Monday, May 25, 2015

What I've Been Reading Lately

Even when in the middle of editing one book and releasing another, I still have time to read. I always have time to read.

The first novel I ever read cover to cover was Pride and Prejudice. Soon after, I gobbled many of the classics my mother had been recommending my entire life. From classic literature I turned to sci-fi and fantasy. Suspense kept me at the edge of my reading chair for quite some time. Literary fiction brought far away lands full of whimsy and intense beauty to my book shelves. Contemporary romance brought everyday desires to life.

This week, I circled back to my reading roots with two historical romances and was very impressed with both.

The first: La Déesse Noire by Mariana Gabrielle. The darker of the two books, this one was east meets west, exotic India meets buttoned-up 1800s England. Loved this book. It was more literary fiction than romance for me, although romance did play a sizable role. The author captivated me, similar to the way her main character, Kali, is trained in the art of seduction, and intrigued all the senses.

Here's the blurb:  Sired by a British peer, born of a paramour to Indian royalty, Kali Matai has been destined from birth to enthrall England’s most powerful noblemen—though she hadn’t counted on becoming their pawn. Finding herself under the control of ruthless men, who will not be moved by her legendary allure, she has no choice but to use her beauty toward their malicious and clandestine ends.

When those she holds most dear are placed in peril by backroom political dealings, she enlists some of the most formidable lords in England to thwart her enemies. But even with the help of the prominent gentlemen she has captivated, securing Kali’s freedom, her family, and the man she loves, will require her protectors stop at nothing to fulfill her desires.

You can read my review on Goodreads here. I received an advanced reader copy. Release date is scheduled for June 10, 2015, but you can pre-order a Kindle copy here.

The second: Candle's Christmas Chair by Jude Knight. This holiday novella was a bright, quick read with an unusual heroine I couldn't help but fall in love with. It's so rare to find a female lead in a regency romance that has ambitions other than marriage. It was a pleasure to read.

Here's the blurb: When Viscount Avery comes to see an invalid chair maker, he does not expect to find Min Bradshaw, the woman who rejected him 3 years earlier. Or did she? He wonders if there is more to the story. For 3 years, Min Bradshaw has remembered the handsome guardsman who courted her for her fortune. She didn't expect to see him in her workshop, and she certainly doesn't intend to let him fool her again.

You can find my review on Goodreads here. This book is currently perma-free on Amazon. You can download a copy of the book for Kindle here.

Thank you for joining me today. I hope everyone enjoyed their holiday weekend. My newest release, Sea Breeze, a contemporary romance, releases Wednesday, May 27th. You can pre-order a copy on Kindle here or wait until Wednesday and read FREE with Kindle Unlimited.

Interested in joining My Dream Team? Click the link below.

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Monday, May 18, 2015

Top Ten Vacation Destinations

This post is going to be short and sweet. Summer is looming on the horizon. The days are longer, the skies are blue, but it's still a bit cold here to start participating in summer activities. That doesn't stop me from dreaming about a vacation. There's a whole world out there to explore. If money were no object, you'd be hard pressed to find me at home.

I'm going to change the usual top ten up and list the top five places I've been and the top five places I want to go.

Top Five Places I've been
5. San Diego, California- The beaches: Go to Coronado for golden sand, Pacific Beach for local fun and bonfires, Mission Beach for the boardwalk, and La Jolla for the best waves for swimming. The Gaslamp District, beautiful at night sits smack dab in the center of downtown, and is filled with restaurants and bars, perfect for people watching. The weather can't be beat.
San Diego

4. Marbella, Spain- In southern Spain on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Spend the days in the sand and surf, and your nights eating and drinking. Puerto Banos is a must see. Great shopping during the day and at night, it's party time.
3. Merida/Cancun, Mexico- Cancun is beautiful and has the warmest ocean water I've ever experienced. The lesser known is across the peninsula, Merida on the gulf. It's a beautiful city, easy to navigate, with great nightlife. Driving distance from the Pyramids in Chichen Itza.
Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico

2. Florence, Italy- The art, food, and people are all enough, but to be at the center of so much history... I can't wait to go back.
1. Morocco- I've have the advantage of being married to a Moroccan, so I've traveled several times to Morocco and to many different cities. Beautiful architecture, friendly people, beaches, food, and an ancient place with a very European feel. Great place to travel. Top cities I recommend; Rabat, Meknes, Tetouan, Marrakech, and Essaouira. For some reason, I still haven't made it to Fes, Chefchaouen, Agadir, or Ouarzazate, but there's always next time.

Top Five Places I Want to Go

5. England- I would love to tour the old estates of the English countryside. I want to see Downton Abbey, Pemberly, and all those inspirational abodes from Jane Austen's era.
4. Puerto Rico- After recent research for my newest book Sea Breeze, I really want to see San Juan, the El Yunque Rainforest, and hear some live Bomba.

San Juan, Puerto Rico
3. France- Paris, Marseille, Nice (and maybe I'll pop over to neighboring Monaco for a couple days)

2. India- This is one of the most exotic places I can think of in the world, and I really want to go. I love Indian food. I love the colors and even was married in a sari. I want to see the Taj Mahal and experience the sights and sounds of one of the most mystical places I can imagine.

1. Greece- This is top of my list. I want the islands, culture, food, music, history, all of it.

Wow, I don't know how I was able to narrow that down. There are too many other places I want to go as well, many of which are right here in the U.S. Now, I'm second guessing the above.

Domestically here are a few others:

New York, New York- I went as a kid, but would love to go back now for a weekend with my husband.
Savannah, Georgia- Ever since I read Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt, I've been aching to go. I want to see the squares and old homes, listen to the music, and just be.
New Orleans, Louisiana- Food, French Quarter, cemeteries where local witches and vampires could be lurking...need I say more.
Miami, Florida- Oceans, nightlife, oceans...
Charleston, South Carolina- I want to tour the plantations and pre-Civil War homes.
National Parks in Utah bordering Arizona- Arches National Park and The Wave, such amazing natural phenomena and rock formations. Maybe a tour down the Colorado River?  

Internationally here are a few more, the reasons are irrelevant.

New Zealand
Virgin Islands

What are your top five places you've been and top five you want to visit?

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Monday, May 11, 2015

When Butterflies Attack

Butterflies are beautiful, although as someone with a slight (read not so slight) phobia of bugs, browsing photos of butterflies creeps me out. I'm absolutely not one of those people who would go to a butterfly farm and let them land on me...shudder, and this post is not about an actual butterfly swarm.

I'm talking today about the ones that make an appearance in our stomachs. The stomach flippers.

There are lots of reasons why our stomachs flip: Fear, surprise, anticipation, nerves, shock, and my favorite, attraction.

Today, one of my favorite ladies gave me butterflies. I have somewhat of a same-sex crush--- the equivalent of bromance for women--- on this lovely lady. Not because I adore her writing and fangirl regularly over her books. And not because she's a beautiful woman and an amazing friend. Nope. Today, her words caused my stomach to flip because she's my editor. Let me explain.

My editor has had my latest novel, Choosing to Dream, Book 2 in my Sunset Dreams Series, for the last few weeks. She's sent me regular updates on her progress, but today, she sent me The Message. It was a quick text letting me know she was done, sending me the edit, and her editing letter. She warned that before I open the edited MS, I was to read the letter and let her know if I had any questions.

Uh oh. Butterflies. I sent a quick message back letting her know how ominous her message was. Her response was another warning. "And I will tell you now that I was very hard on you. Because you can take it."

My response, "Bring it on."

See, I never knew how wonderful it was to work with an editor until I started working with an editor. And I was lucky enough to find one that truly has my best interest at heart. This is the fourth project we've worked on together. I want her to push me and ask her to do exactly that. I want her to help me reach that next level. I am one of the few writers I know who loves this process.

As I waited for her email with the aforementioned editing letter to come through, the butterflies in my stomach started to wreak havoc. What if I can't take it? What if it says this book is a total redo? What if she hated it?

Honestly, at this point in my career, if she would've told me it was a total redo, than I would've postponed the release until it was ready. I have no interest in putting out a mediocre story. If I'm going to stay true to my motto of improving with each title I release, then at minimum, this book has to be better than Sweet Dreams, Book 1 in the series. I'm not willing to sacrifice quality for timelines. After all, I am the queen of my publishing schedule.

Once the editing letter came through, it was extensive. Lots of ways to improve the story itself, language used, character development. Butterflies were crashing against my ribcage looking for an escape. There is a lot to be done. However, my editor advised that I am at a point in my writing where I'm ready to dig a little deeper. She's pushing me, but confident that I now have the skill to make the changes and improvements she's suggesting.

Her vote of confidence is extremely comforting, but as I'm writing this post, the butterflies are still fluttering. It's exciting to move forward like this, but also terrifying. This is what I wanted. I asked for it. Now it's time to get to work.

That's why I adore my editor. She gives tough love. She gives honest encouragement. She gives me butterflies. What makes your stomach flip?

My current romance, Sea Breeze, releases May 27th. Join My Dream Team, for a sneak peek at the first two chapters.

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Monday, May 4, 2015

Book Trailers- Behind the Camera

Book trailers...some are amazing works of cinematic art. Some, not so much. There are companies you can hire to create these masterpieces for you. Someday, maybe I'll hire one as well. For now, I'm saving my pennies and making my own.

How, you ask?

On my laptop at home. No, I don't have some high tech computer or fancy software. Initially, I thought that's what I would need, but it turns out all I need is my Dell laptop. No, I don't have a Mac.

When I was browsing the apps in the app store, looking for video software, I realized that my laptop came with a movie maker app. Free. Who knew. I bet there are dozens of other useful apps on my laptop that I don't even realize are there. Make sure you check out your own computer.

Selecting photos images: Here you need to make sure you are using royalty free photos, or you have purchased photos with a license to use them. This is not the time to use a photo of Chris Hemsworth you found on Pinterest.

Music is a great way highlight the text and photos. You will need royalty free music. You can find it on iTunes. Do not use your favorite song or title from the playlist you created for your book unless you have the specific written permission from the artist to do so.  I know it's tempting, but don't do it.

Titles and script should be kept short and sweet. Something that can be read at a glance in less than seconds seems optimum in my opinion.

The software you use will come with lots of different tools to animate the trailer. Play around with each of them to determine how you want photos to fade from one to the other, as well as titles, and font.

I've found it's better to keep your trailer under one minute, so you don't loose the interest of the audience. I'm currently working on a trailer for Sea Breeze, my new romance scheduled to release May 27th, and very excited to debut it, once the cover is revealed.

Below is the trailer I created for Sweet Dreams. Take a peek if you're interested. One of these days, I'm going to figure out how to use live-action images.

Thanks for tuning in. Happy Monday.

Sea Breeze is scheduled for release May 27th. Stay in the know by joining My Dream Team. Members will receive the first two chapters of Sea Breeze in the May newsletter for free. Click the link to sign up.

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