LOVE according to Robert Nesta Marley #ThursdayThoughts

“Only once in your life, I truly believe, you find someone who can completely turn your world around. 

You tell them things that you’ve never shared with another soul and they absorb everything you say and actually want to hear more. You share hopes for the future, dreams that will never come true, goals that were never achieved and the many disappointments life has thrown at you. When something wonderful happens, you can’t wait to tell them about it, knowing they will share in your excitement. 

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They are not embarrassed to cry with you when you are hurting or laugh with you when you make a fool of yourself. 

Never do they hurt your feelings or make you feel like you are not good enough, but rather they build you up and show you the things about yourself that make you special and even beautiful. 

There is never any pressure, jealousy or competition but only a quiet calmness when they are around. You can be yourself and not worry about what they will think of you because they love you for who you are. 

The things that seem insignificant to most people such as a note, a  song or a walk become invaluable treasures kept safe in your heart to cherish forever. Memories of your childhood come back and are so clear and vivid it’s like being young again. Colours seem brighter and more brilliant. Laughter seems part of daily life where before it was infrequent or didn’t exist at all. A phone call or two during the day helps to get you through a long day’s work and always brings a smile to your face. 

In their presence, there’s no need for continuous conversation, but you find you’re quite content in just having them nearby. Things that never interested you before become fascinating because you know they are important to this person who is so special to you. 

You think of this person on every occasion and in everything you do. Simple things bring them to mind like a pale blue sky, gentle wind or even a storm cloud on the horizon. 

You open your heart knowing that there’s a chance it may be broken one day and in opening your heart, you experience a love and joy that you never dreamed possible. 

You find that being vulnerable is the only way to allow your heart to feel true pleasure that’s so real it scares you. 

You find strength in knowing you have a true friend and possibly a soul mate who will remain loyal to the end. Life seems completely different, exciting and worthwhile.

Your only hope and security is in knowing that they are a part of your life.” 

—Bob Marley

The Way Things Are Epilogue: Sex in A Wedding Dress #writerwednesday

WELL!

I took an unintentional two months off from writing and blogging. I can’t say that I’m sorry about it. July was dedicated to recuperating from #GTFOuterus — an unplanned but much needed surgery. I planned to be off in August from the get go to celebrate all of the Leos in my house and take a vacation to refill my creative well. And here we are in the middle of September.

What the fuck is time anyway?

However, things are a little cold around here so I figured I would share an epilogue to the epilogue of The Way Things Are to warm things up.

Initially I’d intended to do a series of short stories working up to this, but… my uterus. So instead of stalling for another month or so while I polish up the character studies I used to frame up the cast around Levi and Ava, I’ve decided to give you their wedding day.

This is the epilogue that I thought was the last chapter. I may have mentioned a time or two that I’m a non-linear writer who is more likely to finish a story if I know where it’s going. I wrote this first assuming that these to lovebirds were already more than halfway there and writing that journey would be no problem. Boy, was I wrong. It took me a while to course correct, and the book now has a new epilogue, but this still felt like something I needed and wanted to share with you all.

So here it is:

Sex in A Wedding Dress

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Cynical. 

Bitter. 

Angry. 

Jealous. 

I've been all of these. 

Some or all of them at the same damn time. I realized now that I felt that way because I was scared. I was scared because I never thought this would happen for me. This man, this love, this wedding day in Spring… I just never believed that I would have the dream come true. Ava Marie Greene wasn’t meant to get the happy ending. But here I am in this dress, bouquet in hand, waiting to meet my groom at the end of the aisle.

It was just me, Yves, and Marcelo in the foyer of  the Raymond's sprawling ranch house. Lorraine was out there, but just as a guest. Auntie Portia was mother-of-the-bride and that was just fine. 

Yves fussed over me like a mama bird. Adjusting and readjusting my train, and twirling each curl of my hair so that it fell just so. 

“Stop!” I complained swatting her away. “Jesus, you're so fucking nervous. I'd swear you were the one getting married.” 

“Aren't I?” she asked, her voice too high and wobbly, and her eyes over-bright with the tears that had been threatening to fall all day. 

“Oh, God. Get yourself together, loquita,” Marcelo groaned.

“Shut up and maybe I won’t tattle about you stepping out on the front stairs to cry when you first saw her in her wedding dress,” she huffed.

I looked up at Marcelo. “You cried?”

He shrugged and adjusted the lapels of his suit. “You’re a beautiful bride, Beans. And I’m really happy for you. You deserve to be happy.”

Great. Now tears were welling in my eyes. I grasped his face in both my hands and kissed both of his cheeks.

Marcelo chuckled softly and blushed. “Okay, Beans. Let’s get this thing done.”

“Okay.” I stepped back and pulled my veil over my face. 

Yves reached for me and squeezed my hand. “Let’s get you married!”

She sent a quick text to the DJ. Moments later we were at the back door off the den and Yves was doing her sassy two step down the aisle, all alone because she was arguably the most important person in my life other than Levi. She was my person. Fuck, the Santiagos as a whole were my fucking people. 

When she reached her spot near the altar the DJ began to play the song Levi and I had chosen for my wedding march. 

“Okay, Beans…you ready?” Marcelo asked.

I nodded, but the moment Etta sang those first chords of “At Last” I nearly lost it. Marcelo grabbed my hand and tucked it firmly into the crook in his arm. 

“I’ve got you, Beans. We’re gonna do this together. Okay?”

I nodded.

“Have you lost your voice, little mermaid? I need you to answer me out loud.”

I shot him a look that was meant to be cutting but I couldn’t help smiling as I said, “Okay. Let’s do this.”

The moment we stepped out onto the brick walkway, my focus narrowed. I was vaguely aware that there were people to the left and right of us, clapping, cooing, and weeping openly. But ahead of me Levi stood with his back to me. His hands clasped in front of him. His head tipped toward the sky. I stumbled, suddenly wary. 

Why wasn’t he looking at me? Was this a symptom of those cold feet that people always talked about?

But then Indigo, wearing a bespoke suit and looking sweet and dapper all at once, tapped him on the shoulder. 

When he turned around and finally set his eyes on me…he crumbled. 

“You’re beautiful!” he called out and threw his arms wide.

I grinned through happy tears and practically dragged Marcelo the rest of the way so I could be in his arms. The moment he enveloped me, I threw back my veil and kissed him.

“You look so beautiful, baby,” he whispered against my lips. “I’m the luckiest man out here right now.”

“No regrets?”

“Not a one.”

“AHEM!” The Officiant cleared his throat loudly, drawing our attention and a few laughs from the wedding guests. “We haven’t gotten to that part, younguns.”

“Oh, my bad, Rev,” Levi said apologetically, but the grin on his face said otherwise. He put my veil back in place and Marcelo took my hand again.

“Who gives Ava Marie Greene in marriage?” the Officiant asked.

“Her found family and I do,” Marcelo said proudly then physically handed me over to Levi. The two men exchange a nod that I’d like to believe was friendly. Yves reached for my bouquet, I handed it to her and turned back to Levi. That big grin stretched across his gorgeous face…I couldn’t help but return it.

“Okay! Let’s get this started before they start sucking face again!”

More laughter. But, in truth, I didn’t know how much longer I could wait.

“Levi Alistair Raymond, do you take Ava Marie Greene, to be your partner in the adventure that lies ahead…”

Levi said some words and I said some words and bright sparkly rings were exchanged. And before I knew it, Levi was kissing me until I felt giddy and delirious and we were Milly Rocking back down the aisle.

After taking wedding party pictures—Francis did an amazing job—Yves ushered us off to Levi's bedroom which had been stocked with champagne and finger foods—a place for us to wait and collect ourselves while the guests moved into the tents. 

I went straight for the chilled champagne, suddenly feeling parched. “Hey, my handsome husband, can you open this?”

“I can most certainly open that for you, my lovely wife,” Levi said then took off his jacket and draped it over the nearest chair. He grabbed the bottle by the neck and worked the cork loose, sending a cascade of frothy bubbles shooting a foot away from us. 

Levi filled the flute to overflowing and I couldn’t help but laugh. “Don’t waste it!” I scolded, attempting to catch the froth with a champagne flute. 

He grabbed my hand and turned me toward him. The look in his eyes was achingly happy. I’ve seen this look on grooms that I photographed. Did I look like one of those brides?

“Look at you in this dress…” he said, his eyes raking over my figure. “And you wanted to elope.”

“I just thought it would’ve been easier.”

“It would’ve have been easier, but I wouldn’t have had that beautiful moment of seeing you walk down that aisle to me. Of proclaiming my love for you in front of God and everybody.”

“God was there?”

He narrowed his eyes at me.

“I’m joking,” I said, then nuzzled his nose with mine. “And you’re right. If we eloped we wouldn’t have had these moments.”

“And we wouldn’t have this one either…” he set his champagne aside then took my glass and set mine aside, too. The hand that had settled on my waist slid up to the middle of my bare back to draw me closer, to draw my mouth closer. In that moment it hit me that this was the man I would kiss for the rest of my life. 

And I had zero issues with that.

“I want to get under this dress.”

“No, Levi…it’s a surprise for our wedding night.”

He looked toward the windows and the setting sun. “Close enough,” he said, his voice gruff and tugged at the zipper.

“Yves is gonna come back here any minute to take us into the reception—”

“They’ll wait for us—” he said. His hand was inside my dress now. 

“But the door!”

That gave him pause.

“Right, the door. Stay right here,” he said, then stalked over to the door. 

He opened it, presumably checking the hall for Yves or anyone else in the wedding party. Seemingly satisfied, he closed it again. 

“Shit,” he cursed softly.

“What?”

“There’s no lock! None of us have ever had a lock on our bedroom doors.” He looked around his childhood bedroom then stalked over to a ladder backed desk chair and carried it over to the door.

“Will that hold?”

“It’ll fucking do,” he said, and then he was stalking back to me with that determined look on his face. A girlish squeal bubbled up in my throat when he caught me up in his arms and yanked my body against his. “Now let me see what’s under my wife’s pretty, little wedding dress…” he whispered while maneuvering us over to the wall by the bookcase that held all of his trophies. 

Several parts of that request could be debated. Little? I haven’t been little since the seventh grade. I'm tall and lanky and I’m mostly okay with that. Pretty? Eh. But I think I look pretty damn good today.

But wife?

I was definitely Levi Raymond’s wife.

And Levi Raymond’s wife was about to get fucked against the wall in her wedding dress. 

He was kissing me like we had all night. Like there wasn’t a tent full of people waiting for us to start the festivities. But that was what I loved most about my new husband. Levi took his time with me. The hands under my dress found the lace hold-ups of my stockings. 

“What’s this?” he asked, fingering the garter straps.

“It was a surprise for later. I guess it’s ruined now.”

“Nah,” he said shaking his head. “I just won’t look and you can show it to me when we get to our hotel room. Besides…” His hand slid up the interior of my thigh to cover my silk and lace panties. “I don’t need it see my surprise to find what I’m looking for.”

And he didn’t. He reached between my legs and found me wet. I moaned already aching for him. I reached for his belt buckle and pushed down his boxer briefs, freeing his dick. With one hand he hooked my knee over his elbow and with the other he pushed my panties to the side and inside of me.

“Fuck!” I cursed, digging my fingernails into his shoulders. 

“Shhh! People are probably right outside the door.”

“Okay, okay.”

But I don’t know if it was the angle or the fact that he was my husband now or that everyone who had attended our wedding might be listening to us consummate our union, but I couldn’t keep quiet. Levi tried covering my mouth, but that only resulted in muffled screams. I locked my ankles around his waist and Levi gave up trying to keep me quiet. He just braced himself against the wall and drove into me.

“This is how it’s going to be. Every day. Every night. Me loving you. You loving me. Nothing can come between us. Nothing will tear us apart,” he promised.

I held onto him. Held tight to his words and believed his promises. Especially since Sade had made those same promises on an album of the same name. I kissed and kissed him as I came, chanting his name and bathing us in tears of happiness. 

There was still a long way to go. I was still recovering mentally and emotionally from all of the things that had happened in the past year. But for now…me and this man…we deserved to have this moment of happiness. 

Levi came, whispering his I-love-you into the curve of my neck. 

“I love you, too,” I said. 

A knock sounded at the door. “I gave youse an extra two or three minutes,” Yves said from the other side of the door.  “Straighten your clothes and come out here so that we can party!”

Levi chuckled. “She was out there the whole time, wasn't she?”

“Yeah, probably.”

“Of course I was out here the whole time. This is going on my spank bank, baby.”

Levi groaned and rolled his eyes. “We better get out there before she tries to join us.”

“Nope!" Yves said. “Rules are rules. No fucking friends…even if they make hot growly sounds when they’re coming. Now let me in so that I can make sure she doesn't look freshly fucked in her reception pictures.”

“Wow.” He pulled up his trousers and helped me adjust my skirts then walked over to the door to let Yves in. 

Yves pushed her way in the moment the door was open. “Whew! Smells like sex in here,” she said and waggled her eyebrows. 

I narrowed my eyes at her. “Get the makeup case and quit being gross.”

It took about twenty minutes but she put my face back to rights and made sure Levi was put together before we made our way out to the patio. Yves ran ahead and let them know we were ready to be introduced. The music quieted and so did the crowd and the DJ grabbed the mike. 

“Now…for the first time in history, I’d like to introduce Mr. and Mrs. Levi Raymond!”

Levi looked at me and grinned. “Yeah, buddy! I like the sound of that!”

And just like I took his name, I took his hand and danced our way into our future. 

Thanks so much for reading!

If you haven’t read The Truth Duet yet, read a long excerpt and purchase the books here.

xoxo,

tasha

3 Things I Learned From #20kin5Days

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

-African Proverb

It has been more than a week since my #20kin5Days writing challenge ended. I meant to post about this sooner, but it’s taken a while to navigate my feelings around it. Mostly I’m stunned and amazed that I managed to get so many words down at once. But I also feel a bit melancholy and deflated that the impromptu challenge is now over and I’m now craving that camaraderie and support.

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What is #20kin5Days

On September 25th while at a Trifecta Mastermind with my friends Latoya and Jame, I announced that I would be hosting a writing challenge. I’ve been thinking about doing something like this for months, tweaking and changing the parameters, but I still hadn’t found the guts to launch it. However, I knew that once I said it out loud to my business besties, I had actually to follow through with it. Latoya actually helped me work through some limiting beliefs that I was holding onto, and that’s helped me plan the last quarter (thank you, Toya!). So when we parted ways, I felt super-confident about announcing the challenge on Monday (the next day).

I was barely holding on to that confidence on Monday morning with I posted the challenge on twitter, expecting (and halfway hoping) it would get lost in the numerous tweets of Romancelandia drama. Well, there must not have been much going on that day because not only did other romance authors see it, they wanted to know where they could sighing up! Suddenly this crazy, and possibly terrible idea was something I had to actually do!

*Cue anxiety spiral*

But after I came to terms with the fact that I would have to not only write four thousand words a day for five straight days, I also had to offer encouragement for those who decided to do it with me! And honestly, the idea of donning my pom-poms to cheer on other writers was the motivating factor for me to follow through with this challenge.

I wanted to give everyone a week to plan their 20k, and by everyone, I mean me. I have a ton of ideas in my “what if?…and it’s a romance!” file. I needed to sift through them to decide which one of them was easy enough to stuff into a twenty-thousand word novella and would be a good standalone with new characters. I love the characters in my established romance world, but to be honest, I needed a break from them. I chose to write a May/December with a divorcee and a younger man (who is her professor). This was one of two ideas that were pretty well-developed and ready to be written.

Considering the limited word count, I thought it would be smart to focus on one POV. I broke out The Basic Character Creation Workbook to develop my main character, and Romancing the Beat to write a quick and dirty outline. My version of quick and dirty means one line for each plot point. That was the hardest part for me, to be honest. My outlines tend to be uber detailed and can take me as long as two weeks to draft. Somehow I managed to get it done by Friday I was ready to write.

But right away I realized I’d made some mistakes.

I launched this thing on labor day weekend. While Labor Day doesn’t mean much to me, apparently a lot of folks have BBQs and get-togethers on Labor Day. My bad. Lesson learned. I need to pay more attention to the calendar.

The second mistake was immediately after announcing the challenge, I reached out to Kate and Tiffany about going to the Decatur Book Festival that weekend. I foolishly believed that it wouldn’t be a problem. My friends love me and support my writerly aims. I needed only to make the time to bang out that 4k on Saturday and Sunday, right?

Right. Sure. None of this is a problem.

Here’s a blow by blow commentary of my #20kin5Days:

Day 1: I was pumped. I arrived on my timeline with pom-poms in hand, executed a few single and double herkies, rallied the participants into a froth, and got down to business.

I was so excited that I stayed up until midnight on August 29th to get a jumpstart on the word count.

Well, let me be totally honest here.

I wanted to get a jumpstart beaus I wasn’t sure I would be able to meet the 4k word count goal. To be honest, writing fiction has been difficult lately. Really difficult. I needed #20kin5Days to work more than I was ready to admit.

You see, I’m a slow writer, and for that reason, I always feel like I’m behind. Behind who or what, I don’t know, but I’d convinced myself that fast drafting was the only way I could “catch up.” But implementing everything I knew about fast drafting hadn’t worked. #20kin5Days was a last-ditch effort to make that work so hitting the 4k word count on the first day was validating and more than a little emotional.

Day 2: Yeah, this was the day me, Kate, and Tiffany went to the Decatur Book Fest. No words were made. Not a one. We ate our way through the festival, and I purchased a trilogy of illustrated erotic short stories that I can’t wait to dig into. No regrets.

Day 3: I woke up early and put in 2k before heading to brunch—a long brunch where we made friends with two sisters sitting at a table near us who joined our discussion about anime, and books in general. It was a lovely afternoon. I hit weird traffic on the way home though, so instead of getting that last 2k in, I went to straight to bed.

Day 4: Those regrets I didn’t feel on Saturday? Well, they came down hard on Monday. Regardless, I was determined to hit the daily word count goal plus some. I did two or three sprints, and partway through the day, while I was prewriting one of my plot points, I got really angry with myself. I realized that if I hadn’t slacked off, I would have written 20k. Easily. The thing is, you train your brain by setting goals and creating habits to meet those goals. If I make a habit of quitting before I begin, what kind of author does that make me? I finished the day with 6,088 words and a certainty that day one energy wasn’t a fluke. I can write more than 2k words a day.

Day 5: I had a daunting 8k words to write and the feeling at the top of the day was that I wouldn’t make it, but refusing to give into it. So many participants had already hit the goal or were so close that they definitely would make it before the day was out. I was so happy, but also feeling a little down on myself. Did I set up a challenge that I couldn’t win?

So I focused like a ninja.

I don’t know how many sprints I did, but I stayed up until midnight again in an attempt to meet the word count. I didn’t quite make it, but At 16,819/20,000, most of which was written in the last two days, I think I’ve made an impressive dent in this brand new manuscript. I call this a motherfucking success.

Here are the three things I learned during this writing challenge:

1. I really am an excellent motivator/cheerleader. People have told me this before, but this challenge was the first time that I paid attention to the dose of good feelings I felt seeing my author friends succeed gives me. By the way, Lucy Eden, L. Penelope, CM Lyon, Jasmine Silvera, Ash Dylan, and I’m sure some others that I’ve missed, actually wrote that 20k! Several people finished manuscripts that they’d been plugging away at for weeks or months. Some just found the right amount of support and camaraderie to get writing after taking an extended break or feeling blocked. That’s just super dope to me.

2. Going hard for a few days feels soooooo much easier than trying to sustain that same energy for a full 30 days. #NaNoWriMo is great, and I love the energy that shimmers through the fiction-writing world during that time. We’re all in it together and cheering each other on. #20kin5Days had all of that energy just in a shorter time frame.

3. Contrary to what I previously believed, I know how to write a standalone, but I still struggle with brevity. On Day 5, I realized that even if I made the 20k, it would only get me to the midpoint of my book. I just wanted to write something short, you guys. Why can’t I write a complete story in 20k words? I don’t know, but I’m gonna keep challenging myself to do that until I make it happen!

All in all, #20kin5Days was fun, and I’m definitely going to do it again. I’ll announce the challenge on September 23 which will give us a week to plan. The actual challenge will start September 30-Oct 4th. I can’t wait!

Thanks again to the writing ass writers who joined me in this writing challenge! Your support and participation kept me going. Maybe next time I’ll actually write something short!

Until next time… happy writing!

Tasha

Making Your Characters Feel Feelings: Lust

“I crave your mouth, your voice, your hair. Silent and starving, I prowl through the streets. Bread does not nourish me, dawn disrupts me, all day I hunt for the liquid measure of your steps.” 

-- Pablo Neruda

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Like desire, lust is not an emotion, but a feeling in which your character will experience a range of emotions. You can lust for money, power, recognition, but for the sake of this article, we’re going to focus on carnal lust. Lust of the flesh. 

Lust: a very strong sexual desire for someone. 

The Seven Deadly Sins aren’t listed in order of severity or, uh…deadliness, but lust is the very first one on the list. But I’ve always wondered why lust was such a grievous sin. My hypothesis, based solely on the indoctrination of my very young mind into Christianity which I swiftly undid by reading too many books is that this philosophy was born from men who also rejected the idea of romantic love. I believe they rejected romantic love out of fear and I guess they had good reason to be so fearful? Love and lust can make you think and do irrational things, and that’s what makes it so fun to write!

There are two ways to write your lustful character

An argument can be made that most initial attractions are born from lust. When your lustful character first meets their soon-to-be object of their desire, they will experience all of the giddy, lightheaded feelings of infatuation and an almost undeniable urge to strip them down and do the dirty. This may or may not lead to love, and your lustful character will react differently if it does. For now, here’s a list of reactions that might read a little harsh, but we’re talking about lust not love, right now folks. 

1. Lust is pleasure focused.

When your lustful character interacts with the subject of their desire, they will be focused on one thing, getting naked. All of their efforts will be focused on getting those needs satisfied, and the moment they are, they lose interest until they need to scratch that itch again. 

2. Lust is entirely based on physical attraction. 

Your lustful character is like that dude at the bar with his eyes glued to a woman’s rack. They have no interest in the object of their desire’s personality, likes, or dislikes unless it’s something that translates to their bedroom behavior. 

3. Lust is transactional.

These are two lustful characters who are consenting adults and knowingly enter this arrangement to satisfy their carnal needs, and that’s it. There’s no expectation of friendship. Neither wants a relationship. NO flowery words are exchanged. It’s all about achieving mutually satisfying orgasms with no strings attached. 

4. Lust is a thrill.

Whether the sex is between two people who should be together or if they’re telling moments from work or other obligations, lust adds another layer of excitement. That doesn’t mean that all characters don’t experience a thrill when the relationship is hot and new, but your lustful character, the thrill is the goal. 

These are definite motivations for your lustful character to give in to their carnal urges. Sometimes these urges lead to love and long-lasting relationships. However, romantic love deserves its own examination. That’ll be the next Making Your Character’s feel Feelings post!

Happy writing!

Tasha