March On Through.

8 Apr

This month whispered for us to open our windows and come back outside.


I mean, we’re real indoorsy folk, and while we didn’t get snow, we did get too much pollen and new video games.


But with bright skies and sand just down the street, it was time to get the hell outside.


Where we planted things.


And built other things.

Making_stuff.____Still__Making_stuff.___Finishing_some_stuff.____ I_m_a_lot_in_love_with_the_chair_Carpenter_Craig_made_me.

It’s good to feel the sun warming our skin, get some dirt under our nails and fall madly in love with handmade furniture your carpenter dude made you.

It’s easy to fall into ruts and climb behind your own wintry walls, but you gotta get out there. The breeze taps at your window as spring comes around to remind us of that.

Because sure, sometimes the world can be a little too much.


But the other times? Man, the other times.


You could just eat it up.

The Boy Who Raised Me.

2 Apr
Here we are at the start of another April with cannons going off as the crowd glances our way as a light shines on our life in the name of awareness.
Not a blue light, mind you.
Autism Speaks and their campaigns don’t speak for my son, because instead of supporting his neurodiversity, they would instead spend your donations to scare you. You can and should look up any organization you plan to donate to, and AS is unfortunately one of the most visible, but there are plenty of reasons why they shouldn’t be.
Personally, if you’re looking to donate then A.skate is a fantastic nonprofit we have personal experience with and who are on the ground as they share acceptance through skating. They encourage everyone to just let go and have fun. To just be.
2013-01-12 10.12.54
We’re a family navigating a world that isn’t one size fits all, and our journey is not for a cure.
Because my son doesn’t have a disease.
What he has, like any one else, is a story. One that is his and not mine. Autism isn’t my story to tell. Mine is just of the mother who is trying. The 22 year-old girl who rocked a tiny, impossible being to her chest. The girl who waited for words and cried out of fear. Held her son’s face and searched his eyes looking for him.
Autism meant one thing when he was two and not talking. When it was screams and grunts and the both of us confusing the other. When I asked one doctor and then the next.
And then the next.
It became something else when we sat in evaluations where strangers tried talking to him using their blocks and crayons and he strained away from their noise and cried. When he paced, because we were going somewhere new and I didn’t know how to explain to him the change and new expectations. When we needed to leave so I picked up the screaming child, holding my tears back and ignoring the sharp looks as I left. When I changed a four year-old’s diaper in a stall. When I didn’t know what he liked or how to play with him and parenting felt like I was on a battered, hopeless ship in an unforgiving sea.
And I’d always been a lousy swimmer.

The Writing Process Blog Hop 2014

21 Mar
I was tagged to write about my writing process by the amazing Kristine Wyllys who is my Plus One in all things and has written the fierce NA book Wild Ones which is out and you should all totally buy.
We’re super cool and take down cities together after going to festivals and stomping around to banjos then desperately crying about how bad our bones hurt after, but still we’re cool and if she tags me in something, I have to do it.


My inbox.
No, let’s see. One thing is a maybe sequel just because I couldn’t help but wonder what comes after 18. What comes after headstrong teens who pretend to be adults and then find themselves older, rustier and taming ghosts while acting out like kids under the supposed guise of genuine adulthood. I think most of us can relate to the fact that 23 felt grown up and miles away from us at 17, but when you’re actually 23 it feels like you’re never going to kick being 14. That weird, emotional math is fun to write about. None of us know how to adult, but we think everyone else does.
There’s also another magical realism series I’m working on about three diversely nerdy girls with one foot in their imaginations and another sinking in the expectations of adulthood. I like to call it a southern Mystic Pizza meets Amelie. I may or may not have a Peter Pan complex.


I think there’s so much fantastic stuff out there and I’m just running through the library trying to read it all. I love words and books with strong bones that are fat with story. My first love is a really good romance, whether it’s YA, NA or Adult, but I need that romance to matter. To take up so much room inside me I can barely breathe around how much I care. That happens for me when I’m wholly invested in the characters and their goals, voice and what they bring to the page. The relationships they have outside of the romance and the hundred different things that shape them and move the plot. When reading the story is so much more than just hanging up posters of a new book boyfriend. Sometimes it’s sad and sometimes it’s a burst of hope, but no matter what it sticks. A song will play, I’ll find a picture or look up and see a girl on a bench and all of a sudden I’m remembering a scene like it was my own memory because that book carved me that deep.
My hope is for my stories to always carry an emotional shovel.


I write love stories, because they’re the lifeline for everything else. I write them the way I do because of two reasons.
The first is because my love for storytelling came from my Cuban father and Colombian grandmother who both offered me literature that was bursting with magical realism and folklore. Fantastic things were spoon fed to me as fact and it gave birth to the way I write and imagine stories. The nerd girl who obsesses and needs to search out what might be possible if I just look closer and believe.
The second biggest influence was simply growing up in the south. When it came time to weave my own strings I did so while tapping along to gritty, twangy, heart wrenching folk and Americana songs and falling for boys who drove trucks and called my mother “Ma’am.” I went out and discovered Johnny Cash, Scout Finch and Coach Taylor and fell into a deep love that was all mine.
My voice being shaped by southern storytelling goes beyond my accent and has been thoroughly mixed into the alchemy of who I am as a writer and reader.


My writing process used to be off the walls erratic and just sort of shoved to wherever I could fit it. The first book I really finished and planned on querying was written in a closet and finished in a garage. I was living back at my parent’s freshly graduated from college, 23 (maybe this is the root of my new adult angst) a wife, and a new mom. It kind of sucked for my ego and sense of direction to take that step backward, but at night I crammed into my little closet with my computer and wrote a YA story about a girl who worked on cars and the new guy with an Irish accent across the street. It was 2008 and I started looking up publishing and thought I was totally ready.

Photo 65

I wasn’t.

I never pulled the trigger on it, because it was never meant for publishing, but it did seal my relationship with my forever Plus One who became my CP and honestly, writing that book helped pull me out of a pretty deep, Garden State sort of funk so I’m forever grateful to that story and the time it let me put into writing it.

Now my writing is a little more structured around the morning hours with the revising party going down at night. HURRICANE DAUGHTER came to me while I was staring out the window of our car while my husband drove me and my parents to the house we thought we wanted to buy. I was thinking about finally leaving my parent’s house (for the second time) which made me think of the orange blossoms on the tree outside my bedroom window and then Daisy crashed into my head. And then Beau walked in more quietly. He was Tim Riggins of FNL season one who was forced into becoming the season five version of himself in a blink and I pulled out my phone and wrote it all down on a note I still have saved. I wrote the first chapter (that is no longer the first chapter) and it stayed like that on my computer for three years.


Until I was ready to drive back down that dirt road and go back to that orange grove.


I write a first draft in about three months and then revise either in quick, but numerous bursts or in longer, lingering trips depending on the notes and ideas. I love the revising. I could eat it up I love it so. The way it makes my brain work and stretch and pretend. Firing up my playlist and going back in swinging a crowbar while making new messes with pieces that have become more familiar each time. I love inviting someone else in and the back and forth of working off their notes. It makes a super isolating thing feel communal. When I did Pitch Wars this year it was the biggest rush of excitement and reaffirmed how very much I loved the process.

I’m a lovesick fool for the work and the writing. The rebuilding and crashing.

The waiting and sighing. The chair dancing and daydreaming.

The total mess of it drew me in and carved me deep.

Falling into February.

5 Mar

This was the month I thought my computer died on me. My beautiful, hardy, gutsy broad that has been with me when I was writing in closets and posting pictures of my brand new baby. Me and this computer have gone rounds and we’ve made up and we know each other. The way a driver might croon to their old truck that chokes as hard as it runs, I whisper to my iMac.

I was afraid. Then I gave her some RAM and finally upgraded past 2008 and she thanked me for it. “It’s 2014, Nina. Please, feed me.” We cried together. It was an emotional night.

And we’re LIGHTNING now. It’s crazy. I mean, we’re like 2012 fast at the least. It’s fantastic.


We actually went to see a movie this month. In a theater with other people. My local place now has a bar. Maybe it’s had that bar for a long time, because it is Downtown Disney and they got all sorts of ridiculous stuff, but all I know is I went to see Vampire Academy and I got to drink a full glass of wine out of a plastic cup and it was everything I wanted out of life.

Valentine’s Day was the usual grown-up business of high-fives before work and then scraping all the chocolate into my mouth. I made a TARDIS out of chocolate. Not to blow your mind or anything, but I actually made several. As well as some Daleks. Maybe I’ve done cooler things in life, but I definitely have not.


My kids were super impressed and honored to be my valentines.


We took the whole fambam out for a day of Disney. It’s kind of our thing. It’s what we do. We don’t care if you’re tired of Disney, because we’re never gonna be tired of Disney. Hi, welcome to Florida. This is what we have.

Hey_now.__FamilyDayOut Cool_kids__say_what.__FamilyDayOut ___

Yes, my hair has gotten long and wild and free. It’s funny that you should ask.

I dove heart first into a new fandom this month. One I’ve circled and avoided, because of the heartbreak of a highly premature cancellation, but man, I wanted to know. I couldn’t deny myself the knowing anymore so I did what I had to.

I watched Firefly.

God. How have you Browncoats COPED all these years. My dad watched it when it aired and I remember buying him the DVD set and movie, but now I know and I hurt with all the possibility, but I’ll take those episodes and cradle them close to my chest and cry. I’m really good at the fangirl crying.

So, February. Our last shot at cold fronts and soon we’ll be putting our tupperware of sweaters away. Because it’s time and it’s also taking up way too much room in my closet and I’m tired of stubbing my toe on it. Winter clothes, man. I don’t know how you guys deal with all of it. Your closets must be huge.

Spring is coming. It’s gonna get so hot, y’all. Like, so hot.

Enjoy the breezes.


kick the jukebox on: Katie Herzig

8 Feb

I actually didn’t hear this one while working on my book, but instead way after someone else read it. Jaye, my mentor and who I’ve now forced my friendship upon, sent it to me earlier this week and I fell into a forever sort of love with it. After Pitch Wars, (where we totally came in third! What an experience! Still wrapping my head around it all.) Jaye now has a relationship with my orange grove, Daisy and Beau. She sent this song to me after it jumped out to her for Daisy and I can hear it playing from her room while she plots new ways to get into trouble.

Oh, Daisy.

Down in the Valley of January.

30 Jan

Here we are at the start of a new year. The start of another round of What the Months. There’s something fantastic to this sort of cyclical science. The whimsy, timey wimey changing of seasons, people and places. Filling up calendars and crossing off days. Stitching new stories and earning new wrinkles.

To get another January.

2014 started fresh, crisp and sweet. This was the year that began with being handed a shiny red apple. And like Eve, I’m the sort of girl that’ll always try to take a purposeful bite.


There were more cold fronts. Blustery winds we had no idea what to do with as our northern brethren battled snow and ice.

My_summer_babies_don_t_want_to_play_with_this_below_freezing_nonsense.__ Today_s_bus_stop_morning_is_so_blustery_cold_the_TARDIS_is_trying_to_take_off_without_them.__

And there was revising. A lot of back and forth surgery between me and Jaye to get my story to the best place it’s ever been.


I spent most of the month working alongside my December shooting star. With Jaye’s help we marched toward the end of Pitch Wars and its agent round. We fired up the music and rallied with our team. I was ready to let it fly.


With a gust of breath we stepped back and watched our pitches get posted.

And with the shot of the starting pistol we were out of the cave.

And then this sort of unbelievable thing happened.

I was swept away by the excitement and support of these new friends I’d made. They were jumping up and down through tweets and retweets and I was cackling, because it was such madness. This couldn’t be about my book. I was still living off the high from simply being picked by Jaye. The wishlist I still had tacked up to my wall like a poster of my secret dream boyfriend.

And through the team she’d put together I was now friends with some of the most supportive, talented writers.

The two days of the agent round were this crescendo of laughs and falling back onto the cloud of my bedsheets in disbelief. Covering my face from the blushing I couldn’t contain. Knowing my heart was about to burst from my chest.

And the craziest thing of all happened.


January, you were fresh, sweet and breathtakingly delicious.

December Puts The Year Away.

1 Jan

85c4fa82594f11e3bc241267eb1add34_8December began with a flutter of promise. The twinkle of lights there in the corner of your eye as you’re busy racing to finish all your everyday things. The tree that you brought inside, the to-do lists that now include candy canes, make-believe snow and so much cinnamon and sugar.

99cb8bbc5a1811e380231275875ebd20_8Making the house as bright and inviting as a lighthouse in the darkness of winter.


December was also a time to climb back into The Book. Thanks to Pitch Wars and my incredible mentor Jaye. These new edits felt heavy in my hands, but once spilled over the page they snapped the pieces together like my son’s Legos. The whole of it made me sit back in awe of the bones. The stretching and breathing that was happening in this story born from my head. Fueled by caffeine, good, local beer and those thoughtful notes I spent the month in an orange grove dragging it out of my cave as it burst into life.

December didn’t skimp on the sunshine. The beauty of Florida is though we may melt beneath a relentless summer sun, come winter we’re gifted with soft, gold light and cool breezes. We step out from beneath the shade and glory in big, blue skies.

This_morning_s_edition_of_how_my_summer_babies_deal_with_temperatures_below_60_degrees.And then comes a biting cold front and we have no idea what to do with ourselves.

December also means surprises and magic in the mail. Like this glorious shirt from my Plus One. Or maybe it was The Doctor. We’re fans of magic, she and I.

Christmas was coming and we couldn’t be happier, us magic believers. Our lights were lit, our oven was warm and our gaze was sneaking out the window while we talked about Santa. We were ready for Christmas Eve and dinner at my parent’s house where we’d all be kids around the tree again. Talking too loud over the other as we swapped silly Secret Santa gifts just to watch the other burst out in delighted laughter.

We were ready. Then as one we got the flu.
It was a test in fortitude. It was hacking coughs and burning fevers. It was trying our best to keep the lights twinkling for the little glassy, tired eyes looking up at us. Going to my parent’s house and trying to breathe and keep our germs to ourselves before leaving early. Wrapping gifts with half an eye while your thoughts swirl with sleep and cough medicine.


Not to mention when our kitchen sink completely backed up on that fateful Christmas Eve. What followed was a week of snot and tissues, coughing and groaning while Craig did his damnedest to battle the clog of all clogs. The one that defied science and physics. That no plunging, snaking or unscrewing pipes could get to. The dishes backed up as much as the dirty water and we were left drowning in worries over the cost of plumbers and there just wasn’t enough Lysol for how sick and gross I felt.

Just before we fell over the cliff, the water drained like a rush of an answered prayer and we danced around the kitchen for a good half hour.

Christmas this year was a blurry fever dream we’ve already forgotten.

But we tried.  Like always, we keep on trucking and try our best to kick troubles right in the teeth.


Thanks, 2013. For the ups and downs. The opportunities and rejections.

The chance to believe in my own magic again. And the gift of sharing it with the little eyes looking up at me and the warm blue ones that still give me flutters in my chest.

Here’s to 2014. And more stories. Cause that’s all we are in the end, right?


Pitch Wars: #TeamOnFire

28 Dec

Despite these huge sunglasses and aversion to pants, I’ve continued stumbling my way out of the cave when it comes to my book.

I even entered a contest.

Back in October I entered the Agent Treat pitch contest and actually got picked as one of the entries by Brenda Drake.

It was a fantastic experience, and a huge step in helping me with my pitching, but I knew I still wasn’t ready. The fire was there, my hand twitching and heart racing, but I needed to see past the ruts I’d dug myself. I needed to go into battle and I needed a Haymitch.

Soon after Agent Treat I found out about Pitch Wars.

Pitch Wars

I looked into the contest and thought, “This. THIS. THIS ONE.”

Pitch Wars is amazingly unique in the sense that it’s not just throwing your work out there and getting a thumbs-up or down for it. You pitch your work and first words to your choice of four mentors out of the several awesome authors selflessly giving their time to the contest, and they then request and choose a mentee plus two alternates.

Great. Fantastic. And then what happens?

And then you have a little over a month of intense boot camp. It’s working with someone who knows the ropes and will know your story and hopefully armed with scalpels or crowbars you make some magic together, which you then present to the involved literary agents during the agent round.

And the agent round this year is jaw dropping.

So, I did it. I did the thing. I held my breath and leapt by sending out my four emails and then we all waited and died and maybe finished our holiday shopping. I’m still not sure if I did. It’s been a fever dream of a month.

Because this happened:


Jaye Robin Brown is a writer whose wish list I fell into a deep, intense love with because of her love for YA, southern dramas, sharp storytelling, and big, crazy families. My heart (the one I grow in my gut) kept whispering all week while we waited for the reveal day that this was a writer who knew a thing or two about fire and could help me burn bright.

And she picked me to be her mentee. Out of all the windows in all the world it was mine she flew into and said, “Hey, let’s rock this.”

We’re halfway in and I flew out the window, totally out of my cave. The edits I’ve already made thanks to Jro’s notes have changed so much for the better, clearing the fog I made myself. She’s empowering me to slay my own demons and totally approves of my crowbar. I am becoming the writer I want to be, because she became my Haymitch.

This is the magic of going with your gut. The fireworks of getting picked back.

And of diving out your window and hitting the ground running.

Here’s to Pitch Wars, #TeamOnFire and my teammates Chelsey (@Chelseyblair)  and Sarah (@Saille)!

We’ll be the ones bringing the matches.



Crooked Bookshelf: WILD ONES by Kristine Wyllys

9 Dec

When it comes to talking books, I mean business. This is blood, guts, calluses, and broken hearts we’re talking here. Whatever you like, I’m for it. The madness of make-believe. Pretty prose and unforgettable scenes. We die on the page and there’s nothing better. My fingers are still stained from how hard I highlighted text in college, and when I started working at the library, the business of books became it for me. Whatever it was, I shelved it. I talked it. I scanned it when it came back to the library and total side note, but some of you need to double check what you’re using as bookmarks.

For me, YA (Young Adult) is where I drowned pages in tears and through weird choke-sobs hung posters in the forever bedroom of my heart. There are daisies painted on the wall and maps of places I’ve lived, notes with scrawled handwriting and feverish words. I graduated and flew from assigned books to the rich, darkened hallways of adult romances. This is where I built my house and it was sweaty, breathless and unforgettable. But alas, there was something missing. I needed a bridge.

And this is where New Adult kicked the door open.

I love the world New Adult has opened readers to, this new twist in the map. It can be so many things, but my favorite is when its fearless. When it steps out onto the page, shoulders back, a hand trailing behind, tearing at the words it’s already told. There’s something to that time in our lives, something still unsure even as we throw ourselves forward. It’s terrifying, exhilarating and riddled with gorgeous mistakes. I fell in love with the possibility of New Adult last year.

I became sure of it when I read WILD ONES by Kristine Wyllys.

Bri Martin likes her skirts too short, her heels too high, and trouble close at hand. So when big, brooding underground boxer Luke Turner comes into the bar where she works and starts a fight before she brings his first drink, she can’t help being intrigued. Luke is everything she never wanted and everything she can’t resist.

Soon, Luke is showing up everywhere Bri is, and she can’t break free of his hold on her, nor does she want to. When her best friend turns on her, it’s Luke who is there. When Luke’s opponent comes after her to send Luke a message, it’s he who comes to her rescue.

Before Bri knows it, she’s caught in the midst of a rivalry between her boyfriend and her boss, both of whom are not content to settle their scores inside the ring. She swore she’d never live this life, so like the one she once ran from. But only by confronting her past can she decide where her future lies…and whether Luke can be a part of it.

Image Cards on the table, Kristine is my CP. That’s the simplest term I can use for her, because this is someone whose brain I climbed inside of and found so many stories brewing there. We were readers who were born to be fangirls. We obsess and build theories and we imagine. When New Adult went from whispers to battle cries, I looked over at her, because I knew she had a story. I knew it was gritty and it would break bones even as it pushed its readers into a maddening love.

She wrote the story and pitched it to Carina Press, a digital first imprint from Harlequin. Like wildfire, from one breath to the next, her manuscript caught and spiraled into the blistering book it is now.

This is a brutal story of passion and redemption told with powerful prose. Bri Martin is not a heroine waiting to be rescued. From the very first chapter you’ll understand that this is a girl who will save herself. She will work her way into your heart– by breaking your ribs. She is funny, loyal and determined to never become her mother. Then there’s gorgeous Luke Turner who makes his way in their crumbling concrete life of hustling by being the most fierce boxer to enter the underground ring. He is all sharp edges and bruised knuckles. He’s the bass line vibrating through the room, pulling eyes and stirring fear.

In everyone but Bri.

When they meet it’s an immediate rush. Reading them together is like testing yourself as you pour one element onto another, knowing they’ll explode when they touch, but you HAVE to see this. You have to know, because these two are never potential energy. From their first sighting across the smoky, SPEAKEASY bar, they’re kinetic. They’re motion and chaos and to watch forces of nature fall into a desperate, manic love that neither of them even want, both living young, dangerous lives feels like a Lana Del Ray song. It’s sexy and sweaty. It’s furious and relentless.

WILD ONES invites the rush of New Adult to come along down this shadowed alley. Maybe there will be two people losing their minds and skirts up against a brick wall, or a brutal, underground fight for territory. Or maybe it’ll be the devil himself making back alley deals with a crooked smile.

It’s all possible here in this wild, shadowed world of fighters and survivors where everyone is playing with fire.

Welcome to The Lane.

WILD ONES releases from Carina on January 13th, 2014. You can pre-order it here.

Taking the November Way Home.

30 Nov

“Give me the end of the year an’ its fun


When most of the plannin’ an’ toilin’ is done;

Bring all the wanderers home to the nest,
Let me sit down with the ones I love best,


Hear the old voices still ringin’ with song,
See the old faces unblemished by wrong,



See the old table with all of its chairs



An’ I’ll put soul in my Thanksgivin’ prayers.”
-  Edgar A. Guest, Thanksgiving

There is something to November. Time has stumbled across the top of that mountain, but now it’s flying down. We’re all racing towards something. And if we’re lucky, it’s towards the good stuff.

The noise of those who share our madness. Crashing into time together with shared stories, cackling in the kitchen and dancing in the hall. Making bets and declarations for the year to come. Passing plates and toasting blessings. November races away from us just as it opens its door, waving us home.

With winter and December breathing down our necks, it’s getting dark, but here we’ve got these busy, maddening days to be our streetlights as we race home.


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