Friday, March 29, 2013

Respect the Monsters



I tell you, it’s hard to get respect in this world. Especially if you’re an old fashioned monster.
Take me, for example. I am the terrible, feared KRAKEN. I eat ships! I tower above the mast of any sent against me! I answer to no one! Not Davy Jones! Not Zeus! Not 2nd Chance! (as delicious as inner critics taste. )

I am not an albino matchmaker, though I could be if I wanted.

I do not manufacture rum. (Though it isn’t a bad idea and I need to look into copyright infringement with that brewery…)

Really, the modern world does terrible things to monsters. Vampires that sparkle… good god. It’s enough to break my heart. If I had just one.

One monster seems to be holding his own, and that is my good frienemy, Cthulhu. Mad apocalyptic god, who dwells in the deepest part of the sea, waiting to rise again and feast on the souls of men. 

Now, some treat him with respect, even composing this wonderful diddy…
Song of Cthulhu 


Where’s my song? (Sigh.)

Others stick their hands up the backside of a puppet and create a radio call in host. At least he gets to be his temperamental self here.

Calls for Cthulhu


And now? That author who claims to have tamed me with inner critics (any of those on deck today? I’m a bit hungry…) *snags a stiff grammarian trying to duck behind the wheel

Excuse me. Delish!

So, the author alter ego of 2nd Chance has penned a new story, featuring two male descendants of Cthulhu and a woman carrying the blood of those tarts, the Sirens. I’ve mind melded with Maureen, which is why I’m writing this. (She’s drooling all over the keyboard…lovely.) I’ve read this short story. Personally, I have a problem with the ending. I’d have let them…oh, nudge from Maureen not to give the ending away. Fine. I’ll humor her.




Here’s an excerpt, the men are setting up at Steampunk convention, hoping to find the one woman who can help them remain sane and handle the strength of their passion… Unknown to them, she’s in the room. Instincts try to take control… (Personal note, would have been more interesting if they’d truly lost control and eaten everyone. My idea of a HEA…)
…..
His nostrils caught the perfume of something different. Spicy, with a hint of dry driftwood, it wafted in the air and he froze. Damn, what the hell was that? He started at a sharp rap on the table. “Fuck.”
“Get up here!” A kick arrived with the plea.
He rose, rubbing his head, to find Jerrod snatching up a pair of goggles and sliding them on.
“What the hell?”
“My eyes. I can’t—” His kinsman turned his back on the nearly empty room. “I smelled something odd and—”
“Okay, okay. Sit and—”
“Get me the hell out of here!”
Jerrod gripped his arm tightly, head turned so Nicholas could glimpse the shadow of the change on his cheek bones.
Nicholas didn’t think. He wrapped his arms around his cousin and pulled him down to the shadow of the table. Lowering a hand, he gripped the steel-rod erection he knew he’d find beneath the loose pants.
Holding the rigid cock, he whispered, “I smelled her, too. She’s out there. You just have to be stealthy. Be the monster who stalks. Blend in. We’ll find her.”
 “I…want….”
The hollow echo of the deepest crevasse of the ocean reverberated against Nicholas’s bones in the low voice.
“Yeah, we’re gonna find her, and we’re gonna fuck her, and this time, we aren’t going to hold back.”
……
So, these two men carry the contagion of Cthulhu in their blood and only the Siren, Lorelei, can save them. (Stupid tart.)

I give this story 8 Tentacles. It misses ten because it has a HEA.

I think I would have been the better monster to star in this story, but then again, I’d never keep company with a siren…

What monster would you cast in a romance?

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Stop and find the rhythm

I'm still slogging through revisions. If anyone has been tracking my progress (cause it's such an exciting way to spend your time), I've been slogging through the same revisions for close to two years now. It's inspiring, I know.

One of my writing buddies posts on facebook what she's working on each night, which I actually find inspiring. She writes epic fantasy, so her status updates are always awesome. Like "Tonight's revisions: Kiri slaughters the town of Magdelon with a magic sword."

I've been debating doing that, in the mornings. I've done it mentally for a few days now, and here's how it's gone:

Sunday.   This morning's revisions: Kersey and Naomi walk through Belfast
Monday.  This morning's revisions: Kersey and Naomi walk through Belfast
Tuesday:  This morning's revisions: Kersey and Naomi walk through Belfast

As you can see, I've got a major problem here. I'm going in circles.  It isn't pretty.

And then yesterday, I ended up in the most random of conversations and got amazing advice. It was myself, an Education professor, and a guest-speaker on campus we were hosting, along with his wife. It was the first time I'd met all of them, and we'd somehow ended up in a car together as part of a convoy to lunch.

The Education professor was describing her morning teaching rhythm to a 7th grade guitar class, and she said, "I tell them to pay attention to the mother beat."

The guest-speaker asked what a mother beat was (for which I was grateful).

She said, "The mother beat is the rhythm that's underneath every song. And I tell them that when they get lost, they should stop and listen for the mother beat and they'll find their place again.

 I found this fascinating, the idea that every song has a pulse, a consistent rhythm underlying that can allow you to find your place again if you get lost.

And I got to thinking, do stories have mother beat's too? Is there a pulse, a rhythm you can always listen for to find your way back when you get lost? Maybe it's something different for every book, like theme, or maybe it's something different for every writer, like voice.

And the real question, can the mother beat of my story pull me back when I'm so far lost?

I think it can. It's all a little bit fuzzy and abstract in my head, but it feels like this can be the inspiration I've been looking for.

What do you think? Can your story have a mother beat? Can it help you find your way when you get lost? Can you tap into it with music? Do you ever get inspired by something too abstract to explain, but that makes a practical difference for you? Anybody else want to join a drum circle now?

P.S. - I wasn't sure if the phrase 'mother beat' is a real thing, or just this woman's own phrase for the concept. Don't google it to find out though -- if you type 'mother beat' into google, you'll be horrified by the number of news stories of mothers beating their babies. Christ almighty it's a sick world.
Tuesday, March 26, 2013

If I'm Reviewing It, It Must Be a Series...

This Winter season has been awesome for the reading stockpile, just saying. I'm a little tired of Old Man Winter--and so I'm going to blog about the last of the books from my Winter stockpile in a bid to give a helpful hint to Old Man Winter that as a guest, he's beginning to smell like old fish.

The last book from my Winter stockpile is Elizabeth Hoyt's LORD OF DARKNESS. It is the fifth of the Maiden Lane series--but don't let that run you off--you can read it without being left in the dark about the other five books. However, I think reading all the books, starting with WICKED INTENTIONS, sets the setting for 1740s London during the gin craze. It's dark and gritty and there are lots of orphans...and some sword-wielding Robin Hood like characters called the Ghost of St. Giles. Incidentally there are three.

It's witty, it's sweet, and as I said, dark and gritty and everyone is an inch from death. (This is about as close as I'd come to reading Dickens, but I think the premise is much like him.) Unlike Dickens (and probably more likely why I don't read him), the sex is hot and wonderful and you're dogearring pages to show your honey later. (Okay, that might only be me. I know everyone else SKIPS the love scenes. Seriously, what's wrong with people? It kills me when people say that. "Oh, I never read the sex.") Yeah, well, in this one, you'll read the sex twice. It's awesome. And she doesn't rush into it...there's plenty of tension and development between the characters (incidentally in this case, a husband and wife who have a marriage of convenience.)

Hoyt writes all kinds of heroes, but I think she leans more toward alpha males. This one though is much like the character Winter from THIEF OF SHADOWS in that he leans more "beta", a bit more sensitive and a little less rough-shod over every situation.

In this one, the hero Godric is in his mid-thirties (the heroine thinks he's quite on the cusp of dotage at several points that makes you laugh) and his wife, Megs, is a young miss about twenty or so. There is an interesting parallel between them: they've both loved others before they were married and basically swear never to love again. Their love for their previous lovers causes a lot of barriers between them, and it's interesting to watch them resolve it--and also how Hoyt resolves the quandary of having more than one love over your life.

So the question of the day is not about series. The question is what thing have you learned about in a story that you found so interesting you went to read more about it after you were done with the book? (You have a lot to pick from: glassblowing in Nora Roberts, natural magic a la Lisa Kleypas, the Scottish wars Julie Garwood are a few of mine.)
Monday, March 25, 2013

OWN IT, BABY


We’re starting today with a video. Now, once you start to watch this, you’re probably going to think, “WTF is she making watch this for?” I have a reason, just stay with me. (Also, not PG-13 language so watch for little ears around.)



We've been talking about positivity forever on this ship, but today, we’re going to OWN IT. Whatever that IT is for you, today is the day you rock that thing, embrace IT, and let the world know how awesome IT is.

Mr. Mackelmore here is clearly not mainstream, in his music or his style. This song is all about rocking what you have, standing out from the crowd, and OWNING IT.

Today, we are going to follow Mackelmore’s example. Now, I don’t suggest wearing a used fur that smells like R Kelly’s sheets. (Even contemplating this scenario makes me ill.) BUT, maybe your stories are outside the box. Maybe there are aliens. Maybe your protagonists are pretty famously portrayed in another book. Maybe your stories are down the middle as mainstream as they can get.

Whatever they are, OWN THEM.

And not to leave out our non-writing visitors, this could apply to anything. You only wear those extra tight leopard print yoga pants when no one else is around? Pull ‘em out. Today, you’re going to OWN THEM. You like to eat ranch dressing on your sushi? OWN IT. Dance around naked after your shower to a little Mackelmore? You OWN THAT, honey child.

All hands on deck. Time to OWN IT. What are you standing up for today?

PS: The Look Inside feature for MEANT TO BE is now live on Amazon. Check it out HERE!
Friday, March 22, 2013

Per Q's Request - A Pirate Review



Six cannonballs (out of five) ;-)

A Caribbean Spell by Maureen O. Betita

So, it ain’t normal for an author to review her own book and make recommendations. But I figure if I do it outright and above board, I shouldn’t stir up too much controversy. I’m not doing this with an assumed name, I’m not going to wax poetically and pretend I’m not talking about myself – despite the long tradition in literature for authors to do just that!

Nope, I’m gonna put it right out there.

A Caribbean Spell is a charming beginning to what is to be a very long series. I hope to publish 30 books, but it could go longer. It could also die if the interest does. Or if I do. Things happen.

With ACS, the reader is introduced to the main characters, Miranda – the time traveling witch, who restores her magical energy through sex and Jake, a wily pirate captain who really enjoys helping Miranda restore her magic. These two will sail through every single book. Yes, one couple. Though there is a supporting cast of hundreds over the series’ life. I promise to take the reader places and into situations that will surprise them, thrill them, perhaps disgust them… I’ve never been known for playing it safe. At some point, I will kill the dog. Sorry.

Regarding this first volume. I show promise here. 

Let me start by addressing the critics. Yes, you will complain of too much passive voice. I did my best, but sometimes it just fits into the narrative I’m creating. I know it’s there. Was I lazy about digging it all out? Maybe. Or maybe I just didn’t want to change the character of the book. I’m a bit old school and grew up on a writing style that is different than what is the norm now.

But trends change and it could come back. So maybe I’m ahead of the trends. So, there.

Yes, I do juggle POV. Even lapsing on occasion into the deadly omniscient, or narrative, POV. I know. I did it on purpose. Really. It fit. I’m sorry if it offends. (Not really.)

Show vs. Tell. Ah, how I long for the days when a reader didn’t really know the difference. Because, I don’t always know the difference. Which is why you’ll find that slipping in here and there.

Anything else I could address that would be considered negatives?

Sometimes, there is purple prose. I think. I’m not entirely certain.

The plus sides! Oh! Action, adventure, sex, pirates, a really deliciously despicable villain, a side story to anchor the reader in the two worlds Miranda and Jake will balance between; the wild seas of the Caribbean and life aboard the pirate ship, Moonstone, and the more prim and proper world of Port Royal, Jamaica. 

Miranda is a woman of our century, but she’s been slipping through time and space for twenty years giving her the savvy and know-how to survive wherever she lands. She can’t control her travels. Reynard is a clever pirate and his world holds a practical viewpoint regarding magic and commerce. Him? Well, it's all about the profit. And keeping his ship and crew flourishing.

This is not a historically accurate world

Yes, critics, it isn’t accurate. At all. In the least. It’s made up. Totally. The world is smaller, the ships are cleaner, the people are tolerant, the pirates are…Hollywood pirates. 

We start with a standard tiny bit of back story, an arrival, a challenge…and more challenges. Lots of challenges. Miranda appears on page one, Jake appears at the end of the first chapter. What can I say about the story that will convince you to read it?

It’s Maddy and Dave if they’d survived having sex. It’s Hart to Hart on the high seas. Add in adult situations and vocabulary. Danger that doesn’t mince words and violence that is real, and causes actual pain, sorrow and anger. But there is also lighthearted fun and simple romping, friendships, secret relations, the comedy of a fish out of water…and magic. Good and bad.

It’s a story that moves fast and will sweep you away. Cast a spell upon you and invite you to come set sail in this Caribbean, on this ship, with this series! A Caribbean Spell is book one. Red Sean’s Revenge is the second and will be available in June. Next is The French Gambit followed by Twice Trapped! And that is for 2013. Four more in 2014.

I fell in love with Jake as I wrote him, I fell in love with Miranda. Jake’s only complaint is he wishes he were taller, while Miranda has forgiven me much. I believe they love me back.



So, authors, if you could be the critic, the reviewer…what do you think will be loved or loathed about your book? Ever read multiple reviews where the same thing one person loves is the thing another person hates?
Wednesday, March 20, 2013

How Writing is Like a Home Improvement Show



I love me some HGTV. In fact, if I watch TV at all, I’m probably watching something on HGTV.  House Hunters.  The Property Brothers. Love It or List It.  All of these shows are great. I love seeing what I can get for the money in different parts of the country.  And fine, I'm a voyeur. I love taking a peek into other people's houses.

What I’ve decided, after numerous hours of these shows, is that there’s a lot to learn about writing from house buying, selling, and decorating. 

First of all, every house, whether you’re searching for a new one or trying to sell your old one, looks better when you clean out the extra crap. So it is with writing.  Your story will definitely shine if you purge what is unnecessary.  In the words of an old teaching colleagues: be clear and concise.  It’s hard to see how pretty your story is when it’s all covered up.  

Second, sometimes a house doesn’t seem perfect, but ends up as the perfect fit. Everyone totes the joys of granite countertops and hardwood floors but I think it’s important to remember your own personal needs in a house. Kids, pets.  Work from home.  Size, personal decorating styles. I  think the same can happen in writing.  Maybe everyone’s writing vampires but that doesn’t mean it's the right fit for you or me.  In writing, as in homes, it’s about finding the right fit, what suits us personally, not what we’re made to believe is right for "everyone else."

Finally, sometimes a house just needs a little bit of TLC.  Sometimes, the house you’ve been hating becomes the home of your dreams after a little repurposing, a little rearranging, and a new coat of paint.  Same with that story that you think might never be as good as you hope.  Maybe it just needs another look, a different perspective.  Maybe it needs some out of the box thinking.

Anyway, I’m trying to keep this all in mind while I try to finish up revisions on my Victorian. It might not be perfect yet, but it's a work in process right now.

Do you see any other correlations between HGTV and writing?  Anyone else a House Hunter addict?  Hubs and I are about to do our floors and is it just me or do these projects just suck the life out of you?
Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Magic of CRYSTAL COVE

I'm so excited about this book that I haven't even finished reading it before starting to recommend it to you. However, from a glimpse of the reviews on Amazon, I see this might be one of those divisive books. Lisa Kleypas is no stranger to writing those. After all, it is legend on this ship, I still haven't gotten over the fact she switched heroes for a certain Wallflower book and I refused to finish reading that particular series. (Other people *loved* that book though.) Yes, Lisa is a fearless barnstormer where writing boundary-pushing books are concerned.

CRYSTAL COVE is another in the Friday Harbor series, and it features Justine Hoffman and Jason Black. (Incidentally I didn't realize the hero and heroine both had names that start with the same letter until 2/3 through the book. What a no-no! I'm so glad I didn't get those two mixed up during any of the scenes I was reading with them. *snerk*)

In the Friday Harbor series, the common thread that weaves within all the stories is magic. In Rainshadow Road, the heroine was magic with glass--she'd touch glass and magical things would happen; in Dream Lake, the heroine is magical with food; and in this book, the heroine is just simply magical, as in a Practical Magic sort of way. (Don't think I didn't notice Justine's last name is Hoffman, and it was Alice Hoffman who wrote Pratical Magic.Okay, that might be a reach--but I don't think so!) In fact, if you watched Practical Magic, you'll remember the heroine of that story cast a spell so she'd never fall in love. In CRYSTAL COVE, there is a spell on the heroine so she'll never fall in love--but it wasn't cast by her. There are also these two older women--much like the aunts in Practical Magic--and there is that touchy curse where any man who falls in love with a witch will die young--and break the heart of the witch who loved him. (Please be assured Lisa Kleypas has her own twists and turns and different plot choices in this story--I only reference Practical Magic to say, "If you enjoyed the movie and could handle the 'darker magic' of that story, this one would be up your alley as well.")

As with all of Lisa's book, she introduces me to some art technique or lore or culture (or all the above) that I didn't know about but suddenly feel very informed about and want to investigate more after I close the book because Lisa has shared it in such an enchanting way. In this one, she introduces some Japanese culture, because the hero happens to be 1/4 Japanese. And I think Lisa also wanted to take 50 Shades of Grey and say, "Ha, you think that's sexy? Watch this" and showed us what sexy was. Holy Cow. She always pushes the boundaries of sexy scenes, but she always adds a little something more. I know that raspberry scene is still being talked about. Yeah. I think the red rope scene is the new raspberry scene for a new generation of Kleypas readers.

As for me, I'm loving this book and can't wait to recommend it, but I can see the jury is divided.

How about you? Have you had a chance to read CRYSTAL COVE? Love it or not-love it? Do you like discussion of witchcraft in romances--or does it give you the heebie-jeebies? What are you reading this week?
Monday, March 18, 2013

Another Addiction, Another Craft Book

I stumbled upon BLUEPRINT YOUR BESTSELLER on Amazon and was quite grateful for my public library for having a copy. (One of those rent it before you buy it things--oh, how I wish I had done that with several of the DVDs on my shelves, but no matter.) It's a book about a different way of looking at the revision process. He doesn't care if you plot or pants--it matters you have a substantial amount of your book written before you try his process because essentially his process is looking at the book as a whole and tightening the strings until you have it in tune. After all, the real writing comes in revision.

What I liked about this book was how it didn't seem to concentrate on character or plot or the individual mechanics of a story, but seemed instead to focus on the innocuous. And he seemed to have some interesting math. Like every story has 99 scenes...and about 10-15 series...and 1 (only one) theme.

Now I know we all know what scenes are; and we know how important scenes are. You know when you're keeping a scene in your novel, it must be a scene that advances the story in some way, either through plot or character or well, hopefully, both. We've been writing about theme since Second Grade when we had to write about our summer vacations. No anxiety there, but the series was a bit confusing at first, at least for me. Fortunately though, the more I read about it, the more I realized I (and other writers) already seem to do this, even if we don't necessarily call it this. Or we might mislabel it because I would be tempted to call it theme. (However, he was very adamant there is only one theme in a novel.)

A series is a iteration, something that is repeated (or re-emphasized) at various points of the book, usually creating a pattern of some kind that advances the character arc in one way or another. These iterations are generally "one-word" descriptors, like ACCEPTANCE or IDENTITY or DEATH or whathaveyou, that somehow tie back to your theme but are not the entire theme. The theme instead is a one-line summary of what your message in your novel is about. If I was talking about my current WIP, I'd say it's "What are our roles in marriage and the Happily Ever After?"--and the series, I believe, are things like HAPPINESS and LOVE and MARRIAGE and RESPONSIBILITY. My characters have different values when it comes to happiness and love and marriage; and they have different values of who is responsible for these things.

It was just a very interesting way to look at your story, identify these key elements so you could strengthen the story as a whole and tighten everything, as if you had done all this on purpose. (Maybe you did, but for me, a lot of writing is letting my Muse know everything and she just tells me what I need to know. Frequently it isn't until the revision I realize just what a damned genius I really was--only it wasn't me, it was clearly my Muse. You'd understand if you saw the TED talk.)

Anyway, if you were on a mission for another writing craft book...or you wanted to think about revision in a different way, this was also an approachable way to look at your writing. I think I may include it on my writing craft bookshelf for future reference.

Have you ever thought about revision in this way? Do you know what the theme of your story is and some of the series/iterations that occur in your book? And have you seen this TED talk? Isn't that a funny way to think of a Muse and a good reason to believe in one?
Friday, March 15, 2013

Maybe not Greater, but Better-er



Making copy editing corrections is not the most glamorous job in the world. In fact, I think it’s one of the most humiliating things out there.

I am a writer. I create WORLDS! I invent THINGS! I describe the INDESCRIBABLE!

 But I can’t spell worth shit.

And I’m bat blind to the dumbest mistakes.

Yes, going through the many, many, many pages of basic copy editing corrections I paid for. It’s the second book of the Caribbean Spell Series, Red Sean’s Revenge, and it’s a bigger book. I think it’s even more exciting and I do some DASTARDLY things to my heroine. I’m NASTY.

But geez, I’m an idiot.

Okay, firstly, I capitalized every usage of the title governor, commodore, captain, ma’am, lady, m’lady and more I’m sure I just haven’t found yet.

Secondly, I had changed the hero’s name. From Jack to Jake. Which meant that manjack became manjake. Jackson became Jakeson.  (I changed that one to Jacob.)

I also kept dropping the last ‘a’ from Miranda’s name.

How about this one. “…held his tongue, determined to wait out this out.”

(Should be “…held his tongue, determined to wait this out.”)

Or, “…convinced herself not to mad.”

(“…convinced herself not to be mad.”)

Yes, I swear, I was drunk. It’s disheartening to realize how many STUPID mistakes I’ve made. And I’ve read my own words over a dozen times. This story? At least that many times, if not more. (I like to read my own stories, I wrote this a while ago…) And I never saw these things. It’s mortifying.

And it’s a real illustration of why, if you self-publish, you need to either pay for someone to look your stuff over with a red pen or screw your headband on tight and do it yourself. Have it read to you, read it yourself… Any of these would work. I believe.

I’m learning how to be humble this week. Yes, there were things like this in the first book, but not this bad. Not this many. I don’t trust myself to find these things. My eyes are tired, I know the story, my reading speedometer is stuck on sprint car speed…

I’m still humiliated.

But I am gratified to know all of this is being caught. None of my readers, no matter how many or how few, won’t see how riddled with mistakes – typos, misspeaking, bad grammar – and, evidently, I don’t know how to use commas correctly.

Sigh.

The next book, I’m paying my beta copy editor a bonus.

I’m getting better, but I’m not great… I’ve seen some bad mistakes in ebooks the big 5 publishers put out. It’s a bit of a relief. I’m not the only idiot out there.

What tricks do you use to clean up your copy? What do you see when you read that drives you bonkers? Any examples of things you’ve caught in your stories that you want to share?
Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Where Are We? Fun With Setting Descriptions

Lately I've been trying to work more on setting descriptions in scenes. It's a weakness of mine that I know needs help so I thought today I would challenge us to a writing prompt using our current characters.

Below I'm including a few photos for inspiration. Pick a photo and use it to inspire a scene with your characters - you can set them in the photo or use it to inspire a different setting or memory. Whatever you choose, let's see if we can work on how we layer and add setting descriptions into the scene to enhance it and not just as filler (as I have a tendency to do).






Let's see those scenes! Take some time to think about it and then come back and share. 



Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Winner of PROTECTOR is...

MAY!!

Congratulations, May. Email me at Terri AT TerriOsburn DOT com and let me know if you'd like a digital or print copy. I'll make sure Nancy gets the info and you get your booty!

Thanks to all who stopped by to make Nancy's visit such a success.

PS: If the prize is not claimed by March 20, 2013 then it reverts back to the author. 

Looking for THE BEST MAN? Kristan Higgins Tells You How to Catch Your Own Sparkly Manicorn

Yes, indeedy, folks. The buzz about THE BEST MAN is not hype. It's all true. It's like crack-pie awesome sauce on a triple chocolate sundae. You thinking, "I better pace myself reading this book, or I'll make myself sick with laughing" but you don't. And your smiley muscles ache, but you don't care, because the book was just awesome in a can.

Personally, I didn't think she could top MY ONE AND ONLY, which I know I'm sorta alone on that island because many readers weren't as impressed by the heroine, but I adored it. Nothing could possibly top that crotchety heroine and her smart-alecky ex-husband...and then I met the heroine who basically lives my nightmare on the page.

Faith gets jilted at the altar. By her "newly-out-of-the-closet" groom, which she totally didn't know because they'd been having sex and everything. Poor girl. I totally wanted to meet this girl for drinks and say, "I know your pain." Okay, I've never actually been jilted at the altar...and I'm pretty sure none of the guys I've actually had sex with are gay--but I did date a gay guy for a while who kept insisting he wasn't and I still managed to get my heart broken and that's like totally the same. He and his husband are happy now and have a baby. Just saying. I know.

Moving on.

And to make the jilting that much more bitter, it's the best man who pokes the groom and makes him fess up. Right in front of everyone and God. Yeah, I could see holding a grudge against the guy, since he certainly gives all the appearance of having the sensitivity of a bull in a china shop.

The story moves on to the heroine's current dating experiences 3 1/2 years later--and you find out she's still hoping to cross "have sex with a straight guy" off her bucket list. (Really at this point, you're laughing with her and not at her.) But the world is full of scallywags and her gaydar is definitely broken, so dating hasn't been working much for her.

The heroine is called home to help resolve a problem ("How do you solve a problem like Lorena?") and while there, she's also going to landscape and remake this barn on the family wine-farm to make it useful for weddings, et al. She immediately bonds again with the best man, who is now a sheriff in her hometown, when he writes her a ticket for speeding. (Not a love at first sight premise, no.)

Many, many more horrifying shenanigans later, and finally, miraculously she and the best man-sheriff have sex. (Yes! She scratched "have sex with a straight guy" off her list!)

This is what she says after, reflecting on Levi's beautiful, breathtaking abs: "Yes. Levi Cooper was a sparkly unicorn of wonder." And a bit later, my favorite line in any book ever: "And the sex was great. She honestly hadn't known sex like that really existed outside of Ryan Gosling movies." Yeah, that line was so stupendous that I had to read it to Deerhunter, who said, "Yeah! Or porn!" "Sweetie, Ryan Gosling movies are girl porn. We don't usually find the regular porn all that." "Oh. Okay."

The book is about two somewhat awkward, imperfect, hurt people who find love together--and Ryan Gosling-esque sex. It's funny, magical, heartwarming, bittersweet, sad in parts where you could just weep, and ends on the right note of Happily Ever After. Even though the hero does remain rather emotionally constipated when discussing his feelings, it's okay--that's what makes it feel real, you know?

Good stuff. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

What great stuff have you been reading lately? Any horrific wedding stories to share--or those about emotionally constipated men?