July 30, 2018

Moana (the Movie): Let's Break it Down

Fair warning: this post has nothing to do with my books or my writing. It does, however, look into the elements of one specific story and the underlying messages that story conveys—intentionally or not. This is very different from my usual topics, but the realization hit me hard and seemed worth writing about. I'd love to hear your thoughts as well!

Movie poster from the Disney site.
So, as you can tell from the post's title, I want to talk about Disney's Moana—a movie one review called "the perfect Disney movie" (Tasha Robinson, The Verge). Let me be clear: I like the movie; this post isn't about bashing it.

But upon watching it (not for the first time, thanks to it being on Netflix), I realized something about the basic underlying story. This post will include details from the movie, so if you haven't seen it, you may not want to read on.

So, Moana broken down:

Man assaults woman then freaks out when she—instead of taking it lying down—gets angry, taking zero responsibility for his own actions.

A young woman comes along and tries to get him to make up for his past (despite being discouraged from even trying by a different man), and Man 1 fights her every step of the way, blaming everyone else for the consequences of his actions. Meanwhile, she spends her time trying to push him into doing the right thing while also building up his fragile ego. Because his ego matters more than her being legitimately badass.

When the man doesn't immediately succeed and therefore quits, the young woman realizes (with the help of a wise older woman) that she doesn't need the man in order to tackle the consequences of his actions. She realizes that the woman he initially hurt is the injured party and not some randomly raging bitch, shows compassion, and helps the injured woman heal.

Man is given credit—treated like a hero—for fixing the problem because he...came back after running away? Claims he had "good intentions" for the first attack? Was willing to face the possibility of consequences* to clumsily attempt to make up for his initial assault? By further attacking the injured woman, let's not forget.
    *Possibly losing the magic hook...which he ultimately doesn't, so what a metaphor for our justice system.

In other words, a woman is hurt by a man; another woman does the hard work of fixing it, with the guidance of a third woman. Moana is a movie about women trying to pick up the pieces following a man's entitled (I want it, so I deserve it to have it) attack. And in the end the man gets at least half the credit for the solution even though the situation was his fault to start with and he wasn't actually the one to fix it.

Maui is heaped with credit for no longer being a whiny jerk. Meanwhile, Moana does most of the actual work for their journey (spoilers ish: fighting the Kakamora; tricking Tamatoa & getting Maui's magic hook back; getting them across the ocean; figuring out how to get past Te Ka; and figuring out the ultimate answer) while also managing Maui's emotional state. 

Still, she's essentially a sidekick in her own movie. Her story is about paving the way for Maui to do the bare minimum in taking corrective action in order for him to "earn" being called a hero—something he always considered himself to be. And the closest this comes to being acknowledged is one short moment between Te Fiti and Moana, a silent recognition that she is the one truly responsible for repairing what Maui broke.

Don't get me wrong, this movie is still about the power of women:
  • To survive
  • To build each other up
  • To deal with a man's ridiculous demands and baggage while still getting s**t done.
  • To do it all while discounted—as the "crazy" woman, the "raging bitch," the "incompetent child"
  • And then to turn around and build up everyone else, sharing knowledge gained instead of just sitting back expecting adoration—or resenting how she was treated before

So, Moana truly captures some all too real elements of womanhood, including how it frames the entire story around women being forced to clean up after (and heal from) the actions of a man. There's an immense strength in all three women—the older one, standing strong in her faith despite people's vocal doubts; the injured one, standing her ground and also being able to find herself again & heal; and the young one, persisting in what she knows to be right & necessary, and showing compassion to someone the world sees as a monster.

But something about all of that being relegated to the shadows of the stated quest—bring Maui across the ocean; help him restore the heart—doesn't sit quite right with me.

What about you? Have you thought about these elements to Moana? What do you think about this underlying story?

July 16, 2018

Mortal Musings Has a Brand New Cover!

Thank you so much to everyone who cast their votes and helped me pick the new cover! Thank you especially to the members of the Real-world Romantics who gave me feedback on countless mockups and helped me discover this combination. 💕

And the new cover is:

What do you think?? Personally, I love how the artist (Jade Foster) did Allie's hair. And to celebrate this new design, I've decided to temporarily drop the price to $0.99!

So if you haven't already done so, you can grab your copy at:

This also seems like the perfect time to unveil the new logo for Dreams to Dishes—Brett's local diner in Mortal Musings:

And I've created a collection of keepsakes featuring the logo!
Now you can bring a piece of this world—and a touch
of Allie's inspiration—into your life:


Leave a comment on this post letting me know what you think of this new cover for a chance to win a fold-up bag featuring the new Mortal Musings cover as well as a pair of Dreams to Dishes coasters!

Open through 7/22/18, void where prohibited. Check back on 7/23/18 (or enable comment notifications) to find out if you are the winner.

July 2, 2018

Taking Chances is Now Available in Print!

Update: And the winners are...Heather C. and Linda R.!

Happy July!

Mini spoiler: The last scene in Taking Chances takes place July 4th. So this week seemed like the perfect time to release the paperback version!

Now Available Through:

Wordery (free US shipping!
Book Depository (free international shipping!)

Of course, such good news deserves a giveaway. 😇

Enter below for a chance to win either:
  1. A Forging Forever prize pack, including signed copies of all three available Forging Forever books, a guitar pick necklace, 2 Cavaliere Vineyards wine glass charms, and a Mending Heartstrings magnetic art print, all wrapped up in this Taking Chances bag:
  2. A signed copy of Taking Chances, an art print of "From My Lips" (featured in the story), and a guitar pick necklace
Open Internationally! Please note: international winners may receive unsigned books, depending on country (only because shipping can be extremely pricey).


a Rafflecopter giveaway

June 18, 2018

Help Me Choose the New Cover for Mortal Musings!

Mortal Musings is a fish out of water romance featuring a writer and his (mythological) muse—and it's getting a new cover!

After many—many—mockups, I've narrowed it down to the options below. Now I need your help! Which cover would make you click?

Please keep in mind, these are still mockups—which means watermarked proof files and some extremely rough edges. The final design will of course be all polished and pretty. 💕
    Psst. You can check out the current cover in the right sidebar.




Did you know you could start reading Mortal Musings 
for FREE right now? Just click here!

May 7, 2018

Taking Chances is Now Available!

Taking Chancesa sweet standalone novella in the Forging Forever world—is officially out in the world! 

🎊 For this week only, it's available at a special release price of just $0.99! 🎊

About Taking Chances:

Liz Anne is determined to make it in country music—and get away from the judgmental whispers of her hometown. But when she finally gets a shot to play for a successful singer, he’s unimpressed, leaving Liz Anne right back where she started: with an old guitar, a handful of songs, and a mountain of responsibilities.

Carefree guitarist Bobby, however, likes what he sees. And hears. Sure, Liz Anne’s songs are rough, but there’s definitely some potential buried beneath all that tension. So he offers to help her out with some guitar lessons.

Just guitar lessons, she insists.

Because Liz Anne has a secret. And if Bobby ever found out, he’d run the other way—taking with him her chance of building a better life.

✨ Grab Your Copy ✨

And what's a celebration without a door prize?

Enter to win a Forging Forever prize pack, including an art print of original lyrics featured in Taking Chances, a signed copy of Mending Heartstrings, a Tasting Temptation magnetic bottle opener, the necklace pictured below, and more! 💕

a Rafflecopter giveaway

April 23, 2018

Guest Post: On Author Websites by Hailey Stratton

These days, it’s hard to get by without a good website. Like it or not, a website can often be a first glimpse into your life that potential publishers might see, so you want to make sure it represents you accurately. At minimum, your website should be a place where it’s easy to find out more about you, what inspires your work, and how to get in touch. However, there’s so much more you can do to make your website one of your most important and useful assets.

Build your website

Here are a few basic guidelines for creating an attractive website which will help you accurately display your passion, creativity and skill while also helping you land more work or sell more books.

Elegant Design:

This is quite possibly the most important aspect of creating a website. You want a website that’s attractive and will give your visitors a glimpse into who you are as a person. You want something attractive and easy to use. And perhaps most importantly, you’re going to want to pick a design that lends itself to the topics you write about. For example, if you write about romance, you might consider picking a theme that makes use of colors generally associated with love, like pink, whereas if you’re a horror writer you’ll probably want to go with something darker.

Contact Form:

Having an easily accessible contact form on your website goes a long way to helping people get in touch with you. Often times, I see authors with websites that only list an email address as a way to get in touch. While this will definitely be some of your visitors’ preferred way to reach out to you, having a page with a contact form where people can quickly and easily send you a message will streamline the process and quite possibly increase the amount of feedback you get.

Easy Navigation:

If it’s hard to get around your website, your visitors are probably going to leave, so make sure there are clear paths to everything a visitor might want to see. At minimum you should have prominent links to an About page, a contact form, and your social media profiles as well as any products you’re selling.

Mobile Responsiveness:

One of the reasons that having a website is important is because more and more people are spending great portions of their time online. Most of which is done by mobile devices. If your website is hard to navigate from a phone or an iPad, you’re probably going to frustrate your visitors.

Once you’re ready to begin building your site, or maybe you’ve just realized you’re in desperate need of a redesign, here are some resources to help you along the way:

SiteBeginner.com — a great guide to help you create a Wordpress site from the ground up for under $5 per month.

MakeAWebsiteHub.com — if you’re not totally convinced on Wordpress (which is my recommendation), here’s a great guide to help you choose a blogging platform.

Canva.com — chances are you need a little help in the graphic design department. Canva can help you make great looking logos and more.

Get creative

Once you have your website created, you don’t want to let it go stale by just sitting there waiting for visitors to hit your contact form.

World Building:

In addition to being a helpful marketing tool or central hub, a good website might also serve as a creative outlet and might even be a direct extension of your printed works. For example, you can use your website to continue building the world where your books take place by publishing additional short companion stories. Maybe you had an idea that you liked but didn’t make it into the final draft of your book. Or let’s say there was something you wanted to explore but it didn’t make sense to include in your book, for one reason or another. You might be easily able to reformat those plots into easily digestible bites to publish on your website.

Maybe I’m dreaming a little bit (and it is something I wish was reality), but I like to imagine that if J.R.R. Tolkien were alive at a time when he could have been publishing on the internet that he’d have had his own website or blog where he explored nearly endless side stories of various characters, vast elaborations of his worlds, maybe it would have even allowed him to create full excerpts of the fictional writings within his stories.

I’m sure you could come up with a ton of ways to incorporate blogging into your books. There’s a marketing benefit of this as well at it would generate interest from people stumbling upon your short stories on your blog and possibly make them interested in purchasing your books to read more.

Writing Prompts:

If using your blog for world building doesn’t seem like it would fit in with your work or it just doesn’t interest you, using your blog to help you generate new ideas or get yourself out of a writers’ block would serve as a great tool.

One way you could do this is by using writing prompts. There’s a good chance you already do this to some degree but there’s added value to publishing them on your blog as well. This would allow you to create an easily accessible hub full of your own ideas to revisit and build off of.

You could even use writing prompts for marketing! A simple way would be to participate in Reddit’s Writing Prompts. There you can choose to write about a topic that interests you, write it up in a comment and also publish a longer version on your blog with a link to your website where anyone who’s interested can read more and potentially discover your other work.

You’re all set!

Now that you’ve got your website created and a blogging strategy lined out, it’s time to start using it to its fullest potential. Most importantly, remember to have fun. A website or blog can be an incredible way to get your creative juices flowing without being tied down to any restrictions.

Hailey Stratton is a freelance writer, graphic designer and aspiring photographer currently in Nashville. When she’s not working on various projects, she enjoys spending time with her cats Larry and Gary (yes, they have rhyming human names. That idea was entirely her fiance’s!) and cuddling up to watch a sad movie with a glass of wine.

March 26, 2018

March FREE Romance Reads & Giveaway!

This week, romance authors are offering over 20 books for FREE! It's just our way of thanking our loyal readers. 💕

Most of them are only FREE for a limited time, so grab your copy now! 

Even better, we've pooled our funds to offer an awesome giveaway. You can enter to win a Kindle just for subscribing to our newsletters or following us on social media!

March 19, 2018

Cover Reveal: Taking Chances (Forging Forever #2.5)

Despite the recent obstacles, the first draft of Taking Chances (a novella in the Forging Forever series) is officially finished! I won't even tell you how long this one took from first word to last...

Instead, let's celebrate with a cover reveal. 🎉  Share what you think in the comments!

Cover by Christa at Paper & Sage

About Taking Chances:

Liz Anne is determined to make it in country music—and get away from the judgmental whispers of her hometown. But when she finally gets a shot to play for a successful singer, he’s unimpressed, leaving Liz Anne right back where she started: with an old guitar, a handful of songs, and a mountain of responsibilities.

Carefree guitarist Bobby, however, likes what he sees. And hears. Sure, Liz Anne’s songs are rough, but there’s definitely some potential buried beneath all that tension. So he offers to help her out with some guitar lessons.

Just guitar lessons, she insists.

Because Liz Anne has a secret. And if Bobby ever found out, he’d run the other way—taking with him her chance of building a better life.

March 12, 2018

Guest Post: On Co-writing

by Jamaila Brinkley and Rebecca Norinne

Writing a book with another author can be a daunting proposition, and there’s a lot of advice out there about it. Everyone has their own journey, and every co-writing scenario is different, but there are a few things that worked really well for us.

Be Friends
I can’t imagine co-writing with an author who I didn’t personally know and support. We’ve been friends a long time, and started our writing careers at the same time even though we wrote in different sub-genres of romance. We’re familiar with each others’ writing, but more importantly we’re familiar with each other. We know what’s going on in each other’s lives, so we’re patient with delays and excited about successes.

Plan — Just a Little
One of us is a "pantser," and the other is a "plotter." But when you’re blending two writing styles, you have to at least have a vague idea of where you’re going, even if it’s just a few chapters ahead plus an idea of what the happy ending looks like! We put together a shared Google document that had a timeline for our book in it, and then cheerfully strayed wildly from our original plan. Our document is full of markup and comments, but it served as a baseline for us, especially when we needed to go back and refresh ourselves to see what was supposed to happen next.

Figure Out Who’s Doing What
There are a lot of ways to co-write. Some people alternate full drafts; some alternate acts or even scenes. There are even epistolary novelists who just exchange letters! What worked for us was to agree to a dual POV story, and alternating POV chapters. Then each of us took one POV, so we wrote alternating chapters and simply passed them back and forth.
    Bonus: can you guess which of us wrote which POV in THE VINTNER’S VIXEN??

Agree On a Release Plan
When will your book come out? How much editing will it go through, and where are you getting your cover? All of the same decisions you make when you publish your own work have to be made by committee in co-writing, so you’d better make sure you’re on the same page. No pun intended. Who’s going to be in charge of publishing, if you’re self-pubbing? Whose Draft2Digital account is going to be the one the book is published through (and sales come back to)? What marketing will you do individually or together?

Have a Contract
This is the boring part, but it protects both of you. Have a contract that spells out what happens with money spent, money earned, and rights, particularly if something should happen to one member of the partnership. It doesn’t have to be complex, and it doesn’t even have to be in legalese, but it should be written down somewhere (and, preferably, signed!). Nobody thinks that your co-writer is suddenly going to turn into a villain and abscond with the profits of your book; a contract is in place to remind you both what you agreed on and to make sure that if something happens, or one of you decides not to keep going with the project, that the effort you both put in wasn’t in vain. And your heirs will appreciate the clarity on what happens to the rights to your work! (You have a will, right? That’s another post, but please. Make a will. And add in a clause about your literary rights while you’re doing it.)

Love Your Work
Listen. Co-writing is a big deal. You’re creating something with another person. Both of you are expending tremendous emotional and creative labor for this thing, so please make sure you actually want to be doing it! We LOVE River Hill, the fictional town we created. It’s the perfect combination of all of the shared interests that made us friends in the first place, so we’re excited to keep writing there!

If you’re thinking of co-writing, hopefully these tips have made you a little more ready to take the plunge! It’s been an amazing experience for us, and we’re so excited to keep going. If you’d like to see the fruit of our labor, check out THE VINTNER’S VIXEN! Available at all major retailers on March 14th.

About The Vintner's Vixen:

Welcome to River Hill, where the only thing more intoxicating than the wine is the man who makes it.

With movie roles for "curvy best friend" drying up fast, actress Angelica Travis is happy to be leaving Hollywood behind for a project she's truly passionate about: renovating an historic bed and breakfast in peaceful wine country. She's got plans and power tools ready, but an inconvenient attraction to her obnoxious new neighbor is NOT on the agenda.

Winemaker Noah Bradstone wants nothing more than to cultivate his grapes and win awards for his wine. But when construction on the B&B next door threatens his vines, Noah goes on a rampage—and comes up hard against the sexiest starlet he's ever seen. Exactly the sort of woman he's vowed never to get involved with again.

Angelica and Noah might be able to resolve their differences over a glass of some very fine wine, but when her opportunity at breakout stardom comes calling, all bets are off.

Preorder for $2.99:

February 19, 2018

February iBooks Super Sale & Giveaway!

When it comes to bookish promos, Amazon & Kindle Unlimited seems to get the bulk of the attention. Well I've joined a group of authors who think it's time to spread the love! So we're featuring books available on iBooks (like most of mine are, if you were wondering 😉 ), and offering a giveaway to boot!

🌟 Check out the February iBooks Super Sale & Giveaway: 🌟

Our Romance Authors are offering their iBooks at reduced prices. Most of them are on sale for a limited time. It's just our way of thanking our loyal readers. Even better, we've pooled our funds to offer an awesome giveaway! Enter to win one of three $25 Amazon Gift Cards just for subscribing to our newsletters or following us on social media.

Enter Here

February 5, 2018

Celebrating 5 Whole Years! Anniversary #Giveaway

Update: And the winner is...Timberlee! Congratulations Timberlee, and thanks everyone for celebrating with me! 💕

There have been some complicated things going on, which have unfortunately meant less posting and a delayed publishing schedule, but I've decided that's no reason to ignore this week's occasions:

Yesterday marked the 5-Year Anniversary of this blog! 🎉 And Friday marks 2 years since Mending Heartstrings came out! 🎊

What better way to celebrate than with a giveaway? I've put together a box bursting with romance goodies from a variety of authors, including books, magnets, a swanky velvet bag, and more. Plus, the winner will also get to add their choice of any of my novels!

Enter to Win:

a Rafflecopter giveaway