January Preview

Happy New Year!!! We are back for another great year, more fun releases, and more wonderful posts from our amazing authors 🙂

Speaking of new releases, this month we’ve got:

Kelly Hashway’s Face of Death, releasing from Spencer Hill Press on Jan 28th:

Face of Death_front cover (2)Having fallen at the hands of Hades, Jodi’s enduring torture like she never imagined. Worse, she has to watch her Ophi friends suffer along with her–the punishment doled out by the very people she’d sentenced to life in Tartarus. Hell. This is one reunion Jodi hoped would never happen, but now she must find a way to free them all.

Except the underworld is nearly impossible to escape.

Jodi’s one chance may rest in raising the human soul she killed when she drank Medusa’s blood.

But splitting her human soul from her Ophi soul means living a double life: One as an Ophi experiencing unspeakable torture and the other as the human she could have been if she never came into her powers. With her two worlds colliding, Jodi will have to make the toughest decision she’s faced yet.

And Michelle McLean’s third and final installment in her Blood Blade Sisters trilogy, A Bandit’s Betrayed Heart, releasing from Entangled’s Scandalous on Jan 13th:

Betrayed heartNot your typical Southern belle…
Lucy Richardson’s bandit sisters may have taught her to sling a gun and pick a stubborn lock, but nothing prepared her for the agony of her first heartbreak. Her sisters taught her to fight like hell for what she wants… and she wants Finn.

Not your proper Southern gentleman…
Finn Taggart is bad news. His dark and tortured past always catches up to him, and Lucy deserves better than to be tainted by his touch. He couldn’t have her years ago, and he can’t have her now, no matter how enticing she is. If only he can convince her of that before the danger that follows him brings them both down.

Not your classic love story…
Danger doesn’t exactly scare a girl like Lucy, and she knows how to use all kinds of weapons… including her feminine wiles. Finn doesn’t stand a chance. And if they need backup… the Blood Blade Sisters are never far away…

~~~

Our topic this month is What’s New in Our World – stay tuned to find out what our authors are up to!

Writing retreat…then and now…

Me & CP, Emily McKay

Me & CP, Emily McKay

Sometime in 1998 I formed a critique relationship with another unpublished romance writer. She wrote short category romance, something I’d not read up until we started working together, and I wrote historicals. We didn’t know each other well initially, but slowly we forged a bond and together found magic. In the beginning neither one of us knew much about what we were doing, so we learned how to write, we studied craft, we found our writing styles and our strengths and weaknesses.

the beach house we used to visit - lost in Hurricane Ike

the beach house we used to visit – lost in Hurricane Ike

In those early years we would go, with two other writer buddies that we worked with, to one said writer buddy’s beach house. We’d go for a long weekend and we’d work and plot and laugh and have more fun than you can imagine while also accomplishing a ton of work. The first night there we’d set our goals for the trip and the rest of the time it was work, work, work, with the occasional nice walk on the beach.

Flash forward to now – 4 kids later (2 for each of us) and we’re back at the beach together, just the 6 of us and we’ll see how much work we can actually get done with a 3, 4, 5 and 8 year old with us. We haven’t set goals, though we’re both on deadline. Instead we plan to spend time together – which is more difficult now with our families – let our kids play together and hope to get work done in the down time.

100_1892I bring all this up not so much to brag on my amazing relationship with my critique partner, though really y’all should be jealous because we work so well together (and she just won a RITA, Go Emily!) but instead to discuss the merits of writing retreats. They’re quite popular these days. I know RWA chapters plan them and host them periodically and lots of critique groups get together for writing retreats.

There’s something quite magical about getting together and spending time focusing on your writing with other writers. Especially when you can do it with a lovely bit of nature near by – the beach, mountains, a lake or forrest. And you know it’s good for our kids to see their moms working and having co-workers, even if our jobs are more unconventional than some of the other parents.

So how about you? Ever been on a writing retreat? What are yours like or what would make the perfect one for you?

Once upon a summer day…

In a perfect world I would be able to spend a few weeks this summer doing nothing but lounging around reading. But I have books to write and two small children and a husband who teaches summer school so I won’t have that luxury. That being said I will take the time to indulge in some books. Here are the top 5 titles currently sitting on my Kindle waiting to be devoured…

12929918Somebody to Love by Kristan Higgins. I really can’t wait to dive into this one if for no other reason than it takes place in the same town as Catch of the Day and rumor has it Maggie and Malone make an appearance. I’d read just about anything to spend a bit more time with Malone, that being said I’m a big fan of Kristan’s so I know I’ll love this one.

Instant Mom by Nia Vardales. This is actually a non-fiction all about her experience with foster-adoption. This is the same way my husband and I became parents and I love that she’s getting the word out about this invaluable way to build your family.

Something in Death by JD Robb. Okay so that’s not really the title, but I’m somewhere in the middle of the series and can’t really remember which book is next. This is a go-to series for me though because I know that all it takes is one page and I’m immersed in Eve Dallas’s world and ready to catch the bad guys.

GraveDanceSomething by Suzanne Enoch. Another go-to author for me. And again, no specific title, but only because I have a handful of hers that I haven’t yet read and so I’m not sure which one will come next. I love her heroes, they are always to-die-for and she writes great heroines with wonderful humor.

Grave Dance by Kalayna Price. I read the first in this urban fantasy series, Grave Witch a while back and I so loved it. I loved the world and especially the protoagonist’s voice. It was refreshing and irreverant and just plain fun.

Since I have a book out right now I’ve got to pimp it out a little in case y’all are looking for some summer reading suggestions.

releases June 18th

releases June 18th

A lone witness finds her protector… 

Since losing her sight in a childhood accident, Mia Danvers has resided in a small cottage on the vast Carrington estate. Thought to be dead, Mia lives a life of virtual seclusion—until one night, while walking home, she happens upon a horrendous crime.

Alex Foster, Eighth Duke of Carrington, lives according to society’s expectations for him. He’s never met the woman who lives in the cottage at the edge of his property. But when she arrives at his door in the pouring rain terrified and claiming she has witnessed a murder, she seizes his attention.

Mia is determined to help the authorities track down the culprit, even though the only person willing to accept her aid is the handsome, arrogant duke. Working closely together proves difficult as Mia’s beauty and independence tempts Alex to ignore convention and follow his desire. But what neither of them know is that this murderer has struck before in Whitechapel, taunting the British press only to vanish—a ruthless killer who knows that Mia is the only living witness to his crime…

Through the looking glass

signing my first contract

signing my first contract

We’ve already reflected on many of transitions you can go through in life. I thought I might blog about the big transition I made a couple of years ago when I became a mother overnight. But I’ve blogged on that at great length at one of my other blogs – Peanut Butter on the Keyboard. So instead I decided to tackle the transition from aspiring author to published author.

It’s been a while since I was unpublished, I sold my first book in June 2004. To that point I had worked for seven years writing pretty seriously, in pursuit of publication and the book I sold was my 5th manuscript. Wow has the industry changed – there are so many options for authors these days, transitional big NYC publishers, smaller boutique publishers, digital only books and self-publishing is now seen as a viable option and not looked down upon as it once was.

When I sold, I expected that once published everything would be different. That somehow with that contract would magically come success and a deeper knowledge and respect and a slew of other things. And some of that certainly happened, but I wasn’t any smarter the day after I accepted that deal than I was the day before.

releases June 18th

releases June 18th

There was a transition to become a published author, but it was not so much what I expected. Instead of making things easier, taking away all the angst that came with rejection, it came with new challenges, bigger and scarier ones that frankly don’t seem to ever go away. It’s much more difficult to write a book now than it was when I wrote those first books as a fledgling writer.

All that said, it was a good transition and I’m glad I made it. There are plenty of writers out there who have chosen different paths and while mine has been fairly rocky, I’m thankful for all of my transitions because they’ve strengthened me as a person and a writer.

So how about you? Have you ever faced a transition that turned out to be not what you expected?

The numbers game

Once upon a time I was a fledgling young writer with dreams of multi-book contracts and booksignings in my future. I worked very hard to hone my craft (still do) and become the best writer I could. And still the rejections came. I know I’ve blogged here before on the magic combination of getting published, but it’s a whole ‘nother ball of wax to STAY publish.

In order to sell that first book my writing had to be in tip-top shape and I naively believed that that is what would keep me selling. It’s not that writing skill and talent don’t have anything to do with longevity in this career, but in addition to those elements is one that perhaps you might not be expecting. I know I wasn’t. Perhaps that was foolish of me, but when I realized that publishing is more a game of numbers than it is of words, it was a shocker.

I’d done my job as far as pleasing readers – I had fan mail to prove it. And I’d done my job with my editor because they loved my work. Yet, I had first one and then another contract not get renewed. And I was left wondering what the hell was I doing so wrong? I still take responsibility for part of my slow-growing career, but the truth is much of it is out of my hands and always will be. I can’t make readers buy my books with the kind of velocity that most publishers deem as successful. I can’t make readers love my books and want to share them with all of their friends – though I certainly hope that happens, it’s never a guarantee.

There are numbers everywhere in this business – print runs, advances, royalty rates, sell-throughs, bestseller lists…its enough to make you send hate mail to your high school algebra teacher. Even Amazon uses some kind of magic algorithm to figure their bestseller lists and which books get shown where. Feeling dizzy and a bit depressed yet?

Okay so now that I’ve depressed everyone, let’s talk about how to keep working in the face of all this gloominess. The first thing you have to do is figure out what success means to you – it will be a different answer to each of us. The next thing you have to realize is there’s really only so much you can do. Promo efforts are a crap shoot, some things work beautifully for some authors while they fail miserably for others. Decide what you are and aren’t willing to do to reach that level of success and be willing to work your butt off. And then do your level best to ignore everything else. Stressing about reviews, stop looking at them. Comparing yourself to another writer, stop it. Fretting about your sales rank on Amazon, walk away from the browser. Every writer out there wishes they were doing a little better. #2 wants to be #1 and #1 wants to do it again with the next book and the next…. So yes, the numbers are depressing, but try, try, try to stop worrying about it all so much. And if my words aren’t enough to encourage you, I’ll leave it to Bob Newhart.

At the end of the day this whole writing gig needs to be a labor of love. Be prepared to be more frustrated and defeated than you ever have been in your life (unless you’re a mom, then you’re already golden cause that gig is WAY harder). So how do you keep sane in the midst of the numbers game?

Rooted in Tradition…

I am writing this post from atop a mountain, where I’m cozy and covered with a blanket while overlooking blue skies and snow-covered grounds.  It’s not exactly conducive to thinking about Spring, especially since I’m sipping on Pumpkin Spice hot tea. Yum. Of course, I’m from California, so to those native to this gorgeous mountain, this might be the epitome of Spring.

I’m starting a 5 day Immersion class with Margie Lawson, who offers amazing classes and lectures on improving your writing.  And while I could write about 100 posts on what I’ve learned from her, the topic is spring. And since snow makes me think of Snow Angels instead of Daffodils,  I decided to delve a little into history. (I’m a geek that way.)

Traditionally, spring has been about rebirth, fertility, reawakening.  The ancient Greeks and Romans celebrated Spring along with honoring Dionysus (Greek)  or Bacchus (Roman) —the gods of wine.  (This season makes so much sense now.)  The Greeks held a festival called Anthestreria, which was the precursor to Spring Break in Ft. Louderdale.  Girls decked out, guys having drinking contests.  Not much has changed in thousands of years.

In England Regency era (where my upcoming book is set), the “Season”–held during Spring and early Summer– was often referred to as the Marriage Market, because it’s when young ladies and lads are brought together to create new marriages.  The season was set around the schedule of Parliament and appropriate weather, and yet somehow — it still manages to fall mainly during months of Spring.  Basically, a months long celebration where men and women show off?  Yup.  They stole that idea from the ancient Greeks.

And of course, none of us need a lesson on what Spring Break in Fort Lauderdale looks like.  I’ve never been there personally, but there are photos and videos galore to showcase that celebration.  And I’m seeing a definite pattern here.  The season of fertility, indeed–just with a better tan.

So while spring is about beginning anew, new growth, looking into the future, I find it really ironic that the season maintains a stronghold on tradition. The celebration of life has never really changed.  I suppose what they say is true: If you don’t learn your history, you’re doomed to repeat it.  But at least we’ll repeat it with wine.

Of misery and springtime

A-Little-Bit-Sinful-800-166x250It’s spring. For some of you that might mean that you’ve still got snow, but here in Central Texas everything is blooming. The world is green and it’s beautiful and I’m miserable. Spring means allergies, at least for me. I’m itchy and sneezy and wheezy and drippy – really the worst of the Seven Dwarfs. But y’all probably don’t want to hear me describe my allergy woes, so instead I’ll talk of new beginnings because that’s what spring is, right?  (this is my new book so I have to stick it in here so you’ll get my subliminal message & go buy it – go ahead…I’ll wait…)

Well, for writers we get new beginnings all the time. They come in the form of new books, new story ideas, first chapters and the like. Like spring, the beginnings of books kinda make me miserable. I know lots of writers who love beginnings. They love them so much they have 40 manuscripts started and they never finish any of them because they get a rush out of that first blush of a story. For me, the beginning is like wading through molasses, I know I’m going somewhere, but it’s murky and slow and sticky and really uncomfortable. But I keep going because just around the corner is my favorite part….ready for it?

The middle! Okay I know some of you writers out there are scratching your heads thinking I’m totally nuts. You’re probably right (on so many levels) but hear me out. The middle is where the characters start falling into place, the plot starts moving and all the exciting (and sexy) stuff happens. If there’s a villain then he (or she) is causing all kinds of trouble and the hero and heroine and stuck together trying to solve a problem, find a treasure, catch a killer or just trying not to kill each other. It’s all the good stuff. We read the beginnings of books to get to know the characters so we can get to the middle cause that’s where the story is at. (how’s that for great grammar?!)

So how about you? Are you a fan of Spring or are you suffering with allergies like me? And if you’re a writer, what’s your favorite part of the book?