Place Your Bets! When will the royal baby be born?

 

The Duchess of Cambridge is expecting baby #3 any day now. Hopes that the newest royal would make his or her appearance on the Queen’s 92nd birthday were dashed yesterday when the day came and went with no hospital visits . . . so all bets are still ON!

Comment below with your prediction for:

–Date of birth

–Sex of baby (Prince or Princess!)

–Name of baby

This contest will ONLY go on until all the details have been announced, so hurry up and enter now! The commenter who comes the closest to being accurate (date of birth is first priority, others are tie-breakers) wins a $10 iBooks or Amazon gift card.

And while you’re waiting . . . jump over and preorder THE ANTI-CINDERELLA, my upcoming release that features an unlikely American woman in a romance with a H O T British prince. Yum!!

Preorder Now! 

What is a Patreon, and Why Do I have One?

Last month, I had lunch with a good friend who is an author, too–she lives in New England, so we don’t get to see each other as much as I’d like. She was just returning from the San Francisco Uncon, and she had a lot to share with me.

One of the suggestions she had for me, personally, was to consider starting a Patreon page. Since I didn’t know much about it, I did some investigation. You might know that centuries ago, in Venice and Rome and other settings of classical art and literature, rich patrons would sponsor artists who otherwise might not have been able to survive on what they were earning through their art. This was a wonderful way for the patrons to be part of the creative process, even if they themselves weren’t gifted to create in a particular way.

Patreon operates under the same principle. For those of us who struggle to make ends meet on the money earned by our art, it’s a constant battle between creating and worry. Patreon allows us to offer incentives to supporters who will agree to pledge a certain monthly amount.

And so . . . I have a Patreon page. It’s brand new, having just launched on April 1st. I hope you’ll check it out; I’m pretty excited about the concept. My hope is that I can garner enough support to give me a little breathing room during those months when sales flounder or when I need to beef up my advertisement a bit (read: advertise at ALL).

I didn’t do this lightly. Newsflash: I HATE asking people for money. Hate it. Truth to tell, if I could live without food, a home and internet, I’d write my books and give them away. But I can’t live without those things, nor can my family. So I’m swallowing a shit-load of pride and asking people who CAN afford it to consider supporting the arts and the artist.

I am fully aware that artists are not the only people who struggle with a month that is longer than our paychecks or bank accounts allow. So I don’t expect everyone to jump onto this bandwagon. But I would love it if people who can’t support could SHARE so that perhaps others might consider joining.

I’ve modeled the levels of support on the basis of romance, so there’s First Love ($3), Going Steady ($5), Time for a Ring ($25), Wedding Bells ($50), Golden Anniversary ($100), Always and Forever ($500). Each level has its own set of rewards.

Please DO jump over there and look at the page . . . and consider supporting and/or sharing. Both are appreciated.

Support the Arts Here!

 

Teaser Tuesday: JUST ROLL WITH IT

Every year, I release a book on my birthday. It’s my gift to me, a reminder that I’m so blessed to be in this business, to have the freedom to write and publish.

This year, my birthday release book is JUST ROLL WITH IT. This is the fourth book in the Perfect Dish Romances, and it’s been a while since book #3 came out (at the end of 2013). Since that time, I’ve had readers emailing and messaging me about when we’d get Amanda and Vincent’s story.

Well, here it is.

Sometimes, the best-laid plans don’t work out the way you expect.

When law school student Amanda Simmons shows up at her friends’ engagement party, she’s not expecting to indulge in a wild one-night stand with the bride’s older brother. On the other hand, Vincent DiMartino is smart, sexy—and safe. He doesn’t want more than a quick hook-up, either. 

Or so she thinks. 

Vincent isn’t interested in long-term, and he has no desire for a serious relationship. His job as a pastry chef in his family’s restaurant demands all of his time and attention. His night with Amanda is supposed to be just that—one night. But he doesn’t bargain for how much he enjoys her sense of humor, her intelligence and her sass . . . not to mention her unrepentant sensuality. 

Now that he realizes he wants more than just her body, can Vincent persuade Amanda to take a chance on him? Will she risk her heart on the man who was only supposed to be a fling? 

Sometimes plans go awry. And sometimes, you just have to roll with it.

Enjoy this sneak peek and preorder JUST ROLL WITH IT so you’ll have it by April 7th!

***

I’d been surprised at how much fun Vincent could be—and fun was something that had been missing from my life for a long time. As we’d anticipated, time together was hard to find. Both of our lives were insanely busy, between his demanding hours at the restaurant and my classes and job at the law firm. We were two driven people, and we lived an hour and a half from each other. This situation was not optimal, to say the least.

For the first few weeks after the wedding, I’d been a little anxious, worrying that he’d have regrets about us. I spent many a long evening, expecting him to call to tell me he’d changed his mind. But it didn’t happen.

What did happen was more shocking. He texted me—not all the time, but at least once a day, and often enough that I knew he was thinking of me. It was sweet, and each time I saw his name, my heart sped up a little in anticipation.

That was dangerous, and I tried not to think about it too deeply.

The holidays had also played a part in keeping us apart at first. The week after Ava and Liam’s wedding had been Christmas, which I’d spent at home with my parents at my childhood home in central New Jersey, outside Trenton, while Vincent was with his family in South Jersey. He’d texted me in the morning to say merry Christmas, and that night, when I was in bed, he’d called.

“I didn’t get you a Christmas gift.” Vincent opened, as he so often did, with no preamble or lead-in.

I gave a half snort. “Okay. Well, don’t feel bad. I didn’t get you one either. Full disclosure: I figured I could shop the after Christmas sales, since I don’t know when we’ll be together to celebrate.”

“Yeah, well, the thing is . . . I don’t need anything, and I have no fucking clue what I’d buy for you that would mean a damn to you. But I had an idea. Let’s start a new tradition, just you and me. Instead of gifts, let’s exchange holiday orgasms.”

I laughed until I couldn’t breathe. “Oh, Vincent. Only you. All right, so just how are we going to make this happen? Is this another IOU? I think I might be getting in over my head here on what I owe you.”

“No, I think the thing about the holiday orgasm is that it has to happen on the actual holiday. Since we’re not in the same zip code right now, we’ll have to improvise. How do you feel about phone sex?”

My cheeks were warm, which was ridiculous, because no one else was in the room or on the line; only Vincent could hear me. “I haven’t thought about it much one way or the other. If you want the truth, I’ve never done it. Phone sex, I mean.” I paused. “Or holiday orgasms, either.”

“For real? God, baby, sometimes I think you’ve been way too sheltered. Time for us to take care of that.”

“Vincent.” I felt a thrill of wickedness, alarm with a little trepidation. “I’m at home. At my parents’ house, I mean. In my bedroom from when I was a kid.”

“Uh huh. And?”

“What if someone hears me?”

He chuckled softly. “Just keep your voice down. And if you feel like you’re going to scream out my name in ecstasy, grab a pillow to put over your mouth.”

“Vincent . . .”

“Amanda,” he teased. “Come on. I miss you. If I can’t be with you today, this is the next best thing.”

“Okay.” I sighed. “Fine. So how do we begin? Do I just start moaning? Oooooh, Vincent, do me, baby. That’s it . . . right there.”

“We’re having phone sex, not shooting a low-budget porno.” I could practically hear him shaking his head at me. “First things first. What are you wearing?”

I glanced down. “My Christmas pajamas, of course. They’re red, with little Santa kittens all over them.”

“Cute. Take a picture for me?”

I only hesitated a minute. “Hold on.” Lifting up the phone, I swiped for the camera and turned it on selfie mode before I made a face, sticking out my tongue and crossing my eyes. Giggling a little, I hit send.

I heard Vincent’s answering laugh. “Yeah, those are adorable. So are you. But if you’re going to stick that tongue out, I’m going to make you put it to good use.”

“Oh, really? Tell me more.” I snuggled down.

“I plan to do just that. First, though, I need you to unbutton those PJ’s. Doesn’t have to be all the way—just enough that you can get to those sweet tits of yours.”

“You really have a thing for boobs, don’t you?” I remarked as I unbuttoned my top.

“I have a thing for your boobs,” he countered. “They’re pretty damn perfect, babe. Now, are you ready?”

***

Are YOU ready? You can be, if you preorder JUST ROLL WITH IT right now!

iBooks/Amazon/Nook/Kobo/Google/Books2Read

 

 

Author On The Edge: Why the publishing business can be tough on your mental health

As long as I can remember, I wanted to be a writer. It was my first ambition, and I wrote my first book in grade school, submitted it to Harper & Row and received my first rejection postcard. I wasn’t deterred, though. I knew, with the sort of certainty only an eleven-year-old can muster, that I was destined for authorhood.

Life got in the way of that dream, replacing it with other equally as dear and important dreams. I went through school, got married and became a mother. I used my passion for writing in other areas of life, like editing my kids’ school papers, my husband’s work and our churches’ newsletters. I wrote homeschooling curriculum during the years we homeschooled our kids.

When the universe finally worked things out that I had the time and attention to give to fiction again, I was forty-one years old. The same year I finished my first novel was a pivotal year in the publishing industry, because Amazon had released the Kindle in 2007, and KDP had joined Smashwords and other smaller outlets that made publishing a book on your own possible. However, indie publishing wasn’t mainstream yet. I didn’t even consider going my own way until I’d tried everything I could on the traditional side of publishing.

But in December of 2011, I took the plunge and became part of the indie publishing wave. I have no regrets about making that choice. It has allowed me freedom and control and the ability to shape my career in a way that works for me. I wouldn’t change that path to go the traditional route for anything in the world.

And yet . . .

The last six and a half years have contained some of my highest high points–the proudest moments of my life aside from marrying my husband and delivering my four children. I’ve seen my books climb charts. I’ve seen stories that started as a momentary bit of fantasy in my brain morph into words on a page, both paper and electric. I’ve interacted with readers who told me that my stories helped them or cheered them or helped bring them closure. I’ve met readers who have become friends. I’ve met authors who have become friends.

But these years have also contained some of my lowest lows, days of doubts and fears and so much anguish that I wasn’t sure I could go on. There have been so many weeks when I was sure I wasn’t good enough and never would be. There have been months when I’ve felt like the biggest failure as not only an author and businesswoman, but also as a mother and wife, because I’ve dedicated so much time to my work that I have missed out on things with my family.

One of the great things about indie publishing is the community, and I have been blessed to sit at the virtual feet of some of the authors I have admired for a long time. I’m grateful for that. I’m grateful for all of it. At the same time, though, one thing I’ve learned is that everyone is on her own path, and so when I ask for advice, it might not be exactly what I need. It might not work for me. It might–but there’s just as good a chance that it won’t.

I’ve increased how often I release . . . only to be told that real success comes from making readers eager and anxious for the next story by releasing less frequently. So I’ve slowed releases.

I’ve increased prices to show that I value my work . . . only to be told that free or 99 cents is a better way to go.

I’ve tried different genres of romance when one didn’t work well, only to be told that I need to stick with one so as not to dilute my branding.

I’ve joined groups where authors with quantified success tell others how to translate what they did into similar success. I’ve read the books everyone says we should read. I’ve listened to the podcasts and gone to the conferences and taken advice.

I’ve tried Facebook ads, BookBub ads, AMS ads, only to be told that advertising is pointless. I’ve spent what is to me a lot of money, and I’ve seen almost no results, because, I’m told, I need to spend more to see more.

I’m not someone who has to be led, who needs someone to tell me what to do. I’m strong-minded. I’ve raised three strong daughters and one strong son, and I’ve run a household, I’ve handled my parents’ very complex estates, I’ve been an Army wife who can organize a move, a dinner party and emergency care for disasters.

But this is breaking me.

I’ve had down times in the past. But nothing has been as bad as the past few months. You see, until last January, while my book income was definitely helpful, it wasn’t crucial. Now it IS. Now, we live and eat and pay all our bills on that book income. And that income isn’t growing with each new release–in fact, despite the fact that I work an average of nearly 20 hours a day 6-7 days a week, that income is dropping steadily. It’s the way the business is trending. There are too many authors, too many books and too much noise. Some of us are still doing well, but some of us are not.

Talk about pressure . . .

Am I whining? Maybe. Am I complaining when I shouldn’t? Maybe. Do others have it much worse? Oh, without a doubt. No question. I know this.

But this is my reality and my struggle. My path. I also know I’m not alone. I’ve talked to authors who are feeling the same, authors who are wondering if they can make it.

Brutal honesty time: I have been questioning, over the last few weeks, if this is worth it. I wonder if it’s time to give up on the dream, stop subjecting myself to the constant rollercoaster ride that is releases and promotions and sales numbers. I’ve been closer to complete despair in the last month than I have been in over two decades.

I’ve been writing this post for a while. I’ve almost deleted it more than once. If I do share it, the only reason will be so that another author who is out there struggling as I am will know she is not alone.

Today, I’m not giving up. Today, I’ll write some more words, and I’ll do something for my next release (my 59th release, which is this coming Saturday, on my 51st birthday). Today, I’ll chat with my reader friends and I’ll hope something I say makes a difference. I’ll reach out to other authors and try to help.

For one more day, I’ll believe that something, somewhere, is finally going to work, not only for me, but for all the dreamers who keep on working and hoping.

Laissez les bons temps rouler!

If you don’t know today is Mardi Gras, then you probably don’t watch much fluff TV or cooking shows. And you probably aren’t a member of one of the liturgical churches (think Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox or Lutheran), either.

I didn’t grow up with Mardi Gras, but once it found me, I never let it go. I mean–food, music and lots of adult drinks? Yes, I think so!

I fell in love with New Orleans on my very first trip there, and the love affair has not only continued and deepened, it’s spread. I passed it on to my kids, who also embrace a deep and abiding adoration for the Crescent City. The Big Easy.

So it wasn’t a leap that we also embrace Mardi Gras. This is, technically, the last Tuesday of Epiphany, the day before the beginning of Lent. In the days when the Church oversaw the rhythm of daily life and dictated seasons, Epiphany, which always begins on January 6th and ends on Mardi Gras, was observed with the leftover frivolity of Christmas. Think lots of parties and food and music and drinking! It was the last hoorah before the sobriety and quiet of Lent, which is a season of repentance and reflection.

My gumbo smells divine!

In our family, we invite friends over to enjoy chicken and sausage gumbo, King Cake and praline sauce over vanilla ice cream. We usually start the day with beignets, and the house is decorated with beads and masks, along with other goodies we’ve picked up from our frequent NOLA visits.

 

Music is a given. Think Pete Fountain, Harry Connick, Jr. and Fats Domino.

Tonight, we’ll definitely laissez les bons temps rouler–let the good times roll. And tomorrow, we’ll begin Lent ready for a quieter, more reflective time.

Happy Mardi Gras, y’all!