And Finally a Sequel!

rosa's storyGuest blog by Heather Lin, author of Rosa’s Story

I’m excited to be back at Love Romance Passion to discuss my latest release, Rosa’s Story. A few years ago, I was here promoting my contemporary romance novella, Westridge, and this—finally—Is one of two sequels I’d had planned from the start.

You’re probably wondering why it took so long (three years, I think?) to write and release these interconnected, standalone novellas, and there are a few reasons. The first is that I wasn’t organized! I always have a million ideas swimming around in my head at one time, and I moved on to a futuristic romance novel, always having the intention of coming back to Westridge and completing the trilogy I’d intended for it to be.

But then the publisher I’d been working with breached their contract, I received my rights back on both books, and I had to figure out where to go from there. It took a while, but in the end I decided to choose self-publishing.

I’d always been under the impression that self-publishing was simply an outlet for those who couldn’t get a publisher or agent to show interest in their work. But I realized nowadays that isn’t always the case. People aren’t self-publishing through Kindle and Nook because no one else will accept their work, but because there is very little publishers (e-publishers, especially) can do for authors that they cannot do for themselves.

So I decided to give it a shot. I published a short anthology called Scandal and Other Erotic Tales to test the water. Picking out my own cover art was so much fun, and I found a friend who knew how to format files for Kindle and Nook. It went well, so I republished Westridge (which is available for free from Amazon this week only!), and I realized something—I was actually having fun with writing again.

Don’t get me wrong, the writing process is always a blast. The submission process, however, is not. It’s hard to plan a trilogy when each individual novella has to be queried and considered. There’s never any telling if you’ll love the cover art or hate it. You have no control over release dates or the editors you’re working with, and most of the time you end up doing all of the promotion yourself.

With self-publishing, I get to make the rules. It’s made the entire process fun again. Instead of stressing out over submissions, I’m getting to do what I love best—write! Which means more time, more creativity, and more stories for you lovely people!

So without further ado, here is an excerpt from my latest novella, Rosa’s Story. Be sure to keep an eye out for the third novella in the trilogy, Caitlin’s Story, which will be released in early November.

Blurb

Rosa has a beautiful daughter and a great relationship with her ex-husband, Jason. But when his childhood sweetheart returns to the small town of Westridge, she begins feeling left out and insecure. She just can’t get used to the idea of sharing her daughter with another woman, and their picture perfect love story makes her lack of a love life feel like a glaring failure.

In the midst of her emotional upheaval, she meets Dylan, a burly, tattooed construction worker who soothes her wounded pride and aching heart. They enter into a fast-paced, passionate affair, and Rosa finds herself falling for him in just a matter of weeks.

Against his better judgement, Dylan falls for Rosa, too. But he’s in no position to be in a relationship. He doesn’t have a car, he doesn’t have a place of his own, and he has the kind of past that matches his rough appearance. He’s made mistakes Rosa couldn’t possibly forgive, and he may never get up the courage to admit to them.

The result? A ticking time bomb of a romance that’s sure to rock both their worlds and leave neither unscathed.

Buy: Rosa’s Story (Westridge Book 2)

Excerpt

“Mommy, I want to pick flowers.”

Rosa glanced in her rearview mirror. Penny was strapped in her booster seat, looking out at the wildflowers by the edge of a wide, green cornfield.

“Later, baby.”

The field belonged to Mr. Dawson, and half a mile back it met with the Joneses’ field. In one more minute, they’d be at Jason’s house, the one he and Rosa had once shared and he now shared with Gabby Jones. The families were all connected, as if it were always meant to be.

She was separate, living ten minutes east, close to the library where she worked, barely outside of the tiny trailer park in which she’d been raised. She was back to being Rosa Nelson, mother of Penny Dawson, ex-wife of Jason Dawson, and, as she pulled into the familiar driveway and parked in front of the garage, intruder in Gabby Jones’s new home.

Rosa had been the one to leave. She’d taken Penny and moved out after a year of trying to make it work, a year of trying to be someone she wasn’t. She was happy for her ex-husband. She’d encouraged him to reconcile with his childhood sweetheart, but she couldn’t help feeling tiny stabs of jealousy and disappointment. She didn’t fit in.

“Mary had a little lamb, little lamb…”

Penny swung her legs back and forth, singing to herself, waiting patiently for her mother to release her from her restraints. This was the first time Rosa would be dropping her daughter off at the house without Jason present.

Gabby had been back in Westridge for two months now, except for a brief trip to the city to get her affairs in order. The pretty redhead was set to open a new branch of Flowers by Gabby in Middleford in one month. Today, Rosa had to work, and Jason had an emergency repair. “Why not let Gabby have her?” he’d said. He’d meet them in the afternoon for lunch.

Rosa couldn’t say no. Of course leaving her daughter with Gabby was fine. Why wouldn’t it be fine? Rosa was Penny’s mother. She couldn’t be replaced.

She glanced in the mirror again, this time angling it so she could see herself. Her curled hair was perfect, shoulder-length at full volume. Her ruby red lipstick was flawless. She was in great shape.

She was not the type of woman whose confidence should be failing.

Rosa readjusted the mirror and stepped out of her car. She opened the back door to let Penny out of her seat.

“Are you ready to visit Gabby, baby?” she asked the four-year-old.

“Yes, Mommy. We have fun together.”

“I’m glad you do.”

Rosa lifted the round-faced girl into her arms. She was the spitting image of her mother—those same big blue eyes and curly blond hair. Rosa had relied too much on those good looks in high school, throwing herself at boys and compromising her self-respect. She was ashamed now of the way she’d acted, especially toward Jason. She prayed every day her daughter would make better decisions than she had.

They approached the front steps of the white and blue rancher. The door opened, and Gabby stood there with a friendly smile. She wore a cute, dark blue romper that screamed city girl, but the flannel shirt—which Rosa was quite sure belonged to Jason—spoke of her small town roots. She was cute. She’d grown up.

“Hi, Rosa,” she greeted. Her tone was pleasant enough, but Rosa knew she still wasn’t comfortable around her. “And hello, Penny.” She smiled warmly and tugged gently on the little girl’s hair.

“Hi, Gabby.” Penny squirmed, and Rosa let her down, smoothing the little yellow dress her daughter wore before letting her run inside to play.

The two women were left standing alone together. Rosa was a pro at seeming confident, even when she wasn’t. Gabby never had been. Her hazel eyes flitted nervously between Rosa and the door. Neither of them knew what to say. Rosa held nothing against Gabby, but that didn’t mean it was easy to see her standing in the doorway of her old home. And she was sure it was just as difficult for Gabby to see her boyfriend’s ex-wife standing in the doorway of her new home.

“Would you like to come in for coffee?” Gabby asked.

Rosa blinked. She hadn’t expected that. She knew Gabby only said it to break the awkward silence. She expected Rosa to politely decline and be on her merry way. But Rosa didn’t have the desire to make it that easy. They were in this together, no matter how awkward it was, and they needed to be able to sit down and have a cup of coffee together.

“Sure,” she agreed.

Buy: Rosa’s Story (Westridge Book 2)

Get into Bed with Deb Marlowe (Author Interview 3)

love listKeira: What is the Harris List of Covent Garden Ladies?

Deb Marlowe: The Harris List of Covent Garden Ladies was a real publication, an annual register of lightskirts (prostitutes) in London.  It was widely popular in the 18th century and had faded out of existence by the Regency.  It was written in a light tone, meant to be witty, but I find it sad.  The List would have a name and address for each woman, along with a description of her, often mentioning her best assets and what her ‘specialties’ might be.

Keira: How is Miss Brynne Wilmott mixed up in all of this?

Deb: Brynne Wilmott had the misfortune of discovering that Lord Marstoke, her betrothed, was dark, dangerous and deranged, and that her father was unwilling or unable to help her escape the betrothal.  She makes the difficult decision to leave her old life behind and takes refuge with Hestia Wright, the former courtesan who has pledged to help all women in trouble, at Half Moon House.  At the time she had no idea that Hestia was also Marstoke’s most hated enemy–or that he would revive the Love List as a means of revenge on them both.

Keira: Why does Nathan Russell, the Duke of Aldmere, agree to help her?

Deb: He does so against his will. :) Experience has taught him that Fate is fickle and interfering in others’ lives only leads to worse trouble–and disaster.  He prefers to live a safe, solitary existence on his ducal pedestal, and has no intention of becoming involved in Brynne Wilmott’s affairs, despite her temptations.  But they discover that his brother is also mixed up in the Love List affair–and has gone missing.  Reluctantly, they decide to work together, and find that there is far more going on than meets the eye.

Keira: What reasons helped make your decision to self-publish The Love List ?

Deb: There were many reasons, but the ones I’m most happy with are the ability to write longer than I could for my previous publisher, and the opportunity to write the sort of book that I’ve been longing to write, one that has a grand adventure to match the passionate romance.  I have to say, I’ve also loved having a say in cover design and other elements for the first time, too. :)

Keira: How did you decide on your title for the novel?

Deb: It went through several incarnations, but with my critique partners and agent’s help, we pared it down to a catchy one that fits well with the rest of the series.

Keira: When and how did you first get into romance novels? What made you leap into writing them?

Deb: I started reading Romances when I was young–as a teenage I shared books by Judith McNaught, Kathleen Woodiwiss, Dorothy Garlock and Jude Devereaux with my Mom and Grandmother.  We loved talking about the books and it was a real bonding item for us.  I’ve read Romance ever since.  Even then I dreamed about writing them, but had to take a more practical path in life. :) When my Eldest was born with some health problems I had to stay home with him and I took the chance to start writing then.  And I’ve never looked back!

Keira: Would you rather travel for a week to and around Great Britain or time travel back to the Regency era of Great Britain? Why? Would your answer change if it was a weekend instead of a week?

Deb: If I knew it was only to be a weekend or a week, I’d snatch at the chance to see the Regency era in person.  What an eye-opener that would be!  But only if I knew I could come back here, to hot showers and advanced medicine. :)

Keira: What was the most interesting tidbit you found while researching this novel?

Deb: There are so many!  Studying the darker world of brothels, madams, courtesans and prostitutes was fascinating, as was delving deeper into the political intrigues that were happening in England and abroad during this time.  Coming up with my own schemes that also fit into the real history of the time was a huge challenge, but exhilarating!

Keira: What book or movie are you most looking forward to this year?

Deb: Can I make a List of my own? :) I cannot wait for Claudia Dain’s Much Ado about Dutton to be released.  Sabrina Jeffries has a new The Duke’s Men series coming, and Liz Carlyle has In Love With a Wicked Man–and those are only in the next few months!

In movies:  I’m dying to see the Joss Whedon interpretation of Much Ado About Nothing, Star Trek: Into Darkness and the next Avengers movie!

Buy: The Love List (Half Moon House Series)

Self-publishing: Have a Game Plan

Alejandro 500x750 Guest blog by K. Victoria Chase, author of Alejandro

When I was ready to publish my fifth novel, I knew I had to do it myself. There are a host of reasons why authors should self-publish, but many still believe it’s an impossible undertaking. Let me make a molehill out of that mountain.

As with just about anything, especially major decisions, you need to have a game plan; and self-publishing is a major decision. You’re offering your work to the praise and derision of the world. This shouldn’t be taken lightly.

But the weight of the decision can be lightened by knowing exactly what steps to take next. So, after writing that epic book, you need to do a few things before the world is ready for it’s awesomeness. Now, plans can vary, but this is essentially what I’ve learned (and followed) from indie author pioneers.

1. Hire and editor. ‘Nuff said.

2. Hire a formatter. Unless you want to do it yourself. I can tell you from experience (formatting for print using Createspace) the money I spent on both the ebook and print formats was well worth it. Plus, you’ll receive several formats to upload to a variety of places.

3. Hire a cover artist. Why, oh why do people create their own covers? Unless you do it for a living, spare us the cut and paste/drawings/sketches/whatever and let us want to buy your book because of the great cover you’ll be hiring someone to do.

4. Copyright. You don’t have to do this right away, but at least you’ll be covered if ever you need to prove you’re the original creator of that masterpiece.

5. Buy ISBNs. Again, this is optional as many distribution sites allow you to buy/use their free ISBNs (Smashwords, Amazon…)

6. Open Accounts with Distributors. Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords (which will populate a host of others), All Romance Ebooks, etc. Unless you’re participating in Amazon’s KDP Select program, where your book will be sold by Amazon exclusively, have your work sold everywhere so people don’t have to search for it.

Don’t forget to set a price for success=sales. Too high (regardless of what you believe it’s worth) won’t generate sales and too low won’t attract the readers who’ll remember you and buy your next book.

After you upload your edited, formatted, brilliantly-covered, copyrighted, ISBN-tagged work, press publish! You’re officially an indie author. Congratulations. Now, the hard part begins: marketing. But that’s another post.

7. Start writing the next book!

My first self-published title:

Buy: Alejandro (The Santiago Brothers Book Two)

orig_41406_026gtAbout the Author: From childhood, K. Victoria Chase enjoyed writing stories and plays and reading Christian romance. She received degrees in Criminal Justice and Diplomacy and worked as a federal law enforcement officer for several years before deciding to try her hand at writing a complete novel. Today, K. Victoria Chase is an Amazon bestselling author both in the US and the UK. She writes both clean and Christian interracial romance.

Visit K. Victoria Chase at http://www.kvictoriachase.com

Buy: Alejandro

Why I Chose to Self-Publish

Guest post by Michele Gorman, author of Single in the City

You shouldn’t run with scissors. You should say please and thank you. Sometimes it makes sense to do what you’re told, so I rarely run with any sharp instrument and always mind my manners.

Sometimes, though, what you’re told just doesn’t make sense. I’ve been told that American chick lit fans won’t get the humour in a book set outside the US. And I’ve been told that the whole population wretches at the sight of a cupcake on a pastel cover.

I reject these claims, and that’s why I’m self-publishing by novel in the US as an eBook for Kindles, Nooks and iPads, with exactly the kind of cover that has chick lit detractors seeing pink.

When my agent sold Single in the City’s publication rights to Penguin (UK) last year, we held back the US rights. I wanted a US-based publisher for the book’s American launch. After all the main character, Hannah, is American. There’s a strong theme about seeing London through rather baffled American eyes. We thought that surely it would be a great fit for the US market. But sometimes publishers have less faith in the books, and the readers, than we, the writers, do. The US publishers we approached said that the book isn’t right for the American chick lit market. Readers won’t understand the humour of a book set in London, they concluded.

If those publishers are right then Single in the City should only have sold to American women living in London. Yet the book was a best-seller, bought by many nationalities in the UK and thousands of readers abroad. That’s because Hannah’s story is universal. It’s a fish-out-of-water tale. It’s about finding your feet in life and love. And everyone identifies with the cringeworthy humour of making a fool of yourself. I think some US publishers are selling chick lit fans short by claiming they won’t understand the book.

Having decided to self-publish, an even bigger decision loomed: Of the million and one options, I had to design the best cover for the book.  The answer seemed obvious. Steer clear of pastel, illustrated covers.

After all, the press has been abuzz lately with articles denouncing girly pastel covers. Newspaper articles predict the demise of the genre and the term chick lit is used as an insult. Plus, I was launching into the US. American chick lit usually has photographic covers. So clearly American women prefer them over the illustrated covers we tend to have on our British books.

And yet. I’m proud to write chick lit. More than that, I’m proud to write chick lit that stays true to the genre’s light-hearted, humorous roots. I want my cover to reflect the book’s contents. And I don’t care what the critics say. They don’t speak for the readers of the genre, and I don’t write for those critics. I’d much rather have a woman sneer at my cover and pass it by than see her buy it because she doesn’t think it’s chick lit. A wise reader once pointed out that if you market cheese as chocolate, all you do is miss the cheese-lovers and disappoint the chocoholics. I want the cover to proudly declare that this is fun, funny chick lit. I’m happy to forgo some sales to ensure that I reach the women I’m writing for.

And that’s why I’m self-publishing. Like Hannah, I’m taking a leap of faith.

Buy: Single in the City

facebook: www.facebook.com/michelegorman3
twitter: @expatdiaries
website: www.michelegorman.co.uk

Small Press v. Self-Publishing

by Nadia Lee, guest blogger and author of Carnal Secrets

After I walked from the deal on Carnal Secrets (if you want to read about that, please check out the following blog posts: “Read the Fine Print” [http://zoewinters.wordpress.com] and “Walking Away Can Be Hard” [http://kaitnolan.com]), I decided to go it alone.  Doing it myself wasn’t easy though.  In order to succeed, I had to do just as good a job as what the publisher who’d offered would’ve done, if not better.

I’d published with a fairly big epublisher under another name, and so I knew what the basic process entailed.  The most important parts are editing and cover design.  (I’m not including promotion and distribution, as the publisher did virtually no promotion on my behalf, and the review clips I managed to get were due to my own efforts, not to mention how long it took before my book was available on Amazon and other third-party vendors.)

The nicest thing about having a publisher is that it’ll pay for editing, cover and file conversion.  The disadvantage is that you can’t always be sure about the quality of editing you get, especially if you’re dealing with a smaller publisher, and if you’re a beginning author you’ll have zero say on cover and distribution.  I was pretty lucky with editing.  But I wasn’t as lucky with the cover.  Without consulting me or letting me know, the publisher decided at the last minute to put a black-haired model on the cover even though my book had a blond hero and the cover art sheet said so under “Hero Description”.  Neither was I lucky with distribution.  It took months before my book was widely available on third party vendors.

I can’t speak for how other authors self-publish.  Different authors have different attitudes and philosophies.  But the way I approached self-publishing was that I wanted to put out a book that readers wouldn’t mind paying their hard-earned money for.  That meant it needed professional editing and an attractive cover that conveyed the tone of the story, as well as models that matched what the main couple looked like in the book.

I’m more than a little bit of a control freak, and so for me the best thing about self-publishing is that I get to control — everything!  I asked for referrals on freelance editors and hired one who could work within my timeline and budget after having reviewed her credentials.  I also hired Frauke Spanuth from CrocoDesigns, whom I’ve worked with before.  She always does a fabulous job and is a joy to work with. Furthermore, I knew she would design a cover that I thought was appropriate.

The not-so great thing about self-publishing is that you have to pay for everything upfront out-of-pocket.  But I saw it as an investment in my book and career.  I didn’t want to have a poorly edited book that might turn readers off.  Each book is an author’s best chance at creating fans.

Anyway, I loved the work my freelance editor did on Carnal Secrets.  She caught a lot of mistakes, some very embarrassing (like very silly continuity errors and repetitions), some I didn’t even know about (because they were English mechanics that I’d never learned in school, etc.).  We did two rounds of editing, and I felt that with each round, my story was becoming stronger.

And the cover?  All I can say is that Frauke got it perfect.  I couldn’t be more pleased.

After I finished the file conversion for multiple third party distributors, I reviewed the final version of Carnal Secrets with happiness and satisfaction.  Now, here’s the book I can be proud of.  I hope you love it as much as I loved creating it.

For those of you interested in distribution, please stop by Pearl’s World of Romance ( http://www.pearl72.blogspot.com ) next Monday.  I’ll be talking about not only distribution, but a couple of thorny problems called DRM and geographic restrictions.  :-)

Buy: Carnal Secrets

About Nadia Lee:

Bilingual former management consultant Nadia Lee ( http://www.nadialee.net ) has lived in four different countries and enjoyed many adventures and excellent food around the globe. In the last eight years, she has kissed stingrays, got bitten by a shark, ridden an elephant and petted tigers.

She shares an apartment overlooking a river and palm trees in Japan with her husband, an ever-changing collection of winter white hamsters and an ever-widening pile of books. When she’s not writing, she can be found digging through old Asian historical texts or planning another trip.

Carnal Secrets is her latest work.  You can find the blurb and excerpt on her website (http://www.nadialee.net/bookshelf/carnal-secrets/) or purchase a copy from All Romance eBooks, Amazon Kindle US, Amazon Kindle UK, B&N Nook or Smashwords.

From Concept to Print

guestblog

by Carmen Shirkey, guest blogger and author of The List: Can Pefect Be Put On Paper?

CarmenShirkey

Greetings!

As an author of a newly released romantic comedy book, The List, I’m often asked, “Wow! You had time to write a book? How’d you do it?”

Let me just say that getting to the point where I actually saw my idea in print was not an easy process. As a matter of fact, the time from concept to writing was about two years. The time from writing to sending to agents was about one year. The time from giving up on the traditional publishing process (“It’s a great book, but we can’t sell it”) to self-publishing was another two years.

It all started with the idea. I’m an idea person – I always have wacky things floating around in my brain at 2 a.m. I have a friend who is a screenplay writer, and I originally pitched the idea of The List to her. I thought the story of a woman who had a list of qualifications for her next boyfriend would be a universal theme. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve spoken to about the book tell me that their wife had a list, or their sister has a list, or that THEY have a list. One such woman wrote into the advice columnist for the Washington Post asking if she should stick with her list, or let herself be in a relationship with a wonderful man who didn’t match her list. See? Universal.

My screenwriter friend guffawed at me. “It’s your idea, you write it,” she told me. Plus, her genre really wasn’t the happy-ending, mainstream commercial hit.

Then I learned of a Web site called NaNoWriMo.com. This is the site for the National Novel Writing Month competition, and it’s what finally kicked my butt into gear. As an uber-competitive, type-A nut, this was just the thing that it would take to get the story on paper, or at least into the computer anyway. I started on November 1 and wrote about 3,000 words a day for the next 30 days to reach the 55,000-word goal set by the Website. I had to be disciplined. I gave up TV (or just DVR’d everything to watch it in December), I didn’t talk on the phone, no Internet time – I just wrote.

I spent the next few months editing and editing and editing.

Then, I started writing pitch letters. One of my favorite authors, Janet Evanovich, once said that she had a box full of rejection letters from agents. Heck, she now had a gazillion books, and she’s a great writer. So I didn’t get discouraged, at first, with the piles and piles of envelopes containing canned “sorry, but” letters. However, after I had three agents read – and like – my book, but still rejected because they said the market was saturated and they couldn’t sell it, I gave up. It’s bad, I know, but I was disheartened.

thelist

Then, my boyfriend suggested that I publish it myself. “You think it’s so good,” he said, “publish it on your own and prove it.” So, now I have a book in print. I hired an illustrator to design the cover image, I went through a print-on-demand house (though I don’t know that I am happy with how things went) and I launched a marketing campaign.

I have outstanding initial reviews on Amazon, and I’m thrilled that I was right about it being a good read. However, I don’t have the marketing arm of a publishing house to really get it out there. It’s okay, because word-of-mouth is a strong force, and I just think that the right person is going to see it this time. I have faith!

Join in the conversation on The List blog at http://thelistbook.blogspot.com and follow the author on Facebook at http://tinyurl.com/thelistbook or Twitter at http://twitter.com/carmenshirkey.