Thoughts on HOT VALOR – or, in praise of the older man

Y’all, I just can’t believe that Colonel Mendez’s story is almost here! Which means, of course, that I’ve finished writing it. But I’ll tell you a secret – I wish I’d written it twice as long.

I did NOT want to give Mendez up. I can’t believe that it’s over. I’m SAD. How crazy is that? But I love this character. When he first appeared in HOT PURSUIT, I had no idea he’d gain a following. He was just some old crusty full-bird colonel with gray hair who oversaw the Hostile Operations Team and ran it with an iron fist.

Little did I know how SEXY he was. How that gray hair was salt-and-pepper gray, and how he was really in his 40s rather than his 50s. That’s right, I DID NOT KNOW THOSE THINGS WHEN HE FIRST APPEARED. He was a minor character to me, but with a lot of mystery. Matt didn’t really know him. Nobody did.

And then he appeared in other books, always so cool and in control, always with more knowledge than his guys had. More experience. If that’s not sexy, I don’t know what is! And y’all started asking for his story. That amazed me, but then I started thinking about it. WHY couldn’t the sexy, 49-year-old colonel have a story? WHY NOT?

For years, New York publishers told us what we could do. I wrote for Harlequin Presents (and loved those books!), and it’s possible they would have let me write a 49-year-old. But most publishers wouldn’t. Too old, they’d say.

Well, hell, really? Because y’all ladies certainly have wanted Mendez’s story. What amazes me about that is at least half of you have told me he’s old enough to be your dad, but you don’t care. 😉 You wanted him anyway.

He’ll be here on Tuesday, July 18, 2017. And I’m so thrilled! But I miss him. I just can’t tell you how exciting his story was for me. The scenes – oh, the scenes! The things I got to write. Some of those scenes unfolded and I could barely keep up. I had the playlist on a loop (see below) and I could not write fast enough! It happened too quickly. I want to take it all back and keep spending my days and nights with the colonel.

Mr. Harris began to wonder, I’m certain, if I’d ever finish. Or if I’d keep telling him night after night that I was too busy to watch television with him. I wasn’t sure I’d finish either. I kept pushing my editors off, kept on working. I hated to let go.

But I finally did. I’m happy with the result — though don’t be surprised if Mendez gets more adventures in the future. For the first time ever, I understood wanting to write a character who gets multiple books. And he might — who knows! With Kat, of course, because they deserve their happily ever after.

I hope you love him as much as I do! I’m bereft it’s over. But proud of the result. Not everyone will agree — but I hope most of you will. Hugs and love. 🙂

2013 in Review – Lessons and Thoughts

Warning: Long Post

It seems as if everyone is doing a post where they review the year that ends today. I like that idea. It’s a bit of housecleaning and throwing down a welcome mat for 2014. So here’s my 2013, along with lessons learned, thoughts, and what to expect in 2014.

First, the good stuff for readers. In 2013, I had (counting fingers) 8 books out (including novellas and shorts). There were five stories from Harlequin (six if you count the 2-in-1 that came out this month) and three stories in my Hostile Operations Team series. There was also my freebie short story, Maddie’s Marine, which I didn’t count in the total because it’s been available on this site for free for a long time.

I had a lot of fun bringing those stories to you, and I’ve heard from so many of you who seem to love what I write and want more. Thank you so much for sticking with me. 🙂

What’s coming in 2014? From Harlequin, you’ll get my sheikh duet about two brothers and the Crown of Kyr. In May, the first book, GAMBLING FOR THE CROWN, will be out. In July, the second book, CARRYING THE SHEIKH’S HEIR, will follow and finish the story arc. Two yummy sheikhs, y’all! I just love sheikhs.

In December (I think), you’ll get an as-yet-untitled story from me featuring a Greek tycoon (my first Greek!) and the hotel heiress who works for him.

That’s only three Harlequins, I know, but that’s because I’m also writing the HOT series and I want to get you more books sooner in that series. This spring will see the release of DANGEROUSLY HOT, the second full-length book in the series. HOT SHOT will follow in the summer. After that, I’m not sure which story I’ll write next. But I can say that Colonel Mendez may just get a story of his own!

I’m also working on a secret project that I hope to publish this summer too. I want to put up three books in that series at once, so we’ll see. It’s my first foray into first person storytelling and I’m loving it very much.

Now, thinking about the lessons of 2013, this is where a lot of the post centers on writing and writers.

Lesson One: Sometimes you have to explore new territory. And when you do, you discover amazing things.

I went into 2013 as a traditionally published author at a major romance publishing house. But I was self-pub curious and I was determined to explore those waters. RT 2013, in Kansas City, became a watershed moment for me in that journey. After meeting and hearing such authors speak as Liliana Hart, Jasinda Wilder, Abbi Glines, Shayla Black, Theresa Ragan (who I already knew), Jana DeLeon, and a host of others I can’t remember at the moment, I felt like I’d attended a revival.

I left KC determined to become a self-published author in addition to writing for Harlequin. And I did. It was one of the best decisions I ever made.

Lesson Two: Eject the people who don’t support your career choices.

I had to part ways with my agent, which was hard in some ways because the dream for so long had been a NY agent and a traditional publishing contract. I had what I’d always wanted — but now it didn’t fit anymore. I learned that sometimes you have to step outside your comfort zone and do what was unthinkable to you only a year before. My agent and I split — and I haven’t regretted it for a moment. My former agent — who was and is a good, honest agent — didn’t want me to self-publish. I think she would have been happy selling the HOT series straight to digital with no guarantees of advertising or support from the publisher. Why should I do that when I had the tools to publish myself? Why would I give up that kind of control?

Lesson Three: Self Publishing is a BIG job.

Don’t half-ass it, because it *will* come back to bite you. So many people act like self-publishing is a gold rush and they have to get in NOW or they won’t get any gold. But I’m telling you, if you get in now with a shoddy product just because you’re worried about getting a piece of the pie, the readers will respond. And probably not in the way you hope. Don’t rush the work to market, y’all. It won’t do you any favors.

By the same token, don’t take two years to polish one story. You have to keep producing product if you want to succeed in self-publishing. It works a lot like traditional publishing, except the timelines are much faster. Write, revise, send to editor, begin new story while waiting for more revisions. The difference is that at the end of the cycle, you can publish right away instead of a year from now.

I repeat, self-publishing is a big job. But it’s not impossible and you CAN do it. Just remember that whatever you put out there is your first impression and now that the field is getting crowded with self-published books, readers have more choices than ever. If your book is poorly written and edited, they aren’t going to buy you.

Writing is like any other skill. It takes practice. You wouldn’t begin piano lessons today and book Carnegie Hall for six months from now, would you? So why do you think you can set fingers to keyboard and have something publishable, something people will pay money for, as soon as you’re done writing it? It doesn’t work that way. Pretty much every overnight success story you’ve heard comes from someone who was writing for a very long time before success came — even if they weren’t trying to get published, they were writing.

Lesson Four: There will always be people who annoy you. Stop paying attention to them.

It’s not worth your energy. If they drag you down, ignore them. Stop reading their posts. Don’t engage. There will always be those who seek attention. They may brag about their success, or they may say things that require a “But you’re smart and everyone likes you!” response so they won’t sink into a wallow of self-pity. You are not required to respond either way. Eject negative people or people who damage your emotional well-being. You can’t stop them, so eject them.

Lesson Five: The truly successful don’t have to brag because they don’t have time for it. They’re too busy working.

I’ve met some really awesome people this year, and so many of them were willing to hold out a hand and give me advice and information when I needed it. They are the ones I admire, and one thing I’ve discovered about most of them is that they are often very successful — but they don’t brag about it. They just keep working.

Lesson Six: There will always be someone who judges you.

This is a crazy business in some ways, and one thing there will never be less of are the judgmental attitudes. If you self-publish, someone thinks you’re insane and that you’re selling out. If you traditionally publish, someone thinks you’re insane and too lazy to publish yourself. If you do both? Someone thinks you can’t do both and you’re going to have to choose one or the other pretty soon. And yes, someone said that to me. Maybe they’re right, but I make my decisions as they make sense for me at the time. Which leads me to the next lesson…

Lesson Seven: Everything changes. And probably faster than you can keep up.

Self-publishing today is not the self-publishing of last year or even the year before. Things are constantly in flux and it’s up to you to keep abreast of the changes. Some things that worked last year still work phenomenally well. Others don’t. The only way to know is to keep your ear to the ground and your head out of the sand. Self-publishing isn’t going away. I don’t think traditional is either based on the sheer number of writers I know who are still writing and submitting the old-fashioned way. Writing is a business, now more than ever since so much of it is in a writer’s control, and you MUST act like a business person, not just an “arteest” who types all day while little birds sing and festoon you with garland. Head in the sand is NOT a viable option for growing a career. I am constantly reading books on business, on publishing, and I follow several blogs where conversations are taking place every day about what the future of publishing holds.

Lesson Eight: Be kind to everyone.

This isn’t really a lesson from 2013. It’s a lesson from life. My personal code of conduct demands that I be nice. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard from writers who say that someone was nasty to them and therefore they won’t ever, *ever* buy that person’s books — or recommend their friends buy that person’s books. Writers are readers too. Why would you look down your nose at someone who is a potential customer just because they also write? I get that we all have personality differences and that when we get together in our local chapters, for instance, some annoy us more than others. But be nice and approachable and you may be surprised. You could gain a new fan, a champion for your work to others, and a friend all at the same time. By the same token, give someone a break if they are less than gracious to you — you never know what’s going on in someone else’s life. If they are always snotty, well, that’s different.

Lesson Nine: There are no excuses

Do you know how you get ahead in this business, especially today? You write A LOT. You don’t have to be fast, but you have to be consistent. If you don’t want to write a lot, and you don’t want to put out more than two books a year, that’s perfectly fine. But you probably won’t get the success you want as fast as you want it. Again, it’s all relative. But writing is my full-time job, so if I write two books a year and complain I can’t get ahead, I’m stupid. I’ve done a lot this year to look at my productivity and see how to increase it. I wrote eight books this year of varying lengths, and I’m planning to write that many or more in 2014. There are no excuses not to work hard if this is what you want. (Okay, there are some excuses: illness, death in the family, relationship issues, etc. Not writing because you had to clean the house first is not an excuse.)

Thoughts

And now I come to thoughts. The above lessons are my opinion and not gospel. The only writing police in existence are readers and they vote with their wallets. If you can be nasty to other writers, throw up first drafts, half-ass your way through self-publishing and readers STILL buy your books in droves and demand more, then you are a frigging rock star. So don’t listen to a word I say.

Final thoughts for 2013 are that writing is a tough, rewarding business and I love it even when I hate it. Also, life will throw you curve balls and some of them will devastate you. Not writing-related, but if you’ve been following me for a while you know I lost my most beloved cat back in February and it devastated me. She was only 5 years old and no way did I think I could lose her to heart disease at that young age. I still cry over her sometimes.

But I look forward to 2014 with hope and excitement. It could rock or it could bring devastation. We just never know, do we? I hope and pray that your 2014 is awesome.

For my readers, y’all are amazing and I will continue to write as many books as I can and I hope you will continue to read them.

For the writers who are visiting, I hope you get something out of this post. To some of you, I am wildly successful. To others, I’m doing okay — or maybe not all that good at all, LOL! It’s all relative, y’all, which is the point of this post. I want more success, which is why I’m all about working harder, but I’m grateful for what I have, too.

Here are a few posts I’ve read lately that got me to thinking. Your mileage may vary.

Joe Konrath’s Publishing Predictions
Ten Things I Learned About Independent Publishing in 2013
Three Things I realized in 2013
Five Mistakes Killing Self-Published Authors

Have a safe and happy New Year’s!!

The Indie Journey

This post is for the writers among you. Publishing is changing and there are more opportunities for authors than ever before. We finally have the ability to take charge of our careers in ways we couldn’t before Amazon brought out the Kindle. Seriously, the Kindle was a game changer. Add in all the other e-readers, and the invention of the iPad, and we’re rolling along into a revolution that finally gives authors the means to reach readers directly in far greater numbers than they ever could before (printing books and selling them out of your trunk will only get you so much exposure).

Many of the Indie authors who’ve paved the way have been so generous with sharing their numbers, so I decided I’m going to do the same. I am what is properly termed a “hybrid” author. I’m self-publishing and writing for a traditional publisher. I believe there is sense and value to both things, so I’m straddling that line and having some fun. I’m learning a lot too.

Today is officially one month since HOT PURSUIT has been for sale on Kindle. It went live on Kobo and Apple on July 17th, though it was in pre-order at this stage. And it was live on Smashwords and B&N around the same time as Amazon. HOT PURSUIT is a departure for me in terms of the kind of books I am known for with Harlequin. I write for Presents, the line that’s all about angst, passion, glamor, billionaires, etc. I love those kinds of stories! I also love romantic suspense, and I love anything to do with a military special operations team. Which is where my HOT series goes.

I am a known author and I have hit the USA Today list back when they only counted print sales. So how would that translate to my self-published books? Pretty well, it turns out, though not well enough to propel me onto any lists. Everyone says you need more than one book in a series to really see an effect, and I only have one book out there (plus a free short story that’s military but not in the same series) but I cannot complain about the numbers thus far. In one month, I’ve sold 1800 books and made nearly $4k. No, that’s nothing like my Harlequin numbers (which are still primarily in print), but self-publishing is long tail and this is only one month worth of numbers. In the same amount of time with a Harlequin, I can expect to sell far more books. And, in some respects, the Harlequin sales are long tail too because of the foreign translations. And now, with ebooks, if someone discovers you, they can go back and read all your books. That’s a nice departure from the days where you could only get the books for a month and then never again.

HOT PURSUIT was a Golden Heart finalist in 2008. I had hoped my agent could sell it for me, but she didn’t think it was ready. And it wasn’t. I had some hard work to do first, and once I did that work, I decided I’d rather put it out there myself and see how it went than sell it to a publisher and take my chances. At least this way, if the book (and series) failed, it was all on me. But I don’t think it’s failing. Your emails, blog posts, and reviews tell me it’s not. You seem to like this story and you seem to want more. And that makes me *very* happy!

So, one month, 1800 books sold of a book I was told that New York wouldn’t want, and sales show no sign of slowing down. This is only the beginning. HOT MESS (Book 1.5) will be out sometime in September, and I’ve been asked to contribute to an anthology of holiday novellas by some of your favorite Indie authors. That story will be a HOT story, and then I’ll follow it with DANGEROUSLY HOT, which is officially Book 2 in the series (though maybe I need a new numbering system since there will be another novella before that, LOL!).

If you are a writer who is looking at self-publishing, there are a couple of things you need to do. First, you have to spend money to get a good cover and good editing. You’re going to need developmental edits, not just copy edits. I’ve written nearly 20 books with Harlequin and I still paid a developmental editor for my HOT books. I need editing and so do you. Readers will notice if you give them crap and they won’t buy you anymore. There is a difference between not liking a story because it’s not your thing and the story being poorly written and edited. If you don’t have a lot of money to invest, save money until you can afford the editing at least. Trade services with other writers who are good at things you aren’t (like cover design, maybe). Do everything you can to put out the best product you can. Self-publishing is NOT a get rich quick scheme. It takes money, time, and a commitment to the process to do it right.

Here are the things I did for HP: hired a developmental editor, hired a copy editor & proofreader, hired a cover designer, hired a formatter. I’ve not really advertised HP, other than on my Facebook and Twitter feeds. I decided not to advertise yet because I only have one book in the series. I might do something when the next story comes out next month. Or I might not. This is a marathon, y’all, not a sprint. If HP continues to sell at the level it’s selling for an entire year, well, that’s a living. I can’t predict that, of course, because things happen and books fall off the radar. But I hope readers are excited enough about this series to try the next one and to recommend the books to their friends.

So there it is. My Indie Journey, one month in. Any questions?

Multi-tasking

As I move closer to releasing HOT PURSUIT, I’ve realized a few things. First, I *love* writing these books about my strong alpha military guys. I’ve neglected them for so long, but now it’s possible to share these stories with readers without needing a publisher’s approval first. And I have to say that the initial reviews on this book are making me very happy. I know there will be people who don’t like it, but right now there are people who do — besides me and my family and friends — and that’s a thrilling thing.

But as I watch the reviews come in, and hear that people are loving the hot military action and romance, I’m realizing that I have to get these books out pretty darn fast. The only way I’m going to get the HOT books done, and meet my Harlequin obligations too, is to write on more than one project at a time.

I usually immerse myself in one book and write until it’s done. But, no more. Today, in fact, I worked on two books. This morning it was a hot Greek CEO. This afternoon, it was a hot military operative. Fun!

I love both kinds of books, and I hope you do too. I know as a reader that I prefer certain kinds of books from certain authors, so it won’t surprise me if some of you prefer the Harlequins over the HOT series and vice versa. But I hope you’ll give them all a try! I promise you the usual sexy and exciting read, no matter which type of book you choose.

Finally, I have to tell you how much fun writing the HOT series is for me. It’s freeing in ways I didn’t expect. It’s exciting. I love my Harlequin billionaires, but writing these military guys takes me back to my roots. To the way I grew up and the way I lived most of my adult life: as a military dependent. Mr. Harris isn’t in the military anymore, but that life is never far away when I work on these books. I adore it, and I adore the men and women who choose to serve their country. Make no mistake, the spouses and children serve too. Anyone who has ever been a part of that life knows it. I spent years following my husband from base to base, but I wouldn’t change a thing about it. It was an awesome way to see the world, and a thing that fills me with pride too.

All right, so what’s coming next? Sometime in August, prepare for HOT MESS, a novella set in the HOT world! This one is about Sam McKnight and Georgeanne Hayes. There’s a lot of heat in this story. I think you’ll enjoy it — I sure enjoyed writing it! I plan to have Book 2 in the HOT series ready to go by Christmas, so keep an eye out for that one, and then I have two Harlequins out this fall as well – look for new books in October and December! I’m still working on next year, but you can expect four Harlequins (May, July, December, and as yet undetermined) and of course more HOT books! It’s going to be a busy year, but I couldn’t be happier about it. I hope you’re as excited about it all as I am!

Now how about a peek at the cover for HOT MESS? Does it get any better, y’all? 😉

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On Being a Dreamer

Does anybody ever know what the future holds? I’m sitting here on my screened in patio, it’s sunny and warm, and I can look up at the sky and clouds, and it just fills me with happiness. It’s like the future is wide open with possibilities, and all I need is this laptop and my imagination to make it happen.

I don’t think it’s that easy, truly, but sometimes it feels that way. I’ve looked up at the sky in a hundred different places, and I’ve felt exactly the same: the future is filled with possibilities. I never know what will happen, but I feel like it has the potential to be good.

It’s the dreamer in me, and I hope I never lose her. She always feels like amazing things are just waiting to happen. The practical side of me worries about everything and knows bad things happen too, but the dreamer doesn’t want to think about it. I think we need the dreamer to keep us optimistic. The worrier keeps us grounded.

Today, the possibilities lie within this book I’m working on. I hope it makes readers happy when it’s done and out there, but I won’t know that for a while yet. Still, I do my best, and I hope you know that whenever you sit down with something I’ve written.

From my patio to yours, happy day!

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Impatience

I’ve discovered I’m impatient. Well, maybe I always knew it, but my brain is whirling with so many thoughts these days and so many plans and I am IMPATIENT as hell for them to come to life. First, I am about sick with impatience waiting to get HOT PURSUIT out to you. It’s still in editing, and I know that will make it an awesome book in the end, but I want to share it with you! I’ve been waiting for so long. I’ve had a cover for months — and yes, I’ve held back showing you. Unless you’re on my Street Team, Lynn’s Lovelies, and then you saw it a while back. 😉 (Hint: Join my Street Team for exclusive peeks, excerpts, and goodies! We have a secret Facebook group, and I will be happy to invite you in if you’re on Facebook — just send me a message over there and I’ll make it happen.)

I have more books to write in that world, and I have three more Harlequins due quite soon. Next year, I’ll have a sheikh duo coming out. No titles yet, though I have titled them myself and I hope I get to keep them! Because, for once, I think I did a good title job! I’ll also be participating in another continuity series (like last year’s Santina Crown and this year’s Sicilian Corretti Dynasty), and my book will be the final book in December 2014. No idea yet what my book will be about, but I’ve heard hints about a Don Draper-like character. Yum!

You see why I’m impatient? I have so much going on! And, aside from my military books, I have another series I want to write. This one involves four brothers, a small town, and some dark secrets. When will I ever get the time to write them all?

All right, enough whining — here’s what you need to know: HOT PURSUIT is tentatively scheduled for May. There will be a cover reveal soon! There will also be a prequel novella and at least two other books in the series. I hope to have the novella to you by summer’s end, and then the next book perhaps by Christmas. I hate stretching them out so far, but I have to fit them in with the Harlequin work.

While I’m not revealing the cover yet, here’s the blurb. I hope it interests you! Matt is seriously hot, and I think he’ll take your breath away. Which is why I’m getting so antsy about this! If you want to know more, like when the book finally hits stores, sign up for my newsletter (scroll to the bottom of this page and type your email in the box) and be among the first to know when the book goes live. I’ll also announce it on Facebook, Twitter, and this site. 🙂

The last man she ever wanted to see…

Evie Baker’s luck just ran out. Thanks to an ex-partner with organized crime ties, she’s lost her restaurant, her money, and nearly all her self-respect. Forced to return to her hometown and work as a shampoo girl in her mother’s salon, she doesn’t think her luck can get any worse.

But then someone starts shooting at her, her sullen baby sister is suddenly missing, and the high school heartthrob who stole her heart—and her virginity—is the only man big enough and bad enough to help.

Might be the only one who can save her…

Captain Matt “Richie Rich” Girard can’t afford to get involved. He’s already on the verge of a court-martial after a Top Secret op gone wrong, and he’s been ordered to stay out of trouble while he’s home for his sister’s wedding.

But when Evie’s ex-partner turns up dead, staying out of trouble is the last thing on Matt’s mind. He failed Evie once before; he can’t fail her again. If he’s going to protect her from a killer, and find her sister before time runs out, he’ll have to risk his entire future—and both their lives—to do it.

Things are about to get HOT in the bayou!