Friday, February 24, 2017

The Book That Changed My Writing Style

Counterfeit Countess

By Cheryl Bolen
Counterfeit Countess was the seventh of my novels to be published by a New York publisher, but it represented a shift in my style—a pursuit for humor that continues now more than ten years later. (Note: Counterfeit Countess was out of print for over ten years, and I re-launched it when the rights reverted to me after ten long years, also making it an eBook for the first time.) 

My first published book, A Duke Deceived with Harlequin Historical, featured a brooding, tortured hero. There was at least one other tortured hero in the next five books and lots of emotional ups and downs in all of them, including particularly the third and fourth of my popular Brides of Bath series (which now numbers six).In fact, they were hanky reads.

 After I turned in the fourth Brides of Bath Regency historical, my Zebra editor, Hilary Sares, called me and asked me to write two new, totally different books that would be connected to each other in some way. I asked if she'd read a proposal I'd sent. Her response: "It's pretty dark."

 It was. (And I never finished it after writing the first 75 dark pages.)

 In those days there were few publishing options. If I wanted to sell more books to Zebra, I knew my editor would prefer "light." So I started brainstorming. To be perfectly honest now, I must tell you I took some of the plot of my favorite movie, Charade, and decided to adapt it to Regency England. A widow who was planning to divorce her husband finds out on his death he wasn't who he claimed to be. With humor. Just like in Charade.

Reviewers say they laughed out loud at With His Lady's Assistance.
With His Lady's Assistance
 I wrote a first chapter which is basically just like in the published book (read it here  and my editor said, "I love it!" I had like a one-paragraph synopsis when I got the green light—and the publishing contract and advance money.

 It was so much fun, I wrote the book faster than I'd ever written a book before or sense. (There was no social media then, and email wasn't of the volume that it is today.) In ten weeks I had a completed novel that was published to some acclaim. The reviewer for the American Library Association's Booklist didn't call my Counterfeit Countess hero tortured, but he said he was honorable. I like that!

Reviewers have said my With His Lady's Assistance makes them laugh out loud. Judge for yourself in this short scene. Scroll down a bit to read the excerpt.

Now as I'm older, I've come to know myself better. I have analyzed what I like in a book or movie, and humor always factors in. Therefore, I endeavor to make all my books lighthearted now. Sometimes the humor works well; sometimes it's probably a miss.

That is not to say that I have turned my back on emotional depth of characters. That's important. And so is the magic of falling in love.

Do you like humor in your historical romances? What elements are important to you?

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Strong Women Have Heart by @lcrandallwriter

When I wrote Always and Forever Love, a romantic suspense, I wanted to explore the dynamics of two sisters, Sterling and Lacey Aegar, working together. The sisters, each a private investigator, are unlike in appearance and personality, but what they share is a love for each other. That love is a quality that contributes to their strength.

In my lifetime, I have witnessed changes for girls and women that include everything from clothing to how we interact with others to sports and career choices. I’ve been a part of those changes in finding my voice, my self-expression, and my inner strength. While women have always had strengths, it seems as though right now we’ve moved beyond claiming our rights as individuals to realizing our power. But in life and in fiction, there is a variety of ways women express strength and having heart is one of the them.

In writing my heroine, Lacey Aegar, in Always and Forever Love, I wanted her to have to find her way out of being stuck after the death of her husband. While she’s wrapped herself in the structure of the life she’s known, her spirit husband wants much for her and asks her to open her heart to possibilities. From the outside, she appears strong physically; she’s fit and can do well in a physical fight. She has depth. She has strength of character and values. And while she’s also mentally strong—she can assess clues and piece together the solutions to her work problems—she lets her heart lead her. It keeps her grounded and ultimately she needs it to help her face a new life.

Here’s the blurb for Always and Forever Love:

The presence of a ghost in her life doesn't alarm Lacy Aegar, in fact it makes her happy. Two and a half years ago when her dead husband Nicholas reappeared in her life as a full-bodied spirit, she questioned her sanity. But with Nicholas' explanation that there are things about life that are not as she's always believed, she settled into a pleasant routine of working with her sister at their private investigation business and enjoying home life with her now 10-year-old son – with Nicholas never very far away.

Lacey's complacency and sense of stability is sent topsy-turvy when she runs into Jackson Carter, the son of powerful and influential business tycoon, William Carter. Typical of the Carter reputation, Jackson's slick new private investigating business is siphoning off clients from the Aegar sisters' business, creating financial difficulty. It's a recurring nightmare for Lacey, who has already seen damage done by the Carter family, and when she encounters Jackson, she wants nothing to do with him.

But things are not what they seem when it comes to Jackson Carter, either. Unbeknownst to Lacey and her sister, Jackson is fighting a battle to preserve his business, too, and his integrity. For him, it's a fight for his soul, and he enlists Lacey's help because of her unique investigative skills and open heart. When she uncovers a mole in his business, she also discovers that one of his clients' drug trials has been given the green light to go to the next phase based on falsified data. As they work together to save both their businesses, Jackson and Lacey not only face death, they must come to grips with their feelings about love and life.

Do you believe “heart” is important and if so, how do you express it? Do you have some favorite characters who demonstrate “heart?”

Always and Forever Love is on sale at Amazon during the month of February for $1.99.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Writing Series Books: Then and Now by @BonnieEdwards

About ten years ago I had one of those flashes of brilliance that result in a book falling fully blown into my head. Those are rare enough…but what I had was rarer still. That single idea turned into a two book idea with a setting that lent itself to more books. I thought I had a series.

My editor at the time juggled two or three other paranormal series in the imprint and didn’t agree. She made that very clear when I sent in a book subtitled with the series name. The subtitle was scratched out when the pages were returned to me for final proofreading. I didn’t need any more sign than that. 

Sigh…I guess they didn’t have room to promote another paranormal series. I never could figure that out. If the imprint was doing well with paranormal stories then why not promote my connected books? But that’s the publishing world. Authors (at least those of my limited stature) are rarely informed of the reasons behind decisions.

Well, times change, rights are reverted, and I can now promote that flash of brilliance as a series and I couldn’t be happier. Thank goodness readers are patient! Now that I’ve published (just weeks ago) my fifth installment of my Tales of Perdition House I thought I’d show you the first two covers.

Just because I can! (yes, there’s a child inside who’s blowing a raspberry at all the NOs I used to get)

Buy here!

These books started it all...

Faye Grantham inherits her family's secret shame, Perdition House (a former brothel) only to learn that the spirits of the women who once lived and worked there are still in residence.

Through dreams, Faye learns their stories of love and loss, and learns some important lessons about herself along the way.

I did mention the mansion was a brothel, right? If walls could talk...

Monday, February 20, 2017

Blog Tours: Cost vs Benefit

Blog tours ... are they worth the time and effort?

Whether you use a tour service or plan, organize and execute the tour yourself, do you really reap a benefit from the time and effort spent? Or, does the cost of the tour, the associated raffle prizes, and time far outweigh any profit you may see in sales?

I asked five author-friends of mine who were about to embark on their own blog tours to track their time, their costs, and to monitor their Amazon ranking throughout their tour. As well, since I was doing three tours myself within a 4 month time frame, I kept close track of my own results. All total, between the six of us, we took part in 16 tours (12 through four different tour services and four self-arranged).

For those booked through a service:

Average length: 2 weeks; 12 blog stops
Average tour cost: $60 (not including hours invested)
Average prize cost: $18 (usually a gift card and/or book giveaway)
Average time spent: 10 hours (1 hr set up; 3 hrs completing blog posts/questionnaires, 1/2 hr per stop for comment response/viral sharing.)
Average boost in sales: No significant change in Amazon ranking for books at regular price. For those who put their book on sale during the tour, they did receive a slight bump in ranking. One author reported jumping 80K in rank on release day. However, it was not clear if that was related to the tour, or because the sales figures included possible pre-orders and the publisher's release-day discount.

For those authors who organized their own tour:

Average length: 1 week, 8-10 stops
Average tour cost: $0 (not including hours invested)
Average prize cost: $20
Average time spent: 42 hours (This included posting to Yahoo groups, FB groups, and sending emails requesting blog space, prepping blog posts/questionnaires, emailing materials to all hosts.)
Average boost in sales: Same as above for tours through a service.

What is the real value of doing a blog tour?

For the most part, it’s become the consensus that the value lies in introducing yourself to a new audience. However, even that has its drawbacks. The most recent tour I completed was a two-week, 13-stop tour. I saw comments from the same four to six people at each stop ... tour groupies out to win gift cards or books. I’m doubtful any of them would use that gift card to purchase my novel, but you can’t ignore them when they comment. Just in case.

The most valuable thing I got from the tour was that four of the bloggers also chose to review my book. And, fortunately, the reviews were good, great in fact. And, on the one day when the blogger gushed for even longer than my blurb and excerpt, I actually got a significant bump in sales, landing in the top 100 on Amazon!

An even better alternative?

Having been a bit disillusioned with the minimal benefits from company-run tours, and definitely not having the extra 40-50 hours to plan my own, I made the jump to becoming a tour host. I host an average of three guests per week. Set up for each tour takes approximately a half-hour. I do occasionally do review tours, which then increases my time to read and review the book. However, on the up-side, I’ve found some wonderful new-to-me authors.

My blog receives 50-100 visitors per tour day. My own books are advertised on the sidebars, along with the link to the corresponding excerpt/buy link page on my website. My monthly book giveaway has sold out each month. And, because my social media buttons are also prominent, I’ve received more followers to my blog, Twitter and Facebook from other authors’ tours than I did from my own!

Whether you’d rather be the tour, host the tour, or not tour at all is up to you. It’s all about exposure. You can’t sell what they don’t see. I still do the occasional tour of my own (now discounted because I host), but I’m finding a very rewarding satisfaction in promoting other authors. While still promoting myself, of course.

Please feel free to comment if you have any questions.

Until next month, stay happy, stay healthy, stay well read.


Friday, February 17, 2017

Maddie James and the Lucky 7 by @JoanReeves #GemsInAttic

Welcome to the Every-So-Often 3rd Friday Lucky 7 interview.

Each month--don't hold me to this--I'll interview an unwitting victim subject and boldly go where no interviewer has gone before.

Well...that's the plan.

Sounds interesting, doesn't it? I'm sure it will be given the authors I'll be interviewing.

This month, I'm talking to Maddie James who wrote as Kim Whalen and now writes as Maddie James.

She is a bestselling romance author and is published worldwide in at least 7 languages. Her books, available in ebook, paperback, and audio formats, span the romance genre from contemporary, to romantic suspense, to paranormal romance.

Landing on all major retailer top-selling lists, she’s been listed as a Top 100 Romance Author at Amazon, and a Rising Star in Western Romance at iBooks.

Maddie is the author of Seducing Sarah, A Hell Yeah! Kindle Worlds Book: The Montana Ranchers #8; Montana Heat, Book 2.

About Seducing Sarah

When Cole Stevens travels from Montana to Texas to close a business deal with his old friend, Heath McCoy, he never expects to close in on a relationship, too. But with one brief moment of contact in the airport with a pretty young woman carrying a guitar, his heart starts to unravel.

Sarah McClendon, fresh out of the gate after landing the runner-up spot on American Star, is touted as the up-and-coming country music star of the year. When she tangles with her manager at the Highlands Ranch annual barbecue, Cole steps up to the plate to protect her from the smarmy, poor excuse of a human being.

But it's just a weekend right? Cole will be back home on the ranch in Montana come Monday, and Sarah has a career to get off the ground. Can a love-at-first-sight weekend turn into the happily-ever-after neither of them are sure they even want?

Available as a Kindle World title, exclusively at Amazon Kindle.

LUCKY 7 with Maddie James

1. When you were 18, what did you want to do with your life?

Maddie: I wanted to be a music teacher. I did end up being a teacher but not music. I switched majors at least three times in college!

2. When you hit 40, what did you want most in life?

Maddie: Age 40 was a transition time in my life. I became a single mom with teenagers and mostly just wanted to get through from one pay check to another. Looking back though, those were great times with my kids and I wouldn't trade them for anything.

3. What is a character name you have always wanted to use but haven't?

Maddie: I had to think a minute about that one. I've used a lot of names over the years! Even those of my children. For men, I love short names. I don't believe I've ever used the name Luke -- but maybe I've just not met the right character yet.

4. What genre would you like to try but haven't?

Maddie: Mainstream women's fiction. There are a couple of stories rolling around in my head. I have a series and a few single titles I want to write first. By the time those are written, I hope to have at least one of the women's fiction stories firmed up enough to write.

5. Let's go to fantasy land. If time, distance, and other conditions of reality were no problem, where would you go for dinner tonight and with whom?

Maddie: I can't name the restaurant but it would be near the ocean. There would be seafood and steak and candlelight. And of course, there would be the man of my dreams....

6. Still in fantasy land, in the book shown above, who would you cast as the heroine and hero to star in the movie version of the book?

Maddie: In Seducing Sarah, Matthew McConaughey would be cast as cowboy Cole Stephens, and Nicole Kidman would make a perfect Sarah. I can just see them together!

7. Last question before we leave fantasy land. When the movie based on your book wins the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay, what will you wear to the Oscars?

Maddie: Something that doesn't clash with the red carpet! Seriously, you can never go wrong with black and pearls. I'd go for the classy traditional look.

Post Script

Be sure and pick up a copy of Seducing Sarah, A Hell Yeah! Kindle Worlds Book: The Montana Ranchers #8; Montana Heat, Book 2.


Joan Reeves is a NY Times and USA Today bestselling author of sassy, sexy Contemporary Romance. Subscribe to her free NL's and receive a free ebook: Writing Hacks, with tips to help authros with their writing business, and WordPlay, for readers with book news and giveaway alerts.

Subscribe to this Blog!

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner