Sunday, January 25, 2015

Selecting a Cover

One of the most rewarding–and most stressful–parts of having a book published is approving a cover design. Covers are one of the most important parts of any book, especially in this digital age. Your cover design is the size of a thumbnail, and it's all you have to make a reader stop, look, and read your most important element–the blurb. Then, and only then, will a person make the decision to buy your book. So while covers won't necessarily sell copies, it can make people stop and read about your book, and maybe buy it.

This time, my historic romance takes place not in New York, but in the wild country west of the Mississippi in 1860. So, I got to include something I haven't been able to before–a horse!

I was so excited about the opportunity, I've been gathering pictures of wild horses for months now. The story, Expressly Yours, Samantha, is about two people involved in the new Pony Express, which began in April, 1860.

But a horse is not enough to stop a reader in her tracks and read the book blurb. I needed something more. My publisher wanted it to evoke the idea of romance, since that's what I write, but I had a problem with all the lovely women who were nuzzling horses. They were too pretty.

What, you say? How can someone be too pretty? Isn't the idea of a cover to make a person stop and look? And wouldn't they be drawn to a pretty face, rather than a not-so-pretty one?

I get where the designers were coming from. But the heroine is passing herself off as a boy at the start  of the book, on the run from an abusive uncle. So a beautiful ingenue with a wide smile just didn't work. I wanted a haunted face, one that could realistically be mistaken for a boy, with the right haircut. And I wanted her standing against a horse.

I have to admit, the designers did it. I can't show the cover off yet, but it works. I'm glad they took the time to make it right. Will I miss a few readers because there's not a pretty face on the cover? Possibly. But if they take a moment to look into the haunted eyes of my heroine, they'll hopefully be intrigued enough to read the blurb. And maybe buy the book.

Expressly Yours, Samantha, will be released March 16. Stay tuned.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Sound Of Silence

If you've been following this blog for a while, you already know that my sister, Pat, moved in with me last year. She set up the finished half of the basement as her domain, but after the first few months, decided she preferred to be upstairs. She was quiet when I worked in the mornings, and we enjoyed each other's company, so it worked well, despite the reservations we originally had on both sides.

She has the flexibility to travel, and from the beginning, told me she'd be elsewhere during Ohio's harsh winters. So, last week, she took off, driving cross-country away from the snow and ice, to spend the winter in Phoenix and Shreveport, with a side trip to San Diego thrown in for good measure. My dog, Mary, and I waved goodbye, a tad jealous, but also looking forward to getting back to my old routine.

So what happened? A wild streak of creativity? A feverish bout of writing getting me way ahead of schedule? Ideas for story lines for as yet unplanned novels coming at me fast and furious?

No. Crickets are what happened. Silence.

I've been polishing up a manuscript I'd been working on since before she left, and my next Cotillion Ball story is coming together as outlined. But nothing new. I've been moping, as has Mary.

It's strange, since I've lived alone for years. I should be used to this.

How about you? Does anyone have a trick they use to jumpstart those creative juices? If so, please share. April's a long way off.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Devil She Knew–Interview with Rena Koontz

One of my favorite people, Rena Koontz, takes time out from teasing us all with her pictures from Venice Beach (bare feet in the sand as we all shiver here in Ohio), to stop by for a visit today. Her book, The Devil She Knew, is on sale for only 99 cents until January 16. If you haven't snagged your copy yet, now's the time.

The research for this book deserves its own story. Here's Rena to talk about how she did it.

He’s dead now – the real Tony DelMorrie, that is.

Yes, the mob guy in my romantic suspense, “The Devil She Knew,” was a real-life Mafioso. A “made guy,” sometimes called a wiseguy, is someone who has been officially inducted, usually as a soldier, into a Mafia family. That was Tony in real life. And I met him.

My husband and I were out with a friend in downtown Cleveland one Saturday night, dropping in and out of various fun spots, when we wandered into Tony’s coffee shop – yeah, the same one depicted in the book. My husband, then an FBI agent, knew who Tony was but never expected him to be there, working the floor like a Las Vegas nightclub entertainer. Gold chains ringed his bulging neck and dripped down onto black chest hairs. I could see them because Tony had his shirt partially unbuttoned – a flashback to disco days.

Heavy, gold rings weighed down his fingers and dug into my own when he shook my hand. It was his pleasure to meet me, he said, adding that such an Italian-looking face as mine belonged in his café. I feared he would notice how sweaty my palms were or the crack in my voice when I thanked him.
And then Mrs. DelMorrie came to the table. The TV show depicting mob wives is not exaggerated. She was fake nails, fake lashes, fake boobs and a hair color that rivaled a Sherwin-Williams sample palette. She batted her eyelashes at the men and called me “hon,” insisting I sample a piece of red velvet cake, the house specialty. “It’s the best you’ll ever eat, Hon. With your figure, you don’t even have to worry about calories.”

Yes, they were both charmers. No, the cake wasn’t the best. The icing was so sweet I could feel my arteries clogging as I swallowed. But I wasn’t about to decline the offered piece. I chewed fast, anxious to make an exit.

I knew Tony’s reputation and was privy to inside knowledge about his character. It’s what helped me make him so real in my book – because he was real.

“The Devil She Knew,” is my second romantic suspense released by Crimson Romance. If this blog has piqued your interest about the story, now is a good time to order. It’s discounted to 99-cents between Jan. 8-16  on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple iBooks, The Crimson Romance store and other e-book retailers.

Thank you, Becky, for allowing me to share a tidbit about my book.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Writing Process Blog Tour

I’m participating in a Romance Writers Blog Hop.  Not only do you get to know a little about me and my writing process, but I get to introduce you to fellow romance authors and learn their individual writing styles and processes.

My fellow author, Susan B. James has tagged me to be next on the “My Writing Process Blog Tour” (#MyWritingProcess).Susan's first novel, Time and Forever is about two women in their sixties time travelling back to 1969. It's won Honorable Mentions in The Hollywood Book Festival and The Great Northwest Book Festival in Fiction.
In Kate’s hero, Michael is Sherry’s son from Time and Forever. Susan cannot seem to write a book without a touch of magic.  She also writes children’s books as Susan J. Berger. Susan is drawn to humor and was born to wonder and to laugh. Here's Susan's contact information to find out more about her. 

Now that you know about Susan, let’s move on to the four required blog questions about my own writing process:
What am I currently working on?
The seventh book in the Cotillion Ball Series is currently undergoing edits for a March 16 release. It's a lot grittier than my other Cotillion books, since it's set in Kansas and Missouri in 1860 instead of in New York. My first 'western,' as it were. I'm really anxious to get it out there and see if it attracts a different audience. I'm reworking a contemporary, the first in a series about three generations of women in the same family. I need to get the first one done, and done right, before I can go on to the next. And the next story in the Cotillion series, The Widow's Salvation, is due to my publisher on June 1. 

How do my romances differ from others in the genre?
I love to write about lovely ball gowns and high society, but I also have a huge love affair going on with American history. This country is so rich in stories and traditions, so I had to figure out a way to combine the two. My Cotillion series began in New York City in 1855, a year after the debutante ball tradition began in this country. But because America in the late 1850s and early 1860s was filled with western expansion as well as having increasing strife between the North and the South, I felt I needed to explore both worlds–the fairly civilized eastern border of the country which was slowly falling into a mighty war and the frontier, where people took their lives into their hands on a daily basis in an attempt to civilize the remainder of the land. 

As for my contemporary line, I enjoy writing about older heroes and heroines, people who have already been around the block once or twice and who have built up walls around their feelings. The first book in my Barnswallow series features a woman who is getting a divorce after sixteen years of marriage, and a man who has spent his life building a business at the expense of a marriage and several relationships.

Why do I write what I do?
Even though I found American history a bore while I was in school, traveling through the United States awakened my awareness to what a great, diverse country this is. I have four states left to get to, and I hope to cross them off my list soon. I love finding a significant, yet somehow forgotten, event in history and plunking my characters down into the middle of it. Even small events, such as the invention of the trolley car, had a profound impact on the lives of the people living at the time, and I enjoy weaving these little tidbits of history into my story. 

How does my writing process work?
Because the Cotillion books were set up as a nine-book series, my publisher asked me for a synopsis of each book before they'd grant me a contract. That's the first time I've ever written a synopsis first, since I started out as a pantser. My first couple of books had to be rewritten time and again because I didn't do any pre-planning. I found Blake Snyder's Save The Cat book very useful, and use parts of it now to develop plot points at the right time. That helps me with plotting. I use Scrivener, which also helps me keep track of POV and word count. I write fast to get my thoughts down and then go back once I get to the end, and add in details. I call it layering. 

I’m now tagging my fellow Soul Mate Author and someone with whom I share a blog called History Imagined, Caroline Warfield, whose debut novel, Dangerous Works has been selected as a five star top pick from Night Owl Reviews, and one Mary Balogh read in an afternoon and loved. Here's where you can go to find out more about what Carolyn's up to. 

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Setting Goals, Not Making Resolutions

I love this week of the year. The frenzy that is Christmas is over, but the lights are still up so you can take a breath and enjoy the season. And it's not quite New Year's. It's the one week of the year where I reset my internal clock, wipe my desk clear of unfinished projects, and set new goals for the next year.

So, how is that different from making resolutions? It's a known fact that people who make resolutions to join health clubs, lose weight, eat better, finish that book, give up in February or so, since we quickly become overwhelmed with what we've set out to accomplish. Goals are more relaxing, in my mind. You have an entire year to accomplish what you've set out to do. If it doesn't get done in January, or even started, that's okay. There are still eleven months.

Of course, goals need to be worked on during the year, and mustn't be ignored until December. But for some reason, when all the lists of resolutions are balled up and thrown away, I look at my set of goals for the year and keep plugging away on it.

Since you've now listened to my line of rationale, I think it's only fair to share with you my goals for the year. Here they are:

1) This one's non-negotiable, since I'm under contract to finish the last two books in my Cotillion Ball Series, one in June and the last in December. A Widow's Redemption features Pepper, the eldest in the Fitzpatrick family. Her husband dies at Ft. Sumter, during the first battle of the Civil War, and after a year of mourning, she begins to volunteer at a local army hospital and meets a doctor who is as wounded as the men he's attempting to repair. The Forgotten Debutante is about the youngest in the family, Saffron. She comes of age during the Civil War and all the men who should be courting her are off fighting in the war.

2) Finish the rewrite of my contemporary, Barnswallow Summer, and hand it off to my agent.

3) Write the second book in my contemporary series.

4) Get better with social media.

5) Volunteer more hours to my RWA chapter, and make our conference a huge success.

6) Figure out a way to afford the RWA conference in New York City.

7) Take at least one vacation for pleasure rather than to do research for my next book.

8) Spend more time with my family.

9) Lose the cane and walk without aid. (This one should be easy.)

10) Finally start to write Raoul's story.

I'm going to be busy this year, but can't help but think more will crop up than I've thought of. If you can think of anything I've left off the list, please let me know. And let me know what your goals are for the year.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Stuff The Stocking Time--Week Four

I'm recuperating from hip replacement surgery, so I've decided to turn my blog over to my chapter mates in December. We're a prolific group of authors, featuring three Golden Heart finalists in the past two years alone. And we've been published in a variety of ways–from traditional houses to self-publishing to small presses. One thing our books have in common is that they're the results of active imaginations that run the gamut–historical, erotica, contemporary, paranormal, romantic suspense. I'm sure every visitor to the blog this month will find something to load onto a Kindle for a gift, or add it to your own.

American Historical--The Duplicitous Debutante, by Becky Lower

   In 1859, ladies of New York society were expected to do three things well: find a husband, organize a smooth-running household, and have children. 
   Rosemary Fitzpatrick’s agenda is very different. As the author of the popular Harry Hawk dime novels, she must hide her true identity from her new publisher, who assumes the person behind the F. P. Elliott pen name is male. She must pose as his secretary in order to ensure the continuation of her series. And in the midst of all this subterfuge, her mother is insisting that she become a debutante this year. 
   Henry Cooper is not the typical Boston Brahmin. Nor is he a typical publisher. He’s entranced by Mr. Elliott’s secretary the moment they meet, and wonders how his traditional-thinking father will react when he brings a working class woman into the family. Because his intentions are to marry her, regardless.
Rosemary’s deception begins to unravel at the Cotillion ball, when Henry recognizes her. The secretarial mask must come off, now that he knows she is a member of New York society. But she can’t yet confess who she truly is until she knows if Henry will accept her as F. P. ElliottThe more time they spend together, the closer they become. But when Rosemary reveals her true identity to him, will Henry be able to forgive her or has her deceit cost her the man she loves?

Historical Romance--Lady Catherine's Secret, by Sheridan Jeane

Winner of the Where the Magic Begins contest for Best Historical Romance 

London, 1853. Despite Lady Catherine's love of fencing, she needs to stop pretending to be a boy and fraternizing with men…but not until after she competes in the upcoming fencing tournament! Her mother plans to marry her off by the end of the season, so this will be her last chance to enjoy her freedom. When she impulsively puts her reputation at risk to save the life of a dashing competitor, all seems lost when he sees through her disguise. 

Daniel, Marquess of Huntley, wants to overcome the rumors of his father's madness so that he can be embraced by London society. His plan is to marry the most proper woman who will have him, and then raise stable, respectable children. He certainly isn't interested in some hoyden with a penchant for masquerading as a boy and flaunting society's rules. In fact, he'd prefer to keep his distance. 

When an obsessed suitor discovers Catherine's secret and threatens blackmail, the only path out of social ruin is marriage. But what kind of protection does matrimony provide when a vengeful suitor is plotting the ultimate revenge?

Regency Historical--The Seduction of Sophie Seacrest, by Mary Campisi

Love and Betrayal...Regency Style

The Seduction of Sophie Seacrest is Book One of Mary Campisi's Regency historical series, An Unlikely Husband.

When Holt Langford, the new Earl of Westover, returns to England after twelve years at sea, he resembles more pirate than nobleman, a far cry from the scrawny youth whose father shipped off to become a man. No one recognizes him, and he'll use this anonymity to enter a game of subterfuge in order to expose the scoundrel who has vowed to destroy Holt's family business.

Unfortunately, that scoundrel has a devoted daughter, Sophie Seacrest. Sophie can't deny her attraction to the unorthodox stranger who stirs her blood and makes her thick things no proper lady should. Holt and Sophie are drawn into a seductive tangle and just when he's about to reveal his true identity and his honorable intentions, she discovers the truth and must choose between love and family duty. 

An Unlikely Husband Series:Book One: The Seduction of Sophie Seacrest (Sophie & Holt’s story)Book Two: A Taste of Seduction (Francie & Alexander’s story)Book Three: A Touch of Seduction: a novella (Ariana & Jason’s story)Book Four: A Scent of Seduction (Julia & Jon’s story)

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Stuff The Stocking Time--Week Three

I'm recuperating from hip replacement surgery, so I've decided to turn my blog over to my chapter mates in December. We're a prolific group of authors, featuring three Golden Heart finalists in the past two years alone. And we've been published in a variety of ways–from traditional houses to self-publishing to small presses. One thing our books have in common is that they're the results of active imaginations that run the gamut–historical, erotica, contemporary, paranormal, romantic suspense. I'm sure every visitor to the blog this month will find something to load onto a Kindle for a gift, or add it to your own.

Contemporary--Pulling Home, by Mary Campisi

It’s all about that second chance…

Sometimes we’re lucky enough to get that second chance—in life and in love. That Second Chance Series are stories of strong women who battle heartache and loss with courage and determination to find new paths and true love. These books are standalones and are NOT related. Therefore, the characters from one story will not appear in another. What ties them together? A common theme—belief in the beauty of that second chance.

Pulling Home is Book One in That Second Chance Series.

She'll risk anything to save her child…even the truth

It’s taken nine years and a cross-country move, but Audra Valentine Wheyton has kept her secrets safe. She’s created the perfect life—a husband who loves her, a daughter she adores, and a position as head writer for an award-winning daytime soap. When her husband dies suddenly, Audra returns to her hometown for the funeral and faces a community that has not forgotten her meager beginnings and a man who has never forgiven her for marrying his brother.
Jack Wheyton is a successful pediatric neurosurgeon who is about to become engaged when Audra walks back into his life with her daughter. He forgave his brother long ago for taking something that had been his, something he hadn’t even realized he wanted until it was gone. But forgiving Audra is another story…and forgetting her? Near impossible.
When a shattering illness strikes Audra’s daughter, she turns to Jack to save her child and risks exposing a secret that will change their lives forever.

That Second Chance Series
Book One: Pulling Home - She'll risk anything to save her child...even the truth
Book Two: The Way They Were - Tragedy tore them apart, destiny will bring them back together
Book Three: Simple Riches - What is real weath?
Book Four: Paradise Found - How does one see truly? With the heart or with the eyes?
Book Five: Not Your Everyday Housewife
Book Six: The Butterfly Garden

BONUS MATERIAL: Included in this book is 2 Chapters from The Way They Were: That Second Chance, Book 2

Historical Romance--It Takes A Spy, by Sheridan Jeane

In 1851, Cecilia Paring has serious reservations about marrying her fiancé, Devin Montlake. Gone is the boy who could capture her heart with a word or a glance and in his place is a man who has made it clear that to be a proper barrister's wife, the exciting and impulsive Cecilia must change as well. 

Although Devin Montlake loves his orderly life as a barrister, he's determined to follow his roadmap to achieve his goal of becoming a judge. His biggest obstacle seems to be convincing his headstrong fiancée to fulfill her social obligations with a modicum of propriety. But when the jewelry collection belonging to Cecilia's family is stolen the night before it is to be auctioned off and Devin is framed for the crime, he discovers that following his much-loved rules won't solve this particular problem. He'll need the inventiveness of his irrepressible fiancée to catch the thief.

Erotica--All Of You, by Jacqueline Anne

Alayna Taylor is a dedicated wife, loving mother, and opened her dream business. A tragic accident overturns her perfect life. Pushing through, she finds strength to move on as a mother and business owner. Then she looks for what she wants as a woman and pursues the man of her erotic dreams, her children’s doctor. 
Adam Bryant is a caring, gentle man, the perfect pediatrician. He has dedicated his life to caring for others and always followed the “everything happens for a reason” motto.  A text from his patients’ mother has him ringing her doorbell. 
Alayna is clear that she is a package deal and protects her heart and kids. Adam discovers a hungry sexual side that only she brings out of him with her strength and seductive ways. He is determined to show Alayna how much he cares about all of her with his thoughtful, mind blowing surprises. 
Both Alayna and Adam find themselves wanting a whole lot more.

Contemporary Romance--The Bodyguard's Baby (Billionaire Bodyguard Series), by Kristi Avalon

Will one precious bundle change everything? 

Used to guarding tycoons and government officials, former Navy SEAL Slone Rowan assumes playing live-in bodyguard to a second grade teacher will be easy. But Lindsey Graham becomes a temptation he never expected. Every day with her weakens his resolve to stay detached so she doesn’t discover the guilt he carries with him from his dark past. 

Still on edge after a traumatic kidnapping, Lindsey’s lifelong dream comes into sharp focus – to have a baby of her own. However, doctors warn a childhood illness impacts her chances of conceiving. While exploring fertility treatments, she realizes her most alluring option is only a bedroom away… 

Can Slone’s desire for Lindsey and the promise of the family he’s denied himself breach his defenses and heal his battle-scarred heart?

Contemporary Romance--The Road To Comfort, by Becky Lower

Juliette St.James has only done two impetuous things in her life, and the first resulted in her becoming a single parent at age 18. Now, she’s embarking on a cross-country trip to celebrate becoming an empty-nester. Not sure of what she will do now that she’s flying solo, she comes face-to-face with her worst nightmare—a cowboy.

Cyclone Kelley is a former rodeo cowboy who has broken one too many body parts to continue on the rodeo circuit. But the one body part that can’t be fixed by putting it into a cast is his heart, which was broken when his wife died. He wasn’t home to save her, and feels he’s unworthy for any kind of lasting relationship with a woman, so his life has been a meaningless string of one-nighters.

One broken car and an equally broken cowboy later, they are forced to decide if love is worth gambling on what could be. Or if tornadoes, and Cyclones, are better left alone.

Buy Link:

Paranormal/Urban Fantasy--Shifter Wars, by AE Jones

Why did the demon cross the road? Apparently to escape from Kyle McKinley. Which is more than fine with her.

The last thing she wants is to be dragged into another supernatural crisis, but the Fates have something more interesting in store for her. Since the tricky wenches love to mess with people, Kyle isn’t really surprised. And once she learns Trina, the young shifter girl whose memory she erased, is being stalked again, Kyle will do whatever it takes to protect her.

Normally a secretive group, the shifters reluctantly agree to allow Kyle and her vampire and demon teammates to investigate. Are the poachers who kidnapped Trina back for revenge?  But when other shifters are also targeted, Kyle becomes convinced there is more to the attacks than vengeance. And when the violence escalates and Griffin, the enigmatic leader of the shifters, ends up in the crosshairs, the team braces for a bloodbath.

Scrambling to identify the mysterious group bent on destroying the shifters, and why, Kyle is also haunted by dreams and painful flashes from the prophesied Key of Knowledge which has taken up residence in her brain. In typical Kyle fashion, she decides to ignore it, but the more she ignores it, the more it digs its claws into her consciousness. If she can’t learn to embrace the Key and ask for help from those closest to her, she could lose her sanity before she’s able to prevent a shifter civil war.