Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Writers' Wednesday: What's In A Name? Talking About Book Titles

Happy Hump Day, everyone! Aren't titles - of days, of places, of books - interesting? I blogged over at Long and Short Reviews this week all about my thought process behind titling the 3 novellas in my Cocktail Cruise series. Want to know where the heck Tequila Sunrise, Sex on the Beach, and Between the Sheets came from? Hop on over and see :)




Monday, August 18, 2014

Monday Mentionables: A Review of Against Her Rules by Victoria Barbour

What's up today? Another review of a book included in the Passionate Kisses Boxed Set! This time it's Against Her Rules by Victoria Barbour, a sweet, fast-paced story set in beautiful Newfoundland:


Thriving business? Check. 
Sexual exploits with a rockstar? Check. 
Complete independence? Check. 

Elsie Walsh had it all. Or so she thought. Until Scottish hunk Campbell Scott showed up on the doorstep of her bed and breakfast. He’s making it pretty hard for her to stand by her one rule: No sleeping with the guests. She’s denied some of the world’s hottest actors, musicians, and even royals... but how can she keep Cam out of her bed, when he’s invaded her head and her heart? 

Campbell Scott went to the wilds of Newfoundland with one thing on his mind: sketch some birds, and then get back to his playboy lifestyle in London. But one look at his sexy hostess and there’s a whole lot more in the air than sea birds. Rejection isn’t part of his vocabulary, and Cam sets out to not only convince Elsie that he belongs in her bed, but by her side at the Heart’s Ease Inn.


Victoria Barbour has a wonderful writer's voice, and the setting and characters come alive in this story. Elsie is full of fire and determination, and Cam is a sexy Scot who meets his match in Elsie and finally realizes that there's more to relationships than jumping in and out of bed. While there are great, hot sex scenes in this story, it's mostly about the whirlwind romance between these two. It's a very sweet, sincere story about two people who meet and just know they're supposed to be together. They don't hem and haw around but give in to their feelings and make us, the readers, believe that it can be that magical for us as well. The setting also comes alive with rich detail - now I want to move to Newfoundland! I'm glad there are more books in this series, because I will be picking up Hard as Ice, the next, to find out what happens in the town of Heart's Ease next!

And don't forget, readers - you can own all ten of these sizzling romances for only $0.99. Our set is still on sale - just click below!


Friday, August 15, 2014

In Memory of Robin Williams

It was  a sad beginning to this week, the announcements of Robin Williams' death. Among the many tributes, statements, and video clips I've read and watched, I think the one of most poignant comes from this quote by David Foster Wallace about suicide:


“The so-called ‘psychotically depressed’ person who tries to kill herself doesn’t do so out of quote ‘hopelessness’ or any abstract conviction that life’s assets and debits do not square. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. The person in whom its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames. And yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘Don’t!’ and ‘Hang on!’, can understand the jump. Not really. You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.”

Certainly, the depths that depression and mental illness reaches cannot be underestimated. I do hope that amid the sadness and shock of Williams' death comes a greater awareness of, and compassion for, mental illness and the havoc it can wreak on an individual. 

To the mighty and talented Robin Williams, I hope you're resting in peace. Finally.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Writers' Wednesday: A Peek Inside Book Three

Yes, yes, I know that Sex on the Beach, the second book in the Cocktail Cruise series, just released. But I'm busy at work on the third and final book in the series, Between the Sheets, where single mother Andrea and dance instructor Sebastian get their romance (finally!). Want to see a peek inside one of the early scenes?

Her cabin was twice the size of his, with a sliding glass door that led to a balcony. Precioso. So beautiful. He stood for a minute looking out into the black. She closed the door and slipped off her shoes, silver sandals with buckles that glittered. She sank onto the small loveseat and stretched out her toes. “I don’t have anything fancy to offer you to drink,” she said with a little laugh. “I think there’s bottled water or cold sodas in the fridge, though.”
“It is fine. I do not want anything.” Sebastian picked up the television remote. “May I? There is music on some of the channels. Good for relaxing.”
She nodded. “Go ahead. I don’t even know what’s on.”
He found a station playing soft Latin music, the one he sometimes listened to before bed.
Her head dropped back on the loveseat. He remained standing where he was. “Do you like working here?” she asked.
“I’m not –” What was she really asking? Women, American women especially, always seemed to have a second or third meaning in their words. Did he like the guests? The captain? His actual job of teaching three or four classes a day to people who didn’t know the difference between the cha cha and the mambo?
“I know you said it was a good change for you.” She opened her eyes again. “But what do you really think? You’ve been on board – how long? Almost a year?”
He nodded.
“What do you think we could change? What would make people happier?”
Ah, happiness. “I am not sure I am the best person to answer that question.”
“What do you mean?”
“Only that I am still trying to figure it out myself. True happiness, what it means, where it comes from. How to find it again after it disappears.”
She looked at him for a long minute, saying nothing. Her eyes shifted to the television, where a blue line zig-zagged across the screen as the music played. “That is nice,” she said. “I don’t know what it is, but you’re right. It’s soothing.”
He hesitated a moment, then held out one hand. "Would you like to dance?"
"Here?" She looked around. “Is there enough room?”
"Does not take much.” He smiled. “I do know this: happiness for me comes when I am dancing. When there is music in my soul, when my feet can move, then nothing else matters.”
She stood, her bare toes peeking out from beneath her dress. “Well, how can I turn down an offer like that?” She took his hand. “I have to tell you, though, except for this morning, when you were showing me the tango, I haven’t danced in years.” She blushed, and her fingers tightened around his. “I mean, I haven’t danced with anyone.”
“It’s nothing. It’s like – what do you Americans say? Like riding a bicycle. You do not forget. It is like breathing." His free hand went to the small of her back. "Let me lead."
A worry line appeared between her brows, and her spine stiffened. He shook her fingers to loosen them. It had been forever since he'd taught a private lesson, since he'd had a woman who looked more concerned about where to put her feet than trying to peel off his clothes. It felt good. Refreshing.
The music changed, and the tempo picked up. He smiled and nodded to himself. They could move easily to this one. But three beats into the song, Andrea turned fire-engine red. She froze, her hand gripping his as though she were balancing on a two-inch ledge. “I’m sorry. I have no idea what I’m doing.”
He pressed his palm into the small of her back. “Just follow. Try to relax.”
Her lips parted in a breathless laugh. "I'm not sure the last time I actually did that. I might not remember how."

The song changed again, and he improvised a few dance steps, just to put some space between them. At that, she smiled, and turned on her tiptoes in the small cabin, mimicking his motion. Ay dios mio, he had a hard time looking away from her. “See? You are very much a good dancer.” She twirled again, only this time she stumbled a little at the end – straight into him. 

Coming in September 2014!!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Monday Mentionables: The Cocktail Cruise Series Continues!

Happy Monday everyone! The big mention today? Sex on the Beach, the second book in the Cocktail Cruise series, is now available on Kindle! (or, if you have a Nook, order your copy over at Smashwords, since it's not up at Barnes and Noble yet).

Blurb:
Two people who’ve always played at love discover the stakes are higher when they let down their guard and open their hearts…

Cassidy Arnez is an elementary school teacher with an enormous secret: a sexually adventurous online life that she leads under a foolproof alias. Her motto has always been to enjoy sex and the single life as much as possible. With a deadbeat dad and a brother who died in combat, she knows she can’t rely on any man to stick around.

Bryce Anderson enjoys his bachelor life as the CFO of a major cruise line, a position that gets him all the sun, sand, and women he could want. But he meets his match in Cass, who’s even less interested in commitment than he is, and her casual, confident sexuality turns him on more than anyone he’s ever met.


When a financial crisis at Cass’s school places her, and her coveted secret identity, at the center of a small town firestorm, she must decide whether she’ll let Bryce become the first man she’ll trust with both her secrets and her heart. 

Excerpt
Bryce ran the back of one hand down her bare arm as he leaned over to flag the bartender. Electricity shot all the way up to Cass's shoulder, and something deliciously warm and familiar tingled between her legs. She brushed his shoulder as she reached for her drink, telegraphing a message that registered in the light of his eyes.

He took a long swallow of his beer, then rested one elbow on the bar and turned toward her. Two inches, maybe one, separated them. She could smell him. If she leaned forward, she could probably taste him. And damn, but that mouth looked like it would know what to do on a woman’s body.

“That pick-up line, by the way?” she said. “The good-luck charm? Weak.”

He clutched his chest as if she’d shot him. “Was it that bad?” The corner of his mouth quirked up. “I thought it had flair.” He touched the neck of his beer bottle to her glass. “Women like flair.”

Cass crossed one leg over the other and let her dress ride up. “Flair is over-rated.” She ran her fingers through her hair, loose and falling past her shoulders. “It takes more than that to win a girl over.” A nice ass will do, though, she thought. Good smile and wit helped too, and so far Bryce was three for three, though she wouldn’t tell him that.

“Decided to take the free cruise?”

“I did.”

“How’s your friend Louise?”

“She’s fine. Spends a lot of time with Toby, but I’m guessing you already know that.” She sipped her martini. “What about your buddy? The one from the bachelor party? He get married yet?”

“Yep. Valentine’s Day.” He cocked his head when she didn’t answer. “I take it you're not a fan?”

“Of marriage? Or Valentine’s Day?” Not either one, she wanted to say.  She set her glass down after another sip. “Thanks for the drink. But I think I’ll be going.” First conversations never needed to last longer than a few minutes. She’d leave him wanting more... 


Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Writers' Wednesday: The Pros and Cons of Being a Boxed Set Author

Hello readers! Most of you know that I'm one of ten authors included in the Passionate Kisses: Ten Sizzling Contemporary Romances Boxed Set that released back in June. Since the boxed set as a general concept seems to be enjoying its heyday in 2014, and so many other authors are jumping on board, I thought I'd share my experiences in this endeavor.

Background: an author put out a call for any interested authors to join her in publishing a boxed set, back in May. She was looking for contemporary and/or romantic suspense, and it turned out that the result was so overwhelming that she got enough authors to do 2 sets. She selected 9 authors, plus her, for the contemporary romance set with the stipulation that all books be ready to go, since she was aiming for a June/early July release.

First, we set up a private Facebook page for our group where we could discuss everything related to the set. We chose June 23, a Monday, for our release, since the "big lists" (New York Times and USA Today) record weekly sales beginning then. We spent about 5 weeks choosing a title, deciding on a cover, getting the set formatted, and setting up marketing. We decided to price the set at $0.99 to drive sales.

For marketing, we established a Facebook Page and we made up a schedule for the 3 weeks leading up to June 23 so that each day, at least 2 authors posted - teasers, background info, biographical trivia, pictures, etc. We held a Facebook launch party on June 24. We booked cover ads and participated in The Romance Studio's release party on June 28. We posted on Facebook groups. We ran ads with Kindle Boards, Kindle Books and Tips, The Romance Studio's newsletter, Digital Book Spot, Book Gorilla, Kindle Nation Daily and Ereader News Today (which was the most effective). We all made efforts to blog, tweet, and Facebook about the set in its opening days and weeks.

While I did not handle any of the formatting or uploading tasks, I do know we ran into a little trouble with creating and uploading from our Nook account. I also did not handle any of the sales or royalty reporting or distributing. We have two gals from the set who are bravely handling all that.

While one of our primary goals was to make a "list," we didn't :( But we did sell well, at least in my opinion. Since our June 23 release, we have sold just over 30,000 copies of our boxed set. Since the royalty on $0.99 = $0.35, divided by 10 authors, you'll see that we each received 3 cents for every set sold. Not exactly tons of money. BUT when you multiply 3 cents by 30,000, you'll see that each author's royalty to date is approximately $900.00 I will also add that in dividing the marketing costs by 10 authors, we all spent less than $100 each on marketing.

So...what do I think? Would I do it again?

Pros:

1. Working with other authors. You can discover marketing strategies and opportunities you never heard of before. Plus, being part of a boxed set, you'll gain readers that follow other authors, who might never have heard of you. They buy the set, discover your writing, and bam! You have a new fan. My book in this set, Beacon of Love, is the first in the Hometown Heroes series. The second in the series, Inferno of Love, saw increased sales in July, and I will credit most of those to readers finishing the set and wanting to read more. Yay! Also, since my book is the 9th in the set, I'm assuming it will take readers a while to get there, so I hope these secondary sales will continue into the next couple of months.

2. Sharing the costs. An ad that costs $200, divided by 10 authors (or even 5 authors) is much more manageable than paying for it on your own.

3. Making money. As I said before, it cost me less than $100 to participate in this set, and between the set's royalties and my own books selling as a result of the increased exposure, this was definitely a money-making effort for me.

4. Finding new friends. Thanks to this set, I have a new beta reader who connects really well with me - plus I also have 9 new virtual author friends I didn't have before. I will caution, I don't think this is the case with all boxed sets. Combining personalities for a business venture can be tricky. I think we REALLY lucked out, in that all 10 of us carried our weight and worked well for the common goal of selling.

Cons:

1. Working with other authors. I say this tongue-in-cheek, because again, I had a good group to work with. But be aware that you will be interacting with people who might have very different personalities than you. There will be disagreements. My advice is to make clear from the start your goals for the set and your expectations for each author, as much as you can.

2. The number of authors involved. I think 10 is a lot. Yes, it's nice to split the cost of an ad 10 ways, but it's a lot of people to coordinate with, it's a lot of people to split royalties with, and if you're at the back of the set, like I am, there's a good chance your book either won't get read, or won't get read for a very long time.

3. Having different kinds of books. I don't think this was a huge issue for us, but it was a minor one. We have a couple of books that end with a deliberate cliff-hanger, and some readers didn't like that. We couldn't market our set as being "10 complete novels without cliff-hangers" and so we may have lost a few readers. Considering the 30,000 sales, though, I'm not as concerned with that as I was a month ago. Also make sure that your heat levels are relatively the same, or that you market your set clearly so readers know what to expect. A couple of our books are much closer to 4 or 5 flames than the 3 flames of the others - again, not a huge deal, but some advertising places won't take books that aren't "family friendly."

4. Paying for ads. Make sure from the start that everyone agrees about how payment will work. I know some boxed sets put all their royalties back into marketing costs. Some pool their money (an agreed-upon amount, ahead of time) and pay for ads out of that pool. With us, one person generally just suggested an ad, and if most people agreed, that person would book it, pay for it, and add it to a file we keep listing all costs paid out. We'd put a general announcement on our private Facebook page as to how much it cost per person, and the others would pay via PayPal. However, because everyone has different financial situations, some couldn't pay the ad costs right away, and so those costs will come out of their royalties. Keep in mind that royalties pay out anywhere from 2-4 months after sales, though, which means there's a delay in paying each other as well. Again, make clear with your group how you will handle things like that.

Would I do it again? Probably. For the minor difficulties we ran into, the new readers and the money was worth it, for me. And if for some reason you haven't yet picked up a copy of Passionate Kisses, it's still on sale for $0.99. Be our 30,001st sale!

Monday, August 04, 2014

Monday Mentionables: A Review of Good Cop by Liz Kelly

Good morning everyone! Today I'm blogging about the fabulous Liz Kelly's book in the Passionate Kisses Boxed Set, Good Cop:


Lolly DuVal has signed on to help Henderson’s ‘Golden Boy’ learn to loosen up, shake his good cop image, and embrace his inner bad-boy. Yum! 

At the same time, she’s coaching the town’s notorious ‘Great Seducer’ on how to appreciate women outside the bedroom. Hmmm. 

And the two of them are best friends. 

What could possibly go wrong?


I loved this book! Kelly has a wonderful, easy-to-read writing style that combines romance with comedy in a perfect balance. Her dialogue rings true on every page, and I became completely invested in these characters and their lives. I especially liked and appreciated the dual romance, focused on both the 20-something Lolly and her 40-something mother Genevra's search for love. The friendship and love triangle between Brooks, Vance, and Lolly is compelling and believable, not always an easy trick in a contemporary romance. The minor characters are well developed, the small town of Henderson is brought to life, and I most definitely will be picking up the next book in this series, Bad Cop. Readers, grab this one now!