Friday, April 29, 2016

The Long, Winding Road to Getting "The Call" by Cheryl Bolen

Like a lot of the Gems, I started writing my first novel when I was a young stay-at-home mother in the ‘70s. Many of us wanted to be able to make an income while being able to full-time nurture our most precious possession—our children.  

I didn’t exactly wake up one day and say, “I’m going to write a novel.” First, I luxuriated in the fact I could read whatever I wanted. I no longer had to spend every waking moment reading textbooks. So when my two sons were of preschool age I was able to read voraciously for the first time in my life.

I read everything Agatha Christie ever wrote. This was before there was an official genre of romance. I bought a lot of used paperbacks from garage sales and in these discovered gothic romances. The “formula” was single woman comes to isolated locale where there’s a brooding hunk. We never got in the hunk’s head, but by the end of the book it was obvious the hunk had always had the hots for her and the story ends with his proposal.

Some of these were not well written, so like so many of you, I told myself, “I can write one of those.”

I might add here that I had majored in journalism and had written extensively. When I was in journalism school, we had learned to “compose at the typewriter.” Which means no scribbling out your story in longhand first. I was good at this, which I thought would give me a leg up with fiction writing.

My first complete manuscript, at age 25, was a romantic suspense. I was so stupid, I typed it out (making carbon copies for myself as we’d learned in journalism school) and shipped off the entire book to a publishing house, along with return postage. I did this to every publishing house and never got a personal rejection. I even sent the manuscript in the box from our Jeopardy! game so a prospective editor might know I was of Jeopardy!-caliber intelligence.

I dreamed of getting The Call. I would buy a very expensive bottle of wine to celebrate. I would become rich and famous.

I wrote another complete romantic suspense, using a gothic formula in a present-day setting. Rejected.

 By the time my children started school, I had obtained a master’s degree in night school, and since I hadn’t sold a book, I entered the work force as a journalist. Six years later, I switched careers and taught public school English. All the while I continued to dabble at fiction writing.

When I turned forty in the late eighties I really got serious about novel writing. That’s when I learned of all the things I’d been doing wrong over the years. I joined a writers group. I entered contests. I won or placed in contests. I took a class. My education ratcheted up when I joined Romance Writers of America in 1993.

 I began to enter a lot of RWA chapter contests and did well. I still didn’t have a good handle on the market. I kept entering my World War II love story in historical categories. Publishers don’t have a category for that subgenre. In fact, most romance houses won’t touch that subgenre. The book did very well in contests but no nibbles from publishers. Finally, the senior editor at Harlequin Historical read it because it had made the finals in a contest and told the contest coordinator to tell me that if I wrote something set before 1800 she would like to see it.

 The only historical romances I’d ever read were Georgette Heyer’s; so, I started writing a Regency romance. I entered the beginning of it in a few contests, and it did well. I finished it and sent it to Harlequin Historical. I was unagented.

I came home for lunch one day in 1997 (by then I’d quit teaching and was back in journalism), checked my answering machine, and Margaret Mallory of Harlequin Historical asked me to call her. I was shaking all over. I called my husband’s office and told him. He said, “What are you doing calling me? Call her.”

 Still trembling, I called her and she said they wanted to publish A Duke Deceived and were offering a $5,000 advance. “Is that OK?” she asked.

I couldn’t believe it! My dreams were coming true. Of course I told her everything sounded good to me. I was still shaking when I returned to the office and told them my good news.

My plans for a grand celebration did not come to fruition. My oldest boy had completed law school and had moved out. My youngest was working nights. My husband (a college professor) had a night class. We grabbed a quick Mexican dinner to celebrate. No Dom Perignon.
It had taken me 25 years before I made my first sale. It was my seventh complete manuscript. It was a very long and winding road. I’m not sure I would ever have gotten The Call had I not joined RWA. –Cheryl Bolen is the NY Times and USA Today bestselling author of two dozen Regency romances, including the newly released Oh What a (Wedding) Night.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Noble Love

By Lynn Crandall

I like the phrase, Noble Love. It sounds like something awesome, a love that is epic between two grand individuals. Something between a princess and a prince or a diplomat and a senator’s daughter.

Is a noble life something between two larger-than-life characters? Maybe, but not always, I believe.

I remember reading A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens in middle school—about two centuries ago—and was particularly moved by the line spoken by one of the main characters as he faced death by guillotine: “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”

If my memory is correct, this character willingly went to the guillotine in place of another man charged with his father’s crime of aristocracy during the French Revolution. He did so as a stand for his ideals.

Even though this character in the book was innocent, he sacrificed himself so that the other innocent man could remain with his family.

Standing for what we believe in and facing hard challenges is noble. How does that apply to romantic love? 

While I can imagine that most of us think of epic love in popular classic romances, such as Persuasion, Jane Eyre, Doctor Zhivago, I don’t think characters have to miss their chance at true love or need to die or become maimed in order to have noble love. No, according to the dictionary, the quality we call noble refers to possessing outstanding qualities of character. That’s the sense of a truly noble love that I enjoy reading about.

In writing my the books in my Fierce Hearts series about a colony of were-lynxes, I wanted the main characters to illustrate high ideals by their presentation in the world and the ways they treat one. I wanted them to have chosen to live with an appreciation of the planet itself, as well as other beings who live here. The books put the were-lynxes and their world in jeopardy from the activities of a menacing, powerful group of individuals. To demonstrate the colony’s high ideals, the individuals refuse to jump into a verbal assault on the antagonist, opting rather for productive conversation methods, true communication. Regarding life in general around them, they hold themselves to higher standards of respect and conservation. They use their intellect and communication skills with their commanding abilities of strength and power to live lives of noble conduct. 

In relationships, the hero and heroine in each book stretch their ability to truly see each other, flaws, pains, wounds, craziness, and all, and love each other completely as they are. Their loves are freeing and alive because they don’t need anything in particular from each other but loving treatment, respect, and acceptance.

I’ve gotten my concepts of noble love from the ordinary extraordinary average individuals who populate the world. The father who kneels down in front of his son who just struck out in the little league baseball game and assures him not only is the little guy a talented ball player, but that he loves him just as he is. The wife who takes her husband in her arms and lets him sob over the hurtful words his own father has spoken to him, and doesn’t suggest anything, just listens.

Humans are complex and fascinating when they make positive, life-giving choices in relationships. That’s why the young married couple tempted to seek another person to find new thrills with but who turn toward each other and ask, “How can we make each other happy?” are building a noble love. Or the middle age husband and wife who are weary with life’s challenges and heartaches but choose to remind each other of the beauty in their shared lives and find strength in their relationship are noble lovers. And a couple with a lifetime between them filled with such variety of experiences and who know everything about each other still look lovingly into each other’s aged faces live noble love.

Romance authors are wonderful at bringing noble love to readers. I know it’s what I try to do.

What stories come to mind for you when you think of a noble love?

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Writing Business Basics

When I first started writing, I had no idea how the business of writing worked, and specific information about what writers earned was practically nonexistent. The business side of writing is still surprisingly opaque, partly because individual writers are reluctant to reveal publicly what they earn and partly because the range of earnings varies so much that it’s hard for a new writer to be able to predict what a project might be worth. Now with the potential for independent publishing (as opposed to traditional publishing with an established, royalty-paying publisher), writers have more publishing options than ever, but the indie model, where 200,000+ new titles appear each year, has even more uncertain variables.

Let’s keep it simple. Here are a few basics on finding a traditional publisher and what happens financially.

1. Agents. Writers rarely submit their work directly to publishers these days. It’s far more common to find a literary agent first and depend on that agent to submit your work to editors (who acquire novels) at publishing houses. In addition to negotiating contracts, an agent may suggest revisions and advise a writer on her career. Note that a legitimate agent never charges any fees up front, so avoid any agent who charges for services or expenses. Instead, after a deal is made, it’s standard for an agent to earn 15% of the writer’s income. A great starting point for seeking an agent is the searchable database

2.  Skipping an Agent. Certain romance publishers, like Harlequin and Kensington, do accept unagented submissions. They explain submission guidelines on their websites, and offer a standard contract that doesn’t allow for significant negotiation for new writers. On the upside, Harlequin has a huge distribution for its category romance lines, but on the downside, its royalty rate (6%) is one of the lowest in the industry, and getting rights of a book back is nearly impossible. 

3. Timeline. It typically takes from a year to a year and a half from the time you sell a book to the time it hits a bookshelf. The time allows for revisions, a production schedule, marketing, and distribution.

4. Payment.  A writer with a contract from a traditional publisher typically receives a check for an “advance” at the time the contract is signed, which can be 4-9 months after the writer receives an initial verbal offer over the phone. Sometimes an advance is divided into two chunks, one paid on signing and one paid when the final revision of the book is accepted. Once the book comes out, if it sells enough copies to “earn out” the amount of the original advance, the author will receive additional royalties. For example, if an author is paid a $4,000 advance and has a 10% royalty rate, and the book sells for $10 per copy, then after 4,000 copies are sold, the book earns out its advance and the author is due more money. Those royalties are distributed twice a year.

5.  How much? If you take a look at figures compiled by writer Brenda Hiatt, a first-time romance writer often earns around $3,000 for an advance, but the range is large. Examples of advances for first YA novels are in the $13,000-30,000 range, but again, they can be much smaller or larger. Many books never earn out their advances, in which case no additional royalties ever are paid. On the other hand, a writer never has to pay back an advance, no matter how few copies of a book are sold, so an advance is a writer’s to keep.

6. Taxes and business expenses.  Writers are self-employed people who typically keep track of their business expenses, send in estimated quarterly tax payments, and set aside their own retirement funds.

Is it possible to make a living as a writer? According to the Authors Guild’s latest survey, full-time writers make, on average, $17,500 a year, and that’s down 30% from 2009. However, because writing is a creative field and each project is valued uniquely, the average is not much of a guideline for any individual writer’s career. We each make our own choices about how to go forward, creatively and business-wise.

Find this helpful? Have insights to add? Your comments are most welcome.

Caragh M. O'Brien is the writer of The Rule of Mirrors and other YA novels.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Beauty in a Boxed Set - Bonnie Edwards

As self-publishing evolves so do readers’ opportunities to find new authors. One way for readers to discover exciting new stories and series is the multi-author boxed set.

Boxed sets are a win-win for both readers and authors looking for more exposure.

FIRST GLANCE gives you 13, very different, exciting series for you to fall in love with! There’s something for every taste in these 13 romances from USA Today and Amazon Bestselling authors. 
From light paranormal to Motorcycle Club romantic suspense to New Adult, reunited first loves and sports and even a taste of forbidden love FIRST GLANCE has it all: sexy heroes and smart heroines in love stories to make you cheer, sigh, and beg for more.

Luckily, since each of these books leads into more stories you won’t have to beg. 

AVAILABLE TODAY! ONLY 99c for a limited time!

Monday, April 25, 2016

Tips and tags and writing snags!

     During my decades in the publishing business, I've learned a lot about the craft and written a few articles with tips on writing. Since the e-book revolution where authors have republished entire backlists, I've noticed the most common beginner mistakes (my own included.) I want to share them today along with questions for readers and writers.

My top 4 writing tips are: 1. Don't overuse proper names. In a scene with only two characters, trust your pronouns. 2. Avoid long, complex sentences. (I still have to rein myself on that one.) 3. Don't start your book by telling the entire backstory in the prologue or first chapter. 4. Don't overdo the dialogue tags. 

Which leads to my next bit of advice. The "ly" tags. 

I was never one to re-read books because I rarely forgot an opening scene or plot line. However, now that I'm a little older and my memory is a tad rusty (cough) I've enjoyed returning to those earlier favorites and re-reading them. One thing I've learned is even the most talented of the bestselling authors made the same beginners' mistakes. 

A couple years ago, I started publishing my backlist to audio, and I became addicted to audiobooks. I've found I notice those common mistakes more while listening to a story. With a print book, we often skim past tags and snags such as the overuse of proper names. (Ben went to the bank, then Ben came back and Ben answered the phone, etc.) 

My ears are more sensitive to dialogue tags. While listening to older titles recently, I noticed the overuse of tag lines with "ingly" and "edly" endings. Example: A character said something achingly, fleetingly, bracingly, piercingly, wonderingly, determinedly, disgustedly, offhandedly, and more.

So, the question for readers and writers, what's your take on the tag lines? Do you appreciate the descriptive adverbs? Do you use, overuse or refuse to use the "ly" words? Do they annoy you and pull you out of the story? Please feel free to share your opinion!

Hugs, Becky 
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Saturday, April 23, 2016

One Day Only by Jo Ann Brown Ferguson

On April 24 only, Open Road Media has discounted my novel After the Storm.
Get your ebook copy of this novel about how the arrival of an Orphan Train and its children affect a small Indiana town for $1.99 at your favorite retailer.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Day the Book is Born by Jo Ann Brown

Today is the release day for my second Amish Hearts book, An Amish Match.
This is an exciting day when my “baby” is shown off, and I hope everyone loves it. However, there is a day which is even more exciting. It’s the day the book is born. That’s when the idea appears in my mind, the tiny spark that will grow into a book populated with characters who are real to me...and I hope my readers. My first published book, Nothing Wagered, burst into my mind when I was reading a review of a movie where the reviewer snarkily asked, “Why do covered wagons always go west? Why don’t they go east sometimes?” The idea of a young woman who’d come west for the gold rush and wanted to go home was born. That was an idea born fully formed, an idea authors speak of with awe, because we know most don’t come that way. They need to be nurtured and given time to grow. The idea for An Amish Match was a “needs nurturing” idea. Because the book is part of a series about the seven brothers and two sisters of the Stoltzfus family, one had to be the hero or the heroine. My seed idea was having a heroine take care of the widowed hero’s children. That narrowed down the hero to Joshua, the buggy maker. He was the only one who’d lost a spouse. So far so good, but I needed more. Like a heroine and how they’d fall in love and what would keep them from falling in love on page one. Now the work begins. The labor pains, if you will. Devising ideas and tossing them away because they don’t work for this hero and his story. I didn’t want the usual cute nanny/widowed father story. The breakthrough came when a heroine, a widow, stepped into my imagination and asked, “What about me?” I know I had the right character when she wouldn’t stop pestering me, demanding this story belongs to her. Okay. Hero? Check. Heroine? Check. Now came the hard labor, the pushing of the idea into some sort of story. The characters have to prove that they’ve got real issues as well as the possibility of a happy ever after ending. Ideas come and go, get explored, get refined, get tossed as I start over from square one. Finally, after what can be a long and painful labor, everything is in place to begin writing. And the book is born. Of course, there are all the stages to come – the excitement of a new baby/book, the learning together of how to tell the story and the troublesome middle – the teenage years. But eventually the story is told, the book is complete and it’s available to the public. As I watch it go out on its own into the big, wide world, I hope as any parent does that my baby is loved...and maybe makes a difference in someone’s life.

Monday, April 18, 2016

April Showers Bring May Flowers & Memories by Joan Reeves

One of the songs my grandfather used to sing was April Showers. I never knew much about the song until one day last week.

I stood at the windows watching a drizzly rain on the flowers in my back yard when I remembered Papa singing the old song.

A Smidgen of History

I did a little internet research and learned April Showers was indeed popular during the Roaring Twenties. With music by Louis Silvers and lyrics by B. G. De Sylva, the song was published in 1921, the same year it was introduced on Broadway by Al Jolson.

Another historical tidbit is that it is one of many popular songs whose lyrics use "Bluebird of happiness" as a symbol of good cheer.

But Why?

Why is the phrase April showers even in our cultural consciousness? Its origin is rooted in the United Kingdom and Ireland where heavy rains occur in April. These common April rains happen because of the position of the jet stream in early spring.

In 1610, a poem was published that included the phrases, March winds and April showers bring forth May flowers. In later years, that was shortened to: April showers bring May flowers.

April Showers Lead to Romance

Maybe it's because of the sentimental song April Showers that is embedded in my subconscious, but I've always thought the phrase sounded vaguely romantic.

There are a lot of movie scenes where the hero and heroine are kissing in the rain and a lot of websites that list their favorite kissing in the rain scenes.

Fandango lists 12 Great Kissing in the Rain Scenes. They note these scenes are popular because you get two really attractive people in wet clinging clothes kissing passionately. I agree with that assessment.

They list classics that I adore like Breakfast at Tiffany's along with The Notebook and Dear John, and some surprising movies like Daredevil and Spiderman 2.

I even have a rainy love scene in my novel, Romeo and Judy Anne. I wrote that scene with Remember When It Rained by Josh Groban playing over and over. Now when I read that scene, I can hear the song echoing inside.

April Fool Bride

Since I've always had a fondness for April showers and by extension April Fool's Day, is it any wonder that I had to entitle a book with April Fool something?

April Fool Bride resulted from my wondering how many people actually chose April Fool's Day as a wedding day. I think it would take a lot of courage to choose that day for a wedding, wouldn't it?

So it followed that I created a trust fund heiress who, due to various circumstances, gets married on April Fool's Day. The tabloids who have made her life miserable has a field day with that fodder for a headline: April Fool Bride.

To celebrate April, April Fool Bride is on sale for 99cents on Amazon Kindle. here's a blurb for my April romantic comedy.

Oil heiress Madeline Quinn needs a husband by the time she turns twenty-five in order to claim her full inheritance. Mad Maddie, as the tabloids christened her, has learned the hard way that men only see dollar signs when they look at her.

Maddie decides a marriage of convenience is the only answer. She turns to the one man in the world she can trust, her housekeeper’s son who always treated her like a little sister when they were kids growing up together.

Jake Becker hasn’t seen Maddie since the night she tried to seduce him. Why should he help the woman who changed the course of his life? Simple. Revenge.

Or is it something else? Something hot and smouldering that will not be denied?

The next time it rains where you live, I hope it's a gentle April shower that will bring you beautiful blooming flowers in May.

Post Script

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Triple delighted if you sign up for WordPlay, my email list/newsletter for readers so I can give you a free book.

Friday, April 15, 2016

How to "Jerk a knot in your tail" and other favorites.

      I love words. I've loved them all my life. Be they Americanisms or born of any international variety, I love the spellings and sounds and amazing diversity of words.
      Buzz (the hubby) and I were having a conversation one evening this week and the old adage "Land o'Goshen" popped into my head. I hadn't heard it for years, yet there it was, buried in a memory that's so crammed full of words I can barely store anything new in it!
     That started a discussion about old adages. As our daily language evolves, lots of new words and sayings are created with each generation, but I hope to keep a few of the old favorites alive by repeating them to our children and grandchildren.
      One of my maternal grandfather's favorites was threatening to "jerk a knot in your tail" if you didn't behave. I was never (and still am not) sure what that entails, yet I recognized it as a warning.
      An elderly neighbor used to tell me something got done "every whip stitch." I understood that meant quickly and repeatedly. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there's a promise to do something "in two shakes of a dead lambs tail."
      Years ago, my mother-in-law introduced me to the phrase, "You're leanin' on a broken stick." That's also pretty self-explanatory. 
      I work part-time in a newspaper office with a young man in his twenties. We were joking about doing something outrageous, and I said he could end up in the "hoosegow." He'd never heard the old-fashioned term for a jail cell. I suppose my fondness for westerns keeps the term securely ensconced in my over-stuffed memory. 
      A few phrases borrowed from our English ancestors are "having a bee in one's bonnet" or "having your knickers in a twist." At least, I think they originated in Britain. I'm not sure about "having a burr under your saddle." 
      I'd be happy to hear from anyone who knows the origins of these adages and invite you all to share some of your favorites. Don't be shy!

Hugs, Becky 


Thursday, April 14, 2016

Romance or Erotic Romance

The term 'romance' is a very broad category, ranging from extremely chaste in tone and content, to steaming hot love making between the principles.  Yet one thing has never changed.  The romantic relationship always has star billing.  No matter if the main characters are devout church-goers sneaking glances of the hymnal, or mature, experienced adults who enjoy a sexual romp, their emotions must be engaged, not just their hormones.

I confess, there has never been any chastity going on in any of my books.  I started writing traditional romance, both historical and contemporary.  Lots of sexual tension, followed by much teasing and foreplay, eventually culminated in my characters doing the deed at least twice per book.

Orchestrating the act was sometimes trickier in historicals, particularly if the heroine was a virgin like Anora in Anora's Pride, but I enjoyed stretching my creativity to make it credible both for the reader and the character.

I don't know who was more sexually frustrated, my characters or me, but after eight or ten novels I decided everyone should have more sex.  This was the early days of erotic romance so there were no guidelines to follow,  I was pretty much making it up as I went along.

What I enjoyed about what I was doing was the ability to torture my poor characters, who thought they were simply having no-strings sex.  I knew better.  I knew that every time they got naked they became more vulnerable, more connected and more entangled in every way possible.  But the sex was so damn good they couldn't walk away.  They might tell themselves it was just sex, but deep down they knew better.  This was more, much more.  The sex heightened their emotions, which heightened the sex, which heightened their emotions....  Well you get the picture.

And although my characters were previously experienced, once they met there was total monogamy between them whether they liked it or not.  That was an important component for me to stay true to the heart of the romance. 

My timing was excellent.  Brava had just launched at Kensington to much success and other publishers were eager to cash in on the latest sub-genre in the romance field.  My books helped launch Pocket Books' erotic romance,  'romantica' as my editor, Micki Nuding, liked to call it.

They have been translated, e-pubbed, and garnered rave reviews along the way.  Those early erotic romances, which seemed ground-breaking at the time feel almost tame given where the market has gone with menage, BDSM, and same-sex couples.  The bottom line is that a good romance will never go out of style.  And some sex, no sex, or lots of sex, there is something out there for every reader's taste.

Final Heat is an erotic romance thriller where the characters try to pretend the sex means nothing.  It's just how they pass the time while they compete in a high-stakes, lifestyles-of-the-rich and-famous race, and stay one step ahead of whoever is trying to kill them.  Who are they trying to kid?

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Living The Dream!

This is my first post on the Gems in the Attic blog and I have to say, I'm happy to still be in the publishing business. My first published novel was a Kensington Precious Gems historical romance. Mountain Jewel came out in 2000. This book went on to be published in Dutch, Portuguese and ebook format. Part of me feels like it was just yesterday and yet I know it's been close to two decades since I made my author debut! Back then digital books were just starting to take hold. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and a myriad of other social media outlets didn't even exist. We connected with our readers through physical appearances and newsletter mailings.

What have I been doing since that first book came out? Well, along with my husband we finished raising our two sons, although is that job ever really finished? We now have an expanded family that includes two daughter-in-laws and four grandchildren. We've moved to northern California and then back to New York State. There have been job changes for my husband and publisher changes for me.

I have a three book series called The Women of  Surprise that came out in 2005 and 2006 with Avalon books. Due to the publishing house closing they went on to be placed with an evolutionary publisher called Amazon Publishing. Now part of the Montlake line these little books have been given new, best selling, life in the form of ebooks. Never in my wildest imaginings did I picture myself as a top ten best selling author! I've tried my hand a indie-publishing with one contemporary, women's fiction novel and a little novella, The Wedding Toast, in the Kindle Worlds program. 

I'm beyond excited to have been picked up by Waterfall Press an imprint of Brilliance Publishing/Amazon. So in July I'll have a new book out called A Changed Agent. This is still historical romance, but with a Christian inspirational story line. I'm happy to say I went back to the roots of my writing and set the book in the Adirondack Mountains of New York State. This is where Mountain Jewel was set. I've never been busier and I've never been happier! For the moment I'm living the dream!



Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Write What You Love

So many times in my career I heard the words write what you know. My editor, Kate Duffy, used to tell me to just have fun with my writing. Sometimes I think I would get wrapped up in the mechanics of writing or marketing and forget exactly why I became a writer. I still do, then I have to remind myself not to just write what I know, but write what I love.

 One weekend I went to a retreat with five other writer friends to a lake house. We had good food, alcohol and a heck of a lot of fun. We started our plotting session. I had an idea about a heroine who is from another planet. She runs across a documentary her grandmother brought back from a planet called Earth, Debbie Does Dallas. Space travel is now forbidden but Mala is determined to travel to this planet and see what a real man is like. They only have companion units on Nerak, and she should never have added the attitude chip to hers.

One thing led to another and we had great fun coming up with stuff that Mala would find once she landed on Earth. When I got back home, I wrote a proposal and sent it off to my editor. Kate called me at home and said if she had known I could write something this sexy and funny she would have had me writing this type of book all the time.

Kate was right. Don't just write what you know, write what you love and the story will practically write itself. With that, the planet Nerak series was created. I'm happy to say I have the rights back to the first one, Close Encounter of the Sexy Kind, and it's now availabe.

I think in everything you do in life if you're not havng fun doing it then maybe you should rethink why you're doing it.

Best Wishes,
Karen Kelley

Monday, April 11, 2016

Softball, Baseball, and The Heartbreaker - by Maddie James

It's that time of year again -- softball and baseball season.

When my son and daughter were young, we spent many a summer at the ball fields. My daughter played fast-pitch softball, and my son baseball. We lived in the bleachers from spring to fall. Suppers were often hot dogs or nachos from the concession stand, flavored with dust from the infield. A bottle of water or a fountain Diet Coke washed it all away--until next time. (I really miss these days but that's another story...)

After I sold my first book, I was eager to sell again. While sitting in the bleachers one evening at my daughter's practice, my son joined me and asked what I was thinking about. I could have said I was concentrating on what his sister was doing on the field, but I didn't. I said, "I'm thinking about the next book I need to write. Brainstorming in my head."

He replied with, "I can brainstorm with you."

Smiling, I thought it was pretty cool that this thirteen-year-old kid would even consider brainstorming a book with his mother. But he did. "I want it to be set in a small town, like ours--but not ours. I need to make up a new one."

"Freedom, Tennessee," he responded without a hitch. I looked at him, surprised.

"Why Freedom. And why Tennessee?"

"Because we live in Kentucky, and if you don't want it set here, Tennessee is close. And Freedom is a cool name."

I agreed. So, Freedom, Tennessee, it was--the setting for my new story. From that beginning, we decided that the heroine would work for the local Parks & Rec department--something we knew a little about since my kids had been highly involved in all kinds of sports since preschool. The hero, we decided, would be a doctor. They would live next door to each other--in fact, grew up next door to each other--although the doctor had recently moved back.

But why? To take care of his younger brother, we decided. A troubled, teenage younger brother. And from experiences both my son and I have had, we created a loose plot for the book. I even borrowed, generously, from something that one his friend's little brother did--with a BB gun. (You'll have to see the opening of the book, for more on that!)

The Heartbreaker was my second published book by Kensington for their Precious Gems line. (Take a look at that mullet on the cover!) And as exciting was it was to sell that second book, the thing I remember most about writing it, was sitting there with my son that evening plotting away. He's thirty-years-old now, and I doubt he even remembers, but it's something I will never forget.

So, The Heartbreaker, lived a good, long life with Kensington, and enjoyed some foreign sales, but I'm glad to say that the story has been republished under my own imprint now. I hope you'll check it out.

The heartbreaker is back in town… 

Lucki Stevenson spends most of her time coaching unruly teenagers and avoiding the unwelcome advances of a co-worker in her Parks Department job. So when all-grown-up, boy-next-door, Dr. Sam Kirk moves back into his childhood home, she doesn’t hesitate welcoming him back into town and her life, as her childhood best friend, of course. Because that’s all they will ever be—best friends.

Sam broke her heart once; she won’t give him a chance to do it again.

Returning home to care for his younger brother J.J., after his mother’s death, Sam is happy to accept Lucki’s expert advice about kids—and even happier that the tomboy he remembers is now a beautiful woman. When Lucki agrees to help him with J.J., Sam is sure he’s on the road to success as an instant parent, and possibly as a husband—but first he’s got to convince Lucki that he’s not the heartbreaker of her past.

In fact, he might have to get the whole town in on the act.

Maddie James writes romance – don’t try to pin her down to one 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, April 8, 2016

Like cats, Precious Gems books have many lives by Jan Scarbrough

During my first blog I talked about my sale to Precious Gems. Reunited was my first published book, but its story did not end at Kensington.

After my rights were reverted, I sold the little paperback to a company called Five Star. The $1.96 book became a $25 hardback book sold to libraries.

1998 Review: I was enthralled with the world of show horses that Ms. Scarbrough introduced me to in this tale of love gone awry, old pain, secrets, and a love that never dies. The characters are true to themselves, to what they obviously believe, and yet are capable of changing, growing, and forgiving–and most important, they know that dreams can come true. 

Originally, Reunited was an 85,000 word romantic suspense. I cut out 35,000 words and the suspense part to make the sale to Kensington. When my rights came back from Five Star, I put the words and suspense back into the manuscript. I changed the names of the major characters. By this time, ebooks were making an appearance. I sold the restored book, now called Kentucky Flame to Resplendence Publishing in 2009.

Amazon Review: As a recovering horse lover, I found ‘Kentucky Flame’ frustrating…Ms Scarbrough’s story brought back so many wonderful memories that have been too long repressed. Horse hugs, the smells of horse, tack and stables, and the freedom of “Rack on!”…mixed with a delightful romance that non-horsey people will enjoy as much as I did. ‘Kentucky Flame’ has just enough horse for horse lovers but not too much for the innocent.

Becoming part of my Bluegrass Reunion series, Kentucky Flame remains available today. Resplendence recently gave me a new cover for the ebook.

Amazon Review: Scarbrough’s horse knowledge shines without being overwhelming. Crisp dialogue and masterful transitions create a hero and heroine you can take to your heart in this well-executed story of two people reunited at last. Brava Ms. Scarbrough. 

The moral of the story is books you love don’t have to go away and die. Breathe new life into them, especially now that ebooks are popular and easy to purchase online.

Thursday, April 7, 2016


When I learned a group of previous Precious Gems authors had gotten together and formed a group, I was excited.  In my writing office, I have a framed picture of my husband, daughter, and I at Medieval Times, where we went to celebrate selling my first book - a Precious Gems called DESERT FIRE - back in 1997.  Nineteen years ago.  Wow.

I can still remember the shock and disbelief and excitement when I received a phone call that Kensington Publishing wanted to buy my story.  I phoned my husband and told him and his comment was "You're kidding!"   We went out to celebrate and I used my advance to buy a laptop.  Back then, computers were much more expensive and the laptop (an open box too) cost my entire advance.

Since then, I've gone on to publish 45 titles for various publishers, 35 of them at Harlequin Books.  I now have achieved my dream of writing full time.  And even though life has thrown me many curve balls, as life is wont to do, I still try to celebrate each and every sale.  And every single book.

I got the rights back to my old Precious Gems and self-published them myself with new covers. Though I'm sure my writing style has changed over so many years, I left them as they were, mostly due to time constraints.  The other authors from that line have gone on to their own publishing milestones, and it's great to get back together with them and relive the past.

Precious Gems brought many new friendships.  I celebrate those too by being part of this blog.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016


Back in the days before everyone had a cell phone, our household had three phones—the main number, the teen number, and the fax line.  Both the main number and the teen line had call waiting, which meant we could toggle back and forth between two callers on each line.  The teens in question had strict instructions…

“If a call comes in for Mom that has something to do with writing, you must get off the phone immediately and give her the call.”

Because it was entirely within the realm of possibility for either teen to be talking on all four lines simultaneously.  Violation of the rule would lead to loss of phone privileges until said teen turned thirty-five, or began paying his or her own phone bill, whichever came first.

But what of the newly retired husband?

It’s not as easy to lay down the law to a spouse as it is to a child whose phone bill you’re paying.

So a few days after I’d crossed my fingers and sent my latest manuscript winging toward Hilary Sares, Precious Gems editor at Kensington in New York City, I arrived home from my errands to discover my husband chatting on the phone with someone or other.  A while later he said something along the lines of, “Oh, I almost forgot.  Some editor called you.”

Some editor?  Some editor?  Who? Who? Who?

Image result for phone call

 He wasn’t sure.  He’d written it down somewhere.  Maybe.

It couldn’t have been the editor of the newspaper I wrote for, because he knew her.  Yet it made no sense that it would be Hilary Sares.  Why would she call me a mere three days after I’d mailed in the manuscript?  Unless I’d accidentally stuck my phone bill in the envelope, or she’d spilled coffee on the manuscript, or…what, exactly?  I couldn’t imagine what she might want.  After all, everyone knew that when you sent a manuscript to an editor, you had to wait months for a reply.

“What did she say?” I asked my husband.

But he couldn’t be sure.  He’d been busy talking to a friend and simply told her I wasn’t home.

It was a Friday afternoon and I was so afraid she might have gone home early, but I found her number and gave her a call.  Luckily for me, she was still in her office.  And even luckier, she was calling to say she wanted to buy my book for Precious Gems!  My first sale!

I don’t think I could have survived an entire weekend wondering what she had been calling about.

As for my husband, I forgave him, that time.  I even dedicated the book to him, “the inspiration for all my heroes.”

After all, he did remember to tell me that “some editor” had called!

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