’m satisfied with, things I might have done differently, and things I’ve learned along the way.

I published the first edition of Reborn back in…2013?! Sometimes, it’s hard to believe this has been an eight-year journey. Back then, I was still a grad student, and had somehow gotten it into my brain that being a self-published author was going to be a great, even lucrative, side hustle. And many things about it have been great (even if that second expectation was a bit of a stretch, lol).

Reflecting on how long it’s been since I published the first novel in this series, I occasionally get frustrated with myself for having taken so long to write the last book. I mean, it’s not so bad, because the last series novella was published in 2019. But still. The series’ conclusion has been a long time coming. I think this era of binge is making us used to wanting/having everything now.

Looking back at my drafts, I started Retribution back in 2017, but didn’t really begin to work on it in earnest until 2020. If I had published it four years ago, it would have, in many ways, likely been a very different book. In the end, I think the wait was probably worth it.

But, I digress. What I’ve actually been thinking about this weekend are expectations – namely, reader expectations. And why I’ve been trying to do some rebranding/recategorizing of the series. Like I said, I’ve learned a lot over the past nearly a decade, lol. One thing I’ve had to learn is that my novels aren’t really paranormal romances.

Does the Reborn series have strong paranormal elements? 100%, yes. Obviously. Does it have romantic themes? Um…sure? Yes? If you like your romance with a very large dose of mutual emotional manipulation and exploitation. Enemies-to-lovers-to-enemies-again-but-maybe-lovers-what-the-hell-are-we-doing.

What I’m really trying to say is, Reborn (and my other books) don’t follow the conventions readers of the romance genre typically expect. And by the way, I’m not dragging the romance genre, at all. I especially love a good Regency romance, and often it’s comforting to pick something up and know exactly what you’re in for (perhaps particularly after The-Year-That-Must-Not-Be-Named). In hindsight, all of this seems pretty obvious to me, but at the time I was publishing Reborn, it just wasn’t. Which made for some pretty confusing reviews from people who were expecting certain things but getting something completely different.

I’m mostly calling them romantic fantasies now, but I’m not even sure that’s a great fit. They are sort of urban fantasies, too (in the way Karen Marie Moning’s Fever series is). Occasionally someone will mention loving the books while not loving with, or agreeing with, some of the characters, and that’s…fine. I didn’t go into this thinking I was writing inherently likeable people, ha. Jasper’s hot in the first book but kind of a jerk (I like to think he’s come a long way since then). In so many young adult-ish books (but not all!), the main female character is the pretty-but-doesn’t-realize-how-pretty type, and maybe not a complete outcast, but not one of the popular kids, either. Siobhan knows she’s pretty, she’s a former cheerleader, and now, in college, she’s in a (purposefully stereotypical, at least in the beginning) sorority. If you like her…great! But if you don’t, I’m also not too surprised.

That all being said, I really did try to give my characters a lot of closure in Retribution. As far as the events go, there is some bitter to go along with the sweet, but the main couples get their HEAs. That was always where Siobhan and Jasper were headed, it was simply going to take them awhile to get there. They needed time to heal (and getting to the point they are at now wouldn’t have made sense without that).

I guess I was also thinking about reader expectations this weekend because I just finished Holly Black’s The Folk of the Air series. Which was AMAZING, by the way. I have been raving about it to anyone who will listen to me, which, in these days of social distancing, is mostly my husband. Anyway, as the trilogy is told from only Jude’s point-of-view, you get a sort of very narrow perspective of things. And from what Ms. Black is showing you, you know Jude isn’t always grasping the full picture, but you’re also kind of relying on her. This is my convoluted way of saying that, even though the author was obviously setting Jude and Cardan up for their HEA, there were moments when I was reading the last book that I was just like IF CARDAN AND JUDE DON’T END UP TOGETHER I AM GOING TO RAGE. Even though I KNEW they had to, right? Right???

So, if you’ve managed to hang on for these past eight years, I hope the wait will end up being worth it! I’m excited to bring the conclusion of Siobhan, Jasper et al.’s journey to you this summer. And, if you’re just discovering the Reborn series, I hope this explains a bit more about what I was going for. If you’re looking for virtuous love interests, insta-happiness, and nice endings tied up in a neat little bow, I think that’s great! But please look elsewhere.

If you’re looking for something a little darker, a little sexier, a little more wicked, I think I’ve got just the thing… 😉

March 2021 Newsletter


I’ve just sent out my March 2021 author newsletter. You can access it here! It includes ten fun facts about the upcoming fourth book in the Reborn series, Retribution, as well as a synopsis!

As always, I’m a bit commitment-phobic when it comes to setting an actual release date. But, I’m very close to finishing this round of edits before I have a few trusted folks read it. I’m aiming for summer, but if I can get it out earlier, I will! Happy Saturday, and as always, happy reading!