Are you in the Mood?

I need to talk about my new favorite thing. Okay, well, it’s not really a new concept, but it is to me.

Anyway…I’ve started making mood boards for each of my books. It helps me get a better picture of the story, the characters, and the overall vibe of the story itself. I started making them in 2020 when I wrote A Lockdown Love Affair, and I never stopped. At some point, I’d like to go back and make some for my previous historical romances, but I just don’t have the time to do that at the moment. Put it on my never ending list of things to do.

Here are my mood boards so far. Let me know if one catches your eye…

What do you think? Do they catch your attention? I know they help me stay focused on the story I’m writing. Just a disclaimer, I’m currently working on Can’t Fight This Feeling. The rest of the books in my 1985 series, She Gives Love a Bad Name, Owner of a Lonely Heart, and Just What I Needed will be releasing next year. So I hope you’re ready for some retro romance. It’s not historical and it’s not contemporary…it’s the 80s baby!

I hope you enjoyed this little visual trip into my writer’s brain. Careful, it’s easy to get lost in there. xoxo

Which mood board is your favorite? Tell me in the comments.

All my love,

Kirsten

Inspiration: Secondary Characters, Muppets, and My Husband

People often ask me where I find the inspiration for my stories. It doesn’t take much to spark a story idea in my brain. Most of the time, it’ll be a quote, or a scene from a movie/show. But there are those strange instances where it’s inspired by the secondary characters from a prior book. This is the case for A Holiday Love Affair.

When I started writing A Lockdown Love Affair, I had zero intention of writing a second book. In fact, I had hoped there wouldn’t be any pesky secondary characters to annoy me in Ben and Penelope’s book. But I was wrong. So wrong. As I wrote Lockdown, it became abundantly clear Evan and Lucy would gravitate toward each other if I put them in the same room together. Which is how they ended up getting their own book.

Ben Statler and Evan Waldorf are best friends and business partners. They’re also distinct opposites. Where Ben is dark and brooding, Evan is pure sunshine and positivity. At first, Evan’s presence was merely as fodder to elevate Ben’s irritation with the state of their business affairs during the pandemic lockdown. But as the story progressed, Evan took on a life of his own.

Lucy Mackewitz and Penelope Weiss are besties by accident. Literally. Lucy was the nurse on duty when Penelope’s grandparents admitted to the hospital after a car accident. Their bond formed quickly. Lucy’s presence in Penelope’s book solidified her support network in the city during the chaos and uncertainty of lockdown.

But Lucy and Evan don’t actually meet until Ben and Penelope’s wedding six months later. This is where their romance begins.

What inspired their story? The characters begged me to write it, but more than that, I liked the idea of Evan being the ray of sunshine and Lucy being the perpetual grump. Who said the grump always has to be the hero? Heroines can be just as miserable.

Before I started writing Holiday, I imagined Evan as a Steve Rogers kind of guy. I often post my daily word count on social media as I write the first draft and add a gif of the actor I cast as the hero to the post. For this book, it was Chris Evans. Yes, even Evan’s name is an homage to the actor. I even wrote a log splitting scene. But that’s where the similarities ended.

The more I wrote, the more Evan’s mannerisms mirrored my husband’s. Of all the characters I’ve ever written, Evan is the only one I’ve ever modeled after my husband. They’re both effervescent rays of positivity and charm while simultaneously being classic button pushing antagonists.

While Ben and Penelope’s book takes place in Brooklyn, most of Evan and Lucy’s story takes place in upstate Indiana. I seized the opportunity to use some of my personal adventures with my husband as inspiration for their journey. It was also fun to write Lucy’s POV in the book because she’s a city girl, born and raised. Country life gives her quite a culture shock, and Evan takes full advantage of it. But I won’t give you any spoilers if you haven’t read the book. *wink*

If you recognize the names Statler and Waldorf, you get bonus points. I was stuck, unable to figure out surnames for these two men when an image of the comedy muppet duo popped into my mind. That’s exactly how I imagine Ben and Evan banter back and forth.

Waldorf and Statler

I would say the resemblance is uncanny, if they were thirty years older. In my head, Evan Waldorf is Chris Evans and Ben Statler is Adam Driver. Now that’s in your head too. Another terrifying glimpse into the muddled mind of a romance author.

My creative process is anything but typical, but it works for me. I hope this brief peek into the inspiration for A Holiday Love Affair makes you smile. Most of the time, I have no idea where the next story will come from. It could come from a random tweet or a video posted to Facebook. But most of the time it’s born from the nagging secondary characters demanding I give them their moment in the spotlight. C’est la vie.

Oh, and a side note, if you enjoyed Ben and Evan, then you won’t want to miss Confessions of a Gamer Girl coming in June. The heroine, Maggie, works for Ben and Evan at Solus Inc. And the events take place before Ben and Evan meet their matches.

Authors: Where do you find inspiration for your stories?

Readers: Do you like getting a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the creation of the stories you enjoy?

Which book should I tell you about next? Or should I have an interview with the main character? Tell me in the comments.

Until next week!

All my love,

Kirsten S. Blacketer

Confessions of a Fangirl Sample

When Confessions of a Fangirl released in December, I was recovering from Covid. So, that whole month was a blur. Allow me to give you a little sneak peek into the Rom Com that reads like a fangirl confessional. This book has a very special place in my heart. It taught me balance, which is a central theme and my new credo. Without further ado, allow me to introduce Jen, her devoted boyfriend, Shaun, and my made up fandom of Space Vendetta accommodating the deboinair, morally gray space pirate, Captain Korbin Ransom. Enjoy…

Chapter One

STAGE ONE: DISCOVERY

Everyone thinks they’ve got their shit figured out until they don’t. Somewhere between my first cup of coffee this morning and the afternoon staff meeting, my mind decided to take a leisurely stroll down Fantasyland Avenue. Unfortunately, I need to get it back in familiar territory so I can focus on the words coming out of my boss’s mouth.

But that will never happen. Thanks to the new guy sitting across from me in his well-tailored suit and rocking dark, wavy hair a tad too long to be fashionable. I bet it’s soft. His attention shifts away from the boss, and I catch his penetrating gaze. A half-smile forms on his lips. Shit.

I readjust the notebook in front of me and scribble a few incoherent phrases down to make it look like I’m doing something productive. My heart slows to a normal rhythm, and I curse myself for not paying closer attention to Mr. Roberts who’s rambling about quarterly reports.

Normally, I dread this monthly meeting when all the department heads gather. I’m flattered my supervisor is considering me to step in while she’s on maternity leave, but it’s been hell getting over this feeling I’m pretending to fit in instead of actually being part of the team. This opportunity will give me a shot at the promotion I’ve been hoping for—if I can focus.

When I glance up at Mr. Roberts, the new guy sits perfectly in my peripheral vision. And like that, my mind is cruising down Fantasyland Avenue again with Mr. Tall, Dark, and Handsome riding shotgun. I glance at the pad again in defeat.

“That should do it for the moment.” Mr. Roberts gathers his files into a pile. “Before you go, I’d like to introduce you to the newest member of our staff.” He gestures to the new guy I’ve been eyeing for the last hour. “Mr. Shaun Townsend. He’s transferred in from our Denver office to give us a hand in Marketing.”

My gaze shifts to Mr. Townsend who glances around the room with a pleasant smile. His gaze lingers on me for half a second before drifting back to Mr. Roberts.

“Thank you. Glad to be a part of the team.”

Oh, man. His voice. I could sit and listen to him read me the phone book.

“That’ll be all. Enjoy your weekend.” Mr. Roberts dismisses us, and I’m out of my chair in an instant.

I edge toward the door with the rest of my coworkers. Part of me wants to introduce myself to Mr. Townsend, but I remind myself to be professional. Work isn’t an appropriate venue for flirtation and romance as Pamela down in HR reminds us in her memos constantly.

Once I reach my desk, I settle in to work on the orders I started before the meeting. Not even five minutes later, Lily appears around the corner making a beeline for my desk. I envy her ability to rock vintage styles without effort. She slides into the chair beside mine, tugging her polka dot wiggle skirt down her stockinged thighs.

“Hey, Jen, did you see the new hottie in marketing?” She fans herself with dramatic flair.

“Mr. Townsend,” I inform her. “And yes, he was at the department heads’ meeting.”

“Isn’t he gorgeous?” She plucks a candy from the crystal dish and unwraps it.

My mind replays the fantasies I indulged in during the meeting. “Yes. He is.”

“Think he’s single?” Lily’s eyes sparkle.

“I doubt it.” I sigh and pout for her entertainment. “He’s probably married.”

“I didn’t see a ring.” She pops the candy in her mouth with gusto. “Means he’s still fair game.” She pauses. “Unless you want a shot at him.”

“Geeze, Lily, give the man a chance to breathe. He just got here. I’m sure he’s already got half the single ladies on staff drooling over him, not to mention the married ones.” I chuckle.

“You’re right.” She stands and smooths her hands over her hips. “Hey, are we still on for movie night this weekend?”

“Yeah, my place. Six o’clock. The new Space Vendetta movie is on Prime, I think.”

Lily bounces on her toes and claps with excitement. “Yay! I’ve been dying to watch it, plus I need some girl time. My roommates are great, but they don’t seem to get me. Ya know?”

“Why are you living with three guys again?” I lean back in my chair.

“I went to school with them.” She shrugs. “They needed a roommate, and I needed a place to live.”

“Any of them single?” I wink.

Her eyes go wide. “Trust me. You don’t want to involve yourself with these three. I’ve seen the train wreck dates they bring home.” She mimes gagging and laughs.

“Point taken.”

“I’ll see you after work.” She waves and saunters down the hallway toward her own desk.

My first day at Valentina’s, I ended up with a mud stain on the hem of my brand-new cream skirt. I couldn’t start my new job at a trendy, upscale department store looking like a hobo off the street. Without a word, a gorgeous woman who looked like a pinup model from the fifties took my hand and pulled me into the nearest restroom. Within twenty minutes, she’d worked her magic on the stain. Lily saved my ass, and I’m forever in her debt.

Three years later, we’re best friends. She grew up in Manhattan but lives in Brooklyn now. My family is from Staten Island, but I live in a small apartment in Brooklyn not far from Lily’s place. We commute together because single city ladies stick together.

I shake off the slump I feel sneaking up on me and dive back into those reports I promised myself I’d finish before the weekend. I hate having a pile of work waiting for me on Monday mornings. I focus on the screen and drown the office noise into the background.

Two hours later, I hit send on the final report and glance at the clock. Nearly four. I power down my workstation and tidy up before gathering my things and heading for the elevator. I pop by Lily’s desk on the way, but she’s nowhere in sight.

I glance around and then check my watch again. Five after four. Where is she?

As I wander the floor, I pull out my phone and send her a text. I stumble back when I collide with a solid warm wall, dropping my phone and my bag.

A pair of hands grab my arms and steady me. “Are you okay?”

Once I find my footing, I glance up to meet the piercing gaze of Mr. Townsend. My face warms and I curse the natural blush God blessed me with.

“I’m fine. Thank you.”

“It’s dangerous to text and walk, you know.” His lopsided smile makes my stomach flip.

“So I’ve been told.” I pick up my phone as he bends to retrieve my purse. Once we both rise, I offer my hand. “I’m Jen. I work in acquisitions for women’s wear.”

“Nice to meet you.” His warm hand nearly engulfs my own and a spark of need envelops me.

“And you, Mr. Townsend.”

His grip tightens. “Call me Shaun.”

I swallow the lump in my throat. “Shaun.” With reluctance, I release his hand.

A strained pause pulls tight between us, until he smiles. “I don’t want to sound presumptuous, but are you free tonight?”

My heart pounds. Free? Me? Are you kidding? “Yeah, why?”

“Would you like to have dinner with me?” He chuckles and the sound reverberates through me. I’m smitten with the sound of it.

“Sure. I know this great place in Brooklyn if you’re craving pizza.”

“Sounds perfect.” He laughs. “You read my mind.”

Oh crap, I’m beyond smitten. I’m half in love with him. I shake my head when I remember Lily. “Give me a minute and we can head out.”

“Sure. I’ll grab my coat.” He disappears down the hall.

I slump against the wall and text Lily. I’m going out to dinner with a friend. Catch you tomorrow.

After I send it, I close my eyes and lean against the wall. Did I just fall in love with a stranger? What the hell am I doing? I must be insane.

Chapter Two

Within thirty minutes, we’re in Brooklyn, standing in front of the pizza place I told him about. Mario’s neon sign glints from inside the front window. My apartment is in the building above the shop, but I don’t mention it to Shaun.

He opens the door and gestures for me to enter. Butterflies take flight in the pit of my stomach when he smiles. Oh man, I need to pace myself with this one.

I slip inside the door and wave at Johnny working behind the counter. The middle-aged pizza slinger with slicked black hair and a thick Brooklyn accent is like the older brother I never had since I eat here at least twice a week. I can feel his curious gaze sizing up the man entering the shop behind me.

I snag the booth in the corner facing the front window. It’s comfortable and familiar, and yet with Shaun sitting across from me, it feels new and exciting.

My coat is too hot. I tug it off my shoulders and set it aside as Johnny comes up and puts two menus on the table.

“Hey, Jen, how’s it goin’?” He tosses an easy smile at me before eyeing my dinner companion.

“It’s goin’.” I return his smile and smack my lips. “Can I get a Yuengling?”

“Yeah, sure.” Johnny turns to Shaun.

“Same for me.” Shaun leans back with a casual indifference that seems to say you’re driving this car.

“Want the usual, Jen?”

“You particular about toppings?” I ask Shaun before making my decision.

“Nope. I’m game for anything.”

I swear there’s a double meaning behind those words, but before I can chase the thought, Johnny mumbles under his breath.

“The usual is fine. Thanks, Johnny.”

“You got it, kid.” He shoots a glance at Shaun before retreating behind the counter once more.

“I don’t think he likes me much.” Shaun’s crooked grin makes my heart thump against my ribs.

“We’re practically family. I mean, I eat here more than I eat at home, so…” I shrug and my face heats at the confession of how much pizza I consume on a weekly basis.

“Ah.” He nods as Johnny returns with two frosted mugs brimming with lager. “Thanks.”

Johnny shoots me a sidelong glance as he sets the mug down with a look that screams if he tries anything stupid, let me know. It’s nice to know someone’s looking out for me. Once we’re alone again, I take a sip of beer and relax.

“Nice place.” Shaun’s gaze strays for a second taking in the small shop. When it meets mine, my whole body warms through like I took a shot of whiskey.

“So.” I shift in my seat under his perusal. “How was your first day? I’m sure our office is quite different from Denver.”

“It is. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I’m excited for a new challenge.”

“Are you from Denver originally?” I dig deeper wanting to know more about him.

He shakes his head. “No. I was born in Davenport, Iowa.”

I blink at him drawing a blank. “Where’s that?”

His eyes sparkle when he laughs. “Not many people can point it out on the map. It’s right on the Mississippi River. Just find St. Louis and follow the river north, you’ll run smack into Davenport.”

My face warms. “It’s been years since I’ve been anywhere farther than Pennsylvania. Guess it shows, huh?”

He shrugs it off. “You grow up here?”

“Staten Island. I mean, it’s still one of the boroughs, but it’s a bit more spacious than Manhattan.” I take another sip of the cool lager.

“But you’re a Brooklyn girl now, huh?”

“Yeah. I mean, my apartment’s not much, but it’s in a decent neighborhood.” I gesture to the room. “And the food’s great.”

We sit in silence for a moment, and I can’t help but wonder what’s going through his mind. I mean, I don’t know this guy. But being with him is comfortable and his warm charm makes me trust him. Maybe that’s why they chose him for the marketing director position. His charisma will go a long way in bringing in potential clients.

“You okay over there?” He rubs his thumb across the frosted mug as he watches me.

“Yeah.” I shuffle off whatever doubts remain and remind myself we’re still coworkers.

“You look worried.” He’s intuitive. Damn, that’s kind of hot.

“I don’t want you to get the wrong impression.” I twist the mug in my hand searching for the words. “I don’t normally…”

“Jen.” He interrupts me with a gentle tone. “You’re showing the new guy the best pizza joint in town. It doesn’t have to be anything more than that.”

I groan and hide my face behind my hand. But what if I want it to be more? “Sorry.”

“Why are you apologizing?” He chuckles. “I asked you to join me for dinner.”

“I know.” Open mouth, insert foot. “But I’m still trying to figure out why?”

His eyes darken the slightest fraction, almost as though I’d imagined it. “Because I wanted to get to know you.”

Years of telling myself not to get involved with a coworker fade into a distant oblivion with those simple words. “Do you use that line often?” I tease, unable to stand the tension pulling tight between us.

“I’ve never used that line.” He laughs and the tension eases back into comfortable companionship. “In fact, I’ve always made it a point to avoid mixing my personal life with work. It’s cliché, I know, but it’s true.”

“So you never went out with your coworkers for pizza in Denver?”

“Never.” He scoffs. “What about you?”

“Oh, I hang out with my coworkers all the time outside of work.”

His brow arches, and I kick myself for not being clearer.

“I mean, I have a lot of friends at the office.” Yeah, keep putting your foot in your mouth. I groan. “Maybe I should shut up now. I sound like an idiot.”

“No, you don’t.” He leans forward resting his elbows on the table. “I want to be honest with you.”

Johnny arrives with a steamy, delicious supreme pie laden with veggies, sausage, and pepperoni. He slides it onto the table between us. “Enjoy.”

“Thanks.” I flash him a smile as he walks away. When I turn back to Shaun, his intense expression steals my breath.

“I’ve never broken my rule about dating a coworker.” His focus hones on me like a laser, and I freeze mid-reach for a slice of pizza.

“Dating?” The word feels foreign on my tongue.

“Is that a problem for you?” He reaches across the table and takes my hand. Those soft fingertips brush over my skin making me shiver with need.

“I mean if we were in the same department, maybe, but I don’t know. I’ve never dated anyone from work before. Holy shit. I wasn’t expecting this.” My heart thunders in my chest drowning out the sound of my own thoughts.

“Neither was I.” He squeezes my hand gently and then lets go. “If I’m going too fast, tell me. We can take it slow. I’ve always been told I’m too direct for my own good.”

My hand tingles where he touched me. I miss the warmth already. “Knowing what you want isn’t a bad thing.”

“The question is, what do you want?” His gaze bores into my soul.

“As long as it doesn’t affect work, I’m game for anything.” I throw his own words back at him in an effort to play it cool regardless of the simmering attraction steaming up the window beside us. Oh, no, that’s from the pizza. I reach for a slice giving my hands something to do other than reach for him.

Shaun grins and grabs a slice for himself. “Sounds like a plan.”

We eat in relative silence and hang out to chat over another mug of Yuengling. He’s sweet and conversational. The topics range from his childhood in Iowa to my adventures in Brooklyn and beyond. He asks about my parents and my interests. I reciprocate the inquisition, and we laugh at how different yet similar we are. 

When Johnny finally kicks us out at eleven, I’m stunned at how quickly time passes in Shaun’s company. Finally, a man who doesn’t make me feel inept or defensive. It’s so refreshing. We exchange phone numbers before pulling on our coats.

We stop outside the shop so I can pull on my gloves.

“Can I walk you home?” Shaun asks, his eyes glinting under the streetlights.

“I thought you said we were gonna take this slow?” I sway against him with a nudge of my elbow.

“You’re right.” He grins. “I wanna make sure you make it home safely.”

“That’s quite chivalrous of you. It’s not far. I’ll be okay.” I squeeze his hand. “Thanks though.”

His gaze searches my face like he’s trying to decipher a code beneath the surface of my skin. My whole body ignites and I’m melting regardless of it being a chilly twenty-five degrees in the middle of February.

He steps closer and cups my jaw in his hand smoothing his thumb across my lower lip. My breath catches as he lowers his head and kisses me. The soft brush of his mouth on mine is a welcome invasion. I grasp his lapel and pull him closer. His warm, spicy scent envelops me, tugging at the back of my mind. Gucci Guilty, I think, subtly buried beneath the fresh scent of linen and what I can only assume are his natural pheromones.

Shaun pulls me against him and teases my lips open with the slightest press of his tongue. I’m lost in the kiss, in his arms, drowning in a sea of unexpected bliss, I barely hear the sound of someone coughing behind me.

“All right, you two. Get a room.”

I pull away from Shaun with a start, and he laughs. I turn to see Johnny standing in the doorway with his hands on his hips.

“This ain’t that kind of establishment. Go home, Jen.” He jabs a finger at Shaun. “Don’t mess with her.”

“Sorry, Johnny.” I turn back to face Shaun. “I’ll see you later.”

“Yeah. Sleep well.” He reluctantly drops my hand and retreats down the street.

I watch until he disappears around the corner. With a sigh, I head toward the entrance beside the pizza parlor. My mind spins over the impossibility of the day’s events. If someone would have told me I’d meet the man of my dreams at work today, I’d have called them crazy. Maybe I’m the one who’s crazy. Either way, I can’t complain. Crazy is feeling pretty damn good right now.

Click here to grab a copy and continue reading…

Thanks for stopping by. XoXo

Kirsten S. Blacketer

Inspiration: Grief, a Viral Video, and ReyLo

As an avid reader, I love learning behind-the-scenes information about a book I enjoyed. So, I’ve decided to have a little fun and show you the inspiration behind some of my books. This week, I’m going to chat about A Lockdown Love Affair.

There are a couple of layers to this one, so let me unpack them one stage at a time.

In March of 2020, I was living blissfully in Italy and planning countless trips across Europe for the upcoming year. Then the pandemic struck. Not only was I unable to leave my property for three months, but I ended up canceling every trip I had planned because no one knew how long it would last or what would happen. Needless to say, I experienced the stages of grief during that period.

Denial – This couldn’t be happening. It’s like a nightmare.

Anger – I only had a limited time in Italy and wanted to make the most of my ability to travel Europe. Piss me off.

Bargaining – I’ll follow the rules, just let me OUT!

Depression – I wasn’t going anywhere, and it left me hopeless and miserable.

Acceptance – There wasn’t much I could do to change the world around me, so I had to find something to do with my time and my emotions.

This post isn’t about the pandemic or my reaction to it, but I need to explain my initial reaction because it’s ultimately what breathed life into my characters, Ben and Penelope.

See, Ben Statler became a conduit for my stages of grief. I poured every ounce of my emotional response into his character. Ben absorbed all of my frustration and rage. His grumpy ass mirrored my own. But I gave him a life and a purpose of his own.

Penelope was my little ray of sunshine, my hope that something good could come from this. And it did. This book became the catalyst for my writing goals. I wrote and released four stories in 2020. Then, in 2021, I wrote seven stories and released four. This newfound drive became something I could use to my advantage. I pulled story ideas I began years ago and put them on paper. And new ideas flowed like wine at an Italian feast.

A Lockdown Love Affair saved my sanity.

But there are two other important contributors to the creation of this story. A viral video on Facebook, and ReyLo.

Scrolling endlessly on Facebook one day, I stumbled across a video of a guy in New York City who saw a girl dancing on the neighboring rooftop. He sent a note with his phone number using his drone and they started a socially distanced relationship. It was a cute story and sparked the inspiration I needed to bring Ben and Penelope together.

But what’s ReyLo and how does that fit into this?

Well, right before the country went into lockdown, my husband and I took the kids to see The Rise of Skywalker. Up until this moment, I hadn’t seen The Force Awakens or The Last Jedi. (Don’t judge me.) But the moment I stepped out of the theater, I knew I needed more Kylo Ren/Ben Solo x Rey in my life. More than that, I needed to fix what the creators destroyed. (I’m trying really hard not to go off on a tangent. Bear with me.) So I watched all the films, and then dove into the fan fiction. I became a ReyLo Shipper.

Gif from The Rise of Skywalker

I love fan fiction. I read copius amounts of it from many different fandoms. But this one hit me differently. I wanted to write so many variations and alternate universe ideas with the pairing, but I knew it would steal time away from my original fiction. So, I combined them.

I used ReyLo as the inspiration for Ben and Penelope, making him grumpy and brooding while she became his ray of sunshine. It was the perfect compromise. Ben Statler is still one of my favorite characters, and he appears in my other contemporary series as the main character’s boss.

There you have it. The inspiration for A Lockdown Love Affair. It may not be pretty or coherent, but there it is. A story born of my coping mechanism, a viral video, and my unwavering love of a fandom ship.

Life has a strange way of working things out in the end.

Which book should I dive into next? Let me know in the comments.

All my love,

Kirsten

Why Contemporary Romance?

Even though my journey as a published author seems like it began with historical romance, it really didn’t. Around the same time I wrote An Irresistible Shadow, I wrote two other stories, both contemporary romance. They weren’t as complex as my medieval romance, and both had elements of romantic suspense. Yes, both were also published at the beginning of my career.

My first publication was a short story called “What The Darkness Proposes.” If this title looks familiar, it’s because I published it here on my website a week before I posted this. I originally wrote it for a short story competition hosted by Romantic Shorts, and it won second place. Unfortunately, Romantic Shorts will be closing their doors. So, I made a new home here on my website for the short stories they published.

Around the same time, I submitted a romantic suspense novelette to another small press. Full Throttle: Blood, Sweat, and Gears. It was very much inspired by Tara Janzen’s Crazy series featuring fast cars and a smoking hot hero. I absolutely loved writing it. But this story has also been taken down from the publisher and the rights returned. I am considering the idea of revising it as a fun treat for my subscribers.

I’ve learned a lot since these first publications. My writing has improved. My tastes have also become more specific. But the best lesson I learned was to follow my heart and write the stories I want to read. I’ll chase down whatever idea strikes me and pen a delightful romance with its inspiration.

But after six years of writing historical romance, why did I suddenly dive back into contemporary?

Well, as much as I love historical romance, there are limitations when I write it. Specifically the firm constraints of the time period which could be etiquette, technology, or other details that may inhibit the creative process. This isn’t a bad thing, but it can be exhausting trying to be true to the time period.

In Spring of 2020, I was enjoying my time living in Italy…when Covid struck. I had plans. To travel. To grasp every possible opportunity living in Europe had to offer. And then we got locked down. HARD. I mean, I didn’t leave our one-acre property for three months. My husband did all the shopping when he went to work. We weren’t allowed to go anywhere, and all of our plans were canceled, including my trip to visit Samantha Holt in England! I was enraged. Furious. Disappointed. Crushed. I had nowhere to vent my frustrations.

Only, I did. I poured my heart and soul into A Lockdown Love Affair that spring. Then it sparked an idea for A Holiday Love Affair and Mistletoe and Mistakes. All three books are interconnected and the characters were born from an idea sparked during my time in lockdown.

I set a writing schedule and stuck to it. By January of 2021, I decided to challenge myself and focus on writing a book every two months while publishing one every quarter. I met this goal with ease, even in the midst of an intercontinental move.

I pulled ideas for stories I had set aside years ago and focused on writing them. Confessions of a Fangirl had been an idea for a screenplay, but I morphed it into a romantic comedy that sparked two more books. Thus, the Her Confessions Series was born. The best part of that is these books interconnect with the universe I created for my Sunshine Meets Grump Series (A Lockdown Love Affair, A Holiday Love Affair, and Mistletoe and Mistakes.)

All of my contemporary romances so far weave together in the same universe. That’s the only tidbit I’m going to tell you because I don’t want to spoil the Easter eggs I’ve placed in the books. But even my 1985 time travel romance, When I Found You, spawned its own series of five books, and there are characters within those stories who tie into my contemporary universe. I love when a plan comes together, especially when I didn’t really plan it at all! My subconscious is a terrifying place sometimes.

Honestly, why do I like writing contemporary romance? Because I’m a contemporary woman. For me, it’s the easiest era in which to write. It feels natural because I’m living it on a daily basis. I can tie in modern technology and conventions while putting my own fun spin on it with pop culture.

It also brings a much-needed reprieve from writing a bygone era. Don’t get me wrong, I love writing historical romance, but it can be overwhelming at times. I love the freedom that contemporary romance gives me to explore topics and plots I couldn’t utilize in a historical romance.

Fortunately, I read a lot of both genres, so I’m able to bounce back and forth with ease. There are just some days when you’re in a very specific mood. I like to be flexible with my reading, but even more so with my writing.

I’ll keep going as I have been, writing both steamy historical and contemporary romance. But at least now you know the reason why I’m all over the place. Thanks for tagging along for the ride!

Are you camp Contemporary or camp Historical? Tell me in the comments.

Always,

Kirsten S. Blacketer

Mistletoe and Mistakes: Chapter One

ANDREW

When I pull into the driveway, I cringe at the obscene amount of Christmas decorations littering my Grandmother’s porch. How the hell was an eighty-year-old woman nimble enough to string all those lights and garland herself? The small cabin bears a strong resemblance to those rustic homes adorning the holiday cover of Good Housekeeping or Farm Life. I shake my head and groan. I hate Christmas.

I turn off the car and groan, pinching the bridge of my nose. Deep breath in. Deep breath out. Of all the years for Grams to beg me to come home, she chose the year from hell. Between the pandemic and the mess at Solus, this year should be cancelled completely. But when Grandma Ruth requests your presence, that’s the equivalent of God handing down a commandment. It’s strange it took her this long to ask.

The cold air bites my face and fingertips when I step out of the car’s warm haven. I grab the decorative paper bag sitting on the front seat and make a mental note to get my duffle from the trunk later.

“Andy, is that you?”

I spin around to find Grams waving from the front porch wearing a hideously festive apron. My gaze narrows. Is that…the Mandalorian on her apron? I almost laugh at the absurdity of seeing my grandmother wearing Star Wars anything, but I sober quickly when I remember she’s the one who introduced me to the original movies when I was a kid.

“Hey, Grams. Nice apron.” I wrap her in a warm hug and hold tight. The sweet, spicy bite of cinnamon and cloves lures me deeper into her embrace. She’s so soft and petite in my arms. I cling tighter knowing I’ve been remiss in visiting her. It’s been way too long.

Grams pulls away and her warm, knowing gaze skims across my face and down over my torso. “Look at you. Not the scrawny boy who rode dirt bikes past the sheriff’s house at midnight anymore are you?” I catch a glimpse of tears shining behind her glasses as she tuts and turns away. “Come inside before your catch your death.”

I shake my head. “I wouldn’t put it past fate after the year we’ve had,” I mutter under my breath as I follow her into the house.

The inside of her home looks as grotesquely over decorated as the outside. The small living room bears the marks of Grams’ overenthusiastic decorating. An overburdened tree stands sentinel in the corner of the room, years of Christmas ornaments hanging from the branches. Candles and glittering garland interwoven with holly clutter the mantel over the fireplace. A row of stockings hangs from hooks. I see a handmade stocking emblazoned with my name on the end.

“Did you decorate the house by yourself?” I weave through the living room following her into the kitchen.

“I did.” She glances up from the open oven with a tray of fresh cookies in her hand. “Do you like it?”

Guilt grips me with meaty fists at the thought of lying to my grandmother, but I smile. “Yeah, it looks good.”

She waves her hand. “You’re full of it. I saw the look of horror on your face when you got out of the car.” She sets the cookies on the stovetop and closes the oven before turning it off. “Never did get into the Christmas spirit, did you?”

I lean against the door frame and fold my arms across my chest. “Nothing gets by you, does it, Grams?”

“Never has, never will.” She winks.

Every surface in the kitchen is covered with cookies. Tupperware and tins stacked five high, full of delicious baked goods.

“Are you expecting to feed an army?” I gesture to the cookie hoard.

Grams laughs. “Not an army. Just the whole town. I’m taking them to the community center. They’re having a party tonight for the whole town.” She cocks her head and a silver curl escapes the bun holding the unruly curls. “Didn’t I tell you?”

Frustration sets in. I came to visit my grandmother, not the whole fricking town. “No, Grams, you forgot to mention that.”

She unties her apron and pulls it off revealing an ugly Christmas sweater bearing the face of The Child. “You don’t mind giving me a hand getting these into town, do you?”

“No, Grams.” I inhale sharply, resigned to the holiday torture I actively avoid. Seems only fitting as the crowning jewel to the year from hell.

“Load these up and we’ll head into town.”

What felt like twenty trips to my car later, every box, tub, and tin of cookies in the house is loaded in the trunk and overflowing into the backseat of my car.

“Grams! Are you ready to go?”

Grams appears from the bedroom down the hall with a glittering box in her hands. She thrusts it into my chest. “Here. Open it.”

I roll my eyes and take the box jammed into my ribcage. “Thanks.”

Inside the box is a sweater. I pull it out, bracing myself for some corny ugly Christmas sweater. Then I see what’s on it and grin.

“Kylo Ren?” I laugh and hold it up to get a better look.

“Of course.” Grams tosses the box aside and turns the sweater to hold it up to my chest. “I had to guess on the size, but I think I did well considering I haven’t seen you in years.”

“Did you make this?” I ask, eyeing her with newfound respect and a twinge of guilt at the truth in her observation.

“No. Martha down at the center made it.” She pulls at her own sweater. “I had her make this one for me.”

“‘This is the way,’” I mutter in a reverent tone.

“‘I have spoken,’” she replies in an equally reverent tone.

“I love it. Thank you, Grams.” I pull her into a hug.

She sniffs and wipes a stray tear from her cheek. “Good. Now put it on. We need to get into town.”

“Wait. You want me to wear this tonight?”

“Well, of course. Why else would I give it to you before Christmas?” She tuts. “Go, hurry. We need to help set up.”

After I change into the warm sweater, we leave for town. Grams flips through the radio stations until she finds the local station playing Christmas music. I grit my teeth, but grant her this small concession. It’s only a fifteen-minute drive to the center. So, I bear the torture as we weave down the mountain with Grams singing along with the music.

By the time we reach our destination, my ears are bleeding and my head aches. All I want is a hot toddy and some time to myself. Unfortunately, I’m stuck with the whole town of Coppany and the misery that is the Christmas holiday.

Between songs, a weather alert comes on. “Snowstorm coming from the Great Lakes sweeping over northern Pennsylvania threatens at least a foot of snow. Possible freezing rain starting at midnight.”

“You sure about this party tonight?” I glance at Grams. “Sounds like a hell of a storm coming in. Maybe we should stay home.”

Grams waves her hand in dismissal. “Since when can weathermen predict the weather? We’ll be fine.”

We pull into the lot, and it’s already packed with cars and people milling around the building. It looks as festive as Grams’ house, and I wish I thought to pack my flask. It’s going to be a long evening.

My gaze drifts to the store bedside the center. An oversized tree blinks with bright lights and the sign above the store is trimmed in green, silver, and red garland. Buck Wild Beans.

“When did they put that in?” I ask Grams as we climb out of the car.

“Oh, almost ten years now.” Grams waves to a group of her friends gathered near the door of the center. “We go there twice a week for book club and bunco. They host all kinds of events in town. Good coffee too.” She smiles and turns to the older woman as she walks up. “Julia! So lovely to see you. Would you mind getting some help to carry these cookies in?”

“Right away, Ms. Ruth.” Julia rounds up a few people and I step aside as they swarm my car.

“Would you get me a cappuccino, dear?” Grams appears by my side and I jump at her question.

“Uh, yeah. Sure.” I leave Grams and the cookies in Julia’s capable hands and wander toward the front door of Buck Wild Beans. The logo of a buck drinking a cup of coffee makes me chuckle.

The bells above the door jingle when I open the front door. A familiar and intoxicating scent of coffee beans and fresh baked pastries lures me deeper into the shop. I admire the simple wood décor even though it looks like Santa’s elves vomited all over it. The soft strains of holiday music filter through the speakers and I ignore the persistent earworms trying to burrow into my head.

A dark haired woman appears behind the counter from the kitchen.

“Welcome to Buck Wild Beans! What can I get for you…” Her voice trails off when our eyes meet. Those lovely green eyes I spent years trying to forget widen in surprise before narrowing with unabashed suspicion.

“Vivian.” A name I haven’t spoken in twenty years ghosts over my tongue without a thought.

“Andrew.” Her chipper tone dissipates instantly, replaced with icy indifference. “What the hell are you doing here?”

It seems twenty years wasn’t long enough. “Grams wants a cappuccino.”

Without a word, Vivian turns to the espresso machine. I watch her work and my heart twists in my chest. I anticipated encountering a few ghosts from my past, but I wasn’t prepared for the jolt of regret and guilt driving knives into my heart at the sight of my sister’s best friend. The one I ruined and left behind without a second thought.

Shit. Could this holiday get any worse?


I hope you enjoyed this sneak peek into Mistletoe and Mistakes. Just a little author’s note, I pictured Sebastian Stan as Andrew as I wrote this story. 😉 If you love Andrew and Vivian, then you’ll love Ben and Penelope in A Lockdown Love Affair, which is only 99 cents for the whole month of December. ❤

Merry Christmas, darlings!

With Love,

Kirsten

If you want to read Mistletoe and Mistakes, pick up a copy from one of these retailers:

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Kobo

Apple

My Strange Reading Habits

I love to read. More specifically, I love to read romance. If you’re here, then you understand why I love it with such desperation and devotion. Because you do too.

In a world of chaos and uncertainty, I can always count on a romance novel to give me one thing reality can never guarantee. A happy or at least emotionally satisfying ending. It also allows me to take the romance journey over and over. The meet-cute, the first kiss, the overcoming of conflict and obstacles in order to secure the relationship between the hero and heroine. These are the stories I long to lose myself in.

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I have had many people scorn, ridicule, and outright shame me for my passion for romance. And honestly, I couldn’t care less about their opinions. I make it a rule never to shame or scorn someone for the books they read and enjoy. If that is how they choose to spend their time and energy, then more power to them. They know what they like.

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To that same end, I know what I like. When I do get time to read, my genre of choice is always romance. People often assume that because I write historical romance, that it’s the only subgenre I enjoy. Well, they’re partially accurate.

I read quite a bit of historical romance. Most of the time, it’s because the premise of the story caught my attention. However, as I have been writing more historical, I find myself comparing my work to other authors. This can be both a blessing and a curse. So I limit my intake of historical romance if only to keep me honest and refrain from being discouraged. Because that happens too. Authors can often be their own worst critics.

Honestly, I find myself gravitating toward solid contemporary stories with unique premises or specific tropes. I have a soft spot for mistaken identity or hidden identity, forbidden romance, masked, enemies to lovers, friends to lovers, close proximity romances, and retold fairy tales. In contemporary romance, some of these are a bit harder to come by. So I indulge by changing it up. My latest discovery is the technology mixup trope. It has become one of my new favorites.

You know what I mean. The stories where the hero and heroine meet because one sent a text to the wrong number and mistakenly initiated a conversation with a complete stranger, who ended up being the one. Or the stories like You’ve Got Mail, where they dislike each other in person but have a connection online.

Here are two I picked up last month. I’m still reading Wait with Me, but it’s really good so far. Accidental Tryst was fun and heartwarming.

I also love a good taboo romance or the popular boss/employee trope. Sometimes a dark romance is just what I need to get my brain moving again when I hit the brick wall of writer’s block.

Earlier this year, I picked up Midnight Hunter on a whim. I devoured it in hours. I wasn’t sure how the author would redeem the hero, but she did. And I loved this book.

Heartless is the third book of Winter Renshaw’s that I read. I loved all three of them. The other two were Absinthe (a forbidden romance) and Country Nights.

Mr. Rochester is a modern retelling of Jane Eyre by Marian Tee. I love her work. She writes engaging characters and stories with depth. Drawn was the first book I read by her, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I love strong heroines and heroes with a strong drive and a bit of a chip on their shoulders. I love heroes and heroines who are in their thirties and forties.

Often times, historical heroines are in their late teens or early twenties, per the norm for a woman of marriageable age prior to the twentieth century. I find it more difficult to relate to these heroines because of my age. Although I do enjoy writing them, after a while, I crave more connection with the heroine.

Historical adventures and romance can be fun, but the restrictions sometimes prove frustrating for the reader. Not to mention being an author of that era. I know I personally get overwhelmed by the amount of proper etiquette required for a specific era. Sometimes I need a change of pace in order to be able to connect with my own characters in a historical.

Strangely enough, I don’t gravitate toward romantic comedies when it comes to film. I still love a good romantic subplot, but I’m an action/adventure junkie through and through. Bonus points if there are natural or manmade disasters and giant creatures wreaking havoc on some major cities. I’m weird, I know.

But I also enjoy Korean TV Dramas and period films like Timothy Dalton’s Jane Eyre and all the Pride and Prejudice variations. Then, just to shake it up, I watch Star Trek: TNG, HBO’s Westworld, and Game of Thrones. So I have an eclectic taste, as you can tell.

I don’t fit a mold when it comes to my tastes in entertainment. Strong characters, solid stories, passion and adventure, and always a bit of romance. These are what draw me into a fictional world.

So I never rule out other types of fiction when it comes to reading, but I prefer romance. It’s that happily ever after/happily for now that seals the deal for me there. I love diving into a story knowing that at the end of it all, the hero and heroine will be together and ready to start a new life together.

Contemporary romance gives me a reprieve from the historical worlds I write in.

Contemporary romance suggestions

Feel free to post your contemporary romance suggestions in the comments. I’d love to hear from you. I think I’m going to go read a bit now. Thanks for stopping by. *blows kiss*

Until we meet again, may your bookshelves be full and your hearts even more so.

All my love,

Kirsten