An Author, Learning the Ropes

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My new book, “Learning Curves” is about all discovering new things.

Hardly surprising, since it’s set at a university (and they’re an institution that’s pretty big on the whole pedagogical improvement thingamabob.) And my hero and heroine are both graduate students up to their eyeballs in books, so academics are a big deal to them, too.

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But I’d like to think that Brandon and Leanne, the students in question, learn more than just facts and figures. They learn to love each other. They come to understand significant emotional truths about themselves and each over the course of the story. They also learn that male strip clubs can be a very dangerous place to spend time (if you consider having earth-shattering, heart-stopping sex with an attractive stranger wearing a g-string dangerous ;) )

However, my fictional characters aren’t the only ones who learned something during the writing of this story.

See, I started this book when I myself was a graduate student a couple of years ago. I’d finished my undergraduate degree, gone out to work, got married and had two children before I decided to return to school and complete my Masters. Ambitious, yes, considering that my youngest was just 8 months old when I went back to student life full time but I loved grad school, loved being a student again and really enjoyed reading ideas written by Dr’s other than Suess :)

But the endless round of essays…the research…the grading…Where was my creative outlet? Turned out it was writing this story. I wrote it in between all of the other things going on in my life and given how immersed I was in my studies, it’s hardly surprising it ended up take place on campus. You know the old saw – write what you know. So I did. I created an unhappy, driven woman who doesn’t know how to escape from an ivory tower of her own making. I paired her with a beautiful man, a dancer, who’s in touch with his body but divorced from his emotions. And I made them face some wrenching decisions before finally giving them their well deserved HEA.

It was a great book. I was really proud of it.

So I submitted it. And waited. And waited. And was rejected.

Then I submitted it again. And waited. And waited. And was rejected. Again.

Hardly the Christmas present I was waiting for.

“What about Carina?” one of my critique partners suggested. “They’re launching some time next year and they’re actively soliciting manuscripts.”

I had a look at their website. They were looking for new voices and different stories. Sounded like my kind of place. So I dusted off my manuscript once more, wrote Angela a very professional cover letter and sent it winging away.

And waited for three long months, until I began to think I should hear something.

And that’s when I learned something that made my heart stop.

Carina’s computer system crashed over Christmas last year, taking with it all the books and submissions that hadn’t been assigned. Including mine. MSS, author contacts, email addresses, the whole shebang. I’d been waiting and waiting for nothing, in other words.

*gulp* Was this the universe’s way of telling me I was never going to be published? Sure looked that way. But Angela’s posting encouraged ‘lost’ authors to resubmit, so I did and this time, I got a really encouraging R and R. “We like your voice,” Gina, my editor, said. “Do you have anything else you might like to submit while you work on your revisions?” Yes, I did. Because while I’d been waiting, I’d written lots and lots, including a little Regency novella called “The Debutante’s Dilemma“.

Five weeks later, Carina bought that novella, then shortly thereafter bought “Learning Curves”, too.

Carina just celebrated their first anniversary earlier this month and I’m celebrating too. Over the past year, I’ve published two books, and have two more coming out in the coming months. And I’ve met tons of great people this past year: authors, readers and publishing types. They’re talented. They’re funny. They’re generous. I’m proud I can count myself among their numbers.

So here are some of the most important things that I’ve learned from “Learning Curves”:

1. Believe in your writing and the stories you’re telling. If you do, you will be published.

2. Rejections sting but they can be blessings in disguise. You want to publish with a company that *gets* your voice, not someone who just kinda tolerates it.

3. Write, write and write some more. Because the hurdle isn’t in selling your first book, it’s in being able to write and sell every book after that, too.

I know that all of us have our own journeys for writing and life, so I’d love to know what experience you’ve gained that you could share about the value of perserverance and stick-to-it-ness. Post a comment by Friday, June 24th and I’ll randomly select one commenter to win a copy of “Learning Curves” in their choice of e-format.

Psst. . .did you get your free book?

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If you’re not signed up for our newsletter (shame on you, why not?) and you don’t follow us on Twitter and Facebook (*gasp*!) then you may not know that all this week is Free Book Week at Carina Press. Every day we’re giving you the opportunity to get a free novella for everyone’s very favorite price of absolutely free!

Today’s free novella is The Debutante’s Dilemma by Elyse Mady. As it happens, Elyse also has her first contemporary release today. Learning Curves is a fantastic and fun contemporary romance. And it comes with a little story behind it.

December 2009, we had an inbox disaster that resulted in about ten days’ worth of submissions being lost forever. We still haven’t figured out what happened or where they disappeared to! Before that tragic inbox failure, I had happened to be browsing the inbox and the query letter for a contemporary romance caught my eye, so I popped it open. Before I knew it, I was reading the entire submission. I knew it wasn’t an acquisition as it stood, but I knew that the story and writing had a tremendous spark that I really enjoyed, and I wanted to send it to one of the editors to read and write a revise and resubmit letter on. So I read it and made notes myself. And then…it ended up being one of the lost submissions.

You’re probably thinking to yourself, “But she took notes, so no big deal, she just contacted the author.” Um…yes, I did take notes. But nowhere on those did I write the author’s name or the title of the book (I have NO idea why, I always write these things down in my notes!)

I tried everything I could think of to figure out who this author was. I thought maybe she was a member of the Australia chapter (I can’t remember now why I thought that) so I emailed them and asked them to pass the word among their authors. And then I waited and hoped. Thankfully, Elyse eventually saw the post we’d put up on the blog letting authors know we’d had a submissions email loss, and she (finally, eventually, after what seemed like FOREVER) resubmitted. I was so happy! I passed the submission to editor Gina Bernal, who wrote Elyse an R&R. Elyse did those requested revisions beautifully and when it came to the acquisitions team in its revised format, Jenny ended up reading it–and loved it as much as I had when I read it in its original form.

So this story has a happy ending, with Learning Curves releasing today. I hope you’ll check it out, it’s a thoroughly enjoyable story. And in the meantime, you can get Elyse’s first book with us historical romance The Debutante’s Dilemma free with promo code DEBUTANTEFREE today only.

For a list of all of this week’s books and promo codes, you can view the newsletter here. Happy reading!

How to: withdrawing your book from consideration

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I think this can be confusing for an author. What do you do when you’ve submitted your book to multiple places, and hurray! one of the publishers offers to publish it? Or maybe you’ve decided to go ahead and self-publish it.

First, there’s a few things to keep in mind:

1) Don’t submit your book somewhere you don’t actually want to publish it. Because if the answer is yes, and you say no, because you want to wait for a better offer or you really just don’t want to publish with that publisher, you were just throwing it at the wall to see where it stuck, you’ve just wasted someone’s (probably more than one someone’s) time and money. Only submit to publishers you sincerely would be happy to say yes to.

However, I recognize this happens all the time, where authors send to a bunch of publishers, just hoping one will say yes,  so I’m going to give you further advice below on how to handle it if one publisher says yes but you really want to hear from another…

2) If you have a list of your top publishers, you may want to submit to them and hold off on submitting to those who aren’t your first choice. Because you don’t want to take up the time of editors from whom you’d rather not hear “yes” first. If you know you favor one company over another, submit to them first. Oh, I know, this takes time and we live in the age of “I want it now” so this is painful and harder than sending them all out at once, but think about it, okay?

Now, how do you withdraw your submission?

First, keep a list of every publisher you’ve submitted it to and the date you submitted it. Maybe spreadsheets work for you, maybe you track it on your calendar, maybe you use a Word Doc. However you do it, keep track.

If you’re self-publishing, as soon as you’ve made the decision to self-publish, email every publisher the manuscript is with and let them know. Simple phrasing like this works well:

Dear publisher,

I’m writing to withdraw my manuscript XXX by XXX, submitted on date XXX, as it is no longer available for consideration.

Thank you.

Signature

See how I did that? No snide remarks, no poking at the publisher, just polite, full of the necessary information and to the point.

Now, maybe you’ve got an offer from the publisher on the table, but, darn it, 3 publishers still have it. You have two options here. One, you can send the letter above. Let’s recap:

Dear publisher,

I’m writing to withdraw my manuscript XXX by XXX, submitted on date XXX, as it is no longer available for consideration.

Thank you.

Signature


Or, alternately, maybe you really would like to hear what one of those three publishers have to say. Then you can send something like this email:

Dear publisher,

I’m writing about my manuscript, XXX by XXX, which I submitted on date XXX. I realize your normal response time has not yet elapsed. However, I’ve received an offer of publication from another publisher. You, awesome publisher, are my first choice and I would prefer to work with you, so I wonder if you could tell me where my submission is at in your queue. I’ve asked the other publisher to give me 2 weeks to consider their offer, would you be able to provide me with a response in this time frame?

Thank you.

Signature

In this situation, please do not ask for an immediate response, unless you’re ready for the immediate response to be “best of luck” because it’s unlikely any editor or publisher can drop everything and get your submission through their acquisitions process immediately. Offering 2 weeks is plenty of time. One week is probably a lot harder but do-able in some situations. Just keep in mind that many publishers do have an acquisitions process, so it’s not just one person reading the manuscript and saying yes–it often has to go through a team, and that takes time.

Now, some publishers will try to pressure you into giving an immediate answer to their contract offer. Don’t give in to the pressure. At this point, you can take the time you need to consider the deal details, do any further research into the publisher (and on that note, why are you submitting to a publisher you’re not familiar with, hmm?) and get responses from other publishers you’ve submitted to. That’s perfectly okay, even if you suddenly are just so overwhelmed you want to think about it for a few days. No one can (or should) rush you into signing a contract.

Regardless of what your situation, once a manuscript is no longer available, whether because you’ve chosen to make it unavailable or it’s been contracted, please do the people you’ve submitted to the much appreciated courtesy of letting them know. Think of how you’d like your time to be respected, and act accordingly, so we don’t spend limited resources (whether it’s time or money) on reading a submission that’s no longer available. We will all thank you profusely for this because our resources? They really are not inexhaustible!

Balancing the Differences

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I’m so excited that THE NAKED TRUTH, the second book in The Confederacy Treaty series releases this week. The Naked Truth was actually written before my first book with Carina Press, Alien Revealed, but as I worked through the plot I realized that there was more to the story than what happened between a wrongfully accused human and an alien examiner sent to prove her innocence or punish her guilt. And so I wrote Alien Revealed. I was so happy when it came out last year during the launch of Carina Press.

A year later and The Naked Truth is being released, almost on top of Carina’s first anniversary. I want to take a moment and congratulate the team, Carina Press is truly fantastic!

But back to the balancing act within The Confederation Treaty. In Alien Revealed, the heroine is an alien from the Inarrii race, a part of the larger Confederation of races throughout the universe. In The Naked Truth the hero is also an Inarrii. Developing these people has been an act of careful balance. I want them to be identifiable and relatable to the reader as aliens, but I also want them to come across as wickedly sexy!

So first of all, thank you to Star Trek (check ou these aliens!) and Star Wars and all those other sci-fi adventures on the screens both big and small. You allow me to have aliens that are bi-pedal or humanoid. It would be hard to make a big spider or a blob of goo sexy. Those aliens no doubt exist out there, somewhere within the Confederation, but the Inarrii have been chosen to meet with the humans because they look a lot like us.

Inarrii are highly sensual, their physical differences from us demand this—they have nerves that run over a large part of their body that react to stimulation of any sort, and without sexual release, that stimulation can build within them until it threatens their sanity. This, coupled with varying levels of telepathy and empathy, and cultural diversity are what makes the Inarrii different. And yet it is also what makes then so delicious. They need a sexual union, but they also need a connection to the mind of their loves. Don’t we all want that?

What is your favorite alien race in popular sci-fi? Did you find them sexy and why? Or were they just so weird they caught you and wouldn’t let you go? Drop me a line below and I’ll give away a copy of The Naked Truth to a random commenter.

The Naked Truth:
Captain Susan Branscombe was the victim of brutal torture at the hands of terrorists. Though rescued, she’s now facing an equally brutal accusation: treason.

The only way she can prove her innocence is to allow Asler Kiis, a Confederacy Examiner, to delve into the depths of her mind. Asler is Inarri, the alien race that made contact with Earth just months before. His duty is to find the truth, but when he explores Susan’s mind he can’t resist drawing her into a more intimate experience.
Susan takes comfort in Asler’s heated sensuality. Their erotic sensory exploration chases away the darkness and her body aches for more. But as their desire reaches new limits Susan finds it difficult to suppress the memories she is desperate to forget.

Is the passion they share enough to let Susan push aside her fear and trust Asler, not only with her mind and body but with her ever-opening heart?

Pick up a copy of The Naked Truth here.
Pick up Alien Revealed here.

Lilly has been a member of the Romance Writer’s of Atlantic Canada for about eight years, and writing erotic romance for the last three. When not living up to her pen name, Lilly is a single mom who loves reading and writing, dabbling in art and loving and caring for her two daughters. She loves romance and the freedom erotic fantasy provides her imagination. Her stories are an escape and a release, and she hopes that they can give you that power, too.

For more about Lilly and her stories of darkly seductive fantasy and sensual romance, visit her website at www.lillycain.com

Follow Lilly on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LillyCain
Visit Lilly’s facebook at www.facebook.ca/Lilly.Cain

What scares YOU?

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I’m so excited to have THE FIRST VICTIM released by Carina Press that, for the moment, it feels as though the world is filled with sunshine, puppies and pistachio muffins, but I know that as soon as this sense of euphoria fades a bit, I’ll be reminded that the world can be a dark and scary place.

I’m not talking “psychopathic serial killer on the loose!” scary like in my book, but the everyday things that frighten me. It could be something as small as a spider (I HATE spiders!). It might be the chill that skitters down my spine during my run, when suddenly the familiar trail through the woods, which usually feels like an escape, suddenly feels isolated, and I feel vulnerable. Or maybe I was terrified of writing this blog post, lol.

Maybe for you, fear waves its slimy tendrils when you have to make an important presentation, engage in a conflict-riddled situation, ride in an elevator, or attempt something you’ve never done before. Or maybe you’re terrified of your neighbor’s dog.

Fear, in a myriad of forms, slips into our everyday lives.

I think that’s why I love reading romantic suspense so much. While real life’s challenges often leave me feeling uncertain, I love having the confidence that when I reach the end of a romantic suspense novel, good will have prevailed over evil, and love will have conquered all. The hero and heroine will overcome the fears that were keeping them alone/apart.

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Fifteen years ago, Emily Wright barely escaped from a serial killer dubbed the Baby Doll Strangler. She wants nothing to do with the small town where she was abducted, but when her father is hospitalized she reluctantly returns home to care for her teenage sister.

When her sister’s friend is killed and left in front of Emily’s house, Emily begins to relive the nightmare she endured long ago. Soon she realizes that her sister, too, is in danger from the killer—and the only person who can help is the man Emily left behind: Deputy Bailey O’Neil. Together, Emily and Bailey must discover the killer’s identity before he claims his next victim…

CONTEST! To celebrate the release of THE FIRST VICTIM, I’m giving away a download of the book. Leave a comment telling me what scares YOU. I’ll draw a name by 11pm EST and post the winner’s name in the comments!

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JB Lynn writes with a parrot at her shoulder, a dog at her feet (unless it’s thundering, then the dog is in her lap…hey, even dogs have fears) and a cup of coffee within arm’s reach.

To learn more about JB and her books, check out the blog Killer Chicks,  follow her on Twitter, “like” her  FaceBook page, or explore her website.

Voices from the Past

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I hear voices. They keep me awake at night, telling me stories, or telling me what I got wrong when I wrote their stories earlier that day. Occasionally they don’t wait for me to go to bed.

When I started writing Texas Tangle I had no plans to write a historical about Dillon’s great-great grandparents. But then I wrote a scene where Dillon’s grandmother planted the idea for Nikki, Dillon and Brett to consider turning their relationship into a permanent one. Grandma Barnett was a hoot to write. Strong willed, outspoken, she’s not exactly subtle, especially when she picks up on the vibes between Nikki, Dillon and Brett:

She leaned toward Nikki as if she was going to whisper a secret, but didn’t lower her voice. “My grandparents had a permanent threesome all their adult lives. Betcha Dillon never told you that before.”

Um, gee, Grandma, way to spring another Texas-sized plot bunny on me (have you seen the size of the rabbits in Texas? They’re HUGE compared to the ones we have up here in Canada.) Sure enough, that line stuck with me and soon the voices of Dillon’s great-great-grandparents, Jackson, Nate and Sarah started bugging me to write their story.

“But it’s a historical,”  I whined to them. “Texas Tangle is a contemporary; my reader’s won’t want to jump back 130 years into the past.”

Turned out the three of them were as stubborn as their granddaughter and didn’t stop nagging me until I gave in:

“Danged devil’s rope.” Jackson Kellar checked the stallion’s withers where the barbed wire had nicked it. “It ain’t too bad though, Nate. Shouldn’t be a problem for the trip back home, less it festers.”

“Good. McLeod was right about this fellow being high-spirited. It should be a treat to ride him.” Nate ran a hand down the horse’s neck and crooned softly until it gentled. Nate had mighty talented hands when it came to soothing the beasts. Or any other animals he came across.

Jackson included himself on that list.

As soon as I wrote those first three paragraphs,  I realized Grandma Barnett didn’t know the whole story about her grandparents’ relationship. Sure enough, a couple pages later that suspicion was confirmed when Jackson had the following thought:

Ah, well, he knew it was too good to last. Besides, it was probably better if Nate did take a wife. Their relationship was downright dangerous. A woman in the house would put any rumors to rest. Of course, he’d have to find somewhere else to live if Nate wedded.

Oh boy, yes, this was a story I had to tell. Of course that meant researching 1880s Texas as well as tackling how a woman back in those days would view finding herself legally married to a man in love with another man.

“Come on, Nate. You gotta fight this.” The tenderness in his voice brought tears to Sarah’s eyes. Especially when he leaned over the still figure on the bed, putting his mouth next to Nate’s ear. “You can’t leave me. Don’t die on me, you hear?”

She could barely hear Nate’s rasped response. “You’ve got Sarah now. You won’t be alone.”

“Damn it, you can’t die. I love you.” Jackson gathered Nate into his arms, cradling him like a child.

Sarah had to step back and rest her head against the hall wall, fighting the tears burning tracks down her cheeks. How she’d long to hear him say those words to her. If he could love Nate, maybe one day he’d come to love her too. Or was it even possible for a man who loved his friend that way to love a woman?

I fleshed out the first couple chapters of Tangled Past and submitted a proposal to my Carina Press editor Rhonda Stapleton. Normally you’re supposed to wait until the publisher comes back with a thumbs up or thumbs down before you write any more. (That’s because it’s no use wasting weeks or months writing something that’s going to be rejected.) But Jackson, Sarah and Nate demanded I not wait for a contract, that I tell the whole story of their tangled relationship.  So I continued to write, torturing them and teasing them, sometimes chuckling and sometimes crying as I wrote each scene. By the time my editor emailed me to say that Carina would be acquiring Tangled Past, I’d fallen in love with them as they fell in love with each other.  Now it’s finally out for you to read, I hope you’ll fall in love with them too. Now if all their descendents would just stop shouting at me to tell their stories too…danged voices…

Married to her college sweetheart and the mother of two sons, Leah Braemel is the only woman in a houseful of men—even their cat Spike is male. Shoving her writing in the closet while she raised her family, she gained some varied and interesting insights while working with former military alpha males in the security industry  and later teaching computers to women escaping abusive relationships. Now a full-time writer, Leah loves tormenting her heroes and heroines before rewarding them with a happy-ever-after. If you want to know more about Leah or her other books, visit her website. You can also find Leah on Facebook or follow her on Twitter.

By the way, because it takes place 130 years prior to Texas Tangle, you don’t have to have read one to understand the other but so you can read Grandma Barnett and the infamous dinner scene that inspired Tangled Past, I’m giving away a copy of Texas Tangle to a random commenter today. Just let me know if you normally read strictly historicals or contempories or if it depends upon the story…

*****

Tangled Past CoverForced to marry a man she just met, Sarah McLeod clings to the hope that she’ll finally find the love and acceptance she’s always craved. But her tenuous dreams of a happy life on the frontier are in danger of being dashed by the one thing she can’t change—her husband’s love for another man.

Jackson Kellar’s determined to do right by his bride, yet he’s torn between his newfound love for Sarah and his still-burning desire for Nate.

Ranch owner Nate Campbell loves them both. He hates to see Jackson’s loyalties so divided, and doesn’t want Sarah hurt either. But how can they fix the tangled mess they find themselves in? Nate suggests a possible solution – a permanent threesome.

With the open frontier closing in around them, is Nate’s solution their path to happiness? Or will others destroy what they’ve found together?

Tangled Past – now available from Carina Press

No One To Trust – Want a Laugh?

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I love books that make me laugh. If a writer can elicit a smile, chuckle or make me giggle out loud, I rate the book as a winner. Laughing makes me feel good and I like leaving a story with a smile on my face.

For those of us who write humor, I warn you, it is not an easy task. We rely solely on the power of our words. Visual cues and sound tracks are not available. We must craft the situations and reactions using just the right language and dialogue. Sometimes it works and other times the scene goes out the window.

I know I won’t always be able to make everyone laugh. After all, we each have a different idea of what’s funny. There are even people who are humor-challenged. So I just have to go with what feels right. How do I use humor in my writing? I look for the humor in everyday life. People would rather laugh than cry when faced with difficult life experiences such as death, disease or hardship. I play off experiences I’ve had, nearly had, or have happened to a friend. Most importantly, I’m not afraid to laugh at myself. I find the best humor comes from within, an honest, hair-brained moment I can share with others through the eyes of my fictional characters.

In NO ONE TO TRUST, the second book in my Lexi Carmichael mystery series, Lexi is very much like you and me. She’s trying to make a living, get a love life and cultivate friendships. But her life is far from normal. That’s what happens when you put an ordinary young woman into extraordinary situations. Sometimes she saves the day. Sometimes not so much.

So tell me, what are some novels that have made you laugh out loud?

Now, to whet your appetite, I’m offering up an excerpt from NO ONE TO TRUST:

When I was seven, my older brother Rock gave me a camera for Christmas. The science of photography fascinated me—the angles, depth and lighting. But I was more interested in how the camera worked than in what I was pointing it at. Fast-forward a few years and here I am, a twenty-five-year-old, single, white, geek girl who can’t take a decent picture of anything.

I’m also a semi-reformed computer hacker, a numbers whiz and a girl with a photographic memory. The whole photographic memory thing is totally overrated, though. Every human has the physiological capability. Most people just don’t have the film.

Lucky for me, I’ve got the film, but I’m also stuck with a geeky reputation. Counter to the stereotypical image, I don’t wear thick glasses held together by duct tape and I no longer own a pair of high-water pants. On the other hand, I’m no Miss America—just your basic tall, skinny girl with no curves and long brown hair. I double-majored in mathematics and computer science and have zero social skills. These days I’m employed by X-Corp Global Intelligence and Security, as Director of Information Security or InfoSec for short. It sounds impressive and maybe it is, but I’m so fresh in the job, I can’t be sure yet.

Buy NO ONE TO TRUST

Buy NO ONE LIVES TWICE

Buy NO ONE LIVES TWICE (audio book)

Julie Moffett is a bestselling author and writes in the genres of historical romance, paranormal romance and mystery. She has won numerous awards, including the prestigious PRISM Award for Best Romantic Time-Travel and Best of the Best Paranormal Books of 2002. She has also garnered several nominations for the Daphne du Maurier Award and the Holt Medallion.

Feel free to keep up with her at the following social media outlets:
Facebook
eHarlequin
Julie’s website
Julie’s blog

Thank you…and winners!

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Thank you to everyone who helped us celebrate our anniversary this week. The outpouring of comments, compliments and just sheer joy was amazing. Between our blog and all of the blogs we were hosted on, we gathered over 1000 comments. That’s amazing! Behind the scenes, the team had a wonderful time emailing each other some of our favorite comments, and we’ve saved some of them in a document, so we won’t forget them. You guys really made us smile and feel…just extraordinary. Thank you!

And thank you to all of the authors who hosted our team on our blogs, to help us make it a big splash. We appreciate you!

Each of those authors has chosen a winner for their blogs. Winners, I’ll contact you and tell you how to claim your prize. I’ve also chosen a grand prize winner for our blog. Thank you again to everyone who commented, here and on all of the blogs. Even if you didn’t win, I hope you’ll continue to enjoy Carina Press books!

Susanna Fraser hosts Mallory Braus Winner: Sheree

Christine D’Abo hosts Alissa Davis Winner: Holly Wright

Joely Sue Burkhart hosts Gina Bernal Winner: msbookjunkie

Maria Zannini hosts Melissa Johnson Winner: booklover0226

Marie Force hosts Denise Nielsen Winner: limecello

Angela James (that’s me!) hosts Rhonda Stapleton Winner: Infinitieh

Lauren Dane hosts Deb Nemeth Winner: Regina Shiderly

Inez Kelley hosts Malle Vallik Winner: John Poindexter

Word Whores hosts Aideen O’Leary-Chung Winner: June M

Shannon Stacey hosts Eleanor Elliott Winner: Michelle Jackson Franczek

Jaci Burton hosts Jenny Bullough Winner: Tammy Ramey

Shirley Wells hosts Tara Stevens Winner: Stella Ex Libris

Keri Stevens hosts Amy Wilkins Winner: RK Charron

Cindy Spencer Pape hosts Jayne Hoogenberk Winner: Julie Witt

Fiona Lowe hosts Stephanie Doig Winner: Susan Laura

Bonnie R. Paulson hosts Piya Campana Winner: emilystarr373

International Heat hosts Angela Hill Winner: KarenC

Karen Erickson hosts Lora Jaggassar Winner: JenB

Natalie Damschroder hosts Dana Grimaldi Winner: PhyllisC

Nadia Lee hosts me! Winner: Jodi

And the Carina Press grand prize winner of a Kobo ereader and 12 Carina Press books of her choice is Amy Durham. Congratulations, Amy!

The Kowalskis are back!

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That seems like a very guy sort of thing.” — Jane from DearAuthor.com in her review of Yours To Keep.

I’ve been asked a time or two if the Kowalski guys are inspired by men I know and…yes. Yes, they are. Now, before you single ladies start Mapquesting my town and packing your bags, let me say I don’t know any smoking-hot, six-foot-tall guys with pretty blue eyes and killer dimples. (Well, Joe and Kevin got the killer dimples. Poor Sean has had to make it through life without them.)

But, though they’re wrapped up in romance hero outer packaging, the hearts and souls of the Kowalski guys are definitely inspired by men I know. Strong men who hate riding shotgun, work hard, play hard, take care of their families, love their children without reservation and show their affection for other men by insulting the crap out of them. You know…guy stuff.

My favorite part of writing the Kowalski family series has been writing the guy sorts of things. I loved the relationships between Joe, Kevin and Mike in the first two books (along with Evan, their brother-in-law), and Sean (whom one reader referred to as “such a guy”) fit right in. Not only is he close to his cousins but, having lost his parents, I’m particularly fond of his relationship with his Uncle Leo and Aunt Mary. I think all of the Kowalski guys in general have two of the traits that first attracted me to my husband—they don’t take any crap and they love to laugh—but Sean seems to have gotten an extra helping to make up for the lack of dimples.

So, I’m curious: what’s the personality trait that attracts you to somebody the most? His or her loyalty? Sense of humor? Intelligence?

Shannon Stacey has written romances in a variety of subgenres, but they all have one thing in common—a happily ever after is guaranteed. She can be found blogging (almost) daily on her website, www.shannonstacey.com and is often spotted running amok on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Goodreads and the eHarlequin.com community. Her current release, Yours To Keep, is available now from Carina Press.

Coming Out to My Parents as a M/M/M and BDSM Author

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I’m extremely lucky. My parents have always been very supportive of everything I do, no matter how wild, crazy, or non-traditional.

I should back up a little and tell you that my parents are Romanian. Eastern Europeans are known for pushing their children down a certain path to success, and my parents were no different. They wanted me to work hard in school, get good grades, and become a doctor or a lawyer. But when I turned 18 and announced I was engaged to a man I’d only known for 3 months and planned to marry 2 months later, it became clear that maybe, just maybe, their plans for me wouldn’t work out quite the way they’d hoped.

They were remarkably accepting and supportive of my marriage. (It helped that I married the most amazing man, and they adored him from the moment he first walked into their house.) A few years later when I announced I was dropping out of University (I later went back and finished my degree), they were fine with that, too. And when I told them we’d chosen not to have children, they were once again completely supportive of our decision, despite the fact that I’m an only child and had just effectively ended their hopes of ever holding grandbabies in their arms.

Despite all that, when I took them out for dinner a couple of months ago to tell them I’d quit my well-paying job to write full time, I was a little apprehensive. Surely, this would be the one decision they wouldn’t support. It wasn’t. They were delighted I’d chosen to follow my passion. They’d always encouraged my writing under my other pen name, even going as far as to buy all my books and display them in a special bookshelf in their living room.

When dessert arrived, I had one last thing to confess: the title and theme of my upcoming Carina Press debut. Even my husband shifted nervously beside me as I swung the topic of conversation back around to my newest contract.

“Mom, Dad… I write gay erotic romance threesomes with themes of bondage, dominance, and submission.”

I blurted that out as soon as the waiter had walked away, and mostly muttered it under my breath.

My mom spoke up first. “I hear there’s a market for that.”

And my jaw dropped. You see, my mother had been following the publishing industry enough to understand that M/M erotic romance was a new and exciting niche, written by women, for women. She was intrigued, and wanted to know more. My dad didn’t ask too many questions, but he made it clear they were both very proud of me.

I went home floating on cloud nine. Knowing I have the support of my husband and my parents as I chase an artist’s dream means the world to me.

Have you ever had to admit something to your parents that was potentially embarrassing or may have been hard for them to accept? How did it go?

To celebrate the release of Paradise Found, I’m giving away a $10 gift certificate to Amazon.com. Just leave me a comment below, and I’ll draw the winner’s name at random.

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Paradise is just an illusion…

Or so Philip thinks as he vacations on exotic Anguilla. He should be celebrating the end of law school and the start of his successful career, but he’s tired of living a lie for his family’s sake. For just one night, he lets down his guard with two men he thinks he’ll never see again.

He isn’t the only one with secrets. For years, Cameron Drake has suppressed his need for dominance, afraid of hurting his lover, Mark Wilder. But when Cameron’s hand meets Philip’s ass, there’s no more pretending. Mark can’t face his conflicting feelings about the ménage; does Cameron want more than Mark can give?

The three of them may have been perfect together but consequences follow them back to their real lives. Will their desire for another encounter shatter the illusions they’ve built to protect themselves or clear the obstacles to paradise?

Now Available at Carina Press.

“In addition to great sex, Raines depicts likable characters and intriguing personal relationships… I would definitely recommend Paradise Found to anyone who enjoys the gay romance, ménage, or dom/sub genres.” – Lisa Watts, Fresh Fiction

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About the Author
Hunter Raines is the author of numerous short stories and novellas, and holds an Honors B.A. in English Literature. When she’s not working or writing, she can be found curled up in her library of more than four thousand books, or playing video games with her husband. Find her on her websiteTwitter, and Facebook, or join her Yahoo Group.