#NAChristmas Blog Hop – AJ Pine


 It’s a New Adult Christmas!

Thanks for joining us as we celebrate the holidays with thirteen New Adult authors.

Check out every stop leading up to December 24 to get excerpts, exclusive content, and hopefully a cutie under the mistletoe! Follow along with the #NAChristmas hashtag, and be sure to enter the Rafflecopter below to win a grand prize pack of an ebook from every author!

Today’s excerpt comes from AJ Pine, author of IF ONLY and the companion novel, WHAT IF (connected novels that do work as stand alones), which just released on December 8th!

Sometimes it takes of the past to find out who you want to be.WhatIf_Cover_Final

During his semester abroad, Griffin Reed almost gave his heart to a girl who loved someone else. Lesson learned. Now he’s home, where following in his father’s footsteps may not be what he wants, but it’s what his parents expect. It might be taking the easy road, but he doesn’t see a way out.

Something that could have killed Maggie Kendall took away the person she used to be instead. Her condition makes her dependent on sticky notes, photos, and medication just to get through each day. The last thing she needs is a distraction— or someone new to disappoint.

What they refuse to see is they are perfect for each other. Maggie makes Griffin want to be a better man, and he makes her believe a future is possible. But these two have to find a way to share the secrets ripping them apart, if they’re ever going to have a chance at happiness.

Today’s holiday excerpt comes from WHAT IF.


We’re late. And I don’t give a shit. My hands cup Maggie’s cheeks, and I tilt my head down, forehead resting on hers.

“What if?” I ask her, and she doesn’t respond with anything more than the warmth of her breath mingling with mine, the air between us the only source of heat on a Chicago winter night.

“What if?” I ask it again, quieter this time, because maybe the question is only for me. Maybe this step is mine to take whether she’s with me or not, because either way the risk is huge, but I don’t want to walk into that building pretending. I don’t want to face the person who didn’t see me as a real option without proving to her—no, to myself—that I can be real. That I can want something more than my own self-preservation.

“Griffin, I don’t understand…”

She doesn’t finish because my lips are on hers, soft and questioning at first, until she answers by letting her mouth fall open, inviting me inside. And the hunger returns, not only for lips touching lips or the surrounding air warming with our exhalations. It’s the hunger for more. More with this girl who hitched a ride with a stranger and still hasn’t run for her life. That has to be something.

We break apart, but only because of the whistling and clapping from some of the Michigan Avenue passersby.

“Oops,” Maggie says through a giggle. “Guess we have an audience.”

“Guess so,” I say, pressing a gentle kiss to her puppy-dog cold nose. I’m not ready for my lips to not be touching her skin.

“Maybe that’s our cue to leave?”

I want to kiss her all over again for making her words a question rather than a statement, which can only mean she doesn’t want to stop, either.

“Maybe.” Her hand slips into mine, and she tugs me forward. Or maybe I lead her. Either way, we’re moving again, the Hancock right in front of us.

“Quite the tourist location, huh?” I ask.

“It’s beautiful,” she says, eying the skyscraper from head to toe, her gaze landing on the massive Christmas tree that stands outside the building’s exposed lower level.

Her hand still in mine, I lead her down the steps to the base of the tree where tourists amass taking pictures with one of the city’s most popular holiday decorations.

“Do you have your camera?”

She takes it out of her bag, brandishing it as her answer. I pull her closer to the tree and tap a tourist on the shoulder, a man taking a picture of what must be his wife and kids in front of the tree.

“Would you take one of us, and I’ll get one of you with your family?”

He thanks me and hands me his camera. After getting a couple good shots of him and his family, we trade cameras so he has Maggie’s, and Maggie and I position ourselves in front of the tree.

“So…uh, this is awkward, huh?” she asks, and I understand. She’s taken a few photos of me, but we’ve never been in one together.

“How about if we just smile?” I suggest.

She nods, but it’s her next action that gets me. Standing on my side, she wraps both arms around my midsection, leaning her head on my chest. I wonder if she feels my heart hammering against her, an admission I’m still scared shitless to make.

My head dips to kiss the top of hers before posing for the camera, and tourist dad yells, “That’s a great shot! How about one more?”

Maggie’s shoulders shake with quiet laughter, and it’s contagious. Whatever our photographer captures now, it’s anything but posed.

“Thank you,” I tell him when he hands Maggie’s camera back to me, his wife and two boys standing next to him.

“You’re a beautiful couple,” she says, and then looks at her husband with a grin. “Remember when we were in love like that?”

They both laugh and head back up the stairs. Maggie’s hand sits in mine, but for a long moment we avoid eye contact, letting the woman’s comment fade along with the flush of heat in my cheeks I know will give me away.


That’s it, folks! If you want to find out if Griffin and Maggie get their happily every after, WHAT IF is only $.99 at all e-book retailers.

Amazon | BN | iTunes | Kobo | ARe

About the Author

AJ Pine writes stories to break readers’ hearts, but don’t worry—she’ll mend them with a happily ever after. As an English teacher andPine_Author a librarian, AJ has always surrounded herself with books. All her favorites have one big commonality–romance. Naturally, her books have the same. When she’s not writing, she’s of course reading. Then there’s online shopping (everything from groceries to shoes) and, of course, a tiny bit of TV where she nourishes her undying love of vampires, from Eric Northman to the Salvatore brothers. And in the midst of all of this, you’ll also find her hanging with her family in the Chicago burbs.

AJ’s debut NA novel, IF ONLY, is out now with Entangled’s Embrace line, and WHAT IF just released on December 8! Watch for a new NA series, ONE NIGHT and ONE LIFE, with Penguin/Intermix in 2015.

A Rafflecopter giveaway


#NAChristmas Blog Hop – Jennifer Blackwood


It’s a New Adult Christmas!

Thanks for joining us as we celebrate the holidays with thirteen New Adult authors. Check out every stop leading up to December 24 to get excerpts, exclusive content, and hopefully a cutie under the mistletoe! Be sure to enter the rafflecopter to win a grand prize pack of an ebook from every author!

****Bonus Scene from Unethical!****

The first book of the Drexler University series, Unethical, is all about second chances with Blake and Payton. Here is a little peek at what they were like the first time around. This passage is from when B&P were in high school, and the very first time they said those three little words. Enjoy!


Who said “I love you” First?

Junior year of high school…

What the hell was the difference between lavender and mauve? All I wanted was a fucking flower for the corsage. Payton said her dress was purple. Why couldn’t the florist understand I wanted purple not whatever million other names she was throwing at me?

I pleaded with my eyes. C’mon lady, can’t you see I’m a dumbass who doesn’t speak your color-ese? I had never been to a dance before; no one could get me to go unless under duress, that is until I started dating Payton. I knew I loved her the moment she set foot in eighth grade language arts. Mrs. Carson sat her between me and Ryan—a horrible choice on our teacher’s part.

When Ryan tried to hit on her and made some disgusting comment asking if she was a redhead everywhere, she leveled him with a legendary glare and told him his birth certificate was an apology from the condom factory. Most girls became flustered around Ryan. Even at thirteen, he was muscular, unlike the rest of the gangly eighth graders. Not Payton, she didn’t buy into his bullshit. And that’s when I knew I needed this girl.

And now she was my girlfriend. How I got that lucky, I’d never know. Even if it meant going to cheesy Snow Ball with a winter wonderland theme, fifty-fucking-dollar tickets, and buying a corsage that was the right shade of mauve-lavender-purple, whatever.

“Do you want baby’s breath as well?”

“Babies what?” What the hell had I gotten myself into?

The flower lady let out a tsk. “Okay, how about I come up with something and you stop by in a few hours?”

“Thank you.” I wanted to hug her for having mercy on me. As long as it was remotely purple, I’d be set.

I needed everything to be perfect. Tonight I planned to tell Payton I loved her. Even though I’d been in love with her for three years, I’d never said it to her. The words lumped in my throat. How was I supposed to tell her? It felt super cheesy to say it during a slow dance. Plus, she probably wouldn’t hear me over the music, and that’d be embarrassing to have to repeat it if she didn’t hear it the first time.

If I told her before I dropped her off after the dance, then we’d be rushed. I always saw her dad peering out the living room window, making sure I wasn’t defiling his daughter. Like I’d do the defiling in front of her house. Get with the program, Dr. Cooper.

Five hours later, I put on my rented tux, grabbed the corsage from the fridge, and drove over to Payton’s house.

My hands shook as I pressed the doorbell. The Drexler fight song chimed, and Payton’s mom opened the door. She had dark circles under her eyes. She hadn’t been feeling well lately, at least that’s what Payton had said. Maybe it was some bad case of the flu. Her lips parted into a smile, the same dazzling one that Payton inherited.

“Well, don’t you clean up well.”

I smiled and cast my gaze down at the corsage in my hand. “Thanks, Mrs. Daniels.”

“Payton will be down in just a minute. Do you want a cookie while you wait?”

Hell yes. Her cookies were the bomb. I’d live off them if I could, which I pretty much did. She made sure I was well stocked at home. I grabbed a snickerdoodle off a glass dish on the coffee table in the living room and sat on the sofa, looking at the framed pictures that lined the fireplace mantle. Payton winning the science fair. Payton completing her first marathon. Payton working in the soup kitchen. Was there anything this girl didn’t do? My chest constricted. I was a lucky bastard.

Just as I cleared the emotions that climbed up my throat, Payton descended the stairs, and the sight of her in her lavender-purple-whatever gown stole my breath. The cookie that I’d just bit into dropped into my lap, and I quickly picked up the crumbs, turning into a fumbling idiot.

She was radiant—her auburn hair pinned back, a few curls cascading over her shoulders.

“You look…”

Her lips turned down into a frown, and she brushed her hands over the curve-hugging dress. “You don’t like it?”

“No! You look beautiful.” Like a siren. Not that I’d say that within earshot of her dad. I didn’t have a death wish.

Her face eased, a smile painting her pretty features. I liked her with less makeup, but the eye shadow wasn’t a bad touch—it brought out her green eyes, mesmerizing me.

“Picture time!” Mrs. Daniels came out of the kitchen, wielding a camera, already taking pictures.

“Mom,” Payton groaned.

“What? You only have one junior-year Snow Ball.”

“Fine, but can you at least take pictures where we’re smiling?” The flash went off again, sending dots swarming across my vision.

“You’re a fun sucker.” Her mom stuck out her tongue and waited for us to pose.

“Not as much as you, Mom.” Payton stuck her tongue out and another flash went off. “Hey, that’s not fair.”

After another few minutes of blinding photos, we made our way to the car, my hands still trembling. How could something I’ve wanted to say for so long be so terrifying? Because there was a chance she didn’t feel the same way.

I opened the passenger side for her, and she slid in, her dress leaving a trail of glitter on every surface in the process. That was going to be fun to clean up later. She smiled as I closed her door and went over to the driver’s side, starting the ignition.

I had planned it out. Before I took her to dinner at Magenta, the expensive French restaurant she’d been dying to try since it opened in September, I’d take her to Bald Hill. We’d gone running on the hill, and it was secluded, giving me privacy and time to think of how to word it. Damn. How was I being such a pussy over three words?

We wound our way through the hairpin turns up the hill, holding hands across the bench seat of my truck the whole way. She probably thought I was taking her here to make out. What if she didn’t say it back? This was a bad idea. Then I’d be stuck with her all night in some awkward dance with horrible decorations. Maybe I should wait until after the dance.

I put the car in park at the top of the hill, the view of Spring Hill filling the horizon. We were on top of the city, lights flickering on as the sun set over the mountains. I swallowed, pushing down the nerves, gripping the steering wheel for some added support.

She leaned into the seat, smiling at me, and I vaguely wondered if her red lipstick would leave a mark if she went down on me. Shit. Get it together. You’re about to tell her you love her, not ask her for head.

“It’s a beautiful night.”

“Yeah.” The word caught in my throat, my voice cracking. Saying the L-word sent me back to puberty. Awesome.

“Are you okay?” She frowned, studying my face.

I rubbed my sweaty palms along my tux pants, fighting past the nerves to find the right words. “We need to talk…”

She shifted, her whole body tensing, tearing her hand out of our interlocked grip. “Oh my god, are you breaking up with me?”

“What?” Where the hell did that come from? How could she think that when it was the opposite of what I was feeling?

She folded her arms over her chest, tracing over a cluster of freckles on her forearm. “That’s pretty fucked up, Blake.”

I forced down the anger that ripped through me. This was supposed to be a special moment and she thought I was breaking up with her.

A flush splashed across her chest and neck. “You could have at least done it before I paid all this money for a dress.” She motioned to the dress that I honestly would rather have wadded up on the floor of the truck than on her.

That was it, I couldn’t take it anymore. Before she ruined this moment completely, she had to know. Nut up, dipshit.

“Just take me—”

“I love you!” I shouted.

The car was silent. Too silent.

She stared at me for what seemed like ten minutes, but couldn’t have been more than a few seconds, no emotions showing on her face. This was a bad choice. She didn’t love me back, and now I had to go to that stupid-ass Snow Ball and dance to cheesy Boys II Men music and pretend that what I just said didn’t mean anything.

Tears brimmed along her lower lids and her lips quivered. Good god, I made her cry. What the hell was wrong with me?

“I—” I was going to take it back, even though that hurt more than any soccer ball to the junk.

“I love you, too,” she said, her voice shaky.

“You do?”

She nodded, a tear spilling down her cheek. “Yes. I’ve wanted to say it for a long time, but I was too chicken to say it first.”

A rush of breath surged out, and I pulled her into a kiss.

****Unethical Buy Links****

Barnes and Noble

****Giveaway Time!****

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Jennifer Blackwood is an English teacher and New Adult author of Unethical and Foolproof (1/15). She lives in Oregon with her husband, son, and poorly behaved black lab puppy. When she isn’t writing or teaching, she’s binging on Veronica Mars episodes and white cheddar popcorn.

Website: www.jenniferblackwood.com

Twitter: @jen_blackwood


Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/ZVfOX

Why I Wrote WAM – A #PitchWars Blog Hop

This post is part of a blog hop for #PitchWars and will be hosted by the C.M. Franklin.

Why did I write Walking After Midnight? Because I couldn’t not write it, which is an oversimplification, for sure. The idea was gnawing at me, wouldn’t leave me alone. Characters spoke to me at the most inopportune times, like in the shower or in the middle of the night. Eventually I gave in and started jotting down ideas.

I’ve been a writer for the past twelve or so years, but a journalist. Not a novel writer. Not a fiction writer. Even as friends and family encouraged me to write a novel over the years, I dismissed it. What did I know about writing fiction? Nothing. And aside from that, I had no ideas. No characters. But over the years, I allowed myself to accept the possibility that I may want to try it someday, and slowly, those story and character ideas started eeking into my brain.

But it wasn’t all-consuming until a friend of mine went through a life-altering experience. Shortly after being married, shortly after becoming pregnant with their first child together, her husband was diagnosed with congenital heart disease. Just as they were beginning their lives together as husband and wife. I was constantly moved to tears as I read her Caring Bridge posts, learning about all of the trials and tribulations they faced together as a couple. Beyond pregnancy tasks like ultrasounds and preparing a nursery, they were dealing with his heart shutting down. First the left side. Then his right. Their son was born and not long after he needed a total artificial heart replacement. He remained in the hospital with an entirely artificial heart keeping him alive as he awaited an organ donor. I didn’t even know that was a thing.

Just over a year ago, he had a heart and kidney transplant and now he’s back to life as usual, as much as one can following this type of surgery.

Their story has a happy ending. Thankfully. But I had this nagging question in the back of my brain: if they’d known all along that he had congenital heart disease, would they have done it all the same? Would he have allowed himself to be in a relationship knowing he could die? Would he have kids knowing he could pass along a hereditary condition?

I wrote Walking After Midnight to answer those questions, more for me than for anyone else.

Here are the rest of the participating blogs:

Carleen Karanovic: HOPE ON A FEATHER

Heather Truett: RENASCENCE

Tracie Martin: WILD IS THE WIND

Susan Bickford: FRAMED


Amanda Rawson Hill: GRIMM AND BEAR IT

Charlotte Gruber: CODE OF SILENCE


Mary Ann Nicholson: CALAMITY


Anna Patel: EXODUS





Ashley Poston: HEART OF IRON

Mara Rutherford: WINTERSOUL

Janet Walden-West: Damned If She Do



Kelli Newby: THORNVAAL






Lyra Selene: REVERIE

Natalie Williamson: SET IN STONE


Stephanie Herman: CLIFF WITH NO EDGE





Jennifer Hawkins: FALSE START



Natasha M. Heck: FOLLOW THE MOON


#PitchWars Mentee Bio – #NA

Um, hi. I’m Esher.

<Insert awkward wave here.>

This is me:


And this is my official unofficial bio for #PitchWars. Stumbling across my blog and don’t know what #PitchWars is? Visit here.

I’m not going to pitch you my novel. Pretty sure we’re not supposed to do that here. But I will say that it’s a NA contemporary romance I call Walking After Midnight and point you to my inspiration board.

Having spent crap-tons (it’s a technical term) of time on this baby since the beginning of February, I’m in the position now where I’ve taken my novel as far as I can alone (with the help of CPs and beta readers). And that’s where you come in, trusty #PitchWars mentors. Though I have created 69,000 some-odd words that I’m proud of, I’m willing to rip it apart and put it all back together with your help. You were chosen as mentors for a reason, and I’m willing to let you go all Mr. Miyagi on my manuscript if that’s what’s needed to get me representation and get you a shiny reputation as a Twitter-famous contest mentor.

So this is the part where I attempt to make myself sound interesting. To help belabor my points, I’m going to use memes and gifs (because, you know, all the cool kids are using ’em).

Ahem. Moving along.


During the day I work in cubicle. It’s a soul-less job but someone’s gotta do it. But working a corporate job has taught me one thing: people love bullet points. So here are some useless and yet hopefully relevant facts about me in bullet point form.

Here we go. I…

  • Have a degree in journalism and a minor in English. I spent a year as a full-time journalist for a daily newspaper (writing about spelling bees and dogs wearing Mardi Gras costumes) and then four as a features writer for an alternative weekly (writing about bars and theater). It’s also afforded me the opportunity to interview interesting actors/musicians/comedians, such as Fall Out Boy, Margaret Cho, Henry Rollins, Steven Wright, and Tom Arnold. I still freelance on occasion.
  • Was once contacted randomly by an editor at Esquire Magazine and asked to contriesquirebute to a feature on the nation’s best bars. After I hung up the phone, I immediately Googled the editor’s name and figured out that it was, indeed, a real editor from Esquire and not some random person playing an unforgivable joke on me. I said yes. Jeremy Piven was on the cover. This is as-of-yet my proudest achievement in writing, though I hope to eclipse that – and soon.


  • Prefer my Coke in a can and my Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups to be egg-shaped. You’ll never be able to convince me that all iterations of these snacks are created equal. They’re not.
  • Will watch any movie that includes Bill Murray (except Garfield, because WTF), Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Paul Giamatti. They can do no wrong.
  • Never get enough of the following films: (500) Days of Summer, Amelie, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Garden State, Ghost World, Lost in Translation, and any film by Wes Anderson (but mostly The Royal Tenenbaums). Yes, I realize saying this makes me look like a hipster. No, I don’t care.
  • Will laugh at all your intentional or unintentional “that’s what she said” jokes. Every. Single. One.


  • Made items out of scratched-up vinyl records and sold them on Etsy, including cuff bracelets, guitar picks, spiral notebooks, bowls, necklaces, clocks, and coasters. Time constraints mean I don’t do much of this anymore, but I have plenty of notebooks left over. Want a notebook? I’m not above bribery.
  • Love tattoos (though I only have one). My second is a half-sleeve I have scheduled in October that’s based on the movie Joe Versus the Volcano.
  • Once dressed as a Ninja Turtle and danced to Vanilla Ice’s Ninja Rap for an auditorium of movie executives. Can’t make this stuff up, folks.
  • Love live music. Well, music of any kind, really. (Well not any kind. Sorry, Country fans.) But if you hang out with me long enough, I will attempt to make you listen to a song or ten. I’m one of those people who believes the right band (or song) at the right time can change your life.changeyourlife
  • Am married to a barber. A hot, bearded, tattooed barber who provides cuts and straight-razor shaves in a traditional barber shop we bought and renovated more than a year ago.
  • Have spent thirty two of my thirty three years living in Iowa, which I happen to love. Flyover country is more than a sum of its stereotypes. I can prove it. Bet you didn’t know Des Moines was this beautiful:

des moines

And because this contest is all about writing, and I wouldn’t be much of writer without first being a reader, here are a few books that I have loved the crap out of over the past few years:

So that’s me in a nutshell. (Help, I’m in a great big nutshell!)


Thanks for reading!





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Excuses are like…

Writing is hard, y’all. I didn’t used to think that, but then I didn’t used to write 70,000-word novels comprised of entirely fictional characters, events, and storylines.

I’ve been a journalist now for more than ten years, having spent time both as a full-time and now as a freelance journalist, primarily writing human interest articles and arts/entertainment features and reviews. And having now finished a draft of a manuscript that’s more than 69,000 words, I can tell you that journalism is easy. Writing a novel is hard.

So when I tell friends and family that I’m writing a novel with the goal of becoming a published author and they tell me they’ve always wanted to write a book, I tell them the truth: writing a novel is hard. But I also tell them that they should absolutely, without a doubt, write the book that’s in their heads anyway.

There’s always inevitably an excuse, some reason they haven’t put their fingers to their computer keys and clacked away in an attempt to push the story from their head to the page. For me it was doubt. Friends and family – mostly my husband – who encouraged me to branch out and write a book. There was this thought in their heads that because I was a journalist I could write a book. That the skills somehow translated. In my mind they didn’t. Not in a way that mattered. Sure, human interest articles often employ voice. And sure, human interest features have quotes and sometimes even dialogue. But the quotes in articles are someone’s actual words. Not something I made up.

To me, I was a journalist. I didn’t have a story to tell. I didn’t have the skills or the know-how to write a novel. And all of that may be true – even still – but it didn’t stop me from eventually trying. Because ultimately, there was no way for me to know whether I could write a book until I’d tried. And, ultimately, any excuse I had was born out of laziness. Don’t know how to plot? Don’t know how to structure a story? Don’t know how to build three-dimensional fictional characters? Pick up a book. Scour the internet. Discover the amazing author community on Twitter and mine their brains (and then take note of the fact that even some of the most accomplished writers still have doubts about their own work and own abilities; it’s a natural part of the creative process). There are many resources out there that can help aspiring novelists, even those without an English degree or a writing-based career.

I never (and I mean never) thought I would glean a message from Jim Carrey motivational, but he recently gave a commencement speech at the Maharishi school located southeast of me in Fairfield, Iowa, and the results was surprisingly deep and motivational for a man who’s built a career on over-the-top physical comedy.

“My father could have been a great comedian, but he didn’t believe that that was possible for him, and so he made a conservative choice,” Carrey said. “Instead he got a safe job as an accountant.”

His dad lost his job and the family fell on hard times. So much for safe…

“I learned many great lessons from my father, not the least of which, was that you can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love,” he said.

Jim Carrey’s advice was not the push that led me to write my manuscript. But it is a reminder to keep going, to persevere through the inevitable rejection of the query trenches. I love writing. And now that I’ve dipped my toe in the fiction writing pool, I want to continue. Writing is what I love.

Toss out the excuses and write the book. No matter how long it takes. No matter how frustrating it gets. And no matter how unqualified you feel. Write because it’s what you love and because you have a story to tell.

Excuses Are Like…

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