Hi guys, we have debut author Barbara Bell stopping by today with her debut release Cutie Pies, we have a brilliant guest post from Barbara, a great excerpt and a fantastic giveaway where you can win your own ecopy of Cutie Pies, so check out the post and leave a comment to enter the giveaway! ❤ ~Pixie~
Joey works at Cutie Pies, the smallest adult store in Sydney. After his parents kicked him out years ago, the haphazard shop became his home away from home and is the only place where he can embrace his queer, quirky, and—okay—sometimes a little awkward self.
When Mick, a new-to-town customer, walks in asking for a dildo, Joey thinks it’s all a part of the day’s work. Except Mick’s large dark eyes, shy smile, and kissable lips—along with the ten-inch dildo he bought—quickly win him a starring role in Joey’s nightly fantasies.
Joey can’t stop thinking about him, and Mick’s continued visits to the store make him even harder to forget. Mick is shy and sweet, but also secretive and uncertain. As the two grow closer together, Joey starts to wonder what Mick really wants from him, and whether he can risk falling in love with someone who might not be free to love him back.
Hi, I’m Barbara Bell, romance author extraordinaire, and welcome to the blog tour for my debut novella Cutie Pies! Over the next week I will be travelling the internet sharing some thoughts on my book. Follow along and join the discussion!
Four Ways to Beat Writer’s Block
I’m not an expert writer.
Heck, it’s taken me a long time to feel confident enough to even call myself a writer. In the past when asked about my work I would often just shrug my shoulders, mutter something about hobbies, and change the subject.
But, I am a writer, and like almost every writer I’ve ever met, I’ve suffered from writer’s block. AKA, the state in which the afflicted writer wants to write but just… can’t.
It sucks. It really sucks. On a scale from one to ten with one being ‘lost my keys’ and ten being ‘got crushed by a falling piano’, I would rank writer’s block a solid seven. It is frustrating, it is depressing, and it makes you feel like you’re a failure.
But, don’t worry, writer’s block can be overcome, and here are four strategies I use to do just that.
Whenever I’m struggling to write the first thing I do is read. Why? Because sometimes writer’s block isn’t a ‘blockage’ at all but simply a lack of creative energy. In the most basic terms, without anything going in it becomes hard to push something out. In these times I stop trying to create and instead consume. I find if I read someone else’s story and fall in love with their world and their characters I can reawaken my excitement for my story. Plus, words are hard sticky things that never seem to go together right. Sometimes just looking at a finished bit of writing will help remind me how the English language works.
- Be As Healthy as You Can
When I was a girl I thought writers sat alone in dark rooms, smoked pipes, and sank slowly into depression and/or madness. I’m happy to report you don’t need to do any of these things to be a writer. In fact, I think self-care is an important ingredient in the creative process. If I don’t feel good, either physically or mentally, my writing suffers. If I’m happy, eating well, and doing things I love, then my writing improves. Now, I understand it’s impossible to be happy all the time, and some people suffer from things which make happiness even harder, but it’s important to take care of yourself and I really do believe it helps overcome issues like writer’s block.
- Don’t Force It
I know a lot of writers swear by NaNoWriMo (the challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in one month). I also know plenty have succeeded using that strategy. That’s great for them, but this method doesn’t work for me. In fact, nothing sucks my enjoyment out of writing quicker than thinking I have to hit a word count by the end of the day or that I have a looming deadline. Maybe you’re different, maybe it works for you, but if you’re like me then the advice I’m going to give you is that same advice I would give someone attempting anal sex for the first time: whatever you do, don’t force it.
- Know When to Pull the Plug
The hard truth is sometimes ideas that seemed really awesome in my head aren’t actually that awesome when I put them on paper. Sometimes stories which should be easy end up running into every wall there is to run into. Sometimes I just don’t have the skill (yet) to write what I’m trying to write. That’s okay. When this happens I stop, acknowledge the fact that something isn’t working, and step away to work on other projects. In short, don’t waste your life trying to write that story that doesn’t want to be written, find another story and work on that instead. Maybe later you’ll go back and finish that first story. Maybe you won’t. Either way, there is no use beating a dead horse (or some other relevant proverb).
What do you think? Do you agree with me? Do you have any other strategies you would like to share? Let me know in the comments and don’t forget to leave your contact details for a chance to win an ecopy of the book. Also, check out the rest of my book tour to learn more about me, my thoughts on writing, and my debut novella Cutie Pies.
Thanks for reading!
Joey loved telling people where he worked. It was fun. Some people gasped. Some people giggled. Some leant forward in their seats and wanted to know more.
“So you sell—”
“What’s the name of the store again?”
Cutie Pies was the smallest sex shop in Sydney. It sat on top of a tattoo parlour, up a brightly painted stairway, and was packed to the brim with every sex toy on the market. Dildos, vibrators, glow-in-the-dark butt plugs. If you could name it, Cutie Pies had it.
Whether or not Cutie Pies could find the room to display it was another matter.
“Okay.” Joey stood back to get a better look at the chaos: a game of real-life Tetris seconds before disaster. “What if we move all the vibrating underwear onto that wall? Then we’ll have room for these weird G-spot vibes along here.”
Becca, who was on her knees rearranging the merchandise, stared at him like he’d just declared himself the Queen of England. “We can’t put them there. That’s the lingerie section.”
“Knickers. Lingerie. I’m not seeing the problem here.”
“Lingerie is little and lacy. These are big and they vibrate. They’re vibrators. They have to go here.”
“The G-spot vibrators are vibrators too. It’s in the name.”
“They can go in the dildo section.”
“Okay. Time-out.” He made a T with his hands. “Why is it okay to put a silicone bendy straw with the disembodied penises, but not okay to put the underwear with the underwear?”
“Because you can fuck yourself with the silicone bendy straw. Plus the naked man on the packaging isn’t working for my feng shui.”
“Have naked men ever worked for your feng shui?”
“Now that you mention it? No.”
Becca. Short, busty, and blonde, with a nose ring and a tattoo of a cuttlefish on her right arm. His best friend but not the sort of person who he could persuade once she’d made her mind up about something.
He huffed in mock anger. “Fine. But if Kate asks why the G-spot vibes aren’t with the rest of the vibrators, I’m telling her it’s your fault.”
Becca didn’t seem concerned, clearly focused on arranging the vibrators into a pattern only she could see.
Joey grabbed the box of G-spot vibes and was about to carry them to the dildo wall, when he heard a small voice call out from the stairway.
“Hello? Is anyone there?”
A customer. In the middle of the day? Odd but not unheard of.
“Hi!” he called over the shelves. “Welcome to Cutie Pies. If you need help, we’re back here.”
“Where? Oh.” A boy stepped into Joey’s line of sight. No. Not a boy. Beneath his dorky haircut and oversized T-shirt he wasn’t gangly enough to be a teenager, but he was young, probably around Joey’s age. A uni student? Wow. They didn’t usually emerge until midafternoon at the earliest. “I’m sorry,” he muttered. “The sign said you were open. I’m just looking for one thing.”
“Well, you’ve come to the right place.” Joey popped the box he was carrying onto his hip and waved at the crowded shelves. “Things we have in plenty. Is there anything in particular I can help you find?”
“Um . . . I . . . I . . .” The guy’s cheeks darkened in what could only be a blush. A blusher! Good. It had been a while since he had a blusher.
And this blusher was cute.
Short, bony, but well portioned with dark skin and even darker eyes.
This was going to be fun.
“I saw your shop and . . . Do you have any dildos?”
Joey bit back the laugh that surged up his throat. Oh yeah. This was going to be a lot of fun. “Yes. Yes, we do. You’re going to have to be a little more specific, though. Follow me.” He ducked behind the shelf and led the kid to the dildo wall.
No matter your preferred size, colour, or shape, Cutie’s had a dildo for you. Unless you liked PVC and jelly. Kate refused to stock toys with for novelty use only printed on the packaging. But, apart from that . . . yeah. They had a pretty thorough stock of dildos.
A stock the blushing uni student was taking in with wide eyes.
Joey let him suffer for a moment before putting down the box of vibrators, stepping forward, and pulling a dildo off the shelf. “Short but stout, and harness compatible. See the curve? Great for hitting the G- or P-spot, so it’s good for whatever you’ve got in your pants.”
The guy stayed silent.
“Or . . . we have some realistic ones down here. You a fan of porn? We’ve got a few big-name porn stars along this shelf, and some others stashed around back if you’re looking for someone in particular.”
“Um. Okay. If you want something a little more upmarket, we have some glass and metal ones. They’re pricey but worth it. See this metal one here? My ex had one. Dropped it while he was cleaning it. It broke the sink. The toy? Not a nick. That’s how good these things are. They’re better made than your bathroom sink. In fifty thousand years when aliens are digging through the remains of our civilisation, they will find nothing but rubble and a whole bunch of these still in perfect condition.”
In a small voice. “Your ex?”
“Yes,” Joey said. “Great guy. Great taste in sex toys. Do you want to take a closer look at it? Or I have a smaller one which is similar here somewhere . . .”
“My ex? Yeah. He was a guy.” Cutie Pies was in the middle of Oxford Street, the historical home of the LGBT community in Sydney. If this blusher was surprised that the guy working here liked dick, he shouldn’t be. “Though the dildo could be used on women too if that’s what you’re worried about.”
“Why’d you break up?”
“Ah.” Joey scratched his head. “I dunno. Just drifted apart I guess. It’s okay though. It was super amicable. We’re still good friends.”
The blusher didn’t say anything, which, of course, meant there was an awkward pause. A really awkward pause. Joey was used to a little bit of awkwardness in his line of work though. The best thing was to end it quickly. “But, hey,” he said, “we’re not here to talk about my sex life, we’re here to talk about yours.” He gestured towards the dildo display. “What will it be? Realistic? Tentacle shaped? I have one that looks like a bust of Obama if old US presidents are your thing.”
The guy put the shorter dildo Joey had handed him back on the shelf. “No, thank you.”
Ah. Hell. This was going to be a no-sale wasn’t it? Probably because Joey talked about an ex. No one wanted to think about ex-partners while buying sex toys. But apparently this guy was the exception to that rule because the next thing Joey knew he was reaching back towards the display.
He pulled a dildo off the wall. A big dildo. Jet black, flared at the base, but otherwise entirely realistic.
Okay. Was not expecting that.
“Wow, mate. Ten inches. Respect.”
“I just think . . .”
“You’re going to need some lube with that. That’s silicone, so water based is best. We have a stand over near the counter. Everything is half-price for Mardi Gras. Come on.”
The man trailed him back to the counter and then gazed with those same big eyes at the spinning stand of personal lubricant. This time Joey wasn’t fooled. This guy might play the whole young-and-innocent routine but the dildo he had picked off the wall told a different story. Joey wasn’t going to waste time trying to sell him something “soft as silk” if what he secretly wanted was “hot sauce for your junk.”
“Any of them catch your eye?”
The man glanced at him, bit his bottom lip, and turned back to the stand. “I . . . I don’t know. I’ve only ever used the lube that comes in condom boxes.”
Joey snorted with laughter. Okay. Maybe still a little young and innocent. “Do you want me to grab you a pack of lubey condoms?”
“No, I . . .” The guy’s gaze turned back to lock on to him, and for a moment Joey could see right into his eyes. Oh. They were brown. Very brown. So brown they were almost black. Above those eyes sat an expressive pair of eyebrows, drawn forward into an uncertain frown, and below, a pair of crazy kissable lips. Holy hell. Under his nerdy clothes and overgrown bowl haircut this blusher wasn’t just cute . . . he was beautiful.
“What’s your favourite?”
“My fav . . .?” Joey blinked. Shit. He’d been staring. Not glancing. Not observing . . . but staring. Staring at customers in his line of work was a bad idea. Customers tended to be nervous and self-conscious enough in a sex shop without the staff gawking . . . even if this customer was something to gawk at. “My favourite,” he reminded himself and deliberately turned back to the lube stand and scanned the bottles sitting on display before him. “Um. Okay. Let’s see . . .” Get it together. “This one’s good. A little on the runny side, so it’s easy to make a mess but, hey, I like mess. Is a hundred millilitres all right? I don’t want to give you too much in case you don’t like it.”
The guy’s lip twitched towards a nervous smile. Without a word, he plucked the lube Joey had pointed out off the rack.
“Awesome. I wish everyone was as easy as you. Wait! No. That came out bad. What I meant was, I wish everyone was as easily satisfied . . . Ah. Fuck. That’s not much better, is it?” If, by some miracle, the guy hadn’t noticed him staring, he’d surely notice this. “What I meant to say is, is there anything else I can help you with?”
Softly, “I think that’s enough.”
“Cool. If you need more lube, it’s half-price until Mardi Gras. Not that I think you’ll use all the lube. Or, um, not that I think you won’t use it either. Just . . . if you want more, it’s cheap for a little longer. But only until the parade.”
“Yeah.” Joey stood in silence for a moment. “So . . . eh . . . I’ll ring these two up for you.”
The man watched him as he took the dildo and the bottle of lube behind the counter, scanned them in, and bundled them in a couple of layers of unmarked plastic bags. It was a familiar task and, despite those unbelievable eyes tracking his every movement, Joey found it calming. By the time he finished, he was composed and in control again.
“There you go.” He flashed his best customer-service smile. “That will be seventy-three dollars and eighty five cents.”
Blusher held a debit card up.
“Perfect.” Joey said. “PayWave okay?”
“Ye— Actually. No. It stopped working a little while ago.”
“Mm. Happens to the best of us.” Joey pushed the card reader across the counter towards him. “You are a few button presses away from one hell of a ride.”
“Ride?” Those dark eyes blinked. “Oh. No. This isn’t . . . What I mean is . . .”
“You don’t need to explain to me.” He nodded at the card reader. “Whenever you’re ready.”
Joey concentrated on not staring as the guy swiped his card and plugged in the details. But even if he couldn’t stare, he could still look. Carefully, making sure to keep it intermittent and casual, he let his eyes wander.
He’d guessed the guy was a university student and nothing he was seeing called that into question. New jeans, old sneakers, and a Doctor Who T-shirt. Probably a first-year, but not one who’d come straight from high school.
The man pushed the machine back towards him, and Joey waited while the payment processed. “Aaannnddd . . . we’re done!” He ripped the receipt off the machine and slid it across the counter. “Congratulations. You are now the proud owner of one mighty cock.”
He frowned. “Two . . .?” And then it hit him. “Ah!” He burst out laughing. “Yes! I’m sorry. You are now the proud owner of two mighty cocks.”
The guy smiled, clearly proud of his joke despite the deep shade of his cheeks. He put the receipt into the bag and then hesitated. His eyes skimmed the counter.
“Is there anything else I can help you with?”
“No. I . . . I guess I . . .” He frowned. “I . . . eh . . . I’m sorry for talking about your ex before. That was shitty of me.”
“Hey, no worries, mate. It’s cool. I am on good terms with pretty much all my exes. Besides, I brought it up.”
“Yeah but . . .” The guy seemed to struggle for a moment. “It was rude of me,” he said finally. “I’ve never had an ex and—”
Joey blinked. “You’ve never had an ex?”
“My partner and I have been together since high school.”
Joey digested the information. A partner. A long-term partner. “Oh. Okay.”
“Sorry. I . . . I’ll go.”
Joey watched him walk across the shop. He stopped at the top of the stairs and turned to look back at Joey. “My name’s Michael, by the way.”
Joey lifted an eyebrow. “Hi, Michael.”
“Hi . . . Sorry if that was weird. I thought I would tell you just in case . . . you know . . .”
Joey wasn’t sure why he would need to know Michael’s name but decided to play along. “I’m Joey. It’s a bit less of a mouthful than ‘Joseph.’ What about you? Got a nickname?”
“Not really . . . my brothers call me Mick.”
“Do you like that?”
“It’s okay. Better than Michael.”
“Mick it is.” Joey smiled. “See you around, Mick. Oh, and have fun with that.” He nodded at the dildo bundled in plastic bags.
The guy—Mick ducked his head. “I . . . Yeah. Thanks . . .” And then he was gone.
Barbara Bell grew up on a sheep farm in rural Australia, moved to Brisbane when she was nineteen to study film, and now lives in Sydney with an ever changing cast of housemates and a colony of bees.
She is an avid traveller, a proud geek, and loves telling stories about human relationships and how strange and silly (but also beautiful) they can be. She began writing when she was eleven years old and believes it’s probably too late to break the habit now.