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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

NEW free romance novels on Kindle right now - May 31

Yet again, here's a running tally of the romantic fiction freebies on Kindle right now. All are romance or erotica, and all are free as of this posting. Some of the free titles stop being free quickly, though, so I strongly recommend you enable 1-click on your Amazon account and just go through and buy them. They're free!

Happy reading!

One True Love

A Tailor-Made Bride

Private Games

Bound by the Heart

Foreplay

Fire Dance

Ecstasy -- I've read this already and strongly recommend it! Bella Andre does a great job again, as usual.

Slow Hands (Harlequin Blaze)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Belated Winner Announcement!

Life intervened and my blog didn't make the cut. Now life is calmer, so here we go. Congratulations to a reader from Massachusetts for winning Bella Andre's Candy Store. Enjoy!

I'm busy editing Legs, which has an official publication date of June 10-11 now! My Monday Review Contest is suspended until Legs goes out - the only book I'm reading these days is my own!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

New Sample from Legs: Chapter 4


Another sample from Legs from Chapter 4:

Mocha almond fudge never announced it was leaving for South America for a year. Mocha almond fudge never declared it was gay and leaving her. A spoon, a pint, and a good Hugh Grant movie was enough. Eventually she'd add a vibrator of some kind; she wasn't afraid to have a battery-operated boyfriend. It, like ice cream, was always there when she needed it and it didn't talk back.

After the fiasco at the department meeting, Jill had slept in her advisor's office for three hours. She'd dragged herself home on the bus, blinking back tears and focusing on her breathing to keep the headache at bay.

She finished drying her hair with the towel and threw it on the floor, carefully untangling her long, brown hair with a wide-mouthed comb. What a wasted day. The sleepless night, destroyed by her recurring dream, and her one day to bask in the acknowledgment of winning the Munson had been hijacked by her ravenous encounter with Seth. The emotional high and the ripening of possibilities with him made the day so perfect. Then, all of it, destroyed by his skulking, his lie by omission.

She shouldn't be so upset. She zeroed in an on old strategy from high school: self-pampering followed by plenty of ice cream. She'd bathed in bubble bath, shaved and plucked, used a mud mask and painted her fingernails and toenails a nice light pink. Never a girly-girl, these were part of her friends' activities, but she grudgingly admitted to herself that she felt better.

As she'd bathed and washed away the sex, rinsing all traces of his body, his passion, she'd teared up–but wouldn't let herself cry. She soaked out the anxiety, part of getting control again. Leaving for Toronto in two months would complete her process to achieve order.

Briefly, she'd wondered if she were overreacting. Was she making more of this than it really was? Was she writing Seth off prematurely? He'd be gone for eleven months. If this were – longshot of longshots – meant to be, couldn't they try to make it work from a distance?

A bitter laugh escaped as the thought went through her mind. For nearly two years she'd seen relationships end–even long marriages involving kids–when one person went overseas for dissertation research. The long hours in the archive, the new friends. The growth that comes from mastering a new language in context, and the exotic feeling of becoming involved with a native from the country all wrapped up into one neat package why so many grad students were eager to do a year abroad for study. It was a rite of passage to go away and come home with notches on your belt. Once in a while the men even came home with fiances or wives.

Jill's face hardened and she dug into her ice cream, grabbed the remote, and pushed “play” to start her movie.

Someone knocked on her apartment door.

She stood up and cinched her robe, then paused. Maybe she should ignore it. Her apartment building was a large high-rise with a few hundred studios and one-bedrooms like hers. It could be a mistake. The clock read 8:14 p.m. Who would knock on her door at this time on a Friday night?

Whoever it was knocked again. Jill put down her ice cream, paused the movie and sighed. She looked through the peephole and her upper body flushed. There stood Seth on the other side of the door.

She froze. A rush of heat ran through her, standing there in a robe and nothing else, her wet hair a half-tangled mess. The chocolate taste in her mouth went metallic and her hands felt like they were owned by someone else as she undid the chain and deadbolt and opened the door.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Image Desperation - Are You Guilty?

Cathi Stevenson from Book Cover Express designed my cover for Legs. She's worked with Big 6 publishers and has more than 1,000 covers to her credit.

She has a great article about self-publishing and book covers, titled "Image Desperation: The Kiss of Death for Independent Publishers," and it's a timely post.

The Kindleboards Writers' Cafe is awash with threads about covers. Spend hundreds or DIY? Spend $50 for basic image manipulation? Is this cover good? How awesome is my cover? No on should ever, EVAH spend more than $75 on a cover. No, a hand-illustrated cover is worth $500-$1,000...

And so on. Cathi makes some great points, but I love this section:

Another big mistake is the cliché image. Using chess pieces on books about business strategies has been done — to death! One book production company recently published a book that not only used the old chess cliché, it actually had the pawn featured on the book cover. Whose goal is to be a pawn? Other overused cliché’s that smaller presses can’t seem to let go of include puzzle pieces, people shaking hands and locks and keys. Unless you’ve thought of a completely fresh way to use these elements, come up with another idea. They have simply been used too often.

But cliches are a step above "image desperation":

That’s when a novice publisher is so desperate to have an image, any image, that he or she will “make do” with completely unsuitable photos or amateur illustrations that virtually shout, “self-published.” Sometimes the publisher simply doesn’t have the “eye” that can discern a good image from a bad one; Sometimes he or she does not understand what the image should be; Sometimes it’s a budgeting issue. No matter the reason, it’s not only unacceptable, it’s completely unnecessary. It costs just as much to produce a bad book cover as it does to produce a good book cover.

I have the art skills of a 5 year old with olive oil smeared in his eyes, so I chose to hire a professional to handle my cover. The Dunning-Kruger effect is alive and well for some indie publishers; people often overestimate their graphic design/book cover design skills, then wonder why their book isn't selling well.

While there are many reasons, outside the cover, why a book might not sell, eliminating a poor cover as an obstacle is critical for success. Don't fall into the "image desperation" trap.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Portia Da Costa's A Gentlewoman's Ravishment Certainly Is!

While I read indie romance novels and review them each week here, I also read across traditional publisher's lists, both old and new (The Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase is in my "currently reading" e-pile).


I just finished reading Portia Da Costa's A Gentlewoman's Ravishment, a Harlequin "Spice Briefs" title, and I cannot get the novella out of my head. Set in Victorian England, the book is part of Da Costa's Ladies' Sewing Circle series. The Ladies' Sewing Circle involves a group of refined Victorian-era women who have some revealing chats about sex, intimacy, and the steamier side of life. We didn't invent sex in the 1950s, after all.

Reasonably priced at $2.39 on Kindle, this book, somewhere between a short story and a novella, describes Mrs. Prudence Enderby's sexual fantasy of being abducted and ravished -- and her shock when it comes true!

I can't give away more without spoiling, but suffice to say that Da Costa has mastered the art of writing well, incorporating good historical cadence and tone in the dialogue without overwriting (or overwroughting), and she gets the pacing, periodization and details right. I had to look up numerous words for, uh, devices...well, I won't spoil the plot.

This is a story I will read again and again. Readers might find it, well, multiply engaging (as did Mrs. Enderby). It's a perfect short that makes me want to go out and buy all of Da Costa's backlist, and made me search out her website. Fortunately, she has quite a list of forthcoming titles with Harlequin as well, making Da Costa an author to follow.

Buy A Gentlewoman's Ravishment on Kindle now.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Monday Review Contest: Bella Andre's Candy Store

So yesterday I wrote about Bella Andre's success as an eBook publisher. She earned more than $116,000 in her first quarter. Now, to be fair, she had quite a few books under her belt and got some of the rights back to her backlist, but $116K in 3 months is astounding for anyone.


Candy Store was one of the first indie romance books I read when I joined Kindleboards and started exploring the Writers' Cafe section. I'm glad her eBook was one of my first.

Candy Store makes no pretense at being anything other than a novella with a cute story and plenty of hot sex. And that is true for many of Andre's eBooks. They are what they are - solid, engaging reads with hot leads and hotter conflicts and sex scenes.

Callie Moore is the owners of Callie's Candies, a small-town candy store in Saratoga Springs, New York. Her business is failing, though, in part due to her generous nature. She's the candy store owner who gives kids freebies and has a heart made of dark chocolate cream.

Desperate to save her business, Callie turns to The Candy King, Derek McNear, a business consultant known for turning around struggling candy businesses. A chance meeting at a wedding and one hella hot scene in a kitchen cooler leads to a hot romance that would melt the chocolate off any Lindt truffle.

What I enjoyed most about Candy Store is that it's not formulaic, yet the checklist of romantic/erotic elements is omnipresent. Sympathetic, fiery heroine? Check. Alpha male with a sensitive side? Check. Hot, semi-public locations for incredible sex between near strangers drawn to each other as if by an unseen magnetic force? Check. The Happily Ever After (or happy for now) we all want? Check.

Chocolate?

Check.

Check out Andre's book, and if you want to take a chance on getting a free Kindle copy, just friend me on Facebook. I'll pick one of my friends randomly to win.

To buy Candy Store, go to:

Amazon
B&N

Come back next Monday to see who won, and to read my next indie romance review.

Monday Review Contest Winner of Gretchen Galway's Love Handles

So it's Monday, which means I get to announce the winner of last week's Monday Review Contest. A lucky winner from Ohio receives a copy of Gretchen Galway's Love Handles!

Hang on and read my new review, coming up soon, for Bella Andre's Candy Store.

Thanks for reading and entering, and be sure to enter the next contest!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Bella Andre's Success Story as an Indie Publisher

The Washington post has a 5-page article about Bella Andre (pseudonym for Nyree Belleville) and her success with indie publishing. After flat sales in print, Belleville turned to Kindle in Spring 2010 and, now, is earning a healthy 5 figures per month as she uses her backlist and new books to make outstanding sales.

I want to be her.

Well, my version of her.

Belleville's is not an overnight success story. Years of print publishing, using fan mail to contact fans to help promote new books, developing a strong social media platform -- Belleville puts in the hard work.

She also writes 6,000 words per day, which I've done. My brain is currently on vacation on the Croatian island of Hvar, desperately working to recover. I can't imagine 6K/day ongoing, but if she can do it, my hat's off to her.

This is why so many romance writers are entering indie publishing. Read the entire article. It gives the ins and outs of this new frontier and also stresses that there is no happily ever after guarantee. But there is a new option, and taking the risk is key.

(Plus there's a picture of Jimmy Thomas in there. The photos from my cover for Legs are from his stock image site!)

I loved her book Candy Store - and just realized that I'll review it, here, tomorrow!

Friday, May 6, 2011

First Chapter of Legs - Sample!


OK, so here goes:

Chapter 1

The heels of her buttoned boots caught in the crevices between cobblestones as she erratically click-clacked her way down an unnamed street. Her corset felt like a vice and although she increased her pace, she seemed to be walking through water, her feet clawing the rocky bottom of a clear lake. A thin wrist reached up to check her hat and adjust the pin, the feather damp and limp now as the fine mist slowly turned to a full deluge, the incongruity of bright sunshine and sheets of rain giving the stone-lined street with its row houses and gas lamps the feel of an impressionist painting.

Spine stiff and straight, she walked faster, cursing herself for failing to bring an umbrella but tucking the thought away. A slight smile played on her lips as she thought of him, and she willed her tiny feet to walk faster, each step closing the gap of thousands of miles, a journey she'd begun weeks before. The long buildings sectioned into row houses with differing facades, some a pale stone with black iron detailing and others with painted wood exteriors, offered no asylum from nature's wrath. She would appear before him with the countenance of a drenched match girl. He would have to help her out of her wet clothes to prevent a case of the chills. The thought aroused her, but she kept her face set like a stone statue, neutral and unyielding.

Beggars reached toward her and asked for money in a foreign language she didn't know yet spoke fluently, and at one point she stopped a man in uniform and asked for directions to a building. The police officer replied and she thanked him, changing direction and seeing the church steeple, knowing her destination was just around the corner. Soon she spotted the grey stone building, the thick wooden door, and she walked into the lobby, a feeling of relief and excitement blending at once in her chest.

She asked at the reception desk for James' room. Without warning, as if time fast-forwarded, she was in front of a door, knocking. The door slowly inched backward and a gorgeous Latina woman with long, black, wavy hair answered, her skin the color of fine, pure spun silk, red lips lush with smudged makeup and chafed from activity.

Next she saw her face in an enormous mirror edged with color, her eyes wild and mouth twisted in a tortured expression, a chandelier glittering in the backdrop. But the face wasn't hers; it was a small-boned blond woman, with red-rimmed China-blue eyes and a sharp jaw, her wet hat hanging on an unkempt hairdo by a loose pin. Her heart slammed in her chest and she clawed at her collarbone, digging through the fabric of her bodice to find air.

Suddenly she was running back down the street, holding up skirts and struggling on the cobblestones, running and not caring that she made a scene as onlookers stared. Tears streaked her face and she found a small park bench many blocks away and sat and cried until a small child placed his filthy hand on her gloved arm, offering her a sweet in his other hand.

A ragged sob filled her lungs, and that was the point in the dream when Jill woke up every night.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Amazon.com launches Montlake Romance imprint

Amazon.com is shifting from distributor to publisher with the creation of Montlake Romance. Publishers Weekly's article focuses on the business end of the new imprint, but what will this mean for indie publishers who write in the genre? Will Amazon algorithms favor its imprint's writers?

And how aggressive will Montlake be in pursuing new authors? According to the article:

Another insider said he thinks Amazon will likely start to “acquire big names in the editorial ranks as well as make runs at big authors.” He added: “And I think agents would sell to them, especially since they’ll probably spend big money.” Amazon has proven recently that, for the right author, it is willing to pay a lot. After St. Martin’s Press closed a reported $4 million four-book deal with self-publishing sensation Amanda Hocking, word leaked that Amazon had put in a competitive bid in an attempt to land the author.

Watching this unfold will be interesting.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Monday Review Contest: Love Handles by Gretchen Galway

OK, OK, it's not Monday. But we're going to pretend it's Monday, just like I'm going to pretend that I did not just spend the last three days dealing with a deer tick embedded in my 1 year old's chest, or the GI- tract virus that turned him into a little Mount Vesuvius O'Stuff.

(This is why we read and write romance fiction, right? It's a nice escape.)

So forget all that and pretend it's Monday, and here I am reviewing Gretchen Galway's new full-length romance novel, Love Handles. As you may recall, a while back I reviewed her novella, Quick Study (and a lucky reader won a copy of her book). Once again, one reader who enters my giveaway contest will receive a free copy of Galway's $2.99 eBook, so read this review through to the end to learn how to enter.


I have one criticism to levy on Love Handles: it starts out a bit slow. Not plodding, and certainly not boring at all. It's more that around page 50, and definitely by page 80, the book takes off in such a compelling and engaging manner that by comparison, the first 50-80 pages seem slower. But do not let that stop you from reading this well-constructed, beautifully-characterized romance fiction novel that takes us through the emotional ins and outs of a San Francisco fitnesswear company, Fite Fitness.

The main female character, Beverly Lewis, is a preschool teacher who considers reaching through her car window for the donut bag at the drive-thru to be a workout. Liam Johnson, the male lead, is a gold medal Olympian with the fine-tuned swimmer's body to match. Liam is a senior vice president at Beverly's grandfather's fitnesswear company. When her grandfather, Ed, dies and leaves her the business, a series of plausible events brings Beverly into the company and -- eventually -- into Liam's arms.

This is a fully-developed novel with real people I want to have over for a BBQ or invite to share a pitcher of margaritas. Beverly isn't your typical female romance novel lead, but she's also not some overblown anti-stereotype, either. She's a real human being who has been underestimated for far too long and finally reaches her breaking point.

Same with Liam. He's tired of being the pretty jock and underneath his cold work persona there is a softy who indulges his kid sister, loves his mom and protects his younger brother. Love Handles is long enough to flesh out these characters (nearly 375 print pages) and the length works well with this story. In many ways, this is more a novel with romantic elements than a "romance novel." Yes, it has the required HEA (happily ever after) but it gets there by treating the characters (major and minor) with respect, letting them be real.

It's evident that Galway has some experience in the apparel industry. I love to learn something new when I read, and even the most formulaic romance novel (which this is not) holds the potential to teach and show. Galway does this well, avoiding too much jargon while patiently explaining how the fitness fashion industry works, and these details move the plot along. They aren't there just as notions.

Without revealing any spoilers, a handy epilogue gives the readers some resolution, but if I may, I'll add one more point of criticism: rather than an epilogue, I'd like to see a sequel. Love Handles is that good, and the characters endure in my mind.

So, to enter to win a Kindle copy of Love Handles, please leave a comment! I'll announce the winner next Monday!

Available on:

Amazon
B&N

Monday, May 2, 2011

Learn who won a copy of Ellen Fisher's All I Ever Wanted!

A reader from Michigan won a copy of Ellen Fisher's All I Ever Wanted. Thanks so much for all who entered, and stay tuned - tomorrow I'll be reviewing Gretchen Galway's new indie romance, Love Handles.

Yes, it will be on a Tuesday, but I'm raising three boys and at some point one of them needs more than a carpet-covered wire monkey and Snickers bars as a mother substitute. So tune in tomorrow!