Now Available for Pre-Order: Ghost of a Chance by McKenna Dean

 

The second in the Redclaw Security series, Ghost of a Chance, is now available for pre-order! 

Redclaw Security is an elite paranormal agency whose agents seek out and contain alien artifacts, as well as provide security and investigate matters within the shifter community. Each Redclaw Security story can be read as a standalone, though the the stories and characters are all connected with Redclaw in some manner.

Ghost of a Chance

Blurb: At sixteen, Sarah Atwell walked away from her love of horses and a promising career as a competitive rider after discovering she’d inherited the family curse. Years later, her grandmother stunned everyone by leaving Sarah her horse farm—worth millions—but with conditions Sarah might not be able to meet.

A former Redclaw agent, Casey Barnes retired when a security assignment went bad, killing his partner and leaving him as a partial amputee. His inner wolf is in hiding. He’s been living quietly as a horse trainer, but June Atwell’s death now pits him against her granddaughter for rights to the stable.

With both of them snowed in at the farm, a series of increasingly serious accidents draws Sarah and Casey closer together, but they each harbor secrets that might tear them apart.

Available August 7th, 2018!

 

“True” by Ann Everett: Book Tour & Giveaway!

Please welcome author Ann Everett as she shares a bit about herself and her newest book, True. Be sure to check out the giveaways after the author interview!

True
A Bluebird, Texas Romance
by Ann Everett

Ann is giving away five awesome prize packages. Please use the Rafflecopter below to enter. Remember you may enter every day for your chance to win one of the prize packages. You may find the tour locations here

About True:

Sometimes it takes losing everything…

True Shanahan must be the unluckiest woman in the world. Either that or she’s cursed. After another failed relationship, True leaves Dallas with a broken heart and new attitude. It’s time to walk on the wild side. But when she makes a wrong turn and ends up in Bluebird, Texas, the only man she wants is anything but reckless.

…to find all you’ve ever wanted.

Ritter Malone is the town’s favorite son and has the local hero awards to prove it. Seems he’s always in the right place at the right time. But when he crosses paths with True, his life takes a turn he never sees coming. Her songwriting skills may be questionable, but her ability to turn him inside out is indisputable.
Welcome to Bluebird, Texas.

Where a chance meeting gives two people a chance at love.

Amazon Buy Link

 
Excerpt:
When Ritter arrived at the gym, he spotted Cole jumping rope. He stopped and glanced at the wall clock. “You’re late. Roommate didn’t have you tied up, did she?”
 
“Very funny. We got a dog. Stayed up playing with him. I hit the snooze one time too many.”
 
Cole ran a towel over his face, then his lips curled. “That’s not good.”
 
“What? Getting a puppy?”
 
“Naw. The we in that sentence sounds like a contract extension.”
 
Ritter stretched. “I won’t lie. I’ve gone home to an empty house so long, thought having someone there would drive me nuts, but it hasn’t—for the most part.”
 
Cole stepped on the nearest treadmill, turned it on, and ran a steady pace. “I gotta hand it to you. You’ve managed to sleep with her and keep your hands to yourself. Or have you?”
 
Ritter climbed onto the machine next to Cole’s and matched his stride. No need to confess he hadn’t exactly resisted, but he’d not passed second base—by much. Had it not been for the phone call, he would have hit a home run. He’d had the wood for it. “No.”
“Come on. No way you haven’t hit that. Especially after what you told me about her coming on to you.”
 
“That’s why I can’t let her stay. My resistance is wearing thin.”
 
Ritter and Cole’s phones sounded a text at the same time. Ritter read his, then shot Cole a look. “Turns out, we’re off this afternoon.”
 
Cole dropped his cell back into the cupholder. “I’ve never been to New Jersey. You?”
“Nope but looks like the storm is calling us there.”

 

Hello! Welcome to my blog, Ann! Thank you for answering my nosy, I mean discerning, questions!  First, please tell us a little about yourself and the kinds of stories you like to write.

 Would you say there is an underlying theme behind your stories?

I like to write romance with some sass and sizzle. All of my stories are set in Texas…since I’m a Lone Star native that’s what I know most.

What part of the world do you call home? Can you tell us a little about where you grew up and where you live now?

I grew up in Brownsboro, Texas, a super small town about 125 miles east of Dallas. When I was growing up there, the town only had 300 people. I’ve lived in bigger cities…Austin and Lubbock, but currently I reside in Mt. Pleasant, Texas. We’re in the northeast corner of the state, near the Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana borders.

How long have you been writing? Did you write as a child or is it something you developed a passion for later in life?

I wrote some in college but was never serious about it. Then on a whim, when I was in my fifties, I decided to write a short story and enter it in a contest. Before I knew it, I had 25,000 words and decided I’d make it a book!

Of the stories you’ve written, which one do you like the most? Which one would you recommend a new reader begin with?

I think Chirp is the best book I’ve written. It’s the first time I tried writing multiple storylines within the same story. It has three romances happening. Chirp and Rance. Seth and Hanna. Tom and Helga.

What advice would you give to someone who aspires to be a published author?

Join an online writing website so strangers can critique your work. They are the ones who will offer the best advice because they don’t have to worry about hurting your feelings.

Where do you find your inspiration?

Everywhere. The inspiration for True came from my electric co-op magazine. It had a picture of a yummy looking lineman on the cover…and I thought…hey, not many stories are written with a lineman as a main character….so, Ritter Malone was born in my imagination.

Best line you ever wrote?

As an author, this is the only time I pat myself on the back. I work hard, hard, hard, to come up with the best opening line of a book. I want it to grab the attention of the reader and set the tone of the story. Here are a few examples.

From Laid Out and Candle Lit: Not only did Tizzy Donovan think her cup was always half empty, she was pretty sure someone had spit in it.

From You’re Busting my Nuptials: Twenty-four hours ago, Tizzy Donovan was naked in Ridge Cooper’s bed, screaming to get God’s attention.

From Tied With a Bow and No Place to Go: Jay Roy Hobbs held the county record for talking women out of their panties.

From Say You’ll Never Love Me: Two weeks earlier, Raynie stood in the same spot and swore off bad boys. Absolutely. For sure. Maybe.

From True: True Shanahan stopped in her tracks, cupped her ear, and listened to the throaty moans, heavy breathing, and rhythmic grunts coming from the other side of Richard’s office door. 

 
NAME THE TWINS CONTEST:
Submit your name choices via comment Ann’s blog post, http://www.anneverett.com/2018/06/15/contest-and-new-release/or to her email ann.everett @rocketmail. com. (without spaces)
 
About the Author:
Award winning author, Ann Everett embraces her small town upbringing and thinks Texans are some of the funniest people on earth. When speaking to writing groups, businesses, book clubs, and non-profit organizations, she incorporates her special brand of wit, making her programs on marketing, self-publishing, and the benefits of laughter, informative and fun.
Social Links:

Free Stories, Upcoming Releases, and More!

Because it’s a national holiday here in the US, I’ve opted to move WIP Wed to next week–so be sure to come back to participate then!

I’m considering starting a New Release Saturday as well–where people can drop in and share what they have that’s about to come out–what do you think?

In the meantime, I’m in the final edits on Ghost of a Chance, the next standalone in the Redclaw Security series.

I can’t wait to share this one with you! I see a lot of similarities between Sarah and myself: we’re both fangirls and we grew up frequently hearing how we fell short on expectations. Part of Sarah’s journey will be to recognize her self-worth, and discovering things some people see as flaws can be your biggest strengths.

As part of the run up to the next book release, first Reclaw book, The Panther’s Lost Princess is FREE until July 5th,  so grab your copy now!

Prince of Granola by L.A. Sartor, Excerpt and Author Interview

Prince of Granola–don’t you just love that title? And this cover! Please welcome L.A. Sartor as she shares with us about this exciting new release!

Blurb:

Only One Will Win

Cacao – long a symbol of wealth, love, and power – now the center of a powerful rivalry.

The fabled Costa Rican Plantation of White Treasure, source of the rarest form of the cacao bean, is up for sale. Though two fierce competitors have been invited to bid on it, only one can win.

For Drew Hopkins, purchasing the plantation is the perfect solution to escape a life she never wanted.

For Robert Prince, it’s the perfect route to revenge.

Drew, the founder’s daughter and now CEO of HH Chocolate, heads a company whose sales are waning.  Robert, CEO of Prince Organics, a man driven by excellence, despises everything and everyone labeled Hopkins.

But it wasn’t always that way.

Will their forced proximity at the lush and exotic plantation rekindle old flames or will it fan the fires of antagonism?

 

 

Dear Reader Blurb

 

Dear Reader:

Cacao has always been a symbol of wealth, love, and power. From the ancient Maya and Anasazi peoples who drank the pleasantly bitter brew to the European noblemen and religious hierarchy who began to dine on it at their gilded baroque tables, to current times where you can indulge in gold-leafed truffles in boutique chocolate shops or bar-shaped candy off a grocery shelf, chocolate has been cherished, fought over and delighted in.

If you’re interested in an in-depth history of chocolate, The True History of Chocolate by Sophie D. Coe and Michael D. Coe is a must read.

Be sure to check out the exciting excerpt below!

Author Interview: 

Hello! I’m delighted to have you here with us, sharing about your writing process. First, please tell us a little about yourself and the kinds of stories you like to write. Would you say there is an underlying theme behind your stories?

Hi, McKenna, thank you for having me as a guest on your blog.  I prefer stories with a happy ending, be it a romance, adventure, suspense, or mystery.  And guess what? I currently write all four genres, though my cozy mystery won’t be out until 2019. 

You asked if there was an underlying theme.  YES, there is. Even though the characters all have differing motivations and conflicts, I think my theme is always about trust. Trusting another person with your life, your love, your heart, your child.

What part of the world do you call home? Can you tell us a little about where you grew up and where you live now?

I was adopted as an infant by an American couple in Germany, spent several years there before moving to Pacific Palisades, California.  Loved it there. Adventure, beaches, palm trees, sunshine.  Then we moved to Colorado when I about 10. I was heartbroken to leave CA.  Now a gazillion years later, I can’t imagine not living in Boulder with a view of the icon Flatirons. The ocean still calls to me and I get my fix 3-4 times a year.  I’d be happy with a beach home to visit anytime I desired, and my forever home in Boulder.

How long have you been writing? Did you write as a child or is it something you developed a passion for later in life?

Funny you asked if I wrote as a child.  Ha, I thought I was unique, but I’ve learned that many writers start very young.  I was about 4, and no I couldn’t write, but I told my stories to mom, who wrote them down and I “illustrated them”. I gave up my passion after a junior high school teacher told me and my parents that I’d never be a writer because I didn’t want to learn grammar, I just wanted to tell stories.  Much later I regained the need to write. And it is a need. Today I have seven books published. I’ve made #1 Amazon Bestseller and won awards.  I’m truly happy to be where I am.

 

“Writers should write what they know.” What does this statement mean to you as an author?

I think it’s very limiting in, or at least it seemed that way to me when I started, and as I’ve met other authors, they’ve shared the same restriction they feel creates in that phrase.

We know sorrow, suffering, love, happiness, fear–the emotional list is nearly endless. We might not know how an attorney works or the law, or a bakery, or how an AUV (Autonomous Underwater Vehicle) works, but that is all information we can find on the internet or library, as well as query people in the field.  I didn’t know anything about cacao when I started Prince Of Granola, my new release. Or how go from bean to bar, or much about Costa Rica.  I found experts who either emailed me answers or invited me to their business to watch the process.  But I did know about the pain of separation, rivalry, betrayal. 

So, don’t be limited by thinking you can only write about nursing if you’re a nurse (heck, you’re an angel) you can write about anything by tapping into the emotions you’ve experienced and then doing your diligence with research. And if your story is about a nurse, then you’re simply that much further along.

Are you a panster or a plotter?  Do you outline extensively or write your story as you go along?

I used to proudly wear the panster badge.  It’s a bit tarnished now.  While I always knew my beginning and my ending, it would take me months to create a middle.  Then I dealt with huge rewrites and editorial revisions.  Now I’m developing my own plotting worksheet from various classes that have resonated with me.  That worksheet is work in progress. 

And lil’ miss panster, aka, me, is becoming the queen of spreadsheets for various reasons, like, ugh, expenses, but also I need book bibles for my series.  I just did a blog on them here if you’d like to see what I’ve done. 

What’s your idea of a perfect vacation?

Since I live in Colorful Colorado, and I mentioned above that I have to have my beach fix, my favorite spot is by a warm ocean.

Part of our day (our, meaning my amazingly patient husband should be with me for a perfect vacay) would be in the water and on the sand, with yes, sunscreen, and no, not with a mai tai in hand, that’s for after I’m done with the sun. Then go sightseeing. I always find things to add to stories this way and I make a record of them either with a camera set on video so I can record the image and my thoughts or my iPhone doing the same thing.

Later in the evening we’re either dining out extravagantly or eating local. I get recommendations from Triple D, friends and yes, internet research.  Drink in hand, we watch the sunset. After dinner we stroll the beach, darting either into or away from the tide. And a last cup of coffee before we share a kiss and dreamland claims us.  Sound sappy? Probably, but that’s perfection for me.

Do you see your writing as a hobby or is it your goal to be a full-time writer at some point in the future?

I was able to retire from my part-time “day” job at a somewhat early age. And instead of just enjoying writing, I turned it into full-time job.  I was obsessed with writing, it took over. While my husband was patient, it became obvious to both of us that I needed to find balance in my life.  My childhood phrase was “Lessie Do It.” I’m still pretty driven, even today.

So, it’s been more of a challenge than I thought to find the balance, and six years later, I’m not sure I’ve yet achieved that goal. I know I’m better at putting aside my laptop when I reach my word count goal for the day. I don’t get angry at me and the world if I miss a day (but I do try and make it up) and I almost never write while on vacation. I may jot notes, or record them and transcribe them in Dragon Naturally Speaking. And the recorder is never in a place I can’t put my hand on it immediately. Because you know, I do my best thinking in the shower and often, wrapped in a towel, I’m running for the recorder. My husband and writing retreat buddies are used to this.

Research: love it or hate it?

Absolutely love it.  As I mentioned above, information and people with information can be found by being diligent about looking.  And people, wow, they are generally so willing to help.  For instance, in my second adventure book, Viking Gold, I made connection with a Colonel (ret.) in the Danish Air Force who’d been studying Nazi sub and airbases.  The information he gave me, completely turned my story around and made it so much better than my original concept.  The submarine base in Trondheim Norway gave me chills. Today it’s pretty benign, but its history!  And so I used it, changed it a bit, but not enough to ruin the reality. I could go on and on with stories that SES told me about WWII but I’ll spare you.  😊

*How much do you think that a good blurb and good cover art figure into the success of a story?

It’s huge. I’m redoing a few of my covers and blurbs because I am able fix them now and make them better. I didn’t have the skills before, and I often didn’t know what I wanted to change in a cover or a blurb so how could I tell my cover artist?

I think it’s important to keep both fresh and updated.  To reflect the times with the blurb and be as professional as possible with the cover.  I like to try to tell a bit about the story in the cover.  In Dare To Believe, my first book and a romantic suspense, I’m creating its third cover. While the first two were done by a wonderful graphic artist, I felt the cover needed some minor tweaks.

Hey, here’s a thought, check out the cover on my website and tell me if you think the blurb at the top says enough or should I say what I’m trying to convey on the cover, Color Won’t Return To Cate’s World Until Haley Is Found?

I’d love to hear your opinion.  After all you all are readers, exactly the people I want to reach. (And if you’re a writer, hey, same goes. We read after all.)

Do you miss your characters when you come to the end of their story? Do you find ways to write sequels for them or do you become entranced with a new set?

I do write series, because I’ve found that readers love to find a character from a prior book in the new one. They and I (yes writers should be readers) feel like we’re in remembered territory even as new characters with their own conflicts, motivations and goals come into play.  It’s like a treat. 

In fact, my WIP Dream Of Me This Christmas Eve is being written because readers asked me to write about a particular minor character. We didn’t even meet in her Forever Yours This New Year’s Night, but apparently people liked who she was.  Caroline Young will now have her own story around October of 2018. The 4th book in the Colorado set Star Light ~ Star Bright series. I’m pretty thrilled that 1) people responded to me and asked about her and 2) that I finally found the right story for her.

Excerpt from the Prince of Granola:

Robert watched as Drew, garbed in that ridiculous jumpsuit, followed Isabelle up the steps to the hacienda. Just before disappearing into the house, his nemesis hesitated, turned, and gave him a brief, provoking smile.

The furrows on his brow deepened. If this continued for four days, he’d have a permanent set of ridges.

How was it that the one person he avoided whenever possible was here now, after the same plantation?

It was ridiculous that Señor Camerillo would think of selling his rare cacao beans to HH Chocolate. They weren’t in the same league as Prince Organics. Or for that matter, any other gourmet chocolate company.

HH made mass-market chocolate bars, holiday-themed shapes, and bite-sized foil-wrapped squares, all with barely enough cacao in them to call them chocolate. And Robert knew that HH was finally in the financial straits his father had predicted when he’d walked out of HH’s headquarters the last time.

Henri Hopkins had been old-school through and through, refusing to move with the times. Robert knew that Drew had started working there right after grad school, but by the time Henri had relinquished the reins of the company to her, she had a dying business on her hands.

His thoughts returned to Drew’s brief taunting smile. How dare she?

What, taunt, provoke? Why not? We’re adversaries after the same goal. And I should have done it first, showing her that she didn’t have a chance. Let her be stewing. “Jeez, get a grip. You’re not stewing.”

“Pardon? I did not quite catch that.”

Robert glanced over at the señor, realizing he’d spoken aloud.

“It was nothing,” he assured the puzzled man.

But it wasn’t.

The last time he’d seen her was over a year ago, during a corporate panel discussion hosted by the number one business show on television. She’d been charming, articulate, and had the moderator in the palm of her hand. After the show was over, Drew answered a few questions from various business reporters, then fled the room as if she couldn’t stand to breathe the same air as him.

Yet just now he’d allowed her, however momentarily, to seize the upper hand as he focused on that taunting smile instead of simply ignoring it.

Doubled with that punch to your gut and groin when she pulled off that helmet and all that glorious chestnut hair tumbled around her shoulders.

About the Author:

I started writing as a child, really. A few things happened on the way to becoming a published author … a junior high school teacher who told me I couldn’t write because I didn’t want to study … urk … grammar. I went to college, moved a few times, came home and found the love of my life (that is another novel worthy story, but for later), and got married.

I have always been a voracious reader and one night after throwing a particularly bad book at the wall (even putting a small ding in said wall), I realized that I could do better.  I told my husband, and he said go for it. I called Mom and she revealed the junior high teacher story and she told I’d been writing all the time up to that point.

That blew me away. I didn’t remember any of it.  But I started writing again, nearly the next day, pen and paper, learning, making mistakes, winning contests, then moving away from novel writing to screenwriting, getting a contract for a script and doing really well in screenwriting contests. But I wasn’t really making a career from any of this.

My husband told me repeatedly that independent publishing was becoming a valid way to publish a novel and people were making big dollars.  I didn’t believe him even after he showed me several Wall Street Journal articles. I thought indie meant vanity press. 

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

I started pursuing this direction seriously, hit the keyboard, learned a litany of new things and published my first novel. My second book became a bestseller, and while I’m not rolling in dough, I’m absolutely on the right course in my life. Prince Of Granola is my 7th book.

Please come visit me at www.lasartor.com, see my books, find my social media links, some screenplays and sign up for my mailing list. I have a gift I’ve specifically created for my new email subscribers. And remember, you can email me at Leslie@LeslieSartor.com 

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Storm on the Horizon by Meredith Bond

Isn’t this a gorgeous cover? It’s Book 1 in the Storm series by Meredith Bond. I’ll let her tell you more about it! She’s got a winning combination that might just be my new catnip!

 

I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume that if you read McKenna’s blog you probably like paranormal romance. But what about historicals? Meh? You can take them or leave them? What? You love historical novels? Excellent! Because I’ve got a combination that’s going to blow the wand right out of your hand.

Regency-set fantasy romance.

Yep, you read that right, fantasy romance (not really paranormal which usually involves vampires or shifters, but fantasy as in King Arthur, Morgan le Fey, and Magic) set in Regency England.

Imagine, if you will, a Regency romance—beautiful balls, dancing, gowns, witty dialogue, noblemen and women—all intricately woven through with a hidden society of magical people. These people are a part of society, members of the haute ton. They could be the hero’s next door neighbor or the man your heroine danced with at Almack’s last Wednesday. They’re everywhere and they’ve got abilities that would make Lady Jersey’s stockings fall down—literally! 😊

The Vallen are a race of people descended from Morgan le Fey and the people of the magical Isle of Avalon. They are musicians, scientists, politicians, and doctors. They are the people who are simply so incredibly talented you wonder how they can be part of the human race.

Well, that’s easy, they’re not.

Their talents are magically inspired. Think of Bach and Beethoven, Copernicus, Plato and Aristotle. They were all Vallen. Their abilities come from the Earth or the Air, Water or Fire. They are a part of society and yet are able to do so much more than anyone else. And it is their job to look out for, help, and advance ordinary people and society.

That is the Vallen.

The direct descendent of Morgan le Fey is the high priestess of the Vallen. She is more powerful than any other and is tasked with ensuring that the Vallen only use their powers for good. For centuries the seventh daughter of the high priestess took over the position from her mother on her twenty-first birthday with the seventh daughter of every seventh generation being the most powerful Vallen in order to renew the power that wanes just a little with each generation.

Tatiana Ashurst is the seventh daughter of the sixth generation. She knows that she has to marry well, not just a nobleman, but a powerful Vallen because her seventh child is going to be the Seventh—the seventh child of the seventh generation. Her parents have taken her choice out of her hands because it is so important that she marry the right man.

Her twin sister, however, will have the chance to enter society, to meet, flirt and dance with any man of the ton who catches her eye. Because Tatiana herself is denied this opportunity, she’s determined to make her timid sister’s debut fantastic, amazing and perfect. What she doesn’t anticipate is that she could inadvertently risk everything—her sister’s debut and the secrecy of the Vallen—with a flash of her own hot temper. Only one man has the ability to rein in this strong, powerful woman. Only one man is the right one for her.

The first book of the Storm Series, Storm on the Horizon, is free wherever you buy ebooks. Tatiana’s story is a novella, but is followed by three full-length novels: Bridging the Storm, Magic in the Storm and Through the Storm.

And if you really love King Arthur-type stories, you’ll love the Children of Avalon Series which describes the beginning of the Vallen world: Air: Merlin’s Chalice, Water: Excalibur’s Return, and Fire: Nimuë’s Destiny (which need to be read in that order – it’s a continuing story).

Interested in learning more? Check out all my books—Regency and Regency-set fantasy at www.meredithbond.com.

Meredith Bond’s books straddle that beautiful line between historical romance and fantasy. An award-winning author, she writes fun traditional Regency romances, medieval Arthurian romances, and Regency romances with a touch of magic. Known for her characters “who slip readily into one’s heart,” Meredith loves to take her readers on a journey they won’t soon forget.  She is currently living in Europe enjoying the Bohemian life.

Merry loves connecting with readers. Be sure to find her:

 

Website: http://www.meredithbond.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/meredithbondauthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/merrybond

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/merrybond/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/847484.Meredith_Bond

Tumblr: https://www.tumblr.com/blog/merrybond

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Meredith-Bond/e/B001KI1SNE/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1447638858&sr=8-2-ent

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/meredith_bond/

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/meredith-bond

Newsletter: http://meredithbond.com/subscribe/

 

Dear KU: Why I’m breaking up with you

Dear KU:

This is going to be hard for me to say, but I think we should stop seeing each other.

I know that the time-honored tradition is to say it’s not you, it’s me, but I can’t. The truth is, it is you.

See, I think you’re an abuser.

You come in with great promises. I confess, they sounded fantastic. And others sang your praises. It seemed like such a loving relationship between a distributor and an author. Writers were making money, enough to quit their day jobs and concentrate on writing full-time, and in this profession that’s the Holy Grail of promises. Who wouldn’t leap at that?

Sure, the clause about exclusivity niggled a bit. Since we’re being frank here, it bugged me a lot. But my fellow authors told me that if a book wasn’t in KU, it had little hope of reaching bestseller status within a genre, and a quick glance at sales rankings seemed to support this. I worried I was giving you too much power in this relationship, but there weren’t a lot of good options out there. Besides, the risk that you’d abuse that power was all theoretical, all down the road. Some day. Not today.

But the thing I didn’t count on was the need to feed you more and more stories in order to make your magic work for me. That’s my fault, not yours. I’m incapable of cranking out a story every couple of weeks, and the idea of collaborating on a large scale with other authors under one pen name just wasn’t a good fit for me for that reason as well. So I shouldn’t have been disappointed that my stories haven’t done well in KU. There’s a lot of competition. I’ve waffled back and forth on whether I should stay in or not. I’ve put books in and taken them out. Either way, it seemed to make little difference. The reported success stories of other authors and their exclusive relationship with you would seem to suggest that it’s more me than you.

Or that could be you, gaslighting me.

Either way, I’m done waffling. I’m saying goodbye. 

The scammers are collecting the lion’s share of your pot, and it’s obvious the system is frequently manipulated. I fully believe #cockygate wouldn’t have existed without the favorable environment created by your system. The author in question is a KU All Star. I think protecting that status is what drove the author to TM the word “cocky” and prevent any books with “cocky” in the title from being sold. Not because Amazon doesn’t have a generous return policy for those people who accidentally get a book by mistake, but because people reading other books with ‘cocky’ in the title aren’t reading hers.

Because it’s all about that page count.

You know, the page count that’s been affected by glitches that you refuse to fix. The one where you can’t tell us exactly how you determine page counts, but that’s the criteria for which we get paid–fractions of a penny for every page read, by the way. Slivers.You know, the system that  benefits us until you release your bots in an attempt to get ahead of the scammers, and then lops off heads at will with little room for recourse.

Now, I’m hearing fellow authors saying they’ve been shut out of their accounts because you have accused them of manipulating the system when they only thing they’ve done is run a promotion through your own service. Not just one or two, but widespread. I know, I know, you’re trying to get the scammers, but you keep netting the innocent instead. (Any author who would like to appeal can reach out to content-review@amazon.com if they have additional questions. The Indie Author Support Network is also seeking documentation. A quote from them: 
We are continuing to compile information and ask that anyone who has had their account suspended and/or books removed from sale on the Kindle platform, to please provide any documentation you have to indie@indieauthorsupportnetwork.com. We are looking for cases of ACTUAL suspension and content removal at this time. We understand the loss of page reads is also a major concern, but the account suspension matter has our top priority.)

Here’s the thing. It’s not worth it to me. Even without KU, 80% of my sales are through Amazon. The reason is clear–the Kindle is amazing and the website is superior. I get most of my own books (and nearly everything else) through Amazon. One of the factors in Barnes and Noble’s failure to compete is that their website is horrible. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to redeem a coupon or credit and have been unable to do so. Or I follow the link to B&N to check out a special deal, only I have to log in at least three times before I can get to the page I want. I give up. Every time. I shop Amazon because it’s so easy.

So why not give Amazon the whole 100%?

Because we as authors can’t afford to have you shut down our accounts over some KU nonsense. Boom, the decree comes down and we are out of business. It’s hard enough to be an indie author without risking the ire of an impersonal god whose army of bot minions do all the dirty work. Like hiding works from buyers because they fell into an algorithm black hole. Or deciding to decrease the visibility of erotica and then mislabeling many romances as erotica. Your decisions are arbitrary enough without the exclusivity clause. I can’t afford to give you that much power over me.

We should all be thinking about what will happen to the publishing industry once Amazon owns it all. We’re already at a state where books have been devalued to the point of slivers of a penny.

Which is why I circled back to my original impression of you, KU. You’re bad for me. You’ve created a mindset where readers demand stories faster than I can produce them for ‘free’, a price I can’t afford. And while I’m not the world’s best writer–not hardly–I love stories too much to burn them as fodder for your KU fire.

When my run ends on my current promotion, we’re done, KU. We’re done.

 

 

 

Oh, What a C*ck-up!

For those of you who haven’t yet caught up with the events associated with #cockygate, this is a great post on it here, and a Twitter thread here. 

Both sum up matters nicely, as well as bring up the implications and legal questions such an action raises.

Disclaimer: I am not a copyright lawyer and do not pretend to understand the ins and outs of the case. I am only presenting the information as I understand it.

The short version is this: Kindle All Star Faleena Hopkins (who also has written under the name Sabrina Lacey) filed trademark claims for the word ‘cocky’ as used in her series of stories surrounding a never-ending family known as the Cocker Brothers, as well as the specific font used in the titles of her books. The trademark now gives her the right to send cease and desist orders to every author with a book containing ‘cocky’ in the title. They are given the choice of changing titles or facing a potential lawsuit.

Author Jamila Jasper received a C&D email from Hopkins, which she then shared with social media.

 

Ms. Hopkins does not deny sending this email, and in fact responds to the sharing of it in various places on social media. It begs the question as to why Ms. Hopkins sent this email herself and not through her lawyer. The answer may lie in the fact many authors might choose to comply with the implied threat rather than face a lawsuit they cannot afford to defend. And it costs Ms. Hopkins zilch in lawyer’s fees to do so. This cover change is being held up as an example of one compliant author. And the recent title change of another book makes readers question if the author was forced to do so or chose to do so rather than be embroiled in the current debacle.

Ms. Hopkins states in a Facebook post that she is not out to take author’s livelihoods but to prevent her brand from being diluted and that changing a tile is no big deal to authors and costs them nothing. She also has claimed it is necessary to protect her readers from sadly buying the wrong books by mistake. (Um, you’ve noticed that Amazon has a very generous return policy on books, right?)

In her view, changing a title is no big deal. Unless it comes just before the romance convention season, when banners, swag, and advertising have already been ordered. Not if you count the cost of redoing entire pages if you’re a graphic artist, or paying for new covers. Re-recording audio files. Not to mention, losing readers who are looking for a title that no longer exists–but oh look, happen to head to the CockyTM author’s works.

Indie publishing is NOT cheap, by the way. It can cost somewhere between $1-2 K per story and there’s no guarantee you’ll see your ROI back.

Though not directly related, except as it goes to show the mindset behind the brand, Ms. Hopkins alleges her readers were also upset at seeing the cover models she’s used (stock industry images) appear on other covers. And that as a result, she was one of the first indie authors to photograph her own covers. (Spoiler: she’s not)

Then there is also this:

Ironically, the font she trademarked is copyrighted by the creator, so trademarking it may be in violation of copyright here, according to the creator’s Terms of Use.

Irony number two: Same author apologized to the romance community for titling a book “Cocky Solider” when the MC, a Marine, would never refer to himself as a solider. Marines are Marines, thank you very much. Even after being informed of this by an actual Marine, Ms. Hopkins apparently stuck by her original title, stating in her apology letter that it was not possible to change the title as books had already been pre-ordered and it would cost too much to make the switch at the last minute.

Irony number three: Same author allegedly has a MC whom she depicts as a member of the Atlanta Falcons football team. Which is trademarked. And the NFL has a history of strongly defending their trademarks.

Let’s set aside whether or not the TM commission should have granted the TM. It’s being contested. You can sign the petition here

Trademarking ‘cocky’ would be the equivalent of J.K. Rowling not trademarking “Harry Potter”, but just “Harry” and forbidding anyone to use the word Harry in the title of a story ever again. Harry Potter is a distinct entity created by Rowling. Harry in the generic, is not. This would be like E.L. James trademarking “Shades”.  Fifty Shades of Grey is trademarked. It’s a franchise. The word “Shades” is not. There is no special brand associated with that. Not even Ray Bans. The word has existed and been used long before FOSG made it a household name. To make the example truly ridiculous, it would be as if I attempted to TM ‘shifter’ and banned the use of the word in every paranormal romance title featuring the same.

Speaking of E.L. James, that author appears to have thrown some shade at Ms. Hopkins by suggesting her bank holiday read would be a popular book with “Cocky” in the title that pre-dates Ms. Hopkin’s series.

The implications of this maneuver are huge. Not just in the romance genre but across the board in the entertainment industry. Romance Twitter is being utterly inventive and vicious with their #byefaleena and #cockygate hashtags, with authors are retaliating by posting remade covers of their stories ALL renamed with “Cocky” in the title, and changing their Twitter handles to include “Cocky” in their name. There’s currently a request for stories for an anthology: The Cocky Cockers. They are soliciting romance stories from all genres, that must feature a cocker spaniel, around 5 K words and submitted by 5/31/18. I’m tempted. Sorely tempted.

But the underlying concern is real. The petition to cancel the trademark was started. The Romance Writer’s Association has asked any members (and now non-members too) who have been contacted by Ms. Hopkins to get in touch with them, and they are currently talking with an IP lawyer.

Imagine if someone decided to TM “Duke”. The impact on Regency historicals would be unreal. Or what about “Love”? Can you imagine having the gall to email Elizabeth Gilbert and tell her she has to rename Eat, Pray, Love?

Sadly, for the hundreds of people I see outraged, I am also seeing people nod and say what a great idea this is–and you can see them considering being the first to ‘snag’ a popular word to claim for their very own. I’m also hearing readers say they no longer search Amazon for romance titles because the system is so gamed. Some authors have been known to place their books with all-white characters in ‘diverse’ categories because it is easier to get a ‘bestseller’ label in a smaller niche. This practices goes along with page-stuffing in KU–something I didn’t understand until I read this description on one of the KU boards:

Page stuffing is the practice of putting additional, full-length novels in the back of another novel to inflate page count (for the purposes of increasing KU payout) – usually paired with some kind of inducement for readers to click to the end, past the content they likely own already (as it’s novels already on sale in the Kindle Store). This inducement often takes the form of an exclusive short story, or special offer.

Of course, this only works if the book is enrolled in KU. And it is definitely against Amazon and KDP’s TOS, so if you come across something like that, it’s not allowed. From my understanding, authors may tuck as many as three to four other books in the same series in a KU book in this manner. Supposedly, Amazon has fixed the ‘skipped pages’ thing that was making this profitable, but I’m hearing that’s not necessary true.

What IS allowed is a sneak-peek excerpt, or a first chapter of another work as a teaser. Most authors do this. It’s considered normal.

Why do I bring this up? Someone on Twitter explained that a successful KU author–even if the name was unknown to the general population–could be looking at grossing 20-50 K a month writing romances. A month. (Quite possibly spending 1-15 K in advertising to hit Kindle All Star status, but still…) Obviously, I’m going about this writing romance business all wrong.

It explains why someone might choose to go this route, even though they have earned the enmity of Romancelandia–and possibly destroyed their own writing career. To go “Full Faleena” has already become a catch-phrase on how to shoot a successful career in the foot.

Author Jenni M Rose on Twitter related what happened when she realized she had  named a book after a popular series and reached out to the author, Mari Carr. This resulted in #BeAMari becoming a hashtag. This is the classy way to deal with perceived competition.

 

I confess, I had to laugh when I saw this post. Someone has already taken a Chuck Tingle approach in response.

Right-o, then. The object lesson here? Be a Mari.

If you have issues with the ramifications of being allowed to TM a word to prevent it from being used in romance titles, I suggest you sign the petition to cancel the trademark as listed above. Don’t berate the author on social media. Don’t one-star her books. The author has every right to TM her series, especially, as it seems, she has hopes of making movies based on them. My problem stems from trademarking a word that has been used in titles long before Ms. Hopkins laid claim to it. The Cocker Brothers might be her brand, but I dispute that she should have the sole right to use ‘cocky’ in a book title.

Hopefully, the TM commission will see this as well, cancel the TM, and we can all move  on.

UPDATE: Author and retired lawyer, Kevin Kneupper, has filed a challenge to the ‘cocky’ trademark.

What Happens When You Run Out of Virgins?

Digital Illustration of a Dragon

This post could also be titled: Why Amazon Needs Competition from Other Publishing Markets.

Because it does.

Last week, I posted a question to one of my indie publishing support groups, asking for a show of hands for those who used KU or went wide with their distribution. The vast majority of people went with KU. Certain genres do quite well there, and most authors did have their books enrolled in KU. Many said they would release wide the first week before pulling their books from other platforms and going with KDP select from then on. The vast majority of authors said they just didn’t make enough money on the other platforms to justify not doing KU, and they did make money on KU. Not much, admittedly, but since it was the only game in town…

The other day, I was scrolling through my Twitter feed, pleased at how many companies had pulled their support from the NRA, and seeing the calls for boycotts of companies that hadn’t done so. And then I saw that Amazon not only supported the NRA, but they advertised with Brietbart. 

Well crap.

Because a) Amazon is big enough not to give a rat’s ass about public opinion, even when the tide is turning on the matter of sensible gun control here in the US and b) virtually every author I know would be crippled by an Amazon ban. Myself included.

Just this morning, I was chatting with my critique group about the state of publishing in general and signs that Barnes and Noble is going under. B&N, who gobbled up Borders, and now is falling victim to Amazon. The chain bookstores crushed all the smaller competition, and are now getting killed themselves. When I first moved here, we had a Waldenbooks, a Books A Million, B&N, and a fantastic used bookstore. They are all gone, with the exception of B&N. And now it looks like B&N will be folding soon.

Hopefully it will get bought out by someone else, but that seems less and less likely in today’s market. I like my local B&N store. I don’t go there as often as I used to because I buy mostly digital books now. My first e-reader was a NOOK, but it was heavy and had a pitiful battery life. But the real reason I bought a Kindle and began getting all my ebooks from Amazon was that B&N’s website sucks. OMG. It is so terrible. I get a coupon or a book link, log in, attempt to buy the book, and the site kicks me out multiple times, requesting I log in again or redirecting me off the page where I am trying to redeem my coupon. My experience was so consistently bad, I actually thought ebooks would never catch on. Hah.

The ease of being able to get a book on my cell phone’s Kindle app converted me. The superior functionality of my Kindle Paperwhite gives me so much more than the NOOK that I don’t miss the fact my book covers aren’t in color. B&N is falling victim of its inability to keep up.

Recently I heard Wal-Mart is getting into the e-book game, and along with Kobo, Apple, and Google, are pursuing the ebook market. What this means for indie authors, I don’t know, but I suspect they will not do any publishing. They are more likely to serve as a distribution center. Are they willing to take a loss on book sales the way Amazon is? Amazon is not a publisher. It sells products, including e-readers. If selling books brings people to the website, they are more likely to buy other things too. At the moment, Amazon is content to lose money on book sales. So maybe that’s what Wal-Mart is ultimately hoping for–books driving people to their site (which I didn’t even know existed until now).

Competing distribution sites is all well and good, but I think we need someone else in the field who will allow self-publishing on the scale Amazon has done. I think we as authors need to think carefully about letting Amazon be our sole distributor as well. Because relying solely on KU feels a little bit like sacrificing a virgin to keep the dragon happy for a year–and what’s going to happen when the town runs out of virgins?

Amazon will call all the shots then. And authors, who have never been a priority for them, will be eaten up along with the town.

 

 

To Review or Not to Review: That is the Question

For some time now,  I’ve been torn about whether or not to leave book reviews.

If you’re familiar with the show The Good Place, you know the character Chidi, an ethics scholar who ties himself up in knots every time he has to make a decision about anything, including where to have dinner. I’m not that bad, but when it comes to this particular dilemma, I go back and forth on it.

It’s only since the explosion of social media, and the encouragement of such sites as Amazon and Goodreads that the average person has been able to leave reviews–it’s a relatively recent phenomenon. Prior to that, the only way to get reviews was from major literary magazines, and that sort of thing didn’t happen unless you were already a Big Name. Amazon has been one of the great equalizers when it comes to leaving reviews, and their algorithms have shifted the balance of power to the ‘little guy’ reviewer in mass numbers.

Before that, the only time I ‘left a review’ was when I enthusiastically pushed a favorite book onto friends. The only time I knew a favorite author had published a new story was by haunting the bookstores and libraries.

I’m glad I have ways of following favorite artists now, and can keep up with new releases as they occur. But I stumble over the review process.

There are a lot of reasons for this. I’m not in the habit of leaving reviews in general. I intensely dislike the way I now get hounded with automatic emails to leave a review every time I purchase a product or use a service. Come on, I don’t need to leave a review every time I go to the dentist, peeps! Leaving thoughtful, well-written reviews is time-consuming–something that I have in short supply. Then too, if I can’t leave a glowing review, I don’t want to leave anything at all. Partly because I was raised that way, and partly for fear of backlash. I’ve seen fans go after an author who left a less-than-stellar review for another writer’s work.

But then there’s the Big Brother aspect of leaving reviews as well. I know several people who’ve had their reviewing rights revoked at Amazon because of perceived improprieties. They are mostly bloggers and people on ARC lists, so they are getting a complimentary copy of the book in question. Amazon gets snitty about non-verified purchase reviews. Okay, I get that. But sometimes it is mandatory you state how you received the copy and sometimes the review gets pulled if you state you received a free copy. Even if you received that free copy as part of an Amazon-sponsored giveaway! The rules keep changing.

Amazon also doesn’t like authors leaving reviews for other authors, despite the fact almost every author I know is a reader too. They cite conflict of interest, and pull the review. The flip side of this is if you follow an author’s social media, Amazon might deem you a ‘friend’ of the author, and your review is also treated as suspect and pulled. It’s almost like Amazon doesn’t understand how social media works outside its own algorithms. 

Then there are the authors themselves. I’ve heard Big Name Authors state they never leave reviews, and other BNA point out the importance of reviews and ask fans leave one if they enjoyed a story. And face it, we all want reviews. It’s not just about Amazon’s algorithms, either. Getting that little bit of positive feedback is like crack to a writer. We naturally want more. But it can also encourage a writer who feels their current WIP is hopeless, or bring someone back to work on a project they thought no one was interested in. Feedback like this is vital.

Which brings me back to the eternal dilemma. I recently picked the brains of fellow authors as to what they do, and I found many people feel as conflicted about this as I do. Some have stopped leaving reviews, or only leave reviews if they can rate a story with five stars. (I really, really wish the ‘star’ system would go away and people would just leave written feedback. I know Amazon uses it to rank stories, but when people 1-star a story because they misread the blurb or the book was damaged in transit, it makes me want to pull out my hair. Ditto when people low-rate a story they’ve never even read because they don’t like the subject matter…)

Because of the restrictions Amazon places on reviews, many of the authors I spoke with who do leave reviews, do so under their real name on a separate account not connected with their pen names. I’m not sure that is distant enough to satisfy Amazon, but it does solve the ‘verified purchase’ issue for the most part.

Some authors said they didn’t leave reviews at the main sites but instead wrote them on their websites and boosted them on their social media. I like this idea but I’m not sure how much that helps the author in terms of visibility on Amazon.

Then again, perhaps it’s time we stopped letting the ‘Zon dictate everything.

 

The Panther’s Lost Princess (Redclaw Security Book 1)

I am so pleased to announce that The Panther’s Lost Princess, Redclaw Security Book 1, is now available on Amazon and KU!

If you love shifter romances, this one’s got a little of everything for you: fated mates, a princess in disguise, lovers on the run, and a heroine learning to come into–and accept–her power.

Blurb:

Ellie West has always known there was more to her story than being abandoned at birth. A child of the foster-care system, she didn’t get many breaks, but the one thing she can do is sing. It’s her only ticket out of poverty and obscurity. Nothing else matters, not even the nagging sense that she’s different. She’s headed for great things. She only needs a chance.

Jack Ferris couldn’t agree more. His firm, the elite paranormal agency Redclaw Security, has been hired to find a missing princess and return her to her family. Discovering that Ellie, a waitress in a hole-in-the-wall diner, is both the princess and his fated mate is like being hit with a sledgehammer. Ellie West can’t be his mate. She’s the mission.

The sooner Jack completes this job, the better, only Ellie has no intention of throwing her dreams away for a kingdom she’s never known. With hired assassins on their trail, Ellie might not have a choice. They must do whatever it takes to stay alive.

 

Excerpt:

She closed the distance between them with grace and determination. When she stood a mere breath away, she looked up at him from underneath her bangs. At some point when he’d been upstairs, she’d taken out those horrible fake blue contact lenses. Now she gazed at him with eyes that glowed gold in the firelight. With her index finger, she lightly traced down his arm, hesitating as she neared his wound.

“Does it hurt much?” Her voice, velvety-soft, connected with something inside of him and pulled him a step closer.

The words dried up in his mouth, and he had to swallow hard before he could speak. “Ellie.” He wasn’t sure where he was going with that, only that he had to try to make her understand why he couldn’t accept her invitation.

“Jack.” The way she said his name, with such amusement at his futile attempt to resist, battered at his remaining intentions.

“We can’t… I can’t. It would be wrong. I’d be taking advantage of you. Surely you can see that, right?”

“What if I want to be taken advantage of? What if I choose you?”

Her words pulled a groan out of him. “You don’t know what you’re saying.”

“I know what I want. Better than anything I’ve ever known as long as I can remember. I want you, Jack Ferris.”

Take her. Mark her. Make her our own.

Book 1 in the Redclaw Security series is waiting for you–pick up a copy today!