Introducing Make Out Already: A Romance Novel Podcast

Remember when I said I might start a podcast?

I started a podcast.

My good friend and I sit down (in our separate quarantine bunkers, for now) and recap contemporary romance novels and movies. It's called Make Out Already, and you can find it in the podcatcher of your choice. To see it in Apple Podcasts and subscribe, head over here.

This is a labor of love and we're having a blast producing the show. I would love if you gave it a listen.


More updates

1. I got new glasses. I was overdue for an eye exam. My astigmatism has worsened. My style has remained sharp.  

2. Spring is already in my bones. In my aching back and my restlessness, in my readiness to cry and be vulnerable. The trees in my neighborhood are already flowering. There are bright purple flowers blooming in my front yard, flowers I never planted. Hyacinths. 

3. I am more freaked out by the freakout about coronavirus than I am about the coronavirus as far as me getting sick. I don’t thrive with these apocalyptic vibes. I went to a birthday dinner recently and we could not stop talking about it. I’m an empath, and the vibes are oppressive right now. I have the urge to call or email people I haven’t talked to in years, this global panic now connecting us. Does this count as a fireball hurtling toward the Earth?

4. I am starting a book podcast. Stay tuned. 

5. There was one other thing ... what was it? 

Oh yeah. I finished my rough draft. 81,158 words. It was like... two weeks ago? I’m waiting a bit to revise, to go deeper. To refine my messy passion project and get it closer to being out in the world. So long as there is a world, my book exists in it. Finally. 


Still Here: A Navel-Gazing Update

The last few months have been real weird. November 28th marked three years since I left my newspaper job, ending a deeply complicated phase of my life and starting another complicated, but different, set of phases. In the weeks leading up to that date, I kept trying to write something meaningful about how I’ve changed as a human being in that time, but it all felt so dramatic and I never posted it.

So I’ll post this instead.

I was in a bad way when I left that job, and someone told me that my life would have more than darkness, that it wouldn’t always be this way.

I was ... unconvinced.

Between then and now, I spent a lot of time alternating between staring at the abyss and going through the motions of being a person but not really feeling like one. Until one day, and don’t ask me to pinpoint the date because I don’t know, the abyss didn’t feel so abysmal and I didn’t feel completely disconnected from the motions. I mean, I still think life in general is total bullshit, still dark and twisty, so I wouldn’t concede that person was right. But to very poorly paraphrase Eloquent Rage, maybe I’m just more comfortable now fucking with the grays.

The me from three years ago wouldn’t have been able to imagine waking up at 5 a.m. to go to the gym and do pull-ups, or being the life of the party with nothing but LaCroix in my cup, or banging out a chapter before breakfast. But here I am. The last bit is what I’m most proud of. I’m finally a writer, instead of a writer who doesn’t write. The next hurdle is finishing. Every weekend I think I’m going to write the last few chapters of my first draft and be able to put it away for a few weeks before revising, but the closer I get to writing “the end,” the harder it is to make words happen at all. The idea of being done feels unthinkable — after all this time, settling for done but flawed is scary, because what if I go back during revision and think none of it can be salvaged, let alone improved? I am definitely outlining Book 2 and banging it out in six months, instead of pantsing and dragging out a draft for literal YEARS. I am becoming a woman who learns.

I’m also regressing. But in a good way. I lost some of myself for a bit, and I’m slowly starting to show up in the world like a version of my brash, charming former self who is a little more mature and a little tougher. I remember the first few months after I left the paper, feeling convinced that I should diminish myself because the problem at the root of all my problems was that I was “too much.” I failed miserably at being dainty and demure. I am meant to be the loudest bitch in the room, if I’m in the mood to be.

Three years ago I was jobless, sad and binge-watching DCTV shows in my pajamas. Now I am a person with a job where other people look to me for guidance, I am less sad, and I am still binge-watching DCTV shows but I’m doing it in a house that I own, after never in my life having the same address more than two years in a row. Still in my pajamas, though.

To end this super gross bit of introspection, I’ll leave you with this. The biggest takeaway from the last few years is the reminder that I am someone who creates, not just someone who often wrecks things. And I’ve learned that I can do a lot more than I thought I could when I have the right tools. The same girl drew both of these. Look at me go.

Also, I have been reading a ton of books. Maybe I’ll, like, review one sometime.


My Podcast Debut Talking All Things Romance

I think I can say that I have reached my next form in my Pokemon evolution, because ya girl was on a podcast.

I had the absolute joy of being a guest on The Pretty Good Podcast by Crabicurious.com, spreading the good word about romance novels. We had a blast talking about tropes, misconceptions, covers, and we even came up with a fantastic romance plot on the fly. Give it a listen below or on Apple Podcasts here.

And if you enjoy the sound of my voice in particular or you just generally enjoy the word "like" and giggling, you can listen to my second appearance on the show (which aired before the romance episode), in which I reviewed Spider-Man: Far From Home. Apple link is right over here.


Love is a game: “Level Up” by Cathy Yardley

I’m an original cover truther. It’s too wholesome and adorable!

I guess this one is fine. Whatever. 

A friends-to-lovers romance with a geeky Latina heroine who is a Whovian to boot. "So, you bought and read that the second you heard about it, right?" you may ask. And you'd only be half right, because after I bought Level Up, it sat on my Kindle for at least a year. Sometimes I do things that don't make sense. I'm unpredictable like that. It keeps people on their toes.

Deciding that my long list of owned, unread books and continuing trips to Barnes & Noble on my way home reflect poorly on me as a person, I have made it a point to work through my TBR. Level Up reads quick. It might even be short enough to fall in novella territory.

Tessa Rodriguez is terrified of social interaction. That, and love, aren't priorities for her, because her sole focus is getting promoted to game engineer at the male-dominated gaming company where she works with her roommate, Adam London, a project manager. Adam, as she is at least sort of aware, is a total smoke show, and as her roomie/landlord, totally off limits.

To his credit, Adam has never made a pass at Tessa. To his discredit, he is still butthurt about his ambitious ex who left him for a job opportunity, so that same ambition in Tessa is a red flag for him.

Early in the book, Tessa is forced out of her introvert bubble and befriends some very cool fellow fangirls who own a struggling bookstore. Tessa gets the wild idea that creating a fandom-based video game for a contest a few weeks away will get them some publicity to save the store. She's a skilled coder, but that fast turnaround means she'll have to enlist (and try to impress) the tech bros at her job who underestimate her.

As she and Adam spend more time together, their budding sexual tension is exacerbated by bets, arrogant jerks, and winter power outages. Never did I think anything about a snowstorm would appeal to me, but this cutie patootie, sexy romp of a book surprised me at every turn.

The highlight of this book was Tessa. She was full of realistic contradictions, like being painfully shy and awkward, yet blossoming with assertion if she felt strongly about something. I kept picturing her as Cierra Ramirez, because shades of her and her workplace reminded me of the show Good Trouble. Particularly, dealing with tech bros, though this group is less vile than the crew on Good Trouble.

This book was a delight, and if I weren't playing catch-up with my shelf, I'd be binging the rest of the Fandom Hearts series. Read this if you want a fun, lighthearted rom-com that still has depth and relatable stakes.

Level Up, by Cathy Yardley

P.S. I recently got an iPad and an Apple Pencil, which have transformed my writing. I can work on my book anywhere, in longhand, which I feel helps my ideas flow better (and makes me feel like a very old- fashioned, Serious Writer). I use handwriting recognition to convert to text. However, it can struggle with my sloppy handwriting sometimes, so when I use it to write reviews, you'll have to pardon some weird errors and spaces between words when I'm too lazy to proofread. I welcome flawed tech. If it gets too smart, the robots WILL take over. Stay woke, yinz!


Oh the humanity: “Maybe You Should Talk to Someone” by Lori Gottlieb

One of the perks of having my own office is being able to close my door and cry when I'm listening to a very emotional audiobook.

This book destroyed me. When I heard about it, it sounded like the spiritual successor to the excellent Love's Executioner by Irvin Yalom. I was psyched to read another therapist memoir. Margaret Atwood said, "We all have unlived lives." I was a psychology major for two seconds (I changed it before my first day of college), and when I was in career transition, I thought of going back to school to become a counselor (then I decided I'm better off continuing to write fictional therapists and give real ones my HSA dollars).

What makes this particular therapist memoir interesting is that it's not just about a therapist and her clients. It's about a therapist and her therapist. After the man she thought she'd marry dumps her because he decided he didn't want to be tied down to raising her young son, therapist and writer Lori Gottlieb decides to seek some support. But in the grand tradition of Seeing A Therapist, Gottlieb learns to dig deeper than what she thinks is her only problem.

As Gottlieb's therapist helps her unravel her BS, she tells us about her winding path to her career, her journey to single motherhood, her relationship, and her clients.

The stories of her clients' therapy journeys were my favorite part of the book. Gottlieb captured the beautiful, hideous, complicated humanity of her clients. The arrogant TV writer who can't stop looking at his phone. The hot mess who drinks too much and flirts with the guy in the therapy waiting room. The newlywed fighting cancer. The lonely older woman contemplating suicide. Gottlieb brings empathy and compassion to their stories. She doesn't shy away from the messiness of it all. Or the fact that personal development can sometimes be a comedy of errors.

The sentimentality doesn't feel exploitative or maudlin. And while there's plenty of joy and progress for some of the clients, Gottlieb doesn't pretend all their problems are magically fixed forever because of their work.

I was so filled with love reading this. It made me want to dig deeper in my own life and look for meaning and purpose, and it made me feel more connected to the people around me.

Read this if you want to feel delighted and inspired. Just make sure you've got a box of tissues.


Interlude: This and that

I had an ill-advised post-dinner cup of coffee and cannot sleep, so why not write a random update?

Just finished reading: You Know You Want This by Kristen Roupenian

I didn't read "Cat Person" when the story story originally went viral. It was all Twitter could talk about for a few days, but I think I had that same aversion that I have to watching Game of Thrones. I don't want to do it just because you told me to.

Originally, I saw this on Audible and was intrigued that my girl Aubrey Plaza is one of the narrators, but in the end I got this in hardcover. (The hardcover feels soooo nice. It has this velvety soft but ridged design that's a tactile delight.) I read a big chunk of this on a plane, including "Cat Person," which I now understand the hype about.

But it was also very grounded and relatable, an outlier in this collection of disturbing short fiction. Roxane Gay gave this a pretty harsh but accurate review. But joylessness aside, I enjoyed this one. It reminded me a lot of Chuck Palahniuk in how it mined the mundane for horror and reveled in shock value.

Spending a lot of time: Painting

I've been having a lot of fun experimenting with painting. My taste has changed a lot, so I've been repurposing old canvases from my early days with acrylic (not all of them — some of them I still enjoy) and heading to Michael's for more supplies every time I get a coupon. These are all over my house right now.

Watching: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

This isn't just the best superhero movie I've ever seen. It may be the best movie I have EVER seen. I keep trying to explain why it affected me the way it did. But I keep falling short and just fangirling. I sit in therapy every week and talk about some pretty heavy shit but crack jokes the whole time. Then I go in after seeing Into the Spider-Verse, and I don't get past saying the title of the movie before bursting into tears. This movie has ruined me.

P.S. The last two paintings above? My abstract odes to Gwen Stacy and Miles Morales. Get on my level, nerds.

Writing: Like it's my job

I got a bee in my bonnet after I bought a Passion Planner that I was going to finally finish my novel this year. Then a strange thing happened. I broke my goal down into a word count, then broke it down into daily chunks, and I've been crushing it. My goal is pretty modest, and some weeks I've fallen short. Turns out I'm not the type of writer who can stay focused while on vacation.

But when I do get into a flow, it's glorious. I feel like this story that I've been working on for years is finally coming together in a way that makes sense. It's so different from what it started as, because I'm so different. And I feel really good about where it's going.

The weirdest thing about writing it, though, is that I've found myself connecting a lot more to my hero than my heroine. I'm constantly in that character's head, despite having more in common on paper (har har) with my heroine than with him. But if the words are coming, why question that?

That's all for now. Here's hoping this lemon ginger tea does the trick.