May 24th, 2020

Charity Sunday: Friends of Homeless Animals (FOHA) #AnimalRescue #CharitySunday

Welcome to Charity Sunday, a monthly blog hop hosted by author Lisabet Sarai at Beyond Romance.

I started volunteering at Friends of Homeless Animals (FOHA), a no-kill shelter for cats and dogs that is local to me, in March of 2014. Since then, barring three few-week hiatuses, I have been there almost every Sunday to walk dogs, and usually been there at least one additional day per week to do things like snuggle cats, oversee multi-dog play groups, and work with potential adopters. I’ve also done things off-site like help with fundraising and write the “Dog of the Week” and “Cat of the Week” columns for the weekly volunteer newsletter.

The onset of awareness and caution around COVID-19 threw a wrench in that, and I haven’t been to FOHA now since mid-March, which is the longest period I’ve gone without being at the shelter since I started volunteering there. It has been hard to stay away, but I have taken seriously the request from public health professionals to stay at home, and it has felt appropriate to me to do so and to let the staff at FOHA (which, as an animal shelter, is certainly an essential business) do their jobs without the extra risk of my coming on-site and into their physical workspace as a volunteer.

FOHA has an upscale retail shop in the area that provides a significant portion of the organization’s budget—100% of the shop’s proceeds go to FOHA, and the store does a brisk business. It, of course, had to close in the face of COVID-19 concerns, which, while appropriate, eliminated a significant source of funding for the dogs’ and cats’ care.

I myself have four pets: two dogs and two cats, all rescues. While my cats did not come from FOHA (long story), my dogs, known as “the puppies,” did. They are litter-mates who arrived at FOHA in the summer of 2015, nine months old and deeply and heartbreakingly fearful of people.

I and another volunteer (who now happens to be my boyfriend and who has been sheltering in place with me for the last two months!) walked the puppies almost every Sunday, and I was also usually there one other weekday per week to take them into play groups with other dogs, which seemed to help them a lot. I was in the process of searching for my first single-family home at the time, and the puppies had to spend several months at the shelter while that process completed. During that time, I got to know them pretty well, and they both arrived at the point where they let me get close to and touch them with increasingly less fear.

In February 2016, I closed on my current house, and the puppies, now named Liam and Chloe, came to live with my cats and me.

While they look like they’re kissing here, they’re actually playing tug with a tiny piece of cardboard left over from their recent paper-towel-roll-holder massacre! (Chloe left, Liam right.)

FOHA is a 100% no-kill shelter and takes care of every cat and dog that it brings into its care for as long as it needs to. Ideally, that time is short, as the aim is for all the cats and dogs to be adopted to wonderful homes. If that doesn’t happen, or no matter how long it takes, the dog or cat in question is in a safe place where it will receive food, veterinary care, comfortable shelter, enrichment, and love for as long as it needs to.

For every comment on this post, I will donate $3 to FOHA. Thank you truly!

In my brand new short story collection, Initiative: Tales of Erotic Boldness, there are two stories that feature pets—one a cat and one a dog (both rescues, though that’s not specified in the text). In both cases, the pet is instrumental in facilitating the meeting and connection of the main characters.

In this excerpt from “Fulfillment,” Kristen and her cat Cheerio have just gone outside after the fire alarm in their apartment building has gone off for the third time that week:

-from “Fulfillment”

Outside, the other building occupants were gathering on the grass on the far side of the parking lot, most looking as annoyed as she felt by the interruption. Cheerio struggled as sirens came faintly in the distance, and Kristen held his leash and set him down on the grass. She watched as two fire trucks pulled into the parking lot and let loose a barrage of heavily clothed firefighters that dispersed toward the building—which looked, to her, quite fire-free.

Several minutes later a firefighter ambled up to a nearby group of her neighbors. Though only the front of his face was visible with his uniform on, that part of him was attractive enough to make her do a double take. He said something to the group before making his way to her. Kristen reached to pick up Cheerio, who was oblivious to all but the unexpected opportunity to chew grass in the evening sunshine, as the firefighter approached.

“You probably know the alarm has gone off here several times recently,” he said to her without preamble. “It’s the same alarm in the same place in the building that’s been pulled each time.”

“You can tell which actual alarm is pulled?”

“Yes. We’re letting people know because if we can figure out who’s doing it—probably a kid who doesn’t understand the seriousness—we want to let them know it’s illegal to pull the alarm without cause. It costs a lot of money each time fire trucks get called somewhere, and it can keep us from going somewhere we might really be needed.”

As he spoke, the cat in her arms stretched forward to closer examine the stranger, and the firefighter reached to scratch Cheerio’s head. Kristen looked down as the man’s strong fingers ran over her cat’s fur, Cheerio purring delightedly beneath the massage. There was something endearing about the casualness of the man’s attention to her cat, and she swallowed as she realized suddenly how close his hand was to her breast. The vague heat she’d barely noticed forming under her skin shot up a notch.

“Jonathan,” another firefighter called, and the man in front of her turned and strode back to one of the trucks without a backward glance. Kristen watched as he climbed into the monstrous vehicle, which in turn began to slowly creep back toward the parking lot exit.

Find out more about Initiative here.

Thank you so much for visiting, and please check out the other posts below in today’s Sunday Charity blog hop! Oh, and if you sign up for my newsletter, each issue concludes with a picture of one or more of my pets. Just FYI. ;)


May 16th, 2020

The Erotic Literary Salon 12th Anniversary Party (Online)!

Longtime readers of this blog may remember several previous appearances I have made at the remarkable Philadelphia Erotic Literary Salon founded and curated by Susana Mayer. It is indeed a venue I have truly appreciated, both on my own behalf as a place Susana has graciously offered me to promote my own work, and also as a space to offer attendees to write, read, and/or take in erotic words spoken out loud. Susana had a beautiful—and obviously accurate—notion that such a space seemed to be largely missing in our culture, as well as desired, whether overtly or on an underlying level.

And here we are twelve years later…with the Erotic Literary Salon still meeting the third Tuesday of each month and going stronger than ever! Under the current circumstances, the Salon has moved online and, as it was in April, will be held via Zoom this month. Tuesday, May 19, will mark—as well as celebrate—the twelfth anniversary of the Salon’s existence!

In addition to this celebration, I am honored that Susana has offered me the opportunity to read from my brand new short story collection, Initiative: Tales of Erotic Boldness. I don’t know which story I will read from yet, but I am so appreciative, as usual, to have the opportunity to do so for her audience. While the reasons for the move online are obviously sobering, the Zoom setting also offers the opportunity for attendance from those for whom travel to Philadelphia has been untenable.

Given this new online setting, Susana is only charging $5 (half the usual price of admission) to attend the Salon while the event and its audience adjust to its new virtual environment. Ticket sales will stop Monday, May 18, so this weekend is the time to procure yours!

For more information about the Salon or how to sign up to read at it, as well as a link to a basic Zoom tutorial, please visit the Salon website. Thank you, and we would love for you to virtually join us on Tuesday!


“We light it up, we won’t come down, and the walls can’t stop us now…”The Greatest Showman Original Motion Picture Soundtrack “The Greatest Show”

May 13th, 2020

A Little Bit of Sunshine #MFRWhooks #MFRWauthor

I’m participating in Marketing for Romance Writers (MFRW) Book Hooks today—a weekly meme that gives authors the opportunity to showcase their work and readers an opportunity to find their next read!

This is an excerpt from my brand new short story collection, Initiative: Tales of Erotic Boldness, which just released on May 1. It’s from the story “Sunshine”:

Continue reading

May 6th, 2020

Office Space at the #RLFblog

I’m delighted to be a guest today on the Romance Lives Forever blog, helmed by the esteemed Kayelle Allen. In addition to talking about my brand new book, Initiative: Tales of Erotic Boldness, I’m also sharing a little about my work space, which in my case is my home office.

You can find our interview here. Please feel free to visit, say hi, and learn why a gumball machine is one of my favorite things in my office!


“In addition, my office has fabulous silver wallpaper, a wall calendar I buy every year that has gorgeous and inspiring garden photographs (the Secret Garden series—I highly recommend it), and a stuffed Hello Kitty in a hot pink plaid dress I consider my ‘writing buddy.'”
-from my RLF interview

May 1st, 2020

Initiative: Tales of Erotic Boldness

While my excitement is counterbalanced with a deep reverence for the challenge of the current circumstances around the world, I am deeply pleased to announce the release of my brand new short story collection, Initiative: Tales of Erotic Boldness. While I considered pushing back the release date when the vast, perilous, unexpected circumstances surrounding COVID-19 began to emerge, I did, after some deliberation, choose to stay with the original release date of May 1. My hope is that for those seeking the stimulation, release, entertainment, or comfort (however one seeks or experiences it in a given moment) of reading, Initiative may support that experience.

Initiative by Emerald cover

Initiative contains thirteen stories, nine of which are previously published, and four that I wrote specifically for the collection. Here is the table of contents:

Shift Change
The Beast Within (A Modern-Day Fairy Tale)
Who’s on Top?
City Girl
Kissing Cassie*
A Few Hundred Dollars
Changing Tides*

For more information and buy links, please visit this page any time. If you would like to buy it right now, it is available in both print and e-book formats via Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple Books, Kobo, and IndieBound (Google Play coming soon). Thank you so much, and be well!


“For instance, I could probably save you a few hundred dollars tonight.”

I heard the boldness of the statement as it came from my mouth, and I almost winced. What had possessed me to let that thought slip out loud?
 For the briefest moment the charming, even, ultra-collected man who was hosting this party in his mansion paused. But his smooth face remained impassive, and I likely wouldn’t have noticed the momentary composure slip had I not been paying so much attention.

-from “A Few Hundred Dollars” in Initiative

*previously unpublished