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St. Patrick’s Day Giveaway!

St. Patrick’s Day Giveaway!

This is it. My biggest giveaway EVER.

Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and the Upcoming Release of THE CAPTAIN’S REBEL with me! One lucky newsletter subscriber will win a $200 Amazon Gift card. A second lucky subscriber will win signed copies of ALL of my books. Sign up for my newsletter today to participate!

My newsletter goes on March 17th St. Patrick’s Day. Make sure you sign up for a chance to win!

Also, check out the cover for THE CAPTAIN’S REBEL. *Heart Eyes*

This is my first erotic historical romance, and I’m writing as C.B. Halverson. I can’t wait to share this book with you all!

Available April 3rd…

THE CAPTAIN’S REBEL

Never surrender.

Land. Power. Influence. Mary O’Malley knows these are the only things that matter in her war-torn country. Determined to win back her ancestral home, she must embark on a journey across the Atlantic disguised as a cabin boy. But her ruse brings her under the control of a dangerous sea captain who demands from her the one thing she will never give—complete and total submission.

Captain Richard Grant runs a tight ship, and he didn’t claw his way up through the ranks of the Royal Navy to be undone by a headstrong Irish girl hell-bent on jeopardizing his mission and his crew. If she insists on dressing like a man, then she can take his punishments. He demands obedience, but his insatiable need for her leads to a complex game of sex, desire, and dominance not even he can control.

Awakened by the passion Grant stirs in her, Mary finds herself falling for the stern captain. But when her false identity leads to rumors of her spying for the French, she must choose between her love for Ireland and the man who commands her body—and her heart.

“I was hooked, and I could not stop turning the pages until the end.” – Stacy Reid, author of Accidentally Compromising the Duke

Are you ready to rebel?

Available for pre-order at Amazon | B&N | iTunes | kobo | Amazon UK | Amazon Canada
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Uncategorized

Special Guest Post: Wren Michaels Author of FRIEND ZONED

My friend and mentor Wren Michaels is taking over my blog today. Please give her a warm welcome, and check out her new book FRIEND ZONED!

I’m so excited to share that my latest novel is now available! It’s very special to me because it’s the first contemporary romance I’ve ever written. As some of you may know, most of my books have been paranormal romance. But I got the itch to write something completely different, and this story is a result of NaNoWriMo a couple years ago. I love writing diverse books and trying to write outside the box. I fell in love with these characters. And I hope you do, too!

I give you …. FRIEND ZONED.

friend-zoned-ebookAll’s fair in love and war until one person gets stuck in an arranged marriage.

Catherine ‘Cat’ Marek has a sociology paper due on dissecting the laws of attraction. Project Panty Drop will case study two different men; one she’ll go after in person and the other she’ll attempt to charm online. Hiding behind her beauty, she tries to cover up her true geeky side, and the fact that she’s partially deaf.

Jaidev ‘Jai’ Sankar needs to knock out a paper for his online sociology class. After an encounter with the Texas Tease, Cat Marek, he decides Project Friend Zoned will be the ultimate topic, proving a guy can remain in the friend zone with a girl he finds attractive.

As Cat puts the moves into overdrive, Jai finds it harder to remain in the ‘friend zone’ with her. The only thing keeping him from letting go is the fact his hardcore Hindu parents have a wedding scheduled for him. When neither can resist their attraction, the fight no longer becomes about their papers, but about the freedom to love each other.

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Her face haunted me. The adorable dimple pitted in her cheek caught my eye first. Sexy full lips that folded into a gorgeous smile just about took my breath away. I did my best not to continuously stare at her, managing to throw just a few glances here and there hoping she got the message. But she didn’t take the bait. Instead, she gave me a ‘too good for you’ glance while she plowed down a server on her way to the bathroom, probably to restock the toilet paper in her bra.

The Texas Tease, I called it. Lots of girls at UT had it—this one in particular—in spades. Shorter than my normal tastes, her alluring doe-eyes caught me off guard. The memory of her petite frame sashaying as she worked those sexy, black pumps played on a loop in my head. Along with the way her long, brown hair bounced with every step like a damn shampoo commercial.

She drove me insane, and I didn’t even know her name. At least Mick confirmed she was a student at UT, apparently in one of his Economics classes.

She intrigued me, sitting in a sports bar drinking beer while her prissy friend sipped wine. I even caught her glancing at the Longhorn game on the big screen. A cute girl who likes beer and football? Every guy’s dream. If only she weren’t a snob. But, I’d put her in her place. And I had the perfect plan.

The ring of my Skype alert disrupted my plotting. Incoming message from Kanti, my best friend.

Kanti: Hey …

Me: What’s up, brat?

Kanti: You busy?

Me: Never too busy for you.

Kanti: Stop with the sugar, you’re giving

me diabetes.

Me: LOL Better get used to it.

Kanti: Ugh. Don’t remind me. Quick, what

do you want for your birthday? You got the

new Mortal Kombat release already?

Me: Yeah, of course I do. But you don’t

have to get me anything. You know that.

Kanti: I can’t NOT get you anything.

Me: Tell me you talked to your parents and

the wedding’s called off. That would be an

awesome present.

Kanti: Seriously? You know that isn’t even

in the realm of possibilities. So shut it.

Me: I can dream, can’t I?

Kanti: Yeah, and I know what you do in

those dreams. Not even going there.

Me: You’re such a bitch. Why do I love you?

Kanti: Because we’re best friends.

Me: Well, there’s that.

Mick yelled through the door. “Jai, you comin’ down or what?”

“In a minute,” I replied.

Me: I gotta go. Kegger tonight and we’re

hosting.

Kanti: Email me and let me know what to

get you.

Me: Fine.

Kanti: LOL Kiss Kiss

Me: Whatever. LOL TTYL

I closed the lid on my laptop as Mick flung the door open.

“People are starting to arrive. You’re on keg duty first.”

I tossed him a nod. “Yeah, I know. I’m coming. Just finishing up some notes on my Sociology project.”

“I thought you dropped that class?” He folded his arms, leaning against the door-frame.

“I was going to until Professor Wilkinson agreed to let me take it online, since it’s the same time as my cinematography course.” I pulled out a notepad. “What’d you say that chick’s name was again? The one we saw at the bar today.”

“Catherine Marek. But I think she goes by Cat.” Mick shrugged. “Why? I thought you said she was a snob, and you weren’t gonna pursue her?”

“Oh, I’m not. I got my sights set on another girl I’ve been talking to for a little while. But I think that Cat chick will make for a perfect target on my sociology paper.” I wrote down her name and underlined it five times. “I’m calling it, Friend Zoned.”

Mick laughed. “Oh, this ought to be good. What’re you gonna do?”

“It’s what I’m not gonna do that’s going be the best part. I’m going to act like I’m interested, then when she takes the bait, I’ll friend zone her. I’m going to prove that a guy can be sexually attracted to a girl who’s interested in him and still remain only friends. I’ll be the best ‘friend’ she’s ever gonna have.”

abouttheauthor

Wren hails from the frozen tundra of Wisconsin where beer and cheese are their own food groups. But a cowboy swept her off her feet and carried her below the Mason-Dixon line to Texas, where she promptly lost all tolerance for cold and snow. Fueled by coffee, dreams, and men in kilts, Wren promises to bring you laughter, sexy fun time, and action that keeps you on the edge of your seat. The easiest way to her heart is anything to do with the Green Bay Packers, Doctor Who, or Joss Whedon.

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Feminism, Teaching, Uncategorized, women

The Killer in Me

I’ve heard this question a lot lately:

How do we reach Trump voters?

I hear it in my activist women’s group. I hear it over dinner with friends. I see it on Facebook and on Twitter. I read about it in New York Times think pieces. My reactions to this question are as predictable as you would expect.

Anger: Man, fuck those guys.

Philosophical: Let’s examine the existential crises of said Trump voters.

Buddhist: We need to have compassion for those suffering Trump voters.

Marxist: We need to examine the shifting socio-economic labor conditions that led to Trump voters.

And Back to Anger: No, seriously, fuck those guys.

One trend I’ve seen a lot in these think pieces is how threatened Trump voters feel by so-called “identity politics” that leave them feeling “left out” by progressive aims. Essentially, these are a call for BLM protestors to tone it down because, hey, guys, a suburban woman is starting to feel uncomfortable. In essence, placating butt hurt Trump voters is a re-centering of whiteness and white supremacy. Time and again, the “real” story here is why rural Trump voters feel so disenfranchised in Nowhere, Wisconsin…but not how many black voters were disenfranchised in Milwaukee by the voter ID law or purged from voter records in North Carolina. It’s hard to give a shit, honestly. Even as I sit here on my own little hill in Nowhere, Wisconsin and watch as factories close, as technology and robotics take over decent, middle class jobs, as heroin use rises to pandemic proportions, and the jobs that do exist are left to vastly underpaid, exploited, freelance undocumented workers. I need to care. I must care. As a community member, as a citizen, as a Marxist critic, as a Buddhist. And yet, when the question comes up in my women’s group, I have to resist rolling my eyes and heaving a heavy sigh because inside all I’m thinking to myself is…man, fuck those guys.

And it’s not because I’m a cruel, uncaring person. It’s because we circle this question over and over with no concrete answers. The only answers I am hearing is that black folks, LGBT folks, feminists need to chill the fuck out. And, well, I won’t be watering down my feminism any time soon, I can tell you that much.

I called up my BFF, a long-time practicing Buddhist and my personal spiritual advisor in all things Buddha-related. I asked her, “How can we have compassion for Trump voters but still want to dismantle the patriarchy and racism?”

She paused for a moment, and said, “That’s the ultimate question, isn’t it? How do you love a racist?”

She told me a story of a recent confrontation that had occurred in her life. Someone close to her had said something blatantly and unapologetically racist. My friend called her out in a calm way, clearly articulating why that utterance was racist, but the result was this person didn’t talk to her for weeks. It was painful, the tension between them. She finally sat this person down and said, “I told you this was racist not because I’m angry with you. I told you this was racist because I love you.”

Showing up to dismantle the oppressive systems of racism and sexism is the ultimate act of love and compassion. How many of us called off Thanksgiving because we couldn’t stand to be in the same room with our Trump-voting relatives? How many of us have unfriended and blocked people who voted for Trump? How many of us have ducked out of the break room and avoided conversations with our coworkers because we know they voted for Trump? I’ve done it all, and when I sit down and really think about why, it comes back to betrayal. Deep, soul-crushing betrayal. And I can only feel that way because of love. Love! Can you imagine?

Four years ago, I had developed a close and very cozy relationship to vodka. I don’t know how it started, but I can tell you how it ended—with my husband telling me I had a problem. That cocktail on Friday night had somehow crept into a nightly routine. And that nightly routine bloomed from one to four. It simply wasn’t healthy. Of course I lashed out, made excuses, accused him of trying to control me. But he said, “I’m not telling you this because I’m trying to control you. I’m telling you this because I love you.” Sexism, racism, xenophobia, homophobia, et al. are sicknesses of the mind. As addictive and seductive as vodka. The cure for so many personal ills, but ultimately destructive. When we show up to directly dismantle these systems of oppression, it’s an incredible act of love. It’s a commitment to the best side of a person.

But how? How do we do this work? My friend recommended I return to bell hooks, a social critic who writes extensively on racism and sexism AND is practices a fluid Buddhist-Christian path. I sat down to reread Teaching Community: A Pedagogy of Hope. I thought to myself, “Okay, here we go. I know bell hooks is going to give me some good strategies.” I dove into the chapter “Teaching Race and Racism,” and I was struck by the extent to which bell hooks works to dismantle her own internalized racism in this essay. She writes how she begins every workshop by working with students on their earliest memories of learning about race and racism. She writes, “I have found confronting racial biases, and more important, white-supremacist thinking, usually requires all of us take a critical look at what we learned early in life about the nature of race” (26). Note the phrase all of us. Teacher and students. Students and teachers. It’s what Freire calls critical pedagogy wherein students and teachers engage in a critical process of the interrogation of ideas. It requires the teacher position herself as the student…and the student position herself as teacher.

The question, “How do we reach these Trump voters?” suggests that teaching racism, sexism, xenophobia, and homophobia are a list of talking points that we can, if gained access by Jedi mind tricks or some other sorcery, we can somehow “deposit” into our racist relatives. If we’re somehow nice, make cupcakes, talk in gentle tones and hypnotize them with a PowerPoint, we’ll somehow convince them to knock it off. But I think the work we need to do first is the kind of work bell hooks suggests. Before we can reach anyone and engage in this critical work, we have to dismantle the racism, misogyny, xenophobia, and homophobia in ourselves.

I was recently at a conference with a friend of mine—a woman of color. I watched as she folded her beautiful curls into a bun, and I felt this wild compulsion to touch her hair. Me. After years of reading, after writing a dissertation informed by postcolonial theory, I wanted to touch my friend’s hair. How many times had I taught Baldwin’s “Stranger in the Village” and pored over the passage wherein he discusses the pain of black objectification? And yet, here I was, standing in our hotel room and suddenly aware of the strange imperialist impulse running through me. It was there, inside of me as sure as my white DNA. Learned, internalized, systemic, and oppressive racism. And if I cannot overcome the racism in myself, how can I reach a Trump voter?

Buddhist master Thich Nhat Hanh famously wrote, “Peace is every step.” This means that peace can only begin within ourselves. We cannot work for peace when there is a war in our minds. If instead of turning outward, what if we started the work of dismantling oppression within ourselves? What if white people made a goal this month, this year (!) to read or reread bell hooks, Edward Said, Ta Nehisi Coates, Toni Morrison, Debbie Reese, John Lewis, Judith Butler, Maxine Hong Kingston, and Gloria Anzaldúa? What if we took a hard look at the ways in which we have learned systems of oppression and analyzed the ways in which they now play a role in our adult lives? What if the revolution we’re looking for is not “out there,” but in ourselves? And then, and only then, armed with love, we might be able to answer that question.

Creative Process, Ireland, Literature, Uncategorized, Writing

Writing in the Age of Anxiety

When I first started writing commercial fiction, I did what every disciple of Hermione Granger does–I went to the library. I checked out every book on writing commercial fiction I could find. I spent years in my doctoral work poring over GREAT LITERATURE, but when it came to sitting down to writing a bestseller, I had very little understanding of the nuts and bolts of what makes for a compelling plot or engaging characters (arguably, I still don’t, but like everyone else, I’m a WIP). Eventually I stumbled upon Donald Maass’s Writing the Breakout Novel, and there, I found the best piece of writing advice I’ve ever read or read since. The gist is this: ask yourself, “What is the worst thing that could happen right now?” And then you write exactly that.

In the story of America, as unstable and rocky as such a narrative is and has been, it seems our plot has turned. The worst has happened. All of us who are in the business of storytelling can see all the signs of a grand design involving a great fall, the dark night of the soul, the darkness before the dawn. Yet,such tropes speak to a hero’s journey, where eventually the chosen one will rise up, smote the enemy, and make things right again. As the days go on, though, and the news from Washington grows more and more terrifying, it’s difficult to see how that narrative could be possible. For those of who are in the business of writing commercial fiction, especially for those of us writing romance, we might try to grasp onto a Frodo, a Katniss, a Clare Fraser, a Harry Potter, but increasingly these characters’ plots seem, well, like the fantasies they’ve always been.

Glancing over my twitter feed, I see writers, like me, stunted by writer’s block, paralyzed in front of their laptops, hindered with anxiety and depression. The worlds we built in our heads are crumbling, and what’s left feels like the backdrop of Beckett’s Endgame, wherein the actors recite snippets of long lost dreams over and over again, grasping at something lost. Something they can barely remember and it wouldn’t matter if they did. Writing is hard, but writing in an age of uncertainty and anxiety makes it feel almost impossible.

After the election, I talked to my father. He’s also an artist–a composer–and he offered up this advice (please imagine his Mississippi accent. It works better that way).

“Colleen,” he said. “Look at this man. Look at him. Sooner or later, he’s gonna fuck up. He’s gonna fuck up! And these four years will be a blip in the history of America. Go write your stories. Go write your stories because he’s gonna fuck up.”

Something in these words signaled a turning point for me in my post-election grief, and I’ve been trying to sort it out. Perhaps it has something to do with the juxtaposition between our POETUS’s ineptitude and my own unwavering belief in myself, my ability to do great things, to prevail. Trump will fuck up, but I don’t have to. I don’t have to make these four years about him. I don’t know if a great hero or heroine will emerge from these ashes, but one thing I do know about purveyors of bigotry, violence, nepotism, fascism, and greed is that they tend not to have happy endings. Perhaps not in one generation or the next, but eventually. Villains fuck up. You might not find that chapter in Maass’s book. But villains fuck up. Bigly.

Today, I saw a writer who expressed feeling so deeply pained and anxious about the current political state of things, but she felt it would be “cowardice” to leave America. It’s in these moments I think of writers who chose exile over direct political engagement like James Baldwin or James Joyce. James Joyce chose to flee Ireland for the Continent in the heat of the Irish Revolution so he could pursue his writing career. Can you imagine? And yet, he  went on to write some of the greatest modern literature of the 20th century.

Reading through this writer’s tweets, I recalled a poem called Station Island by Seamus Heaney. Over the course of the poem, several ghosts visit Heaney who, himself, is haunted by his decision whether or not to leave Northern Ireland during the Troubles. Heaney had been very active in literary political activist groups, most notably the Field Day collective. Riddled with guilt and anxiety, at the end of the poem, Heaney visits the last station and the ghost of James Joyce confronts him. Joyce tells him:

‘Your obligation
is not discharged by any common rite.
What you do you must do on your own.

The main thing is to write
for the joy of it. Cultivate a work-lust
that imagines its haven like your hands at night

dreaming the sun in the sunspot of a breast.
You are fasted now, light-headed, dangerous.
Take off from here. And don’t be so earnest,

so ready for the sackcloth and the ashes.
Let go, let fly, forget.
You’ve listened long enough. Now strike  your note.’

What Joyce (vis-a-vis Heaney) is saying here is there is no “common rite” to being an artist, meaning that there are no rules to this gig. The only obligation is to writing and to cultivating that “work-lust” for it. Heaney has listened to the many ghosts and speakers at Station Island, but now he has to take all that and go forward and “strike [his] note.” Joyce goes on to say:

‘The English language
belongs to us. You are raking at dead fires,

rehearsing the old whinges at your age.
That subject people stuff is a cod’s game,
infantile, like this peasant pilgrimage.

You lose more of yourself than you redeem
doing the decent thing. Keep at a tangent.
When they make the circle wide, it’s time to swim

out on your own and fill the element
with signatures on your own frequency,
echo-soundings, searches, probes, allurements,

elver-gleams in the dark of the whole sea.’

Basically what Joyce is telling Heaney is that following the rules and doing what is expected of him is keeping him from fulfilling his deeper artistic purpose: “You lose more of yourself than you redeem/doing the decent thing.” Writers need to swim out on their own, find their voices, keep seeking and searching. Like Heaney, part of that paralysis we might feel stems from having new boundaries hoisted upon us, new rules for the “politically-engaged writer,” obligations to speak up, but in ways that already seem prescribed for us. If we need to step away and find our more authentic voice, then that is what we need to do. Baldwin, Joyce, Heaney, and so many other writers learned that in their own time, and our generation under this autocrat will have to learn it anew.

This doesn’t mean that we can’t be both–politically engaged and creative–but that we need to forgive ourselves when we find ourselves needing to step away lest our writing becomes more slogans than seeking. More divisive than exploratory. After all, for many Americans in this generation we are in brand new territory without a map or even a light to guide us. If we need to go out on our own to create these new pathways, then perhaps, years from now, our children will inherit more than our fears and our anxieties. Maybe they’ll actually inherit a world worth saving.