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Renee Swindle’s “Shake Down The Stars” – A Review

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Not so recently, I was the lucky winner of the latest novel of Renee Swindle, A Pinch of Ooh La La. I was happily surprised by this win as I had tried for it on a whim and had just finished Ms. Swindle’s second novel, Shake Down The Stars. For years and years I waited for another Renee Swindle book as I loved  her first, Please Please Please so very much.

Now, before I begin this review I must tell you that I’m forgetful. Let’s just…put that out there. I say and do things on the fly. I hoard notebooks. I write myself notes on an app on my phone. It’s how I live. I’m saying all that to say that I immediately wrote a review for Shake Down The Stars which I fully intended to post here and upload to Amazon. Who knows how that went awry, but in one of my cleaning frenzies yesterday, I uncovered the abandoned review, and well, better late than never…right?

In this ultimate comeback novel, the main character Piper won me over from page one. You see, hooking and reeling me in the beginning is important as I have the attention span of a… wait… what was I saying?

Oh, right. Piper. What a mess! But quite frankly, I need for my characters to be a bit of a mess, so I know they’re real. Fortunately, Renee Swindle shared my sentiment in this brilliantly crafted and tightly written novel where she presents readers with a character who immediately resonates. Be it Piper’s alcoholism, (whether she acknowledges it or not), family turmoil or unimaginable loss, there is a little part of this character we can all relate to.

It is all these parts of Piper that made me ask the question over and over: Who will love you at your worst?

Though Piper isn’t overtly in search or love, or any one thing in particular, it’s a question she seems to want the answer to herself. While dealing with the unthinkable in the only way she knows how, drinking until she can no longer think nor feel, engaging in reckless and promiscuous behavior and clinging to an unhealthy back and forth relationship with her ex husband, Piper often looks for answers in the stars. Star gazing is a passion of hers, and after hitting rock bottom, the stars, it seems, are all she can hold on to.

It takes the chance meeting of a perfect stranger to bring Piper’s starry gaze into focus and force her to confront her demons and, once and for all, decide who she really is, and if the real Piper is worth loving at all.

Since her breakout novel Please Please Please, I’ve found Renee Swindle to be synonymous with creating shockingly real and relatable characters and terribly realistic stories. Her much anticipated follow up proves consistent in presenting readers with a complex and flawed character that we have all at one point either known, seen or been. 

Filled with detailed descriptions, familiar settings and sharp, snappy dialogue, Shake Down The Stars is an engaging and compelling read that I highly recommend.

Now…on to A Pinch of Ooh La La!
 

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So you edited your first anthology…now what?

I have a problem. No, a habit, of letting things define me. It’s never intentional, but it happens. Years ago, I was published for the first time in two major anthologies simultaneously. All of a sudden I was the girl who wrote erotica. I proudly took this on as my little niche in writing, a place where I could make a name and hopefully, someday, maybe…a living.

I published plenty. I crossed off a lot of goals on my “to be published by” list. And then I had the opportunity to achieve a major goal of mine: editing my first anthology.

As you know, it came to be Can’t Get Enough and it was a whirlwind experience.

Of course, the book wasn’t even out yet before ideas for more and more anthologies were taking over. I jotted them down. I eventually wrote them up. I decided that if this book did well, this was my chance. I could establish something. This would be my first in a heaping pile of anthologies edited by yours truly.

*Insert belly laughs here*

Though I’ve come across many wonderful people in this community of ours, several of whom turned out to be great mentors of mine, there was never anyone I really spoke to about how this really works. That nothing happens as quickly as you want it to, or does as ridiculously well as you’d dreamed it would and that, well, you do more watching and waiting than anything for a really long time.Suffice it to say, I don’t have any new calls for submissions to list and be excited about, and honestly, I don’t know if I ever will again. I know that’s the opposite of positive thinking, but I have to be real with myself if no one else.

And yes, I drafted a novel in the meanwhile and have started countless other projects. But, what have I done to really push myself forward? To really capitalize from the momentum of Can’t Get Enough’s release?

Editing the project while working a full-time job, moving to another state and caring for twins was enough in and of itself. To keep writing and submitting short stories at the same time sounded crazy.

But, that was where it all began. That was what I was known for. And apparently, I must have taken heed at some point (in my sleep maybe) because I received word a little while back that the amazing Alison Tyler will be publishing three of my shorts in two of her upcoming anthologies.

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In Bondage Bites (due out in August), I have Minute to Minute and Anything But Loose, and in Hard At Work (release date TBA), I have A Hard Sell.

 

On Life and The Fast Lane

And just like that, it’s been four and a half months since I’ve blogged.

I could follow that up with the usual. How I’ve been busy, in pain, depressed, etc. but the fact remains…it’s been four and a half months since I’ve blogged.

I remain amazed and in awe that during my period of silence here and barely tweeting, “Can’t Get Enough” continues to do well, people continue to follow me on Twitter and Instagram and I still have some faithful followers of this tired, old blog.

To detail the happenings of these past months would take a long, drawn out post that I don’t want to write and I’m sure you don’t want to read. But, to be as brief as possible, I started an intense weight-loss and work-out regimine that required all of my attention (apparently) and as a result I lost nearly 50 pounds.

transformation

I also went blonde.I re-entered the work force, temping at a warehouse for a couple of months before the contract ended, and now I’m basically back where I started. Except, I now have the first draft of a novel thanks to NaNoWriMo. Yes, I participated in and completed National Novel Writing Month. I began rewrites on my WIP, but quickly became…unmotivated. So, there’s that.

Otherwise, I’m existing and trying to find ways to be more present, both here, and in life. My birthday is approaching, so it’s getting pretty dark over here.

Accountability

When I sort of accidentally began this journey, accountability was a big thing for me. I talked about it. Owned it. Showed it. Through daily full body Instagram photos, I am holding myself accountable to myself and to (I’d like to think) the world for my fitness and health, whether I do or don’t meet my goals for that day, week or whatever.

Just recently, I’ve begun adding food pics to the mix, which I had been doing from time to time before, but that’s when I was flaky about it all and could easily have had a salad for lunch and fried chicken and mashed potatoes for dinner. You’d see the pretty picture of the salad, but you wouldn’t see and I wouldn’t speak of the fried chicken.

I guess it’s like the proverbial tree in the forest. If I eat it and no one’s around to witness it, does that mean it didn’t happen? Well, I knew that couldn’t last because even if I didn’t post pictures of every meal, I repeat, I post full body shots of myself every single day, so you would know something went awry, somewhere. I wouldn’t be telling the truth. I wouldn’t be telling my truth. And there are many parts to my truth.

The truth is, if this were five days ago, I’d have either a vodka cranberry or a glass of wine in my hand. And if I’m going to tell the truth, five days ago, I DID have a vodka cranberry in my hand, and followed it up with several more. And let’s just throw a couple of shots of tequila in there for sport, because that happened, too.

Also, a hangover happened, and though I’ve posted a vicious hangover selfie on Instagram, I made sure I got myself together before I posted my daily shot, and I still went walking/jogging.

I haven’t had a drink since Sunday and that’s in part because I’ve been thinking a lot about this accountability thing and also because a friend challenged me to a strict seven day fitness thingy that doesn’t allow for alcohol.

It’s been easy. Unbelievably easy until today, when my day wasn’t so good, when my relationship isn’t glowing that perfect glow, when I’m so annoyed/pissed/mad/sad that I just want to numb myself with a vodka neat or a whole bottle of wine. And yes, I can take down a whole bottle…and a half.

So, far I’m resisting. Sipping iced water and channeling this negative energy into new words and promoting Can’t Get Enough. And I think I’m able to resist mostly out of stubbornness and a small part of me thinks it may be an around about attempt at sabotage because my husband of course lives with me, knows my habits, my weaknesses and unfortunately, my triggers.

It’s good to get that off my chest. I’ll let  you know how it turns out tomorrow. Honestly.

Boundaries

lafyette

 

This is going to get personal, like, really personal. But that’s what we do here. Chat lightly, things get heavy, we promote a little.

I would categorize this one as a vent, except I’m not angry, and quite frankly, that worries me.

I may or may not have spoken here about boundaries. Specifically boundaries in a relationship. And sure, everyone has their own, whether expressed or unspoken.

Mine, however, have been blatantly expressed in the past, but now I find myself dealing with the same issue.

Specifically, I’m talking boundaries when it comes to being in contact with people other than your spouse/partner.

Where do you draw the line? At texting? At calling? At hanging out?

And to catch you up. The spouse is mine, the contact is via text (as far as I know) and he sort of told me as an afterthought.

The texter is a coworker. Remember those simultaneous dreams he and I had where I dreamed he was having an affair with a coworker and he dreamed I was having an affair with the neighbor? Weird, right? Well, the neighbor moved.

And his coworker, not someone he works closely with or even physically comes in contact with on a daily basis, texted him yesterday to “check on him.”

He’s on vacation. He’s not sick.

He’s simply not at work. And if he’s not at work, then guess what? He’s at home or somewhere with his wife, who would be doing the checking on if need be.

I didn’t say anything at first.

Because I try to be a cool, modern wife, you know. But the thing is, I wear my emotions on my sleeve, and at some point, I started to boil over.

He thinks it’s jealousy. I think it’s boundaries, plain and simple. If I’ve not met, formed any type of friendship with this woman, she does not get to have a part in our marriage that’s exclusive to only him, especially when I was here first.

But, maybe that’s just me.

In the end I gave my opinion and honestly, he seemed sort of sad, like I had taken away a favorite toy or something. He even told me to find a guy to text after I asked how he’d feel if he were in my shoes. WTF, right?

Now, mama didn’t raise no fool. I didn’t come out and say “stop this or else” because if he wanted to stop he would and if I told him to stop and he didn’t want to, guess what? He’d continue, only behind my back which would make it definitely look like something even if it’s nothing.

So what did I do? What any sane woman would do, of course. I friended her on Facebook. I’ve got the bitch on my radar and I’m watching the situation closely. That’s all I’m saying.

 

 

I’m Coming Out

Luckily, I’ve been too busy online promoting the book to think about upcoming face to face promotion. And to fret about it, which kind of blows because the stress weight loss would have done me good.

Anyway, here it is, where it all begins. I have two readings/meet and greets/signings this week alone.

And for the first time it’s occurred t i me that for ten + years I’ve been in hiding, well, not exactly hiding, but not promoting other than online,

online, and in other people’s books where showing my face wasn’t a requirement.

And I’m excited, I really am. Interacting, reading, signing. Easy peasy. You’ll find that after a cocktail or two I’m a real people person.

But what to wear? What about my hair? What if I’m not what everyone expected?

I guess it’s the literary equivalent to stage fright, and something I’ll have to get over rather quickly because in three days I’ll have my first appearance.

I joked about practicing my signature, and I really should have because my handwriting is rather shitty.

And reading, I haven’t selected a story and haven’t read anything a loud since before my kids could read themselves.

Damn… ill prepared much?

Either way, see you (and me) there.

 

It’s time…

…that I said something, did something, finally after what… a month or so…let my own words appear on my own blog. I’ll admit, I’ve gotten a little comfy in my new life. My only responsibilities being to wake up, get the husband and kids off to work and school, cook meals, and keep the house in some sort of order. And, now that we’ve been in our new place for nearly three months, daily maintenance takes maybe an hour.

No reason I should be napping, or watching every show known to man on demand. No reason I should have stacked all my notebooks in the closet where they wouldn’t be sitting there mocking me, reminding me that I haven’t completed a story, a blog, an essay, nothing since I’ve been here.

I feel pretty bad about that. Which reminds me, I also feel bad. I’m in the midst of a Lyme flare up and just for shits and giggles, depression decided to pull up a chair as well.

These shouldn’t be excuses. And when I think about the fact that I could have written a whole novel during the time I’ve been sitting here napping, watching t.v. and drinking beer, I want to well…crawl under the covers, watch t.v. and have a beer.

But enough of that.

I’m at the writing table right now, typing these words. I’m reminding myself that I have a book coming out next July, an actual book with my name on the cover which is hold in my hands proof that writing is what I do, or at least have been doing, and damn it, I need to get back at it.
cant

So…here goes.