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

shake

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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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.

“It was hotter than an oven on broil…”

summer

 What’s hotter than an oven on broil you might ask? Well, not only a particularly warm day in October in a rural, southern town, but the resulting hot sex on the bed of a pick-up truck of course!

In my contribution to the scorching anthology Summer Loving edited by the lovely and talented Alison Tyler, a little tale titled An Oven On Broil, heat is the theme in more ways than one.

The main character, Louise, is already at home pissed that her husband hasn’t gotten her car fixed, then when the air conditioning in the house goes out, putting the icing on the cake, she’s really steamed.

In fact, she’s heated enough to walk in the heat to confront her husband, but he finds a way to cool her down, while at the same time, cranking up the heat.

This story came easily to me and flowed almost flawlessly since heat, to me, is synonymous with sex. I love the sweaty stickiness of getting it on in high temperatures, be it on the hot sand of a beach or on the deck of your house on the hottest day of the year.

 This particular excerpt should get you all hot and steamy yourself, wherever you are…

             Louise didn’t care that there were no sheets or blankets there. She just wanted him inside her. She was willing to risk a few minutes of discomfort for some spontaneous fucking in the middle of a hot day.

            Doug guided Louise to the back of the truck and eased her on her back. Her dress was rolled up to her breasts now and the hot ridges of the truck bed stung her skin.

            She flinched.

            Doug paused.

            “Too hot?”

            Louise shook her head and pulled Doug closer.

            “No, keep going.”

            Doug worked his way out of his shorts, exposing a lengthy and solid cocoa cock that he placed directly between her legs as he lowered himself inside her.

            It was like someone stuck a fork in her. Louise wouldn’t last a minute, not if Doug kept on like this.

            His moves were fluid. His humming in her ear didn’t help matters. She was turned on high, and she couldn’t help it. She was going to boil over…

             For more of my story along with nineteen other scorchers from erotica’s top talents, nab your copy of Summer Loving today!

Why?

why

I seldom feel the need to explain myself, and I never intended to start now. But since the news of my family’s move to Atlanta has been met with the general inquisition of “why,” I’ve been feeling the need to explain myself, to tick off reasons why we’ve decided to leave this grand old place, and basically, sell the idea of Atlanta to people who are not only not coming with us, but probably won’t even visit.

Our “why” basically is this, though.

We live in a rural area, and though my husband works for the federal government, his particular placement has little room for advancement right now. Atlanta has that. We do have family here, because we were born and raised here. However, that has been a blessing and a curse. Family is there for help and support, but only when they can and want to, and family tends to overstep their bounds. Hell, I’ll say it, my mother especially.

When you have the comfort and convenience of family, it’s hard to motivate yourself to go it on your own. For instance, I almost never have issues with babysitting. On the other hand, my mother often treats me like a teen mom and coaches me (without solicitation) through whatever thing I’m dealing with concerning the children.

We have special needs children, I’ve said that before. The school district has been accommodating, but all the while letting us know that they only have so many resources available and there is only so much they can do. We are relocating to a place where there will be many more resources for the children.

And also, despite their challenges, my children are gifted, but there are no resources here to help nurture their talents besides basic school activities. If my daughter wants to dance, she has to do it in her bedroom.

Finally, we will be in a place where, at last, I can give the proper time and attention to my own career. And not law enforcement. I’ll get to really give freelancing a shot, and I’ll be in a prime place to promote my book next year.

So, there you have it. Those are just a couple of reasons why other than, damn it, it’s our party and we’ll move if we want to.

A rejection isn’t always a rejection.

Here’s why I don’t burn bridges…or throw my candy in the sand…or whatever cliché analogy for getting pissed over a rejection or being mad at an editor for rejecting a piece that you may want to insert here…there’s always hope for a story. You may place it elsewhere, an editor may come back later and ask you for it for the very same project or another one down the line…and I’ve done this…quite recently. Or! That editor may recommend it or you to another editor or publisher that’s a better fit. In any case, a rejection is not always the end of the line.

Luckily, I’ve been in the (biz? game?) long enough to pretty much know the ins and outs. Starting out, when I wrote that one story that a classmate or my cousin or someone told me was great and I shopped it around everywhere, not checking the market, not really paying attention to the theme, word count requirements, etc. and was pissed all the way off when it got rejected again and again, I was finally lucky enough to receive a few words from an editor who took the time out to tell me what I was doing wrong.

But more than that, I realized that I shouldn’t have taken it so personally. And I’ve written this blog post before, more than once, but it’s worth repeating.

I’ve received rejection letters that were so informative, warm and helpful that I wanted to frame them. And I’ve received simple “I can’t use it” or the worst of them all, rejection by way of no response. But, I move on. I move on simply because (and just as I approach life stresses), if I let it all get to me, I would be just a shell of who I am. It would eat away at me and I would question everything and probably tuck tail and quit. And I wouldn’t want that for anyone, for any reason.

I really came here to say that a story of mine that wasn’t accepted a while back (so long ago that I forgot I even wrote the story) was just requested to be included in an upcoming anthology. I hadn’t done anything else with the piece because, like I said, I had forgotten all about it, so I happily said yes.

And I know, my breaking of this news went kind of left what with me having just wrapped up my own anthology and really wanting to just say in general (even though over 100 authors took the news awesomely), chin up. This ain’t the end.

Knowing When

I can be relentless to a fault. I can repeat the same thing over and over again in different ways just trying to get my point across or simply be heard. I was once too proud to do this, too afraid of showing weakness or vulnerability.

With age and well, Valium, that all sort of went out the window. I began feeling more like I didn’t have anything to lose and I voiced my opinion and about any and everything, everywhere I could. And, I received mostly the same results.

Now, I’m thinking I need to go back to being that silent and numb person I once was. It was better that way, and safer, and I wasn’t feeling as on edge or as much like I would stroke out at any moment. You can’t control everything. You can’t control most things, and that can be frustrating.

But you have to know when to back away and just let it be, because it’s going to be, whether you like it or not.

I’m back to writing in the meantime, and I hope that’s something that never changes about me, never is muted or tainted. I hope that’s something that never, ever goes away.

Whatever It Takes

I’ve already harped on Twitter about my 1k+ word count accomplishment today. To my fellow, more dedicated writer friends, this probably sounds like nothing, but for me who has been creatively mute for the past month or so, this is wonderful.

Of course, the burst of creative energy came from a huge bout of stress I’m dealing with, but fortunately, this is an awesome outlet for me. I subbed a story last week; I have another near completion, and I’m having tons of fun working on yet another (with sex injuries, yay!).

I’ve also added two-mile walks to the mix which also help.

Hell, anything is better than punching a wall (or a face), I guess.