Take a Risk or Lose the Chance

Bullets and Bonfires is live!

When I came up with the tagline for Bullets and Bonfires, I didn’t consider how appropriate it was for this book. Not just for the characters, who have a lot of things holding them back from admitting how they feel about each other, but for me personally.

I haven’t released anything outside of the Lost Kings MC series since I started it. I love the Lost Kings dearly. I live and breathe those characters. But Bullets and Bonfires was something I actually started well before Rochlan North ever started speaking to me. I needed to tell Bree’s story. Of going home to somewhere she doesn’t feel at home. Of being battered, bruised, and ashamed. Of making mistakes even when you should know all the warning signs. And I loved the idea of my stoic, loving sheriff willing to anything to help the girl he can’t admit he’s in love with because she’s his best friend’s little sister.

I won’t rehash the book for you here. You can read the blurb at Goodreads or at any of the places it’s available for sale. I started it probably four years ago and struggled with how to finish it. Then I started Slow Burn, only intending it to be one or two books. But the Lost Kings don’t take no for an answer and I’ve been happily writing their stories for over three years now. Liam and Bree still hovered in the back of my mind and every now and then I’d open up their story. It wasn’t until I was wrapping up White Knuckles that I figured out what was wrong with Bullets and Bonfires, and how to fix it. Still, I didn’t want to slow down any momentum I’d picked up with the series, by publishing something outside of the Lost Kings. I also felt since Teller makes an appearance in Bullets and Bonfires, the best time to release it would be before his book. So that’s what I did. Unfortunately, it always takes me a lot longer to write a book than I think it’s going to take me. And I had another side project going on. (Some of you know what that is, it’s not really relevant to this story.) Even though I knew where Bullets and Bonfires needed to go, I struggled to get it right.

The first version was written in third person. At some point, I realized, I treated Bree’s situation almost too flippantly. I was very focused on the romance of the story and not enough on Bree’s healing. She was insufferably bratty too which was a problem. Liam wasn’t up to my standards either. You never saw Chad. It was a very weak outline of a story. I rewrote it into first person, but it was still missing something. Stubborn as I am, I was determined to fix it. I really had to dig in and dig deeper which was hard for lots of reasons. However, if I was going to write a book about a survivor of domestic violence,  I wanted to do it right.

I had one of my long-time readers look at the first few chapters of the next version of Bullets and Bonfires. This reader’s pretty picky and has no problem saying what works for her and what doesn’t. She wanted more of Liam and Bree, so I was encouraged to continue. Two more of my readers gave it the thumb’s up and I kept going. Version after version, I kept improving and layering the story to where it was finally close to what I wanted. It wasn’t easy.

Another important part of the journey of Bullets and Bonfires for me, was how fast Mr. Lake read it. He’s not a book-reader normally. He loves the Lost Kings and reads every one of them, but that’s it. He’s never read my paranormals or my side project. But he devoured Bullets and Bonfires and it wasn’t even hunting season.  He was excited for me to try something new and kept encouraging me to do it. That’s not to say if he hadn’t liked it, I wouldn’t have published it–like I said, I’m stubborn. It was just nice to have that extra encouragement. He also didn’t mind me sharing this:

Release day flowers from Mr. Lake

I can’t tell you how nervous I was to release a non-Lost Kings MC book. I’d put a lot of time, money, and effort into Bullets and Bonfires and I hoped my Lost Kings MC readers would embrace it, even if it wasn’t the book they were expecting. Teller and Murphy do make some memorable appearances in the book, so that might have helped. (In my head, this story always took place in Teller’s hometown, which is actually another county away from Albany (or “Empire”) county, but like I say, I take great liberties with my fictional area of Upstate NY that the Lost Kings MC runs.) There are also some potentially controversial topics in the book and I worried if I’d get hammered on them. I worried if people outside of the US would be turned off by the usage of guns and the part they play in the book. Everything in the story is authentic though. Many, if not all of the book comes from some sort of personal experience, and I hope I handled each issue respectfully.

The nerves, the back-and-forth about whether  I was doing the right thing, the worrying, it’s been worth it. Here it is, the day after release, and I’ve been SO thrilled with the response to Bullets and Bonfires. Please indulge me by allowing me to share some of my favorite pieces of the reviews Bullets and Bonfires has received so far:

An incredibly sexy, sweet, angsty, swoon-worthy “older brother’s best friend” romance involving a hot, loyal, and fiercely protective Sheriff, and a woman who has been through hell and back yet still manages to keep standing. Don’t miss out on this 5 star read! – Confessions of a Romance Junkie

I highly recommend this book and anything that Ms. Lake writes, as you’ll become one with the characters and it’s an escape you won’t want to return from! – Momma Hellmouth

I love the realness found in this book. – Words Turn Me On

With smoking hot passion, beautiful characters, and a complex plot, Bullets and Bonfires is an absolute must read for contemporary romance fans. Liam is one HOT COP that everyone needs to meet! – Elizabeth, Crazies R Us Book Blog

The abuse Bree suffered through she didn’t let define her, giving us a strong heroine. Liam was fiercely loyal, protective, and swoon worthy! – Millsy Loves Books

This is a story unlike any you have read of Autumn’s. – Fantasy Dreamalicous Blog

These tropes have been done a million times, but Autumn still managed to make it fresh and unique and totally captivating. – Jessica, OMG Reads

I really don’t want to spoil this heartbreaking, yet beautiful love story. The many feels it has to offer should be experienced by everyone. Iza, The Dirty Book Girls

Quite a few people have mentioned what a strong heroine Bree is and I can’t tell you what that means to me. Romance readers are especially hard on heroines and it’s tough to craft them right. If they’re too strong, readers say they’re bitchy. If they’re too soft, then they’re seen as weak, or my personal favorite, TSTL (too stupid to live.) Victim-blaming is real (Bree even talks about that in the book) and I wondered if there’d be some people who just didn’t connect with Bree because of her situation. There was one major plot point I struggled with and I think the way it turned out is one of the reasons people see Bree as a strong heroine.

The other thing I’ve heard since the early draft phase is that the secondary characters need stories too. Keegan is a front-runner for his own book along with Sully and Jake. A lot of people wanted to know more about Vince, and he doesn’t even appear in 95% of the book! But when he does, he breaks my heart. I cried buckets when I wrote his heart-to-heart with Bree. I don’t have anything in mind for him yet, but I can’t say that won’t change.

If you’ve read Bullets & Bonfires and want to talk about it, join us in the Bullets and Bonfires Backyard!

What’s next?

Beyond Reckless (Lost Kings MC #8) – Teller’s book! I’m racing to finish it now and will probably spend most of August revising it, because that’s how I work. Then, I’m not sure. I’m torn between three different things I want to work on. One is an idea I came up with at a recent conference that I’m absolutely IN LOVE with. Another is a book I’ve been trying to finish for a long time. Maybe now that I had the courage to put Bullets and Bonfires out there, I’ll be able to finish this one. The third one is Afterburn (Lost Kings MC #9) which I usually have open while I’m working on Teller’s book.

I’m SO excited for you to read Teller’s book! It’s even up for pre-order right now!  I’m so eager to share it, I keep worrying I’ll spoil one of the major secrets. It’s going to be amazing. I love the heroine. She’s exactly what he needs. Teller, it turns out, is pretty damn funny when he wants to be and a whole lot sweeter than anyone expected. Afterburn is going to Blow. Your. Mind..

That’s it! I’m off to North Carolina for the Dark and Seductive signing in a few days. After that, I’ll be back in the land of the Lost Kings MC for the rest of the summer.



And, in case you missed it, find Bullets and Bonfires here:
Amazon: http://amzn.to/2tO3OM4
iBooks: http://bit.ly/Bullets_iBooks
Kobo: http://bit.ly/Bullets_Kobo
B&N: http://bit.ly/Bullets_Nook
Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/2vs3PSD
Amazon AU: https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B073Q6J98C
Amazon CA: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B073Q6J98C



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