Saturday, August 25, 2012

Friday, July 6, 2012


When I joined RWA in the Spring of 2005, I had just finished my first manuscript. I really believed I'd be a published author by the end of the year. Then by the end of the next year . . . And now seven years, two children, five finished manuscripts, a hard drive worth of first three chapters, and 100s of rejections and several almost-sales, I'd almost started to believe it just wouldn't happen.

And I did give up. In 2010, after my son was born, and my collection of first three chapters was steadily growing and rejection letters kept coming from projects I had out on submission, I decided to let my RWA membership lapse. See how not writing felt. Not writing felt horrible. Worse than horrible. Then in May 2011, I decided to give it one more shot with a very simple goal--I would open my WIP, whatever that happened to be, every day, no matter what.

In one year, I wrote more words than in the previous 6 years combined, finishing two complete books and one novella.

And today, that Novella sold to Ellora's Cave. Seven years ago when I started, e-publishing was a brave new world and Ellora's Cave stood out as one of the big success stories. I always had them on my list, and I'm absolutely thrilled to be bringing you my funny, sexy, sweet novella with them.

And if you ever doubt the power of social media, this story would never have happened without it. I knew Delphine Dryden on twitter, and after 50 shades came out and was heralded as "mommy porn," she suggested erotica writers take back the term. A group of us worked on shorts featuring heroines who also happened to be mothers getting happily-sexily-ever-afters. Knowing a group of us were all talking and tweeting about our stories kept me on track as did my #1k1hr friends.

I submitted to Ellora's Cave at Del and others in my critique circle urging, crossed my fingers, and when I saw the email today, I really thought it was a rejection. And my heart sank. And then I read it and my squeal probably sounded all the way to Mount St. Helen. And then I told twitter :) And my husband. In that order. Luckily, he forgave me.

Over the years, I've read hundreds of "call stories" and success stories and I always looked forward to the day I'd have a call--or in this case email--to share. And in every story, the message is always the same--don't stop writing. Don't stop trying new things, new genres, new stories, new lengths, new critique groups.

P.S. Today would have been my beloved Grandmother's 92nd birthday. It's our first without her. She'd be a little horrified that my first sale came from an erotic romance, but I think she'd also be tremendously proud of me. She was one of my biggest supporters of my writing, and I called her with every contest win and every request for a full, right up until her final weeks. I'd like to think she brought me a little luck today.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

One Question Guest: Cassandra Carr

I am a bad, bad blogger. I've been neglecting the blog way too much as the evil day job and toddler motherhood are combing to kick my behind. But, I'm so thrilled to have Cassandra Carr with me today. Not only is she an awesome twitter tweep, but she's also a new RWA PAN member, giving hope to writers seeking PAN status from e-publishers.  I've had her books on my to-buy list for months now, and I have to tell y'all as soon as I finished formatting this post, I went and clicked buy on COLLISION. Figure skating AND bull-riding???? In the same book! I think I totally died and went to fan girl heaven. Nothing I love more than a cowboy hero. And I've been a figure skating fan since childhood. And of course, since I hate to read series out of order, I bought IMPACT too. Check out her excerpt below--I dare you not to be tempted to buy. And have a glass of ice water handy :) 

1) One fiction book you would take to a desert island? 

Hmmm. This is a tough question! You knew that, though, didn't you? ;-) I'm going to say Pride & Prejudice - the Annotated Version. It's fascinating. On the left page is the book itself and on the right page is a bunch of annotations about what the carriages look like, when they would've gotten up for breakfast, etc.
2) One book you've read recently that you just can't get out of your mind?

I just finished Control by Charlotte Stein. Great book! It was a recommendation from Twitter.
3) One favorite sub-genre?

Hmmmm. Right now, probably menage.
4) One perfect hero? 

Personally, I think a lot of my heroes are perfect! I think Brady, from Collision (bk 2 in the Buckin' Bull Riders series, releasing 4/4 from Ellora's Cave), is pretty perfect! He's a professional bull rider and just about the sweetest talker you ever heard.
5) One favorite heroine? 

Elizabeth Bennet, Pride and Prejudice. Are you sensing a theme here? ;-)
6) One favorite character of your own? 

Other than Brady, I'd say Conner, the hero from Impact, the first in the bull rider series. He's a Dom and a professional bull rider who loves women and flirts shamelessly but adores his woman and will do anything for her.
7) One favorite place to write?

Favorite place or necessary place? LOL I can't really be picky since I only have part-time child care. I do like writing outside on a deck with an umbrella overhead so I don't bake and I can actually see my screen. Unfortunately, my house doesn't have a deck. We built the house and there's only so many things you can do at once.
8) One favorite setting for stories?

For me? The greater Buffalo NY area, which is where I live. Who says sexy stuff can't happen in a place like Buffalo? Trust me, it can!
9) One book of your heart (your favorite of the books you have written)? 

Talk to Me, my debut novel. Love that book.
10) One excerpt from your new release: 

“Can I help you with something, darlin’? Need a hand back there?” Brady turned on the full force of his smile and Leah cursed her weak knees. As soon as she was able to recover, she berated herself. Here she was, a grown woman, practically falling at the feet of this cowboy who was so not her type.

“No,” she bit out, but then rolled her eyes and relented. “Well, yes. I need someone to help me into my dress.”
He winked and the phrase “bad boy” flashed through her brain. Yeah, this Brady was no Boy Scout. “Helping women into their dresses isn’t my specialty, but I’ll give it a shot. You must be Leah.”

She held up a hand to shake his, but snatched it back when the dress began to fall, briefly revealing the side of her breast before she was able to conceal it once more. “Yes, I’m Leah. And I need the wardrobe assistant’s help. She’s over there, brushing off some chaps from what it looks like, if you can believe it.”

Brady laughed. “Yeah, I wore them last night, they’re probably pretty dusty.”

Leah’s mouth fell open. She’d been making a joke about the chaps, hoping Brady would agree with her about the apparent cheese factor. “You wore them? In public?”

“Yes ma’am. But I’d be happy to oblige you if you need help—”

“No! Just get Sandy,” she commanded, adding, “Please,” when he didn’t move immediately.

Giving her another smile, as well as a smoldering look that had her nipples tightening and her thighs clenching involuntarily, he loped away. Sandy came to zip up her dress and then her hair and makeup were done. She was wearing twice as much makeup as she usually did, which was saying something, considering by necessity she wore entire vats of it to perform. Not only that, but the makeup they used were colors she thought were better suited to a burlesque dancer than a figure skater, but she was so eager to get the show on the road she sat there and let them do whatever they wanted without protest.

Through it all, she watched as other assistants fussed over Brady, helping him dress in his chaps, which she was quite sure he was perfectly capable of putting on himself, and smoothing their hands over his Western-style shirt on the ridiculous premise of making sure it wasn’t wrinkled. All the while Brady smiled and laughed and flirted, and Leah fumed. He was acting totally unprofessionally, like a country bumpkin on his first trip to the big city. And of course the girls were eating it up. It was disgusting to watch, and yet Leah couldn’t take her eyes off him. She didn’t stop to consider why it bothered her so much.

When they were both ready, David brought them together. “All right, now we’re going to take a whole bunch of pictures. All you two have to do is stand there and look good. We’re gonna play off your nicknames. Leah, did you know Brady’s is ‘the Rodeo King’? Isn’t that perfect?”

“Perfect,” Leah grumbled, not happy they were going to use her dreaded nickname.

As they were being positioned, Brady spoke to her out of the side of his mouth. “Come on, sweetheart. This whole thing’ll be a lot more fun if you loosen up a little.”

“I’m plenty loose,” she ground out between clenched teeth.

“You’re about as loose as a calf I’m tying up on the ranch.” He paused and then gave her another long, thorough perusal. “Though I like tying up women a lot more.” Despite the heat that flooded her in parts she’d rather not think about at the moment, she managed to throw him another glare which he laughed off. Did he take nothing seriously? Her career was hanging in the balance and he acted as if he didn’t have a care in the world. It would be nice if she wasn’t the only one with a stake in this.

Turning away from him, she concentrated on the cameraman. Through the next few hours, she simply shut down and gave them whatever they wanted, put on each ugly skating dress without complaint, even while knowing the pictures were only going to give more fuel to those who hated her for whatever reason. She posed however they put her, and smiled through it all. Brady continued to laugh and joke with the crew as if this was the most fun he’d had in months.

The cameraman gave them a break while he checked the pictures he’d taken thus far, and Leah took the opportunity to eat a sandwich and guzzle down a bottle of water. When the cameraman called them back, he said, “All right. We’ve got some good pictures so far, but I’d like to sex things up a little.”

“Sex things up?” Leah echoed.

“Yeah. Both of you are young and good-looking, let’s play that up. Now, Leah, if you could turn toward Brady. Great. Put your left arm around his waist and your right hand on his chest.” Rolling her eyes, Leah complied. As soon as her hand made contact with his muscular pecs it started to tingle and her breath caught. Luckily Brady was listening to the photographer and didn’t seem to notice her sudden discomfiture.

“Brady, put your right arm around her shoulders and stick the thumb of your left hand in the belt loop of your jeans. Pull them down just a little. Perfect.” He took a few shots that way and then cocked his head as Leah fought to get her breathing under control. No man had ever caused a pure visceral reaction in her like Brady did, and she was stumped about what seemed to draw her to him like bees to honey. “Brady, would you mind unbuttoning your shirt?”

Brady grinned and Leah snorted, trying her damndest to cover her still-increasing respiratory rate. Of course he didn’t mind. The women on the crew were already drooling and falling all over themselves—including her, much to her own chagrin. When he began to unbutton his shirt and finally separated the two plackets, pulling the shirt out of his jeans as he did so, it was all she could do to keep her own mouth closed. The man’s chest was mouthwatering, sprinkled with the same dark-blond hair that was on his head. His well-developed pecs led down to six-pack abs, where another trail of hair led to…

Brady cleared his throat and Leah’s head snapped up. “Excuse me?”

“The photographer is talking to you.” Brady was smirking and she had a crazy notion to shock him by kissing that expression right off his face. Instead, with her cheeks flaming she turned to the cameraman.

“I want you in the same position as before, but,” he walked up and shoved her hand underneath Brady’s shirt, “put your hand here.” Leah’s stomach dropped as her fingers came into contact with the coarse hair and smooth skin of Brady’s chest. “Brady, lower your right arm and put your hand on Leah’s hip. Pull her into you. That’s good, very sexy.”

Her gaze flew up to Brady’s face. His brown eyes had darkened with heat. Forcing her eyes away, she concentrated on the photographer and tried to ignore how warm and hard his body felt against hers.

A few moments later Brady leaned down and whispered into her ear, his own breathing hitching, “Darlin’, if you don’t stop petting me we’re gonna have a mighty interesting situation that I don’t think any amount of airbrushing can disguise.”

Copyright, 2012

Author bio:
Cassandra Carr is a multi-published, award-winning erotic romance writer with Ellora's Cave, Siren, and Loose Id who lives in Western New York with her husband, Inspiration, and her daughter, Too Cute for Words. When not writing she enjoys watching hockey and hanging out on Twitter. Cassandra's book Caught was recently named Best BDSM Book 2011 by LoveRomancesCafe.

For more information about Cassandra, check out her website at, "like" her Facebook fan page at or follow her on Twitter at

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Page 77 meme . . . Join in!

So there's a fun little meme going around twitter right now, and The Daisy Harris & Julia Broadbooks goaded me into participating. And I think I'm supposed to tag 7 people myself, but I hate tagging people. Instead, why don't you play along in the comments or on your blog, throwing a link up here if you try it:

Page 77 of your current WIP if you're writing, or Page 77 of what you're reading right now, count down 7 lines, then post the next 7 lines.

Mine is from my Blaze Target. Page 77 of Still Got It landed smack in the middle of a love scene. It's definitely rated R, so look away if you're not interested in the smexy-smexy.

She laughed against his neck, making him moan again. She used her fingernail to flick his nipple before he pinned her hand back against her side. 
“Hey! We’re only halfway to the naked part.”
 He ran a finger all the way down her back. “You seem pretty naked to me. How about we move to step two of your experiment?”
He didn’t wait for her response before kissing her. His hands on her hips. Her nipples dragging against the cotton of his shirt. The sweet, heady rasp of his tongue against hers. The endless-wave high returned, crashing into her with a force almost great enough to throw her over.

Now it's your turn! Share your Seven Lines!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

One For Wednesdays: Interview with Tracey Smith

I'm so excited! I have my first ever guest at the blog today, Author Tracey Smith. I'm hoping to have more guests in the future so if you or someone you know is looking for another stop on a blog tour, I'd love to feature more "One for Wednesdays" guests. Today I've got Tracey's answers to my "One Question" interview, as well as an extended blurb from her new release, Love's Destiny.  I just read the first few chapters tonight, and I really like the alternating first person narrators. It definitely has a "saga" feel, and I like it. It reminds me of Chris Owen's Prove It, which also spends a nice chunk of time with the characters in childhood, establishing conflict. It's a method that doesn't always work, but when it works, it works really well. I'll try to post a review soon!

My Questions for Tracey:

1. One fiction book you would take to a desert island?

I think I would have to say Twilight. I have read many good books in the last few years, but that is the only one I have read several times. There’s just something about that book that makes me want to revisit that world occasionally. So if I could only have one book to read I suppose it should be one I enjoy re-reading.

2. One favorite genre?

That’s an easy one: Romance. I love any book that has a good love story in it, and when the love story is the focus of the book that’s even better in my opinion

3. One favorite character of your own?

Katherine from Love’s Fate was my first character to ever come to life. Hers was the first story I wrote and therefore she holds a very special place in my heart.

4. One favorite place to write?

My bed! When writing my first book I sat hunched over an old Mac that was set up on a television cabinet. I recently purchased a laptop and can now write anywhere my heart desires, and I find my favorite spot to be the comfort of my bed propped up on a bunch of pillows. J

5. One favorite setting for stories?

I love the ocean and my characters always seem to find themselves there. My first book Love’s Fate was primarily set in San Diego California, with a beach cliff as a very significant recurring setting in the book.

6. One book of your heart (your favorite of the books you have written)?

My first book Love’s Fate will always be my favorite. I was inspired by the idea of telling a love story in the alternating perspectives of the two main characters. The more I thought about it the more the story grew. I was consumed with the characters as they evolved in my mind, until I finally had to sit down (hunched over my old Mac) and tell their story. It was such a liberating, creative, amazing experience that I instantly became hooked on writing. I loved every minute of writing that book and it was truly a labor of love. I love that book, those characters, and the story they told.

7. One thing about your new release:

My new release Love’s Destiny is the sequel to Love’s Fate and follows Destiny, the daughter of Michael and Katherine from book #1.

Destiny knew exactly how she would fall in love. Someday a handsome stranger was going to come into her life and sweep her off her feet. She would know the minute she laid eyes on him that he was the one. It would be overwhelming and romantic and everything she’d ever dreamed of. That’s the way falling in love was supposed to be.

Tyler had known Destiny his entire life. She had been his closest childhood friend, but it had been several years since he’d seen her, since his family had moved away. He had been miserable these last few years, nothing had been the same since they’d left San Diego. He’d been looking forward to seeing an old friend again, but she wasn’t the skinny girl he remembered from childhood and suddenly he felt awkward and nervous around her.

Destiny couldn’t believe how much Tyler had changed in the last few years. He seemed so different, so sad. She was glad she’d be spending the summer with them in Los Angeles, she hoped they could rekindle their lost friendship. She couldn’t believe the boy she had grown up with had turned into this sullen teenager. She wanted to help him, help him be happy again. So she went to LA with a plan and it backfired.

Everything changed that summer with one kiss. Tyler knew then that he was in love with Destiny, but would she ever be able to see him as anything other than the boy she’d grown up with? As the years pass and childhood is left behind will she ever face her feelings for him? Is it possible to look at someone you’ve known your whole life and see them for the very first time? Sometimes love doesn’t happen the way you thought it would.   


Thank you for visiting us, Tracey! You can learn more about Tracey Smith at & & Twitter @AuthorTSmith

Monday, February 13, 2012

Top Ten Books That Broke My Heart (A little)

Top Ten Tuesday is having an Anti-Valentine's today with Top Ten Books that Broke My Heart a little. Every day is Valentine's Day for me as a reader. I read Romance as a broad, encompassing genre from literary romances to guilty pleasure erotica because I like happy endings. I'm having a hard time right now with Downton Abby which is still my favorite show, but it no longer appears like ANY happy endings are guaranteed. I do not mind suffering. I do not mind crying. Nay, I LOVE books that make me cry. I just need a happy ending, even an unorthodox one. So most of the books on my list have a happy ending of some sort, they just broke my heart along the way. In particular this week I was drawn to books where someone loses--there is a loss that must be suffered in order for the happy ending to have a chance. And that loss isn't magically erased with romance fairy dust--it's real and its palpable and it lingers with the reader.

  1. Hint of Wicked by Jennifer Haymore--Possibly one of the best love triangles in all of Regency, this unusual historical features TWO heroes worth rooting for all the way through the book. My heart broke not only for the not-chosen hero, but for the heroine forced to make an untenable choice. Her heart is broken by her choice, even though it's the right one. (My original gushing over this on GoodReads)
  2. When He Was Wicked by Julia Quinn--Quinn is at her very best when she breaks our hearts. This is my all-time favorite Quinn because heroine falls in love twice, once which ends in such tragedy that my pages tear stained. And Quinn never negates that love or belittles it. Franchesca's love was real. It was returned and had her first love lived, she would have lived a long happy life with him. My heart breaks for the life they could have had. (My GoodReads Review here)
  3. Book of Scandal by Julia London. I had a hard time opening this book knowing that it was a marriage-on-the-rocks tale, but it charmed its way onto my keeper shelf amid buckets of tears. My heart broke for this couple whose heartbreak is, indeed, the centerpiece of the book. 
  4. The Paper Marriage by Susan Kay Law--I know I've mentioned this book on this site before, but I couldn't skip putting on here. Any book where heroine is married to a man who's been in a coma for years is bound to break our hearts a little. Add in a hero learning how to be a father to a teenage daughter who doesn't know how to cope with heroine's unique situation, and you have a book that will never, ever leave my keeper shelf. 
  5. Out of the Deep I Cry by Julia Spencer-Fleming--Every single book in the Clare Fergusson series breaks my heart in different ways. Her most recent, One was a Solider, about killed me. So. So. So. Good. Even through tears. This earlier book in the series, however, broke my heart in a way that lingered through several later books as we catch just a glimpse of what could be, what should be, and what can never be in a single scene where she truly manages to convince us someone is going to die. I just re-read the scene for this blog, and even knowing where the series ends up, it still chokes me up. 
  6. The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen-Turner. This is another series I rave about all the time, but Book Two stands out as the real heart breaker of the series. A young man, a terrible loss that will haunt him the rest of his life, two countries at war, and a young, seemingly heartless Queen who makes a terrible mistake. This is five hankie heartbreak, but don't even think of starting the series here. Start with The Thief.
  7. Fourth Comings by Megan McCafferty. This ode to dysfunctional relationships everywhere is by far the most heartbreaking of the Jessica Darling series. It kept me guessing the entire book, and the ending shocked me. Start with Sloppy Firsts and make sure you have the series-ender Perfect Fifths on standby when you start Fourth Comings. 
  8. Life After Joe by Harper Fox. Two men, both hell-bent on destruction in different ways, both overcoming different types of heart break make this an emotional, angst-filled ride. Both heroes must suffer pretty awful losses to even have a chance of happiness. 
  9. Midwives by Chris Bohjalian. Not a Romance, and I knew that when I opened it. But sometimes, even I know when to set aside my need for a happy ending. This book removed part of the lining of my stomach, but years after I last read it, the characters remain as vivid as ever. 
  10. Table for Five by Susan Wiggs. If you need a happy ending with a lot of tears along the way, Susan Wiggs delivers every time. Here, tragedy throws heroine and hero together. The heart of the book is how they and the secondary characters cope with and overcome that tragedy 

So of course, you know I want to know what books break your heart? 

Monday, February 6, 2012

Top Ten Books I'd Hand to a Non-Reader

This week's top 10 Tuesday theme from the Broke & The Bookish is "Top 10 Books I'd Hand to Someone Who Doesn't Like to Read." I come from a family of readers, and I tend to surround myself with other readers. However, in my students, I run into non-readers frequently. And frankly, after all these years, non-readers still baffle me. I think someone becomes a reader as a child, by being read to or by having teachers and librarians place the right book in their hands at critical moments. I believe strongly that people tend to become readers when they are surrounded by others who read for pleasure, so I always try to mention my reading to others. When I recommend fiction to people who don't read many novels, I always consider:

  • What movies/TV they watch--this is key for me as since I read a lot of genres, I can help target my recommendations better. 
  • The reason I'm recommending--I'll suggest way different titles for a long plane ride versus pregnancy bed rest versus long wait in a hospital waiting room. 
  • Length of the book. I want to encourage people to read MORE fiction, so I like to choose manageable books to recommend. No 500 page tomes or lengthy description slowing things down.
  • Format available. Again, I want to encourage more reading, so I tend to recommend books that are available in E-book, paperback, hardback, used, and library versions. In other words, very accessible for a non-reader.
  • If it's on my keeper shelf. Being able to hand someone a book on the spot is powerful. 
  • If it's a series. There's a number of series starters on my list, because again, I want to trick people into reading more. 
  • If it has good audio versions. I always tell non-readers about audio books and try to recomend really, really well done series because if you hook them by ear . . . 
My Top 10 Books for Non-Readers 
  1. The Thief by Megan Whalen-Turner. I recommend this to those who loved the movies based on Harry Potter & Lord of the Rings. It's a stand-alone book that starts an addictive series. A slim, gem of a book, this is my top pick for non-readers of all ages. 
  2. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. I recommend this to those who loved Coraline and those who love Tim Burton's work. Perfect for non-readers of all ages, I have used this book in an academic setting to win over die-hard non-readers. 
  3. Veil of Roses by Laura Fitzgerald--This is for all the sweet chick flick lovers. So readable, no premarital sex, beautiful love story with deeper social issues. I buy this book as gifts, and I've used in class. This tends to surprise a lot of male non-readers who find themselves swept up in the first person voice. My discussion of her books here
  4. Warrior by Zoe Archer--I have yet to recommend this series to someone who doesn't go onto read the other four books. Guys, especially ones who love the new Sherlock Holmes fast-packed smart style, love this. Fans of period pieces love the unusual setting. Indiana Jones fans adore this. And the red-hot romance has everyone happy.
  5. Stolen Fury by Elisabeth Naughton--I give this one to Indiana Jones fans too. The heat level is a bit less than Warrior (still hot!), so I give this one out even more often. A treasure hunt, a fast pace, and a smart heroine. I'm on my fifth personal copy of it b/c I keep giving it away. 
  6. Spirit of the Mountain by Paty Jager--I recommend this to all the Western lovers who wanted Dances with Wolves to lose Kevin Costner.  My review of it here
  7. The Painted House by John Grisham--I like to recommend this deceptively complex 1930s tale to those whose last good book was Steinbeck in High School, those who like movies set in this time period, and those who aren't a good fit for my romance picks.
  8. In the Bleak Midwinter by Julia Spencer-Fleming--This is my pick for all the Castle fans, all the Law & Order die hards, the Inspector Lewis fans. What makes this pick special is that the audio of it is also so excellent. I recommend this to busy non-readers who need to discover the world of audio books. I wax poetic about her series here (SPOILER WARNING)
  9. The Unsung Hero by Suzanne Brockmann. Another author with fabulous audio books for an addictive series. Fast paced with rich characters, this is natural for military fans, but also the historical subplots give this series broad appeals. 
  10. Artemis Fowl--This is my other big recommendation for non-readers who loved Harry Potter. I have the first three books in the series on almost constant loan. The audio books are perfect for a family drive. 
What books do you hand to non-readers? Do you encourage them to try audio books? E-books? What do you consider when recommending to non-readers?