Thursday, March 31, 2016

What about Kindle Scout?

Hi everyone! As I mentioned in an earlier post, I currently have a Kindle Scout (KS for short) campaign running for my latest release, ZACK'S RANCH. Since launching the campaign, I've learned a few things I wasn't aware of before submitting my book. You can decide if they're pro or con.

Once a book is approved via KS, it is automatically enrolled in the Kindle Unlimited program where members can read for free and authors earn some sort of collective royalty. I'm not too familiar with that program, but I intend to learn more. If you're familiar with it, please share!

Another thing I've learned is that anyone who nominates the book can get the book at no charge once it's published. I'm sure that's a big plus for readers.

One negative for KS is that its campaign links don't always work well. I was told they work best with Firefox, but it's certainly not the most common browser. If a clickable link leads to an error page, the user must cut and paste or try another browser. Technical support is slow to respond and often replies with a general "this is how it works" response rather than addressing a specific problem.

Since most of my thoughts on the program are strictly conjecture, I should put in a little disclaimer now. I really have no idea how Amazon decides which titles get published. At first, I thought it was just a popularity contest. If readers liked it enough to make a nomination, the book would be published (providing the cover and writing were acceptable). But that may not be the case.

When I make a daily check on my submission, I see how many votes it's garnered, but the statistics are far more extensive. I'm guessing there's an Amazon algorithm that keeps track of many contributing factors, including how many hours a book is on a hot and trending list, what percentage of nominations come from external links versus the KS community, what variety of URLs bring the readers to the page. There's a listing of direct traffic from web mail, bookmarks, cut/paste, etc. There's also a listing of URLs from various social media websites like Facebook, Google, Twitter, and personal websites. Lots and lots of factors to consider.

Supposedly, once my 30 day campaign is finished, the KS editorial team will decide if ZACK'S RANCH, should be published. Then it will be another 30 or so days before the book goes live on Amazon. I'm not sure how much the quality of  my writing or the subject matter will count since contemporary westerns are a very small niche in the romance genre, and an even smaller niche in popular fiction.

At this point, I'm torn between wanting my book to succeed with KS for the wide-spread exposure and wanting to make it available for my readers before the summer season. Now that the commitment is made, I'll have to wait, watch and learn.

For those who nominated ZACK'S RANCH, my heartfelt thanks!

For those who wanted to vote, but had trouble, please try cutting and pasting. I'll keep you posted as my campaign progresses.

There's also a clickable link on my website at

Until next time, take care and keep reading!

Hugs, Becky

Wednesday, March 30, 2016


by Blair Bancroft 

I confess to writing a first version of this blog as an article for my website way back when it was shiny new - 15+ years ago. And since then I've updated it for my personal blog, Grace's Mosaic Moments, which has everything from photos of the grandgirls to rants about bad editing, but which mostly features Writing and Editing tips aimed at newbies.

But I suspect most of the Gems blog readers haven't seen "Why Read Romance" before, and maybe you, too, feel the need to justify your passion for the subject. So here it is, the reason I not only write romance but also read it. I hope you find something that strikes a chord.

                      WHY READ ROMANCE?

Have you ever had someone glance at the paperback you were reading and declare scornfully, “I never read romance!” Or perhaps you’re an author sitting hopefully at a book-signing, eager to show off your baby, and someone says exactly the same thing.

Let me tell you, it’s worse than rude. It’s downright cutting.

But, Romance Lovers, don’t rush out to buy a book cover or turn to reading exclusively on electronic devices (to hide your habit). Hold your head high and know you are among the majority of readers and/or authors in the country. Romance is Big Business, outselling all other genres rolled into one.

My personal response to those who ask why I write Romance is that I have always liked Happily Ever After endings. There is so much angst in the world, including in my own life, that my inner self absolutely requires a pick-me-up, and that’s what Romance does. It plunges the characters into major conflicts then drags them out again, reassuring us that life can be beautiful—even if we are still struggling to get to that point.

More than a decade ago, I wrote my first version of  “Why Read Romance” (an article posted to my very first website). Through the years I’ve updated it a time or two, but very little of the article you see below has changed. The joys of Romance remain the same, whether we’re indulging in Contemporary Romance, Romantic Mystery/Suspense, Historical Romance, Fantasy, Paranormal, Futuristic (Romantic SciFi), or any of the other sub-genres of Romance. Whether you’re reading a 40,000-word novella or a 100,000-word “Mainstream.”

Men indulge in sports, tinkering with machines, and a variety of other hobbies, to get away from the stresses of daily life. I suggest that women read Romance for the same reason. We find pleasure in it, and it takes our minds off our personal problems. I’d go so far as to say, reading Romance is a prescription for improved mental health!

If you need an argument for the die-hard skeptics, however, let’s take a moment to analyze the situation. Here’s how I saw it long ago, and nothing since has changed my mind.

                                                                ~ * ~

First of all, whoever said “Love makes the world go round” wasn’t lying. Real Women aren’t afraid to admit it, while so-called Real Men are generally terrified of it. Real Women read Romance because that prized quality called “Heart” lies at the basis of every relationship. We want it, we seek it, we grasp it. We hang on for dear life. For the world would be a cold, dark place with out Love.

Admittedly, women’s approach to Love could be likened to a rifle. Men . . . well, maybe a shotgun comes closer to the mark. Women like to read about Love. Men would rather do it, thank you very much. Nonetheless, the emotions on both sides of the gender gap are powerful. I would suggest, however, that gentlemen could learn a thing or two from reading Romance.

Big question: Does Love work for everyone? Does it stay new-minted, bright and shiny, dazzling in its intensity?

Probably not. But for many, new love settles into a stronger, more lasting emotion, into warmth, companionship, and respect that lasts a lifetime. Yet women fortunate enough to be part of that relationship still enjoy the nostalgia of reading about those precious first moments, those early days when love was uncertain, agonizing, or downright disastrous. Or when it was a sea of fresh discoveries, exquisite torture of the senses.

And then there are those who, for a variety of reasons, live without vivid memories of love’s halcyon days. For them reading Romance provides glimpses of the intense moments they missed  and inspires hope that those special moments are still to come.

For the rest—those who lost their beloved partners through death, divorce, or desertion. For them, reading Romance can bring back the beauty of when Love was new or, like those who never knew Love, inspire hope for the future. Failing all else, reading a book that ends with Happily Ever After can provide pleasure even for those who know Love will not come to them again.

Love—or reading about it—
can perk up a day faster than a bowl of ice cream - with fudge topping

For some reason—probably the eons-long domination of writing by Men, all the so-called Great Romances are tragedies. (As in Romeo & Juliet, Arthur & Guinevere, Tristan & Isolde, not to mention some contemporary novels, mislabeled “romance” and also written by men.) But finally, in the last two decades, women have begun to write the stories they want to read. And now there are thousands of books about women who learned to cope with conflict, come out on the other side of personal difficulties, and do what had to be done to find the right person to share their lives.

Theses are the people we should praise. Forget Romeo and Julie, who mismanaged things badly and never made it out of their teens. To me, that’s not Romance. I look to Jane and Joe Schmo who survived.  And raised their children to be able to love and be loved. Jane and Joe who paid the Mortgage and Dental Bills. Taxes. College. The next generation’s Weddings.

No wonder Jane wants to put her feet up and settle down with a good Romance! Yes, sometimes we all need reminding of those first bright days of love when Joe wasn’t quite so devoted to golfing, fishing, or couch-potatoing. We open a book . . . and there before us is that marvelous Regency gentleman with his impeccable manners . . . or the dashing and untamed Scottish chieftain. We sigh over that pillar of rugged individualism, the American cowboy. Hunky cops and daring men of the Special Forces. Lawyers, doctors, firemen, and businessmen as well. And we just might get an idea or three about putting Romance back in our lives.

As for the women who say they never read Romance—ah, ladies, you have no idea what you’re missing. Pull up a chair, sit down, relax, and try on a Romance. Who knows, a good Romance just might inspire Mellow where it would do the most good.

The many Romances available range from Short & Sweet to Sexy & Sassy. From Thrillers and Suspense to Vampires, Fairies, and Outer Space. From Comedy to Drama and every nuance in between. But they have one thing in common: a happy ending.

As I always tell people, “There are enough problems in this world. I don’t want to read about them when reading for pleasure. I write books with happy endings and I want to read books with happy endings. These books buoy up my day, my week, my year, my life. No matter how dark the world around me, they keep me going. My heart tells me it’s not all fiction.

~ * ~

Thanks for letting me sound off on a topic close to my heart. And please come back to Gems in the Attic again and again.

Blair Bancroft

For Grace's Mosaic Moments, please click here. 
For Blair's website, please click here. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

A guest in the Attic!

The Gems welcome Holly Jacobs to the Attic today.

I love oldy but goodies! My Precious Gems were revamped and rereleased last year under their original titles, Bosom Buddies and Cinderella Wore Tennis Shoes.  I'll confess, I have having my titles changed and I loved that I could go back to these originals. Although, sometimes my own title bites me in the...well, butt.  I wrote a proposal for A Day Late and a Bride Short.  I'll confess, I don't remember what my original idea was, but I do know that when the Senior Editor for the line saw it, she told my editor she was disappointed...she thought with that title it would be a marriage-of-convenience.  I do remember it wasn't that at all.  Frankly, I wasn't sure how to make a contemporary story about a MOC.  But I said, "It will be that."  And then wrote this story I didn't expect to write.  It won a More than Magic Award and was a Romantic Times Bookclub Top Pick.  

I think there are two lessons here.  The first is, oldies can be goodies...I hope.  The second is, don't be afraid to take an unexpected path...something fun might be waiting for you!!


Monday, March 28, 2016


by Patty Copeland

 As you can see from the photo below, I’ve double-shelved paperback books, then started stacking on top of rows—vertically and horizontally—and have very little space left. The bottom shelf contains research, partial manuscripts and writing articles saved over the years that are rotated out from an armoire that contains more shelves crammed with yet more articles and research. The top shelf is still decorative (even if it does contain boxes of photos: remember those from before the days of digital?), but I’m afraid its days are numbered, destined to be replaced by yet more books.

I have more bookshelves built over my desk that contain only non-fiction reference books on writing, as well as seven different kinds of dictionaries (!), Roget’s Thesaurus, Strunk and White’s Elements of Style, The Associated Press Stylebook, two different synonym finders, books of quotations, character naming, history timelines, or as the King of Siam said, “Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera!”

And to think this is only a portion (both fiction and non-fiction) of what I used to have. At one time I had custom-made bookcases about four feet high that lined two walls of my family room, a really large family room, and one bookcase that went from floor to ceiling. Each move over the last twenty-plus years has necessitated that I eliminate fiction I could bear to part with and trim the non-fiction section. After all, movers charge by weight. And still I had rows of cartons of books stacked along a wall for my most recent (and last) move.

You may have noticed that all my fiction books are in paperback form. I simply could not afford to purchase all the books I want to read in hardback, let alone those of my favorite authors (I have too many). I have two library cards and make liberal use of both for new best sellers and authors I want to try simply because I read so quickly. And those library loans often lead to buying paperbacks by the same author.

Someone recently asked me about all the fiction paperbacks I’ve collected. “You’ve read them. You can’t possibly still need them.” Oh, but I do. I confess I have re-read some of my Nora Roberts, Linda Howard, Elizabeth Phillips, Dick Francis, Thomas Perry and George R. R. Martin collections more than twice. I had re-read my complete set of Georgette Heyer (her humor used to put me in a deliciously happy frame of mind) and would have continued doing so except I lost it in a flooded basement.

I’ve discarded complete sets of books that I’ve repurchased years later because I wanted to read them again, e.g., Dorothy Dunnett’s seven volumes of Game of Kings (if you haven't read the Lymon Chronicles, then you should; he's one of the original alpha males). I’ve lost count of the paperback books I’ve purchased and recycled through second-hand bookstores and libraries at discounted prices. I can see by the shelves that it’s now time to eliminate more.

In a way, these shelves represent the treasure chest of my reading life and who wants to lose treasure? Please tell me I'm not alone with this obsession.

Patty Copeland, who is once more dipping her toes into writing after a long absence. She didn't even mention her current absorption: e-books. She feels their strongest selling point is that they take up only virtual space…in suitcases and on bookshelves.

Friday, March 25, 2016

I'm grateful for Precious Gems

By Cheryl Bolen

I owe a lot to the Kensington Precious Gems line. My second published book, a Regency historical titled A Lady by Chance, was published there in 2000, shortly before the line shut down. It was soon published in Dutch.

I went on to publish eight more historicals with Kensington in the next five years. I felt I could publish at a quicker pace, but I was grateful for any slots I could get in the publishing schedule.

Then in 2011, epublishing took off and I was fortunate enough to get in during those early days when reading devices were gaining their foothold in the marketplace. The first book I re-published was that Precious Gem. It stayed in the Top 100 bestselling historical romances at Amazon for two full years.

Because it performed so well, Crossings translated it for the popular German market—becoming my first-ever book in German.

It gets even better. I banded with three other Regency authors two years ago to put out a boxed set of four full-length Regency novels titled Scandalous Brides. My entry in that set was my solo Precious Gem, Lady by Chance. That set soared to number 4 on the New York Times bestseller list for combined print and digital and to number 12 on the USA Today bestseller list.

That little book has kept on giving. Because it was such a favorite with readers, last year I decided to build a series around Lady by Chance. So I published a second titled Duchess by Mistake, and it was followed by A Countess by Coincidence. I couldn't be more pleased at how this series has done. I'm happy, too, that the Precious Gems authors have stayed close, and I'm excited to be part of the Gems in the Attic blog. More information can be found on my website,, or visit my Facebook page at

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Precious Gems and Fierce Hearts Giveaway

By Lynn Crandall

My one and only Precious Gem, Silver Wings, was published by Kensington a number of years ago. It was not my first published writing but it was my first published book, and it was inspired by the poem written by pilot John Magee, High Flight, and by my pilot brother. 

The life my brother led as a commercial airline pilot seemed glamorous and exciting. The poem was one of my brother’s favorite and I could see why after reading the first stanza.

“Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds --and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of…”

The sense of freedom and power conveyed by the poem were sensations I realized I could use in characterization of my heroine. The concept of a female pilot working in her father’s Fixed Base Operation (FBO) gave me plenty to work with. Placed with her hero in scenes set in flying, my heroine would tackle not only business problems and relationship issues, she would have to employ uncommon skills in flight.

Since that first publication, stories have compelled me. I love creating interesting-to-me story lines and wounded, feisty, and edgy heroines with soft edges, and complex, smoldering heroes. I’ve been lucky to have my stories published and I’ve been able to write for a living. Writing is the freedom for me that John Magee found in the skies. It’s hard work and it’s gloriously satisfying and exhilarating. I believe this quote of E.B. White: “Writers do not merely reflect and interpret life, they inform and shape life.”

Perhaps my writing doesn’t inform and shape the lives of my readers, but it definitely has done so for me from the beginning.

I'd love to know what reading and/or writing has done in your life? I don't want to use words such as "influence," or "enrich," or "entertain," because I'd like to know your thoughts without my prompting. :) To make it more interesting, I'm giving away a copy of Noir Nights, a bundle of five private eye romances that features five authors, five amazing heroines, and five hunky heroes. To enter leave a comment.

Check out this YouTube link to get a taste of  High Flight.

For more about my recent books, check out my author page on Amazon or visit On my website you’ll find books, book trailers, and Extras regarding my Fierce Hearts series that follows the stories of a colony of were-lynxes. The last in the series, Unstoppable, released Feb. 22. . The first in the series, Secrets, released March 14 in the Night Shifts bundle If you get into being Fierce, visit my CafĂ© Press shop on my website for Fierce Hearts products. Just click on the lynx button to find T-shirts, tote bags, and mugs with choices of a Fierce Hearts graphic. Yes, the products promote my books but I think they also announce personal fierceness.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Romance and Young Adult Fiction: Hearts Included

One day, while rereading Captain Blood, I mentioned to my mother that what I liked most about Sabatini’s masterpiece was the way Peter Blood loved Arabella. Wistfully, I wished there were more books with love in them. Boy, did my mother have an answer for that.  She swiftly passed me a Georgette Heyer novel, and I was hooked.  It was thrilling to discover we had a whole category of books focused on love!
Now I understand even better why love works in books. Evolving relationships with their mistakes and tentative trust are a perfect way to reveal character. When I wrote my first novel, I naturally emulated what I loved to read, and I was thrilled when Mirage was picked up by Silhouette.  I went on to write half a dozen romances, including a couple of Precious Gems which led me to friendships with the lovely ladies blogging here.
These days, I write young adult science fiction, and while my characters are trying to survive harsh, post-climate change societies (Birthmarked) or evil forces that are stealing their dreams (The Vault of Dreamers), they’re also having their first experiences with love.  Firsts are huge.  A first look or kiss can transform a person.  A first betrayal can sting forever.
Caragh M. O'Brien
In my YA (young adult) novels, I have room to explore uncertainty, unexpected attractions, and confusion. I have characters who aren’t looking for love, and it isn’t clear when a guy shows up that he is The One.  I can play with conventions, like when I invented a love square in Prized. To me, the romance feels risky because happily-ever-after is not a given. I like that. It's fun. It mimics real life. The books I enjoy most delve deeply into what makes us human, hearts included, and those are the stories I'm trying to write.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

New Release! Twinkle, Twinkle Little Thong

My very first blog on Gems in the Attic! To celebrate, I've written a sexy novella titled Twinkle, Twinkle Little Thong...well, no, not exactly. I'm re-releasing a novella written a handful of years ago which, oddly enough, revolves around a diamond-encrusted thong. Ooh...ouch!

I'm so pleased to re-launch the book here, where I got my start as a published author for Precious Gems. Many times I've joined publisher/author email loops as my career looped in and around various publishing houses. The only loop I stayed with over all these years was our Precious Gems. 

Why? Because the writers here have always shown their desire to keep writing. They've been a light during dark times. They've led the way for me, never giving up because the publishing business was tough, or changing or dreary. 

It is my pleasure and honor to be included in this blog...typical of these authors...keep going, find a way...get around that obstacle. 

I think it's appropriate that my diamond-studded thong is the topic of my first post since our blog is titled Gems in the Attic.

A secret that should never be exposed…

When a bundle of trouble AKA one lively mutt absconds with an -- umm -- expensive piece of underwear, Frankie Volpe gives chase and lands on the deck of a float home owned by a man she’s secretly lusted for.

But the $50,000 thong?  Nowhere to be found. The mutt was better at hiding stuff than Frankie!

All she wants is her regular, boring, real, Chicago life back but all her good luck turned bad and Frankie’s hiding out in Victoria, British Columbia.

Daniel Martin is a late-night blues radio host who’s been aware of Frankie since she arrived in the marina. The mysterious, sexy, Frankie seems standoffish until she needs his help tracking an odd piece of clothing his dog scampered off with.

Soon, their attraction flares into something neither of them expects and Daniel accepts a job in a brand new timeslot in a new market -- Chicago -- the last place in the world Frankie can go. Frankie’s secret is about to be exposed. Will the truth about her good karma gone bad clear the path for them or send Frankie running again?

To purchase for an e-reader near you:

Friday, March 18, 2016

Roller Coasters and Kindle Scout

      My husband once described my publishing career as a great roller coaster ride. There have been lots of highs, lows and startling twists in my 30 years of writing. After various rejections, my first book, CAPTURED BY A COWBOY, was published by Dell's Candlelight Ecstasy Supreme line. I'd just signed a contract for my second book when the line folded without warning, sending me spiraling from the top of the coaster to rock bottom with teeth-rattling speed.
     It took a couple years, but then I sold five books to a company called Meteor Publishing. The editors, royalties and author treatment couldn't have been more amazing. Authors got 1000 free copies of each title. Sales were so great that the company was bought out by powerhouse publisher that didn't like the competition. I'd just signed a 3 book contract when that line closed.

I followed my editor and contracted those books with Kensington's Precious Gem line. The experience holds a special place in my heart due to friendships made and because it served as a launch pad for so many favorite authors. BORN TO FLY, the first of my Prescott Pilot Series, was also my first Precious Gem title. The covers were all created by famed artist, Pino, and my career was on a new high. I wrote a total of six more books for the line before it, too, folded. I still miss working with the editors at Precious Gems and have kept in touch with fellow Gem Authors, thus Gems In the Attic! 

        The next climb up my coaster was to Silhouette Intimate Moments. I published two books with that line before it got renamed Harlequin Romantic Suspense. Harlequin still owns the rights to my last contracted title, UNDERCOVER VIRGIN. (PS, not my title and the heroine wasn't a virgin until she went to New York, but that's a different story.) Another quirky twist to this title, the cover you see here was the correct design, but somehow the front and back cover art got switched in print production. The finished copies had them reversed. Only the electronic cover is correct. Strange twists and turns in this industry!

     Digital publishing came to roller coaster land a few years ago. I worked with several well-respected companies, and a couple of them still own copyrights, but they may be closing, too. When publishers go out of business, an author's rights revert, thus making the titles eligible for reissue. Digital publishing is a great venue for reissuing books. The boom in digital publishing has exploded beyond expectations with the introduction of self-publishing programs at all the major online bookstores.
      Indie publishing became my next monster hill to climb. It was a long, hard challenge with endless hours of hair-pulling frustration, but ultimately a great boost to my career. It's now possible for me to control the title, cover art, pricing, word count and special sales. I've even taken charge of audio production for most of my books, yet there are a lot of highs and lows that come with those benefits. 

        Now I feel I've reached a plateau with my newest release, ZACK'S RANCH, the third book in my BRIDLETON series. I don't want to do my own publishing because of the enormous amount of time it takes to make books available at all online bookstores. So, I'm launching ZACK'S RANCH via the Kindle Scout program. It's a platform where readers choose which books get published: 
        My Kindle Scout campaign starts tomorrow, March 19th. Then the following link will be activated. I imagine it's in the Pacific time zone.     
         Please stop by to read an excerpt and decide if you'd like to see it published. For more information about the series or my work, feel free to visit my website at and enter my monthly readers' contest.  
     Post a comment below for a chance to win a digital preview copy of ZACK'S RANCH! Until next time, take care and keep reading!

Hugs, Becky




Thursday, March 17, 2016

There Comes a Day

My name is Pamela Tracy

It's been great fun to read the "sale" stories written by the gamesters here on Gems in the Attic.  I've laughed about snail mail, empathized with the admission… "written for ten years, dreaming of the day I finally sold," and stopped when I saw the name Kate Duffy and thought about all the professionals that have touched our lives.

My first sale wasn't a Precious Gems.  It was a Barbour Heartsong.  I didn't even know the line existed.  I'd finished my masters, was teaching, and basically trying to make ends meet.  As a single, I did have spare time (which I no longer have!) and loved writing in the evenings.  I was very active on the AOL boards (why did they go away?), took online classes, and belonged to RWA.  I "thought" I was doing everything right.

My first book was a Star Trek, TNG, which I wrote before finding the online community or joining RWA or even taking the creative writing course at the nearby community college.

I wrote it single spaced, and when I shoved it under my bed, it was 300 pages long and not finished.

See, when I found my writing community, I figured out I probably should be writing romance.  The Star Trek, btw, did have a romance with Guinan as the heroine.

On to writing romance.  Four books - a time travel, an angel, a vampire, and a ghost - only received rejections.

Then, at church one day a friend said to me, "You know Darlene just sold a romance."

Huh?  Nobody told me she was writing.  I hightailed it over to her and asked.  Sure enough, she'd written her first book and sold it.

Grumble.  I was busy writing unsold book seven.

I asked her about her sale and she told me about Barbour Heartsong, which was short, direct to book club inspirational fiction.

Darlene was so nervous sending her book to them that she didn't separate the dot matrix pages, just left them together.

Book number seven, my second true contemporary, sold to them.

Squee! My first book ever.
When they sent me the author copies, they mailed them to the wrong address
And one of my friends went to pick them up for me because I couldn't get off work. 

Then, because I got on their writers' loop, I send in a proposal for a novella.  Barbour does lots of anthologies.

I sold it.
I learned a lot working with other, more seasoned authors.
What a dream come true.
Published 1999

BTW, I'm still in Barbour Anthologies
Published April 2016
Soon to hit shelves
My motto was to always have something submitted.  So, I sent off book number six to Precious Gems.

I had to cut 20,000 words
I'd named this one Mismanaging Maddy

LOL, I think it was the third to last set.  Then, the line folded.

Today, I write for two of Harlequins lines:  Love Inspired and Heartwarming.

This is my January 2016 release
from Harlequin Heartwarming
The fifth in a series

This will be my July 2016 release
from Harlequin Love Inspired
The third in a series

I don't write in the evenings anymore but early morning before my eleven year old needs to get up for school.  The word "leisurely" doesn't precede my writing life, but I'm loving it.

This is my April 2016 release
from Serenade

Ah, the writing life….

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Writing about the Amish in Sin City by Jo Ann Brown

Most authors will admit that their careers don’t go as they planned when they first embarked upon them.
My first sale way back in 1987 was to Kate Duffy (who later became editor and godmother of Precious Gems) when she was at a start-up called Tudor Books. It was a sprawling 150,000 word western historical romance set in the California gold fields and mountains. Recently it was re-released in all its massive “glory” as an ebook by Open Road Media.

At the time, I planned to continue to write these long, intricate historical romance novels. Contemporaries? Nope, not for me. I was a historical romance writer through and through.

Maybe I should have mentioned that to the market, because by the early 90's, I was writing Regency romances in the 100,000 words range. Then Kate called and asked if I wanted to write for Precious Gems historicals. Oh, and the word count was 72,000 words. I gulped loudly, but agreed because I wanted to work with her again. I had a great time creating books for her, Amy Garvey, and Hilary Sares. Together, we did ten books for the line.

Since then, I’ve written lots of different kinds of books, but I never intended to write Amish books. I moved out to the Las Vegas area in part because I wanted to write western romances again. However, an editor I’d worked with on a ghostwriting project as well as two movie novelizations changed all that. She asked if I was interested in writing an Amish book for her.
I knew very little about the Amish. I used to live in southeastern Pennsylvania, and I visited Lancaster County in search of yummy cookies and pies. However, like when Kate called about Precious Gems historicals, I gulped loudly and agreed. After weeks of reading and a trip east to Lancaster County where I enjoyed more of those yummy cookies and pies – whoopie and regular ones!, I began writing and discovered that, by such a roundabout route, I’d found a writing world that fit me well.

Okay, I’m not about to disconnect the electricity in my house. How could I run my computer??? But writing about families who lived on small farms and worked together in a small community rang true for me. I grew up on a small family farm in the 60s, and the experiences my characters faced came, in large part, from events that had happened to me or friends and neighbors during those years. I’d found “my” world.

Write what you know is a cliche, but in my case it’s true.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Not a Rejection - Maddie James' First Sale

Summer, 1996. The letter sat in my mailbox. I reached in and pulled it out. The return address was in my own handwriting. Lovely. I knew what that meant. Had stood in that spot many times before, the familiar clutch in my gut. The self-addressed stamped envelope I had enclosed with my recent book submission had come back to haunt me--with a rejection letter.

Great. Except, instead of tossing the letter aside, this time I turned the envelope over and saw the words scribbled across the back. I looked closer. "This is not a rejection," the words read. My heart raced. I ripped open the envelope. It wasn't a rejection, but I had major work to do on the book, and the editor wanted to see the revisions ASAP. If I could deliver, she wanted to buy.

Wow. It's really happening? But let's back up a few steps in this writer's journey.

Summer, 1986. I've been teaching for seven years by now. The babies are born. Graduate school is finished. I'm juggling everything from grading papers to diapers to managing the household to writing my first book. I'm taking the courses and workshops. I've managed to get a few small pieces published. But I've yet to finish my first romance novel, which was my goal. In my busy mind, being a published author would look something like this lady. You know, happy. Together. Uncluttered life. Pecking away on my story, smile on my face, contemplating the next plot. Waiting for the money to roll in....

Pie in the sky? Of course. But I was in denial. So I kept writing, pecking away, not expecting to necessarily write the Great American Novel, but then again, fantasizing about the "romance" of potentially being a real-life romance author. I pictured myself like this hard-working woman.
You know, sexy, classy, writing in the park while birds sing and children play and people walk by and comment, "Oh, there is that famous romance author..."

Yeah. Yeah.

Back to 1996. After ten long years of writing, submitting, weathering the rejections, and questioning whether this romance-writing thing will ever produce anything beyond a local bookstore third-place contest win, I'm still staring at the "this is not a rejection" envelope.

Needless to say, ten years of persistence and dreams morphed into one, very long weekend of revisions and rewrites, and the new manuscript was snail mailed off to New York the next Monday morning. (yes, snail mailed in hard copy--times were rough back then) The following Wednesday morning, the call from my new editor came in.

That book, The Wild West, published by Kensington Precious Gems Romance, was my first published novel, and the first of six books I would publish with Kensington. Now, The Wild West has a new name, and a new life, as one of my bestselling western romance novels, titled Rawhide and Roses. 


And me? Well, I'm still pecking away waiting for people to recognize me in the produce aisle as "that romance writer" and still, I'm not expecting to write the Great American Novel, but forty-some published books later I'm making a living at what I do and am grateful for every story I publish, and for every reader who picks up one of my books to read. (Thank you, thank you). Oh, and nowadays, I subscribe to the notion that the happy, hard-working writer looks more like the one below, than the ones in my decades old fantasy world.

But with pajama pants. And I'm pretty much okay with that.
Maddie James writes romance -- don't try to pin her down to a genre. From edgy suspense to flirty contemporary romance to darker erotic titles, she just wants to silence the people in her head. Find out more at

Friday, March 11, 2016

My first Precious Gems was my first published novel by Jan Scarbrough

Back in the day when personal email was in its infancy, I attended the 1996 RWA convention in Dallas and heard about a new line from Kensington called Precious Gems. Published authors, now called traditionally published authors, were greatly offended. How could a publisher offer only a $2,000 flat fee for a 50,000-word book? Who would be stupid enough to sell a manuscript for that little money, no advance and no royalties?

Well, many of us were that stupid. In 1998, I became a “published” author, and I was glad of it.

One of the two first novels I had written was an 85,000 word romantic suspense called Never Too Late. My friend in the Kentucky Romance Writers had just sold a book to Kensington Precious Gems. Send in your manuscript Maddie James told me. Kensington really needs manuscripts.

But my manuscript was 35,000 words too long. Kensington only wanted 50,000 words and the manuscript had to be complete. So I sliced off those 35,000 words and the suspense sub-plot and shipped the manuscript to New York City.

I don’t remember the exact moment of “the call.” I do remember the editing process. My love scene was very bland and editor Hilary Sares added a few descriptive words to spice it up. This led my mother to tell all her gray-haired friends “the editor wrote the love scene.”

My title was changed to Reunited. The popular model John Desalvo was on the cover. I was excited and proud. I was finally “published.”

In my next blog, I’ll tell you what happened to Reunited after Kensington returned my rights.


Jan Scarbrough is the author of the popular Bluegrass Reunion series, writing heartwarming contemporary romances about family and second chances, and if the plot allows—horses. Living in the horse country of Kentucky makes it easy for Jan to add small town, Southern charm to her books, and the excitement of a horse race or a competitive horse show. A member of Novelist, Inc., Jan has published with Kensington, Five Star, ImaJinn Books, Resplendence Publishing and Turquoise Morning Press.

Thursday, March 10, 2016


We writers are asked that all the time.
It was a shock to me in grade school to learn that not everyone has a head full of characters knocking on their skull and asking to be let out to play.  At least that's how it has always worked for me.  Pesky characters demanding stories, secondary characters insisting on their own starring role in the next book, and so it goes. 

But these characters need a plot to show off in.  Plot ideas are all around us.  Eavesdropping, magazines, things that happen to family and friends and can be embellished, news casts, daily papers, talk shows.  Even a writer's overactive imagination as she puzzles through the basics of revenge, possession and escape are all grist for the mill.  I warn my friends that anything they tell me can be spun into a plot.

Fabulous At Fifty came to be because I overheard a group of readers complaining about the fact that so many romance novels feature young heroines.  And while said heroines are more mature and experienced than decades past their stories are not always relevant to the mature reader.

Since we Baby Boomers are now 'of a certain age'  I decided to turn Rachel loose to tell her story,  starting with how her boyfriend dumps her and she gets fired, all on the eve of her big 5-0.

It's not unusual for a woman to turn Fifty and have to reinvent herself.  I know a many who have and I hope Rachel's story, with its mixture of humor and angst is encouraging and empowering for women everywhere.

Since I am really close to my own family, I decided to make it a family series.  Rachel's sister Cassie stars in her upcoming book, Frolicking At Forty, with all the fun that time of life entails, while Rachel's daughter Sam will shine in Flirty At Thirty, with a whole different set of challenges that besets her generation.  These strong, supportive heroines take bits and pieces from  my own friends and family, with many disclaimers..  I hope you enjoy reading about them as much as I did telling their stories. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2016


I had my husband take my manuscript, Bachelor Party, to the post office in our small Texas town because I couldn't look the postal workers in the eye. I could just hear them thinking, 'Oh, she wrote another book.' That was on a Tuesday. Hilary Sares called to make me an offer on Friday. 

And the rest is history. I lived happily ever after getting so many contracts I couldn't write fast enough. Well, um, that's not exactly how it went down. Shortly after my book came out, the line closed. It would be another two years before I sold again. It's the nature of the beast. 

During the tough times I go back to nursing. It's always good to have a license to fall back on. Someone once asked why I didn't just quit. I can't. I've tried. There's just something about putting words on paper, creating stories, that somehow feels right.

I'm currently getting the rights back to my older books and putting them out independently. I'm also working on a 6 book series that will be out later this year. This is an exciting time for me filled with new adventures. We put the house on the market, bought a fifth wheel (RV) and hubby and I are going to roam the U.S. until we get tired of the gypsy lifestyle. I'll write and Karl will publish my books. I should be able to come up with lots of story ideas since we have a tendency to get lost at the grocery store. 

If you could choose your adventure, what would it be?

Best Wishes,

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