Tuesday, October 28, 2014

It's No Fun Having a Stalker

I'm not sure why I woke up compelled to write about this today. Maybe, and probably, it's because of the nice feedback I've received this week about my ability to write a strong heroine. Maybe, also, it's because I've been having gentle, age-appropriate talks with my daughters about being a strong girl, and about boys, and all that fun stuff. I started #yesallwomen a long time ago with my girls. :)

Here's the grit: I was stalked when I was sixteen and it changed me. Profoundly so. It changed me so much that the entire fabric of my personality was ripped and mended, finally, into a person I didn't recognize.

The boy (we'll call him Jay) was someone I'd grown up with in my tiny town. We went to school together. His sister (we'll call her Holly) was one of my best friends, so we all hung out a lot. In the 9th grade, they moved an hour away, but I visited them 2-3 times a month and spent weekends there so Holly and I didn't lose touch. In the interim, there were many, many phone calls. The summer before they moved away, Jay asked if I'd be his "girlfriend." You know how it is at that age...all batting eyelashes and being shy. I'd always thought he was cute, so I said yes. That's where the innocent first smooches and hand holding and staring longingly into each other eyes started.

We continued "seeing" each other through the 10th grade, as much as people who live that far apart could. Phone calls, seeing him on weekends, that kind of stuff. To me, it was more like a friendship with kissing than a relationship, and as teens do, I dated other people here and there, until finally, the thing between Jay and I fizzled out and it was no big deal.

I was sixteen the first time he pushed me. It was just after my birthday and I was visiting Holly at her home. They lived in the woods where her parents had converted an old barn into the most amazing house ever! Holly and I, and some girls our age from next door went hiking in the woods. Jay was straggling behind and as I stopped to look at something and the girls went farther ahead, he pushed me into a tree and said I couldn't break up with him.

I'd seen him rage before. When he'd gone to my school, he was often in trouble for hitting other kids and swearing and "anger issues." This was the first time it had been directed at me. I got away from him, caught up to the girls and called my dad to come get me that afternoon.

It wasn't the last time. He and Holly drove down to see me on their way to another town. Holly went inside to talk to my mom and Jay took the opportunity to grab my throat and glare at me, not saying a word.

I never told anyone what happened. In fact, I never told anyone about ANY of this as it unfolded. Only one other person knew that this was going on... until the day he confronted my mother with a knife and it all went south. Why didn't I tell anyone?

Good question. First, I was young and stupid. Second, I was not the popular girl in school. Mostly, the other kids took great pleasure in cutting me down as often and as harshly as possible. If I'd said anything, how much more teasing would that have brought on? Probably lots. Third, I didn't want to lose my independence. I was a good kid; I got good grades. My parents let me come and go as I pleased and I didn't want to lose that.

So when the phone calls started and he'd scream at me over the phone, I said nothing. When he'd drive really slowly back and forth in front of our house on a rural road, I told my mom someone must be looking for their hunting dog or they were lost. When the car pulled into our yard in the middle of the night and he got out, staring at the house for half an hour before leaving, I cried as I watched him from the window, but I didn't tell anyone.

He showed up at school and would wait for me after basketball practice. He'd never say anything to me, would just make sure I saw him and then he'd leave. I later found out he'd been skipping a lot of school to drive to my town to make this happen. And then the phone calls changed into hang-ups. One after the other after the other, even late at night.

I stopped eating. I couldn't sleep. I tried to pretend this wasn't happening and went about my days like normal. I dated other people. I hung out with my best friend. I told no one.

One fall afternoon, I went babysitting with my friend Colleen to watch her nephews a few miles from my house. My mom had the phone number where we were babysitting, and thank goodness she did because she called, screaming: "Jay just showed up here with a knife looking for you. I told him I didn't know where you were, but hide your car so he doesn't see you!" He'd pulled a knife on my mom, demanding to know where I was. She lied to protect me.

She called my dad.

He called to police.

I hid my car behind the house, and crying, told everything to Colleen. All of it. Months and months and months of it.

He never found me.

That night, he attacked his father with the knife, and then shot himself.

Only in a book, right?

Don't I wish.

Because this left me with the inability to trust. The inability to feel. The inability to connect with men on any real level. I dated again, and each and every time, I found I was fighting fear and discomfort the entire time and I could never, ever connect with my boyfriends on anything but a superficial level.

I wanted to. But Jay had changed me. Profoundly. Deeply. In that place of fear inside you that morphs and changes when trauma happens, and sometimes, it never resets. I let go of some wonderful men because of my inability to be more than a smile and a handshake and small talk. Even now, twenty five years later, I still have trouble letting people in.

So I write about it. My heroines are strong because they are who I wished I had been coming out of that trauma. They are who I wish I could still be, sometimes. My take-away is that emotion, whether pent up or given freely, is a driving factor of writing and if you have a story, use it. If you have that place inside of you that hasn't reset, use it. Some of my strongest, most emotional scenes have come from that place of fear and every time I write about it, I get stronger.

It's healing.

I'm fine today. This incident is a shadowy memory that stays buried for years at a time unless I choose to think about it. Now, I help other people with their own trauma, and I write about what I can't fix.

Tell your daughters. Tell your sons. Tell someone. And write your heart out.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Cover Reveal: THE MISTRESS EXPERIMENT


Did you know I have my first indie release coming out in November? I do, and here's the rocking, sexy cover.

WHAT DO YOU THINK??

You may have seen another cover for this book, and yes, there are two, but this is the final. :)

Here's the blurb, oh, and add it to your Goodreads TBR, too. 

THE MISTRESS EXPERIMENT



“A gentleman would get to know you patiently, intimately, before demanding anything of your body. Tonight,I’m not going to be a gentleman.”

For wealthy British surgeon Isaac Kimball, being the good guy comes naturally. Caring for Chicago’s poorest fills his days and keeps his other side—the dark one that craves sensuality and control—at bay. When Isaac is prevented from saving a charity he loves, an acquaintance offers him a proposition: transform a woman from the streets into a sophisticated mistress who can pass in London high society, in exchange for the charity’s salvation. A ridiculous suggestion until he realizes he knows the perfect woman—one with an understated sexuality and sharp wit that continually tempt his control.

Mila DePardo counts the days until she can get off the streets and put her criminal past behind her. When Dr. Kimball offers her a ticket out of hell and into the glitter of London society, lying about her identity is easy. Until the chemistry between them starts to crack her no-sex rule, and the pleasure of Isaac’s touch changes everything she thought she wanted.

When the truth starts to unravel and Isaac’s own secrets come to play, Mila’s will and belief in herself is put to the test. She might win the mistress experiment, but can she survive him?


COMING NOVEMBER, 2014

ADD TO GOODREADS



Friday, September 12, 2014

5 Reasons I'm Going Indie



Becoming a hybrid author is something I’ve wanted to do since I started writing with publication in mind. I’m happy to say that, three years and five traditionally published books later, I’m finally taking the plunge and self-publishing. It’s a scary plunge and one that I wouldn’t do without the encouragement and support of a great group of people. Plus a lot of thought—yeah, there was a lot of thought that went into this too. Most of the time it was just that—thought—and no concrete planning. Two weeks ago, I got the push I needed to finally go indie. 

That push? Well, it was the Big 5 saying thanks but no thanks to a submission that is near and dear to my heart. It was one publisher saying, yeah, okay, let’s make huge changes and we’ll talk again. It was me feeling for the first time that I didn’t want to make those big changes. I wanted this book to stay real. Intimate. Close to how it was meant to be. So I said, “no,” and my lovely agent said, “self-publish,” and I said, “yes!”

This doesn’t mean I’m against being edited. Not at all. All of my traditionally published books have gone through heavy editorial and I LOVE the stories they became. But this book…this book wasn’t one I wanted to chop and stitch back together. I like the rawness of it and the story it has to tell. Fear aside, I weighed the option to self-publish vs. heavy editing and resubmission, and came up with five reasons going indie was right for me:

Scheduling

I write fast. This means I almost always have a book either completed or nearly so. Trying to juggle editing, proposal writing, submission, editing, resubmission, etc is even more frustrating when you’re ready to put out another book, but you’re a slave to a publisher’s schedule. The book I finished a year ago, may have to wait another year before it ever goes into print. Self-publishing a series means that I can add book releases in between my traditionally published books. This can give me a well-paced stream of books so I have several coming out per year, versus maybe only one. Great for my readers, and great for me!

Income

The above publication schedule means I’ll have a steadier income flow, versus waiting months and months in between releases. I don’t know about other authors, but my books tend to drop off in sales about 6 months after release, which thins the royalty flow. Being able to put out a few more quality books not only pumps up the flow, but also helps build my backlist of titles. I have no great expectations that going indie is going to make me rich, and I’m not even looking at it that way. I do, however, expect that it will build upon the income stream that my books are already generating, and that’s the point.

Creative Control

I’m not much of a control freak, but there’s something wildly exhilarating about being able to choose my own cover, write my own blurb, and decide when my book will be published. No waiting months for a publisher to decide when to release my book. No cringing a little because I really don’t like the cover my publisher made…and trying to swallow it down because I can’t change it. I can lower or raise the price if I want to! I can have a flash sale, or become part of a boxed set, or whatever. Because the control is mine. All mine. Creative freedom is also a nice perk. Maybe I feel like writing something ‘out of the norm’ or ‘edgy’ that might not fit what publishers are looking for right now. I can still write it, get opinions on it from my agent and critique partners, and publish it. No house editorial approval needed.


Great Support

I can’t emphasize enough how much my support network means to me, and what a huge role they played in my decision to do this. I belong to a kick-ass writing group of experienced indie authors, best-selling traditional print authors and everyone in between. Among us are cover designers, copyeditors and two authors with absolute mad skills in developmental edits. I have a professional team at my fingertips, and I’m so grateful. In addition, having an agent and family on board with this next step are crucial too, because I always have somewhere to turn when I need help, have a question, or just need reassurance. I would never consider putting a book out there that wasn’t professionally developed and edited, and with my support group, I don’t have to.

Growth

Developing technique, refining your natural voice and learning the industry are all parts of being a professional author. I consider going indie another avenue in learning and growth. You know what? Maybe I’ll realize that self-publishing really isn’t my thing. But as least I tried, and that’s what counts.

So there you have it! I’m one of many taking the step from traditional to indie, and I’m excited to be part of the hybrid author community! What about you? Is self-publishing in your future?


COMING NOVEMBER 24th, 2014

 
 ***Please note this is a temporary cover. Final cover image coming soon***


“A gentleman would get to know you patiently, intimately, before demanding anything of your body. Tonight,I’m not going to be a gentleman.”

For wealthy British surgeon Isaac Kimball, being the good guy comes naturally. Caring for Chicago’s poorest fills his days and keeps his other side—the dark one that craves sensuality and control—at bay. When Isaac is prevented from saving a charity he loves, an acquaintance offers him a proposition: transform a woman from the streets into a sophisticated mistress who can pass in London high society, in exchange for the charity’s salvation. A ridiculous suggestion until he realizes he knows the perfect woman—one with an understated sexuality and sharp wit that continually tempt his control.

Mila DePardo counts the days until she can get off the streets and put her criminal past behind her. When Dr. Kimball offers her a ticket out of hell and into the glitter of London society, lying about her identity is easy. Until the chemistry between them starts to crack her no-sex rule, and the pleasure of Isaac’s touch changes everything she thought she wanted.

When the truth starts to unravel and Isaac’s own secrets come to play, Mila’s will and belief in herself is put to the test. She might win the mistress experiment, but can she survive him?

Add to GOODREADS






Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Hot Fireman Alert!

I can't wait for you to meet Garrett Mateo, sexy fireman and bartender. Breaker of women's hearts and rescuer of puppies and all that jazz. Mostly, he's just cocky, sassy, a little self-absorbed and sexy as hell.

He's delicious. Trust me on this.

You can enter to win a signed copy of THE FIREFIGHTER'S APPEAL on Goodreads. Giveaway entry closes July 20th at midnight.


Be sure to join my Facebook author page for release day goodies, starting on August 1st, 2014.

Or, sign-up for my author newsletter for exclusive swag and giveaways on release day!

Want it all? Come over and be part of the E Team, my awesome street team!

 AMAZON

GOODREADS

Monday, July 7, 2014

What if Feels Like to Turn in Your Last Contracted Book

Today marks a milestone: I will turn in the very last book in my first contracted series, to my editor. This is the end of a beginning that has opened up a huge, gaping hole.

Why? Because that book was also my very last contracted book, period. I have no more. Nothing else. Nada. Zip.

It makes me feel like this:

Funny Panic animated GIF

Yeah, it feels strange. Like, I have no deadlines ahead of me (except for editing this beast I just turned in).Of course, I keep pondering that maybe...just  maybe...I'll never have another contract. O_O. No one will want me. OMG, whatifIneverwriteanotherbookthatanyonewantstobuy?



Airplane Movies animated GIF

There is a nice, fluffy sense of freedom associated with fulfilling all the contracts. My writing platform is wide open. I can write whatever I want! I canwriteallthethings!

In the meantime, I'll  be over here with a chocolate cake. And some Doritos. And wine. Lots of wine. And cake. Did I mention...

Cake?

Stress eating is a thing. You should (n't) try it sometime.





In the meantime, look for my next two releases: THE FIREFIGHTER'S APPEAL comes out August 1st, 2014, and PAINT RIVER RANCH #3, comes out in November, 2014. After that...

I'll have to get back to you. :)









Thursday, July 3, 2014

Money and the New Author



  































***Disclaimer: My verbal filter is OFF today***

After reading a very excited post by a new author on a group, about quitting her day job (she carried insurance) to write full time, and her first book had JUST been acquired (with no advance), I really, really felt like I needed to get the below off. My. Chest. 

 Atm Money animated GIF

Money


I don’t know many authors who write simply for the pure joy and torture of writing, but a few do. The rest of us expect, at some point, to make a little money. And perhaps a smaller demographic, like me, absolutely has to either profit from writing, or give it less effort. (That’s a sad truth, but there it is).

I decided to pursue my writing passion after someone challenged me to finish a book I’d been working on for 7 long years. So I did. In the process, I joined an awesome and inspiring group of women writers, one of whom who had just signed a huge (think movie huge) deal with lots of $$$ attached to it. It was her debut, and it pulled her out of poverty. As a young mother with 3 kids who was often taking a negative paycheck because childcare cost more than I was making, her story was inspiring. And hope-giving. And, OMG, that could be me! 

Less than a year later, another writer friend self-published an erotica series and, within a few short months, had earned a shit-ton of cash and pulled her family out of poverty, as well. She was working 3-4 jobs at the time to support her kids. Inspiring stuff. 

 Money Norma Desmond animated GIF

We live in a relatively poor community. There are no really good jobs here (trust me; I’ve been looking for nearly 3 years). My husband has always worked 2-3 jobs at a time, and I have a day job, but we’re still bottom-of-the-barrel, struggling for every penny, living paycheck-to-paycheck lucky people. So when I signed my first book deal, I thought, “Yay! Residual income!” I knew it wouldn’t make much (it’s made about $225 in 2 ½ years), but I figured it was a start. 

A few months later, I found a lovely agent and sold a series. Things were looking up! “Hey,” I said to the husband. “My publisher just put out this email with the average earnings for each book in the line I’m signed to.” We looked at the numbers. Our eyes went O_O because, money! Then I counted how many books I had coming out in that line and I really went O_O!!! The potential was more in a year than I’ve ever made annually in my professional life. 

 Money Reaction animated GIF

The husband was happy! The kids were excited! I felt like I was FINALLY helping my family financially (wow, I could help the teen pay for college in a couple years!) Yeah, you see where this is going. The hype was all in my head. Of course, I knew *average earnings* were a crap shoot, but I wanted to really believe I would break through and hit some of those numbers on that email. 

Not even close. In the past 18 months, I’ve made in the very low 4-figures OVERALL, from 2 titles, which includes an advance for an un-released title. A far, huge, continent-sized cry from the numbers I’d initially printed out and hung by my desk for inspiration (I’ve since burned that email). I recently passed the two year mark from the date my first book came out. The husband and I had agreed on two years as a relatively good assessment of whether or not this endeavor would be profitable. 

We underestimated that timeframe, too. At this rate, which is a realistic one, I’m convinced it will be 5-6 years before any real profit begins to show.

Perhaps, if your publisher is confident enough in your book to put a ton of backing behind it, or you get a nice, large advance, or you have enough cash to hire a professional publicity and marketing team--or, you just have REALLY GREAT LUCK with a BREAKOUT book, your experience may be different. However, if you're an everyday, new author, with a family, a job, bills and limited cash to spend on your own promo, I think you'll see a similar path. 

The Lesson: Don’t count on the money. Don’t listen to anyone else’s story and think for a single minute that you can achieve the same thing. Should you be competitive? Yes! Should you have goals and dreams for your writing career? YES! Just remember, the money is slow to come in. Very, very slow. Your writing buddy with the six-figure deal is NOT YOU. Someday, it could be you, but it’s not today.

 1990s Crying animated GIF

I still have my day job, and though I am actively looking for another job, I plan to continue writing. And I really think this is the way of most new authors like me. Recently there was a really smarmy article by some dude who accused romance writers of sucking off their spouses. As much as I hated that article (enough, actually, to not even waste time looking up the linky), the douchebag author had a small point: If you don’t have a spouse to help support you, or some other way of providing for yourself or your family, shiny new authorship probably isn’t going to do that for you. At least, not right away. 

Keep your day job (s). Keep writing. Keep dreaming, and maybe, if the stars align, the next 6-figure $$$ deal will have your name and bank account on it. 

Money isn’t everything. But when you spend countless hours on your craft, it sure does help. :)

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Wrangler Butt is a Thing, Y'all!



Okay, I'm not from the south, but I've always wanted to give a hearty Y'all! So there it is.

I am, however, a country girl from the Northwoods of Wisconsin and I grew up around my share of good looking country boys. Besides muscles, smooth, tanned skin and killer, crooked smiles, those boys all had one other thing in common: Wrangler Butt.

What is Wrangler Butt? Ladies, it's only the best thing to happen. Ever. See, Wranger jeans somehow crafted their jeans to perfectly conform, smooth, lift and outline the male rear-end. To. Perfection.

Since the men of my Paint River Ranch series all wear Wranglers, all I can do is show you the glory that is Wrangler Butt.

Let me know in the comments: Yes or no to Wrangler Butt?? There's a give-away involved. ;)


wrangler butts drive me nuts!