Sampling a New-To-Me Author

Let me begin with an honest caveat. I’m a self-published author and have spent ten years cultivating my online presence, learning tips of the trade, finding quality partners to help polish and edit my manuscripts, researching the market and my genre, and investing in the health and longevity of my stories. I may not have a well-known publisher behind my work, but that doesn’t make it any less worthy of enjoyment. There are many self-published authors who invest time and energy to ensure readers get the best quality story at a reasonable price.

Self-publishing is not easy or cheap. Cover art, editing, formatting, marketing, and time all come at a price. I’m fortunate to have a husband who supports my artistic endeavors, both emotionally and financially. But I want to show him, and new readers, that my work is a worthy investment. Because it is. And so are the books of many other self-published authors.

With the expansion of self-publishing, it’s becoming harder and harder to have confidence in trying a new-to-me author. I get it. I often encounter this problem as a reader. When I find a book that catches my attention, I’m always cautious before hitting the purchase button. My solution: download a sample of the book.

Sample downloads are a game changer. If you haven’t been utilizing this feature, I highly recommend you try it. Amazon, Smashwords, and most other retailers allow you to download a 15-20% sample of the book before you purchase it.

When I start a new book, if I’m not hooked by the end of the first few chapters, I’m not going to be invested in the story. I used to be one of those readers who would finish a book, even if I wasn’t enjoying it. But I realized life is too short to read books that don’t resonate from the beginning. Thus began my DNF pile, but it also made me painfully aware of the cost of my unfinished hoard of books.

I don’t remember when I started downloading samples. But it changed the way I approached reading for pleasure. There are a lot of sample downloads waiting on my kindle, and that’s fine. I’ll get to them when the mood strikes and should they catch my interest, I’ll purchase the full book and continue reading. No harm, no foul.

With so many wonderful books flowing onto the market, it’s hard to decide what to spend your book money on. I understand it can be a difficult choice. But by downloading a sample, we’re trying a new author at no cost but our time. And since that sample is on our eReader, we’re reminded of its presence every time we open the application. This keeps the author’s name at the forefront of our minds.

Have I found wonderful new authors doing this? Yes. Have I found ones that didn’t meet my expectations or standards? Also, yes. I use this method with all types of authors, traditional, independent, or self-published. Even those with a publishing house behind their name are susceptible to the DNF pile. It’s nothing personal. I just know what I like.

Because I’m a reader, I know this also applies to me as an author. There will be those who find my work too steamy, too sweary, too brash. My books may not be everyone’s cup of tea. That’s perfectly fine. For those who find my stories and fall in love with them, I’m honored to have your support and love. You are my community, and I treasure your presence in my life.

Have you used the sample download feature? Does it help you find new authors to love? Tell me in the comments.

With 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

Why Historical Romance?

A lot of people ask me why I write historical romance? I never really thought about it before because my love of historical romance came naturally. My writer’s voice seemed suited to the task, and I was excited to dive into the story! It was destiny!

When I first began my publishing journey, I gravitated toward writing historical romance. Why? Well, I wish I had an easy explanation, but I don’t.

I could say I was heavily influenced by the romance novels I was reading. They had a profound impact on me. Authors like Teresa Medeiros, Julia Quinn, Elizabeth Holt, Jo Beverley, and Elizabeth Elliot. These are only a small sampling of the authors I read who influenced my writing and inspired me to pursue my own dream of becoming a published author. There are many other historical romance authors whom I adore and aspire to emulate through my own writing.

But here’s the truth. I write the stories that come to me demanding to be told. It’s as simple as that.

My first novel was a medieval adventure set on the English/Scottish border, as was the second book. Both of them were written during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). My subsequent novels followed the same historical pattern, but I couldn’t remain bound to only the medieval era. I dabbled in Prohibition-era, late-Victorian, and even Victorian steampunk.

I became a time traveler of sorts, going where the stories led me. The challenge of exploring a new era and embracing the possibilities of the time period envigorated my love of writing. Had I remained bound to one era, I would have grown stagnant and frustrated with my craft.

This inevitably led me to write contemporary romance, as well as time travel and fairy tale fantasy romance. The possibilities are endless!

While I vacillate between subgenres and different eras, there is one constant component on which you can always rely when it comes to my writing. I write romance. Period. There may be elements of other genres in my work, but it will always focus on the relationship and have an emotionally satisfying ending.

No matter the era or the subgenre, I stand by the KSB guarantee: A steamy getaway and always an HEA!

If you’re a writer, why do you write in the genre you do? If you write romance, what subgenre do you write in and why?

If you’re a reader, what makes you pick up a book? Will you follow the author no matter what they write or are you devoted to one genre/subgenre?

I have questions. Let’s chat about it! Leave your comments below.

With love,

Kirsten S. Blacketer

Wanted: Connection and Community

Hello, darlings.

I’m back in the saddle again. This time, I’m ready for world domination…I mean, I’m ready to tackle 2022 with new goals and a metric ton of motivation. That’s always how it starts, isn’t it? Ask me how it’s going on April 1st, and I’ll let you know if I’ve still got a grip on my sanity.

But let’s be positive and open-minded. Yes. Goals are a wonderful thing, if they’re reasonable, attainable, and set clear expectations. You don’t want them to be so overwhelming that even thinking about them makes your head spin and twists your stomach into knots. Small, attainable goals will help us reach our ultimate dreams, whatever they may be.

Last year my goal was simple and straightforward.

  1. Write one book every two months. Six books total for the year.
  2. Publish one book every three months. Four books total for the year.
  3. Take time for family and friends.
  4. Take time for myself when necessary to avoid burnout.
  5. Give myself grace.

Well, I thought those goals were pretty reasonable. By December 31st, 2021, I had written six novels, one Christmas novella, and two short stories. Now my typical novel is around 50,000 words, and my novellas are around 25,000 words. All in all, I’d say that’s a pretty good year for me.

I chose to publish four books a year because I’m writing, editing, and marketing all at once. That work is all on my shoulders, so spacing things out ensures I can give great quality stories, properly edited, to my readers multiple times a year. After ten years of writing, I have finally found my groove, and I kind of like it.

For the record, last year I also homeschooled my two kids, moved from Italy to Wyoming, and crashed with family for six weeks over the summer. Even though all that, I wrote when I could, stuck to my goals, and bam! Nailed it.

Now, this year, my goals are the same, but I’m adding an extra layer. Marketing. And no, I’m not talking just throwing ads up on Facebook and Amazon and calling it a day. No, I want more. I crave more.

What do I desire? I want a sincere connection with my readers. I envision a community of readers who love romance of all subgenres. I want you to join me on these epic journeys across time and around the world. I crave the companionship of adventurous readers like myself. Will you join me?

I may have an eclectic backlist, but it’s so much more than just an author who can’t stay in her lane. I write the stories I long to read. The ideas for my books come to me, and I cannot deny their demands. They chose me, and I follow willingly because I want to experience their story firsthand. Where will it lead? I want to travel to medieval Scotland one day and Prohibition Illinois the next. I have my own personal time machine that can whisk me to another century and continent where I can bask in all the enduring love stories. Could you deny their request if they chose you? I cannot.

This year, let’s come together in celebration of our love of romance, no matter the subgenre. Being part of a community gives us a warm and welcoming place to connect and share the love. Join me, and we can make it happen together.

Cheers! I wish you all the best in the coming year. Thanks for being amazing. Your support means the world to me.

All my love,

Kirsten S. Blacketer

My Favorite Part of Wyoming Living

I have lived in the wonderful state of Wyoming for the last six years. Aside from the 75 mph blinding winter wind and the summer thunderstorms that can produce quarter to baseball size hail and possible tornadoes, it’s a refreshing place to live. We lived in Cheyenne, which isn’t the prettiest part of Wyoming. In fact, some people would call it the “armpit” of Wyoming. But she has her beauty too in her historic landmarks and small-town atmosphere. Not to mention the yearly ten-day shindig of a rodeo aptly named Cheyenne Frontier Days. 🙂

We’re an 8-ish hour drive from Yellowstone National Park and approximately a 5-hour drive from Mount Rushmore, the Black Hills, Deadwood, and the Badlands. But to the south is Denver, Colorado our closest major city at only an hour and a half drive. There’s not a whole lot for 50 miles in each direction. But that’s okay because I like the slower pace and the open western blue skies. You’ve never seen skies this blue in all your life.

But you know what my favorite part of living here has been? Seeing these gorgeous creatures outside my window every, single day.

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A photo I took of a Buck Pronghorn ©KirstenSBlacketer 

The pronghorn, also called antelope, are a strange breed of creatures. They’re the fastest land animal in North America. Their hair is hollow (which isn’t great because it holds in the animal’s natural stinky odor), but it provides a great defense against predators because it comes out in clumps if you touch it. Mind you, it’s illegal to touch wildlife, but when they run into fences, you can see big puffs of hair fly on impact.

They have horns, not antlers, but unlike most horned animals, they shed their horns every year around Thanksgiving time. This makes for a funny spectacle because their skulls have two protrusions on top that hold the horns, so they look like they have little devil spikes. The horn is hollow so it slides right off come the end of November.

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Found on http://animaldiversity.org/collections/mammal_anatomy/horns_and_antlers/

The coolest part about their horns is…they’re made of hair. Yup. The horn’s texture is rough and you can see the fine hairs that make up the composition of the horn around the base of it. I’ve found the horn sheds on base. It’s the craziest thing.

Also, a side note, the females can grow horns too, although they don’t often get as big or impressive as the buck’s horns. The way you tell the males and females apart is by the dark patch on the jaw. Only bucks have the dark patch highlighting their jaw.

Out on the plains, the pronghorns will run as soon as you get within 500 yards of them. They’re skittish and jumpy and fast as hell. They have amazing eyesight, and if you even attempt to slow down to get a good look at them, they take off.

There’s only one place where you can get a good, up close and personal look at the pronghorns. F. E. Warren AFB in Cheyenne, Wyoming. It is the only place in the country to have a nearly domesticated pronghorn herd. I live on the base and see these crazy critters every single day.

In fact, one of my favorite hobbies in the late spring and summer time is to drive around the base and take pictures of the herds. The best time is the end of May, beginning of June when they start having their babies.

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They are the cutest little ball of fluffs you’ve ever seen. Pronghorn aren’t very big. Probably the size of a donkey. So these little lopiedopes, as my daughter likes to call them, are smaller than your average dog.

They should be having their babies any day now, and I’m so excited to photograph them one last time.

The bucks are so much fun to watch. Every one of them has unique horns. So it’s one of my games to see how many different bucks I can photograph. We compare their horns then. I like when they’re wide and tall, but there are many that have narrow horns. The curl is also a fun little quirk to notice between them all.

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Big Boy 1 ©KirstenSBlacketer

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Big Boy 1 ©KirstenSBlacketer

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Big Boy 2

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Big Boy 2

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I love showing off the fantastic images I’ve captured of these beautiful animals. When we finally leave Wyoming, I will miss them.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my little wildlife lesson and the photographs. I know it has nothing to do with writing. But it does tell you a lot about my love for photography, wildlife, and my appreciation for the wild Wyoming home I had the privilege to call home for the last six years.

Please feel free to leave a comment or a question if you have one. I look forward to hearing from you! 🙂

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

All my love,

Kirsten

Finding The Bright Side

My husband must be a sage old man beneath his ruggedly charming exterior. We’re opposites in personality and talent. Where I can write and organize, he can problem solve and fix broken things.

Tim and I

Most days I feel like I’m the broken thing that needs fixing. It probably stems from my pessimistic nature. I admit it. I’m a pessimist. While I really want to see the bright side, most days I just want to curl up into a ball and sleep. I hate conflict and everything feels like an uphill battle.

My sweet husband thinks it’s all in my head. He tries to motivate and support me in everything I do. But I feel like a lost cause most days. Those few days where I get a burst of inspired energy, it fizzles out by dark.

Again, he’s a problem solver, so his mission, in his mind, is to help me get back on track. I love him for that. But it also irritates me to no end. Why can’t I just stew for a bit?

He’s not an optimist. No, my hubby is 100% realist. That alone should make me feel better about his support. He wouldn’t support me if he didn’t believe that I could do it. A lot of days, life, let alone writing, just feels overwhelming.

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While I’m sitting over here bitching about the wind, which is completely apt because Wyoming is notoriously windy, my husband is adjusting the sails. Every damn time.

Problem solver extraordinaire. Even if he doesn’t know HOW to fix it, he offers sound solutions. He has a handful of sayings he keeps on the cuff when he sees me falling deeper into my pessimistic little dungeon.

“Life is good, babe. Life is good.”

“Don’t complain about something unless you’re willing to offer a solution.”

“Now, tell me three positive things that happened to you today.”

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“Give me three positives for every negative.”

I’m a fortunate woman. I have a husband who not only supports my writing, but he tries his best to help me out of these awkward funks I find myself in.

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I wish I could understand why my brain works the way it does and work through these hurdles. But until I work through it, he will sit with me helping me find my way back to the bright side. Sometimes that’s all I need. Someone sitting by my side in the dark as we wait for the sun to rise on a new day.

One thing I can say for certain, spending time with my family is more important to me than anything else in my life. Writing is a part of who I am, but lately, I’ve lost the passion for it. Perhaps I need to recharge with my family before taking on another project.

We will be moving this summer to a new base in a new country. I’m terrified and excited in equal measures for this new adventure. But right now, my heart isn’t in my work. So, I hope you’ll forgive me. I had huge plans this year to up my writing game, but this new direction our lives are taking will dominate all my time and energy. Once we’re situated at our new location, I’m hoping the muse will return with a vengeance.

I know my husband will be there with his glass of bourbon ready to offer any encouragement and support he can. My family is my bright side. I wouldn’t be who I am without them.

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Perhaps some time in the sun with my family is just what I need. And a big thank you to my husband who puts up with my doom and gloom and always brightens my day.

Do you find yourself sitting in the dark like I do? Are you a pessimist too? How do you cope with all the negativity swirling in your head? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by. Feel free to leave a comment or two. *hugs*

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

All my love,

Kirsten

 

How Film Inspires My Craft

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Hello, darlings.

I’m taking a slight detour this week. After posting my affinity for contemporary romance last week, I wanted to share another creative aspect that influences my writing.

TV and Film.

As a kid, I watched a lot of movies. It was a weekly ritual to go with my Dad to the video store and rent movies on Friday and Saturday nights. He introduced me to films I never would have chosen for myself. Die Hard, The Saint (with Val Kilmer), Gone with the Wind, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly…the list goes on and on. We also watched Home Improvement and Star Trek: The Next Generation religiously. I loved the action and adventure, the romance and the drama. It thrilled me to experience a new adventure every week. Not to mention, it became a way of bonding with my father.

I carried the passion for film into adulthood. But it wasn’t until I took a film class in college that I was able to dissect and analyze the structure of the shows and movies I loved. At first, I thought it ruined my film viewing experience because I was pulling it apart thread by thread to see how the story was woven together. Then I realized how it could help me in my own storytelling experience.

No matter how much I longed to be in a film, either acting, directing, costuming, whatever the case may be, I knew it would always be a pipe dream. My gifting lays solely in the written word. I could visualize the story in my head, but words were the only way I could bring these adventures to life.

My husband and I enjoy watching movies and TV shows, even though we have very different tastes sometimes. He enjoys cheesy B-rated movies or corny 70s films. My tastes are a bit more varied. I watch Korean dramas and foreign films, but I also live for a good destruction movie complete with natural disasters or gigantic mutated creatures encroaching on major cities.

I will be the first to admit that reviews and recommendations are subjective. I’ve had people recommend movies and shows that I did not enjoy or abandoned with disinterest. There are ones I enjoyed, but they didn’t have what I desired most…

To be blindsided.

I’m not talking cliffhanger. No. I mean I want a twist so ingrained in the story that it caught me completely by surprise, but when I think back on the story, the answers were staring me in the face the whole time.

Now that I’ve discovered the patterns in storytelling, it’s hard not to see what’s coming. So when I find a show or a movie that does this, I’m addicted.

It seems HBO has this on lockdown for me right now. They started with Game of Thrones, but it’s Westworld that has me riveted right now.

During my husband’s deployment last year, I watched Westworld while waiting for Game of Thrones episodes to air.

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Holy crap, did they hook me good. I binged the show. The first few episodes left me confused. Were we in the wild west, the present…oh, wait, we’re in the present in a theme park filled with robots. Okay. Then they started throwing character after character at me. Halfway through the show, I finally got a grip on the basics. Who the players were, where they were, and what was going down.

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But I never expected it to play out the way it did. Not in a million years. I will not give spoilers, just in case you haven’t seen it but want to enjoy it with fresh eyes. I wish I could. It’s one of those stories I wish I could wipe from my memory and watch it again.

These are the twists I live for. The ones that make me go, “What the ever loving hell?!” or have me jumping off the couch shouting at the television.

I wanted more Westworld. I still had questions that needed answers. I wanted more William and Lazlo and Hector and Ford and the Man in Black…*grabby hands* But I had to wait.

Fortunately, the wait is nearly over. Westworld Season 2 begins on April 22nd, and I for one am ridiculously excited to see how the story continues. So if you haven’t seen it, I suggest you give it a try. There is excessive language, violence, and nudity. This show is absolutely NSFW and not family friendly. Adult content ahead. You can’t say I didn’t warn you. But everything in the show works to push the story forward.

I’m hoping that season two will give my muse a jump start.

It always amazes me how small elements, characters, settings, or even lines of dialog from a TV show or movie can provide a spark of inspiration. I love when those moments happen.

So, how about you? Do you find yourself inspired after you watch a good movie or an engaging TV show? Let me know in the comments. I’ll keep you posted on my Westworld addiction. *grins*

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

All my love,

Kirsten

Character Interview: James Bates

Welcome to my interview with James Bates, leading man in Winter’s Gentleman. We first met Bates in Jewel of Winter and followed him throughout the Thieves of Winter Series. I had quite a few requests for his story. I’m excited to say, his story is coming this summer!

I hope you enjoy this interview showing a deeper picture of the butler we all fell in love with in the Thieves of Winter.  If you’re curious as to who I would cast for Bates, the closest I can come up with is a cross between Gordon and Alfred from the TV show Gotham. Definitely more Gordon though. *wink* I’ve provided pictures of the actors from the show. Obviously not mine, just inspiration.

Me: Welcome, James, thank you for joining me today.

Bates: The pleasure is mine, my lady. How may I be of service?

Me: *blushes* Always the proper gentleman’s gentleman, aren’t you?

Bates: *smiles politely* It is my duty to be polite in address and serve as I can.

Me: You are a loyal servant of Lord Edmund Reddington, correct?

Bates: I am the head of the household staff, as well as Lord Edmund’s butler and personal valet on occasion.

Me: How long have you worked for Lord Edmund?

Bates: I have been in the employ of the Reddington house for fifteen years come September.

Me: That is quite a long time. Do you enjoy being a butler?

Bates: I have a generous employer and a stable position, I would be a fool to jeopardize it. To answer your question, I do, to an extent.

Me: Sounds like you’re being reserved in your response. This is a safe place, I promise I won’t tell Lord Edmund anything you reveal today.

Bates: While I appreciate the gesture, there are some secrets one cannot reveal. That would be—what do you call it, ah yes, spoilers.

Me: *laughs* Well, we appreciate your restraint. I’m sure readers would prefer going into your story spoiler-free. Would you be willing to answer some personal questions about yourself?

Bates: Within reason, of course.

Me: Of course. I’ll start off simple. What is your favorite food?

Bates: Roasted Duck with root vegetables. Although the occasional indulgence in chocolate never goes amiss.

Me: Do you know how to cook?

Bates: *pointed stare*

Me: I had to ask. *laughs* How about I ask about some firsts?

Bates: Very well.

Me: Tell me about your first crush. The first person you thought you loved.

Bates: That would be my governess. *heavy sigh* She was a lovely, young French woman, Mariette. I would have done anything she asked. She returned to France when I left for school at the age of eleven.

Me: Sounds like she made quite an impression on you.

Bates: She did.

Me: Do you have any siblings, James?

Bates: *shifts uncomfortably* I do. An older sister, Lilah.

Me: How old are you if you don’t mind me asking?

Bates: Thirty-five.

Me: I’m surprised you aren’t married. Do you have anyone special in your life?

Bates: Being a bachelor provides fewer complications. My employment is demanding of my time. It would be unfair to shackle some poor woman to such a life.

Me: You didn’t answer my question.

Bates: I believe you know the answer.

Me: Anna is quite young. Do you not find your attraction to her inappropriate?

Bates: In my era, it was not unheard of for a husband to be ten or twenty years his wife’s senior. Anna is nineteen. I have known her since she was a child. I admit only that she deserves better than me.

Me: Sounds like you have some heartbreak in your past. Did a first love break your heart?

Bates: A first love, no. But I made some poor decisions in my youth. Ones I will pay for until the day I die.

Me: So there’s no lost love you pine for?

Bates: No.

Me: Dare I ask about your first time making love?

Bates: That is quite a personal question, but if you insist on knowing, my first time was with a widow who lived in the village outside the school. She often brought treats for the boys. I shall leave the rest to your imagination.

Me: You are quite the tease, you know.

Bates: *takes a bow* So I’ve been told.

Me: *fans self with the interview papers* Let’s change the subject, shall we? *clears throat* Have you ever been in a fight?

Bates: Yes, several.

Me: Have you ever taken part in a duel?

Bates: *drops his gaze* Once, I would rather not discuss it.

Me: As you wish. Do you read?

Bates: When I find the time, I do enjoy a good read.

Me: Do you have a favorite author?

Bates: I am quite partial to Arthur Conan Doyle. His detective is quite an interesting fellow.

Me: You strike me as a highly educated man. Why are you working as a servant?

Bates: Penance. I am right where I need to be. *smiles half-heartedly*

Me: What can we expect in Winter’s Gentleman?

Bates: Answers, and a bit more insight into my past. I promise it will be more revealing than this interview.

Me: Well, thank you for joining me today. I shall leave the comments open for questions. If the readers have any questions for you, they can post them here. You can answer at your leisure.

Bates: My pleasure. I look forward to responding to their inquiries.

Thank you all for stopping by to check out my interview with James Bates, butler extraordinaire. If you’d like more interviews like this, please let me know. I had fun with this one.

Winter’s Gentleman is coming soon!

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

All my love,

Kirsten