Saturday, December 22, 2012

Special Holiday Pricing for Groupie and Rock Star!

Christmas is my favorite holiday and has been since I was a child. I love to make it special, and this year I get to make it special for all the readers who have so graciously and generously made me a part of their library. I want to make it that much easier for you to give - and get - the books you love most.

As my gift to you I've dropped the prices on GROUPIE and ROCK STAR just in time to fill those holiday stockings for those readers on your gift-giving lists. The best bargain is still the bundle, giving you two books for almost half the price of many Kindle best sellers.

And don't forget, for the holidays only you can get three books for only $4.99 with my Rubenesque Romance bundle for LOVE PLUS ONE, UNDER TEXAS SKIES and PICTURE POSTCARDS.

Keep an eye on this blogspace in the coming days. There's a special holiday surprise coming, including some free Kindle releases as my Christmas gift to all of you!

Happy holidays, y'all. You are my gift this year. :D

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Exciting news regarding the release date for Mogul!

For all of you who have asked me whether or not it is possible to release early...

The answer is yes. :D

Mark your calendars for February 5, 2013 for a Kindle, Smashwords and Amazon release, and be sure to put MOGUL on your "To Read" shelf on Goodreads.

If you are a book blogger who would like to screen an advance copy, send me a note at with a link to your blog. I plan to start sending screener copies in January. If you are interested in corresponding giveaways with the books, note that in your email so we can schedule something. I'll feature all reviews on my official website and also on the official Facebook page for Mogul.

I can't wait to hear what you all have to say about this third and final installment in the Groupie series! Only 51 more days to go. ;)

Here's another sneak peek, where some of my favorite characters from Love Plus One play cupid for a certain couple in Mogul.

For your Sample Sunday consideration: Mags and Graham.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A sneak peek at MOGUL! Coming in Feb. 2013

To all of you who climbed aboard the roller coaster love affair between Andy Foster and Giovanni Carnevale, I know you are anxiously awaiting to read what ultimately becomes of them in the third book, MOGUL, due in February 2013.

The first draft is done and in the hands of my capable beta readers, whose notes thus far ensure that Mogul will be the strongest, possibly best received, book of the series. Suffice it to say, I'm as excited for February as many of you are.

So here's a tidbit to tide us all over as we get ready for the book release. (Note: If you haven't yet read GROUPIE/ROCK STAR, I'd advise waiting to read it in order. There really is a method to my madness. You'll appreciate the events in this chapter much more if you've walked that painful journey with the rest of us.)

For those who have read the first two books, I think this chapter fully prepares you for the climatic ride ahead. It has the romance of GROUPIE, the drama of ROCK STAR and those WTF cliffhanger moments I tend to love. ;)

For your consideration.... THE PROPOSAL.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

MY IMMORTAL sample chapter & author notes. #samplesunday

Sometimes book ideas come from the strangest places. MY IMMORTAL started with a comment made by, or to, my best friend of three decades, during one of our all-night IM-a-thons. We have logged numerous hours chatting with each other over the Internet to the wee hours of the morning, and it wasn’t uncommon for us to finally log off and go to bed when the sun came up. This night was no different. Someone made the comment, “We must have been vampires in a past life,” and that was all it took. Within a day I had crafted a complete plot around the idea: what would happen if a vampire had been reincarnated?

Sure, it works as a scary story. I personally find vampires especially frightening, which made writing the whole thing a test of my will. But something else began to emerge, something completely unexpected: this is a story that explores the timeless endurance of true love. The only reason I could see for a vampire to die in such a redeemed state that it would be reincarnated was if it sacrificed itself for the love of another. This became the driving theme behind the story, especially what we would be willing to sacrifice for those we love.

“If you love him, you will do it.”

By the time I wrote this story in 2005, I was on my second marriage. My two husbands were completely different: Daniel was the exciting one, the adventurous one, the dangerous one; Steven was (is) steadfast, loyal, and stable. I went from marrying my hero to marrying my best friend, but I truly believe an argument could be made they were both my soul mates. My aforementioned best friend, Jeff, believes that we keep meeting our most important people in life after life, in significant ways. Maybe in a past life he was my brother or my father, and in this incarnation he is now my lifelong friend. Since I was exploring the idea of reincarnation anyway, I wanted to dig a little deeper into that concept, on how we continually meet up with the people we are meant to love.

Since I had lost Dan in 2003, the idea that he wasn’t really lost at all ended up being central to the love story of MY IMMORTAL, which makes it immensely personal. This paranormal romance explored themes of sacrifice, but most importantly – redemption. I crafted my heroine as someone who was an emotional mess, so that she would have the most to redeem (and sacrifice) throughout her journey. Adele Lumas was so flawed, so imperfect and so broken that her weight never really was an issue upon first writing her. Later, after I decided to change her into a full-figured heroine, it dawned on me that what made a woman attractive hundreds of years ago would not be the same thing that makes someone attractive today. In this sense Adele is truly the most Rubenesque heroine I’ve written, even though she was never intended to be Rubenesque at all. The man who had spent centuries looking for her would find her more generous proportions his romantic ideal; even detractors to the Rubenesque genre couldn’t argue this. But honestly, changing the book wasn’t that difficult to do because her character is so complex that I never really focused on her appearance at all – which is how I choose to handle all my heroines outside the Rubunesque genre. If I don’t mention a size, then I don’t feel it’s worth mentioning.

We’re more than our sizes. That’s the moral I wish to impart with each and every book.

Trivia: I was inspired heavily by the song "My Immortal" to write this book, and in fact music came to mean so very much in the creative process. This is the second book where I actually had a long soundtrack to keep me motivated with the movie in my head. (The first was my first book, which has yet to be rewritten and published.)

You can read more about how personal a love note this story is for me here.

And you can read a sample chapter here.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Free reads for your Kindle and Cyber Monday deals

In the spirit of Cyber Monday, here are some freebies and bargains for you to enjoy for the holiday.

Check out SAN FRANCISCO SERENADE, a Christmas novella that is free for your Kindle Monday, November 26.

Also free for Monday is COMIC SQUAD. Check it out for the younger reader on your holiday gift-giving list.

For some sexy suspense, download TASTE OF BLOOD, the first book in the Reese Mackenzie franchise.

And for the Cyber Monday low price of only $3.99, you can download three of my Rubenesque romance novels in a convenient, low-cost bundle. That's less than $1.50 per book! This bundle is only available through the holidays, so act now to own all three books at these rock-bottom prices. (Fans of the GROUPIE franchise will want to get to know some of these characters, who will be making appearances in the third book in the GROUPIE trilogy, MOGUL, in February!)

Don't forget you can own both GROUPIE and ROCK STAR in a low-cost bundle! Just $5.99 for both, at a savings of 25% off the listing prices if you bought both books separately!

My titles are also available on All Romance eBooks, and for Cyber Monday there are significant savings, which will help fit any of my titles into your Cyber Monday Budget. ;)

So Happy Shopping, Happy Holidays and Happy Reading!!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

UNDER TEXAS SKIES chapters and notes #samplesunday

When I was a teenager, I was a huge fan of the classic rock band, the Eagles. I came to the party late, after their infamous breakup in the early 80s, so instead of concerts and new music I happily immersed myself in the vast discography of their old material. One record that I found myself drawn to was their 1973 release, DESPERADO. It was a theme album, which means all the music related to a central story. As a burgeoning storyteller myself, I let my own imagination run free for the drama that read between the lines. By the time I was sixteen, I got the idea that I could write a stage play for a musical in which this material could be used. My dream was that I would ultimately send it to the guys and, because they recognized the rare genius of this unknown Texas teen progeny, we would all work together to make my vision a reality.

When I dream, I dream big.

Since I consider Don Henley and Glenn Frey master lyricists, this would put me side by side with true idols. I felt pretty confident I belonged there until I started actually writing the darn thing, with no clue at all how to it justice. No matter how hard I tried, it still read like a clueless teenager wrote it, because – well, one did. Eventually I shelved that too. I still have the stage play, handwritten on notebook paper, safely tucked in a binder. But you’d have an easier time getting me to pluck all my fingernails off and dipping my hands in alcohol than show my sophomoric attempts to anybody, much less Glenn or Don.

Many years later, after I had successfully finished PICTURE POSTCARDS, I decided to pick the bones off of this forgotten corpse for a traditional romance novel. Instead of gamblers and outlaws, who found love in a widow and met their ends at the gallows, I decided to shift the focus to the feisty female lead and give her that basic romance staple – a marriage of convenience – to shake things up a bit. This, truly, was my homage to the romance novels I grew up reading, Janet Dailey's books in particular.

Like in my novel PICTURE POSTCARDS, Jessica Austin started out thin and beautiful – even though she was completely flawed by being ornery as a cranky rattlesnake. When I decided to concentrate on Rubenesque romances, I rewrote the story by showing how her weight was her fortress to keep men at bay. This is a struggle I know all too well. You can’t be tempted if you don’t tempt anyone, right? Well, that strategy only works as long as there aren’t any men who find you attractive. Even when you carry some extra weight, you’re going to find someone who sees beyond your size and falls in love with all those faults you think are deal-breakers, when really they’re the things that draw people to you. Like Jessica, I’m stubborn and controlling, which usually sends folks running to the hills. For my husband, he just tells me I’m a force of nature while he sits back and enjoys the ride.

No matter what Hal Sparks says, you just never know.

Rather unwittingly, Jessica herself ends up the “Desperado” character – running from love and betting her heart on material things she thinks she can’t lose. (This is a revelation I just made upon this writing.)

Naturally the best way to mix things up for my heroine was to introduce a very tempting cowboy who didn’t find her weight any kind of barrier at all. This drives the conflict in a setting that, as a native Texan, I know all too well. (Trivia: the cover photo is taken near my hometown of Abilene, Texas, at a place called Fort Phantom Hill.) This is where I grew up and a place my heart still calls home.

UNDER TEXAS SKIES gave me the opportunity to play around with some of the elements I love, specifically Texas, sexy Southern men and the excitement of an unpredictable thunderstorm. Like the marriage of convenience, these are fan favorites in the romance genre, which makes UNDER TEXAS SKIES one of my top sellers.

You can read a sample chapter here.

Now you can own UNDER TEXAS SKIES along with my books LOVE PLUS ONE and PICTURE POSTCARDS all for one low price. Purchase my RUBENESQUE ROMANCE BUNDLE of three books for only $3.99!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving, Readers! Special Holiday Savings

I have so much to be grateful for this Thanksgiving, thanks mostly to all my readers, reviewers and fans. You all took a chance on me, read my work and gave me honest and enthusiastic feedback. What's more, you shared it with others, who shared it with others still. One ripple led to another, which led to another, which still continues on in ways I had only hoped to see. Your passion for these stories and these characters inspires me and drives me to do better as I continue the series, and turn my focus to the future. It's just such an amazing process to witness and be a part of. I am both so rewarded and deeply humbled.

So along with my profound thanks, I'd like to offer holiday savings on some of my titles.

For Thanksgiving, I'm offering my paranormal romance, "My Immortal," for 30% off on Smashwords, using the coupon GQ57H at checkout all throughout Thanksgiving Day.

You can read some back story here, and a sample chapter here.

Starting Black Friday and running until Sunday, I will offer all my titles listed on All Romance Ebooks at 25% off. This includes the best-selling Groupie/Rock Star series.

For Free Reads Friday, I'm offering my Rubenesque Romance Sampler. This will give you some insight into these stories, as well as three sample champers of my Rubenesque titles.

Thanks again for reading. Happy holidays to you and those you love.

Happy reading!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

It's my birthday, but you get the gift. ;) #freekindlebook

November 21 is my birthday, and the Universe has been exceptionally generous to me this year. I thought I'd share these blessings with others by offering a little something to all of you.

Most of you who have read my books are familiar with my romances or gritty dramas, but one of my favorite books that I've written is geared more toward the kid in all of us. It's called COMIC SQUAD, and it features some of my favorite characters ever in a story near and dear to my heart.

Not only is it a labor of love, it's the baby I conceived, labored and delivered thanks to my beloved hubby, @MrGeevie.

My husband, Steven, is a geek. A loud and proud, card-carrying, comic-book-collecting, Doctor-Who-salivating geek. He was going to Comic Con before it was the "hip" thing to do, back when it only cost $45 to go all four days. This was back when he pursued his passion by managing a comic book store. His ultimate dream is to own one.

This is the kind of guy who has spent hours in a darkened theater watching "Star Trek" movie marathons, and has seen almost every comic book movie at its midnight showing.

You wanna talk romance: our very first date was at the El Capitan Theater in Hollywood when he saw that the 1982 geekgasmic "Tron" was playing. I indulged him because I'm a geek in my own right (Journey had provided the music for the soundtrack) but I guess I shoulda known then exactly what I was getting into.

When we first moved in together I found myself up to my ears in discarded Magic the Gathering collectible card wrappers. By 1999 I still hadn't seen Star Wars: The Original Trilogy and so he had to correct this grievous wrong by making me watch the original three back to back in one sitting.

(For those who think I'm making you wait for the GROUPIE Trilogy, thank your lucky stars I'm not George Lucas. S'all I'm sayin.)

The ringtone of his cell phone is the Doctor Who theme, and his text alert is a Dalek. If he and Dr. Sheldon Cooper got into a debate over the finer aspects of comic books or science fiction, he'd win and Sheldon would finally short circuit as a result.

Not only is he a geek, he's a carrier. Thanks to Steven I have been sitting right beside him at those midnight showings. I have become versed in things like Doctor Who and Star Wars, and I live for The Big Bang Theory each and every Thursday night.

Essentially, I've become Penny.

After living with him for many years, I decided to dig a little deeper in the geek sandbox to come up with a story that would be accessible to all readers, not just the adults I usually cater to. It was a challenge, because the way my demented mind works I thought for sure I'd end up writing something more Flowers in the Attic than Stand By Me.

But I had a whole lot of fun watching these comic book adventure movies, so I really wanted to flex my muscle past all the angst and drama and write one. More importantly, I wanted to write a story that involved a young comic book fan that was a kick-butt, wickedly smart girl. I knew I could related to her because I know what it means not to fit in with any group. But I wanted to take all the confidence hard won as an adult and stuff it into the fearless mind of an adolescent. As a result, Alice Thornton was born.

Perhaps I say this because I am, in fact, her mother, but Alice is one of the bravest, strongest, most solid heroines I have ever had the pleasure to write. She's quick thinking and fearless, and determined to do whatever it takes to protect the ones she loves most.

She's what I wish I could have been at age 12.

At first, her devotion is saved specifically for a fictional hero named Joe Dakota, who came alive only through panels of an old comic book she used to share with father. These familiar stories bring her comfort in the wake of her dad's death. They also drive a big wedge between Alice and her mother, the over-worked and under-appreciated Barbara Thornton, who learned the hard way there were no such things as superheroes.

Both Barbara and Alice are uprooted from their comfortable existence and thrown into a new town where neither one off them fit in, especially with each other.

Serendipitously, however, Alice happens upon the only other person in her vicinity that would have any use for her or her antiquated box of old comic book memorabilia - an opportunistic little weasel named Dwight. He owns the local comic book store and really, REALLY, wants to get his hands on a piece of her rare paraphernalia. In the world of "Joe Dakota," only five issues of a 3-D comic book were released, to go along with a matching pair of 3-D glasses. Time had scattered the collectibles so that no one owned a matching set, making it Dwight's lifelong pursuit to do just that.

When Dwight sees she has the glasses, he takes it as a cue from fate that he is destined to have them, since he already owns one of those rare five issues. He uses nefarious means to procure the object of his desire and inadvertently tearing open a portal between their world and that of the fictional "Joe Dakota."

This causes quite a hullabaloo in their peaceful little burg as an evil villain gains access to their town and all the unsuspecting adults in it. The only people who know what's wrong - or how to fix it - are a hodge-podge group of geeks who must depend on each other and their individual strengths to subdue the bad guy before he takes over their world.

When I first wrote this book for NaNoWriMo many years back, a Myspace friend who read along as I posted sample chapters asked if she could read it to her class. I, of course, said yes. The kids loved it, and every adult I've shared it with feels the same way. Yet for some reason it is my slowest moving book, which breaks my heart and confounds the hubby. Nearest we can figure, it just hasn't found its audience yet hidden adrift all the other titles for middle grade readers.

So here's the deal. It's my birthday but I'm the one who's gonna be giving the presents. I'm going to give away Kindle copies of Comic Squad. If you have a kid in your life, especially on your Christmas gift list, give it a read and see if it's something you'd like to pass along as a present of your own.

This is a book about finding the hero in yourself - and in your family and friends. I'm extraordinarily proud of it. (It is my baby, after all.) I hope to finish and release book 2 by July, and I've got my sights set on the San Diego Comic Con to premiere it.

(If you're gonna dream, dream big.)

All I need are people to fall in love with it and champion it like Groupie. It's not filled with the adult stuff I normally write, but if you have a young reader in your life, I'm pretty sure he (and especially she) won't be disappointed. There are huge spiders, fireworks, magic potions, evil villains and kids trying to save the day. What's not to love?

So join our party, won't you? This holiday season, free your inner geek!! :D

Monday, November 19, 2012


Will there be another book in the GROUPIE/ROCK STAR series?

Yes. The third book, MOGUL, is scheduled for a February 2013 release, ideally Valentine's Day or thereabouts.

How many books are in the series?

There are three in the original series that star Andy, Vanni and Graham. But MOGUL will introduce characters that will spin off into a new series geared to a YA audience, starring a full-figured singer named Jordi. That book, FIERCE, will feature some of your favorite characters from GROUPIE, LOVE PLUS ONE, UNDER TEXAS SKIES and PICTURE POSTCARDS, and should release in the fall of 2013.

Why isn't ROCK STAR or the GROUPIE/ROCK STAR BUNDLE available on iBooks?

They have a different reviewing process that varies in when books are made available. Both have been submitted and should be available any day - I just can't provide a specific date as to when.

Will the GROUPIE series end with a HEA (happily ever after) for Andy and Vanni?

Like the Go-Gos famously lips are sealed. The ride is still in motion, with a lot of twists and turns to come. It'll be a lot more fun if you don't know where the dips and drops are - kinda like Space Mountain. ;) I think you'll find, though, whereas ROCK STAR focused on the escalating drama that kept Andy and Vanni apart, MOGUL revives some of the romantic spark as they fight to stay together. (If you thought it doesn't get any better than Andy's birthday in ROCK STAR, rest assured... it TOTALLY does.) But the book begins with an explosion - so you'll have to reach the epilogue to know for sure. ;) What I will guarantee is that each storyline introduced in GROUPIE and ROCK STAR will be fully resolved.

Any chance of an early release?

Not likely, but I will try to share some sneak peeks along the way. I do recommend reading LOVE PLUS ONE, because the lead character in that book (Shannon) along with her fairy godfather (Jorge) will make memorable appearances in MOGUL, to sprinkle some of their matchmaking magic on some of your favorite characters. ;)

If you have any other questions regarding the series, leave them below and I'll try to answer what I can.

Happy reading!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Author notes and free chapter of "Love Plus One"

I wrote LOVE PLUS ONE as a protest of sorts. I’ve been plus-sized since elementary school, and even though I didn’t see any protagonists or heroines in contemporary romantic fiction that looked like me, I still managed to have a fairly active love life almost from the time I decided I wanted one.

Yet if I found any overweight characters introduced in romance novels, they generally played second fiddle to the protagonist. Their extra weight proved fodder for comic relief or a negative characterization tool, making the female less sympathetic.

Eventually I woke up to this subliminal message that suggested one had to be perfect to be romanced by the handsome prince charming, but not before succumbing to it myself.

In 1995 I finished my first “romance” novel, PICTURE POSTCARDS. I had leaned heavily on this ‘standard,’ mirroring all those stories I had read as an impressionable young girl. I made my protagonist blindingly beautiful and perfect in every way – physically speaking – because I bought into the notion that was what it took to find love in a romance novel. Imagine my surprise when I was told by publishers that she wasn’t relateable. It was a fair criticism given I couldn’t relate to her either as I had never had the experience of being blindingly beautiful or perfect in every way. I wrote what I thought would “fit into” the romance genre, rather than out of my own experiences, and this rendered my protagonist one-dimensional.

Ultimately I shelved the project, but the critique stayed with me. I wasn’t sure how to “write what I know” when my experiences with romance didn’t resemble anything out of a paperback novel, no matter how many of them I read. Yet I knew what love was, I knew how to manage long-term relationships. How was I supposed to convey this in my own voice, when most books out there spoke a completely different language?

Like LOVE PLUS ONE’S heroine, Shannon, I had to step out of the shadows and discover my voice was one that deserved to be heard. My stories were worth sharing – and were completely relatable for the average American woman, who resembles size-12 Shannon more than the beautiful, perfect (read: slender) heroines I had always read about.

By 2007, when I wrote LOVE PLUS ONE, I was ready to tackle a protagonist who wasn’t so perfect, since I myself was imperfect. I wanted to show what my experiences were finding my own prince charming, where I would find love and acceptance from a romantic hero who could love me for all my traits, not just some number on a scale. I also vented about all those back-biting beauties who played nice to the fat girl for their own self-serving purposes. Many felt I was no threat to the men they wanted to pursue and therefore easily discarded – and this proved especially toxic when I dared to believe I could get the guy in question.

Shannon’s insecurity that I describe in the book has also come to represent my own unsteady steps toward this acceptance in my own mind. I dared to stand against mainstream media and proclaim that girls who are imperfect, who represent those outside the norm, can be beautiful, can be desired, and can be loved.

That is Shannon’s journey in LOVE PLUS ONE, but it was ultimately mine as well. Apparently it is a message that resonates; it is the top selling book I’ve published, nearly double that of my second best seller. The most rewarding part of the process is when a reader tells me how much the book touches her, and how much she relates to Shannon’s journey.

I’ll let the Danielle Steels of the world write about thin, blindingly beautiful heroines. I prefer those heroines who are beautifully, wonderfully, imperfect. They’re much more fun to write. And I’m convinced they are completely lovable, because I love them completely.

To read a sample chapter of LOVE PLUS ONE, click here.

Here's some music to set the mood. ;)

To read more behind the scenes stuff with more samples, check out my RUBENESQUE ROMANCE SAMPLER.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

For those in a GROUPIE/ROCK STAR afterglow - #samplesunday reads

Recently you lovely people catapulted GROUPIE/ROCK STAR onto the best-seller list for the Kindle Store in Women's Contemporary Fiction. Many of you fell in love with the story and are anxious to read Book 3 - MOGUL - which I'm writing as fast as my little fingers can carry out all my diabolical plans for Andy, Vanni and Graham.

(You can join the conversation for theories about what may happen next on Maryse's Book Blog Spoiler Thread.)

Until then, if you're in an end-of-book funk, anxious for another story, I have a few suggestions for your #samplesunday.

For a free, shorter, Rock Star Fantasy read, I recommend my highly rated novella, SAN FRANCISCO SERENADE.

If you're ready for another book and you like the pop culture/entertainment aspect, I recommend LOVE PLUS ONE, a story where a shy production assistant ends up in front of the camera, unwitting star to the next big dating reality show. I recommend this book for my GROUPIE fans especially... you'll see why in MOGUL. ;)

Here's a sample chapter to get you started.

Don't forget that you can enter to win one of five autographed copies of my supernatural thriller, TASTE OF BLOOD, on Goodreads throughout the month of November.

A top sample of that book can be found here.

So happy reading everyone! And feel free to drop me a line and tell me what you think.

(Amazon reviews are also welcome and appreciated!)

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Before you read my books, there's something you should know.

I'm a loner, Dottie. A rebel. I'm a heart-breaker and I don't care much for rules n' such. Being an independent writer, this means I don't have a big publishing house telling me how to mash my stories into neat little boxes to fit happy reader expectations.

I get to be raw. I get to live on the edge. I get to take left turns without rewriting my entire story to satisfy a crowd.

In my PRETTY IN PINK, Duckie would have gotten the girl.

I would want it no other way.

This puts me in a bit of a pickle when it comes to genre romance, since there are certain reader expectations a writer can only ignore at his or her own risk. I like the idea of falling in love book after book, story after story, but I don't like the idea that they all have to fit a basic A-B-C plot. There's no straight line in love and romance, and I like to explore every road that gets me there, even when (especially when) I need to color outside the lines to do so. So... I can either write formulaic, happy fairy tales... or I can get down and dirty with a little romantic realism and make love happen where I least expect it.

In other words, do I write to sell books, or write books I would love to read?

What to do... what to do?

I like to be real in my work because I think that makes things more interesting. I write flawed characters because I enjoy the struggle to mold them into something we can all care about and root for. Sometimes they mess up. Sometimes they mess up big-time.

Sometimes they don't even have the audacity to be ashamed about it.

In the case of GROUPIE/ROCK STAR, which hit the best-selling list in the Kindle Store for Women's Contemporary Fiction this week, I write about a polyamorous bad boy rocker. His addiction to attention and sex wreak havoc on his relationship with a quote-unquote normal girl who had the misfortune of falling in love with him even when he couldn't offer her anything - much less an exclusive commitment.

He's like any other commitment-phobe, only with plenty of opportunity to indulge his more primal, lustful nature to keep him at arm's length with the world. He makes no promises, he just takes what he wants when he wants it, damn the consequences. In other words... he's truly a bad boy rocker, collecting a jar of hearts right along with the notches on his bedpost.

Y'all watched Rock of Love. You feel me. When you love someone famous, he's already in a relationship with the entire world. You go into it with the idea you're going to share him on some level. That's just the way it is.

His dual nature of being a romantic hero and an opportunistic player makes him loads of fun to write. I get to tear him down, I get to build him up. He's quite pliable because he's unpredictable. He could be a one-dimensional cheater who doesn't really care about women (see PICTURE POSTCARDS,) but instead he's that wounded bad boy who needs to be loved so much he feels unworthy of the attention at his core. He wrestles with his love of women, his love of love and romance and with the idea he will never live up to anyone's expectations. So he self-destructs like many bad boys so many of us have found ourselves loving despite ourselves. And, if we're really young and naive, we want to save them - we want to be The One who turns it all around through nothing but indefatigable will. Hence why my heroine can't let him go, even when she meets someone older and more stable, who is willing to give her his world.

Just like my heroine Andy, I - and the readers who have come to love this story - flip-flop between sexy, dangerous Vanni and stable, gentlemanly Graham all the way through the saga. This is especially true in book two (ROCK STAR) where I get into why Vanni is so wounded. This happens as he messes up everything and sinks to an almost irredeemable level, along with everyone else who make mistake after mistake trying to force the hand of fate to deliver their own happy ending.

I am unabashed and unashamed as I keep that HEA (happily ever after) on a stick out in front of us all while I crowbar Vanni especially into the romantic hero people want him to be from the beginning.

(He's a fixer-upper. What can I say?)

As such, Groupie/Rock Star - while *technically* a romance novel centered around this main relationship - breaks a ton of "rules" along the way.

So before you invest the $5.99, here's some things you should know.

If your need for a HEA is more important than the road to get you there, you probably shouldn't buy this particular bundle. These are the first two parts of a long-suffering trilogy. It comes with a lot of angst as we all wait patiently for resolution through the first two WTF-cliffhanger novels included in the bundle. I wanted to write the HEA at the end of GROUPIE, honestly I did. But Vanni wasn't ready. And I couldn't bring myself to pretend he was. It's taken me a lot more time to shoehorn any of this into a story that offers a satisfactory payoff no matter if you're on Team Vanni or Team Graham... but the third won't be out until at least February. If you're all about the "money shot" at the end of every book, save yourself time and money and read my rocker-fantasy short SAN FRANCISCO SERENADE instead.

If you hate "cheaters" and triangles, GROUPIE/ROCK STAR isn't for you. I know many who read romance want the "fantasy" and not "reality" - but the fact that the world of celebrity comes with a different set of rules is what made me WANT to write about it. If I'm going to write about a bad boy rocker, I'm going to lay it all bare... the good, the bad, and the ugly. In fact, the "cheater" criticism kind of amuses me, to be honest with you. Technically he's not really a cheater since he's not really promising exclusivity. I make no bones about it from the very beginning, in the very first chapter he is introduced. He came with a warning label, and these are the rules Andy accepts to be in the relationship. So if you need this guy to be more of a one-woman man than an unapologetic sex hound, save your money.

If you need a writer who caters to some paint-by-numbers formula to writing a romance novel, you should probably stay away from my books entirely. I can't always promise a HEA. Some have it. Some don't. Some are sweet. Some are tragic. Some are scandalous. And I'll never say which is which, because like River Song I believe life is more fun without spoilers. That's just how I roll. I'm a slave to the story, and can only produce what I would ultimately buy/believe when I, as the first reader, have it revealed to me. As an Indie, I have that luxury, which means I'm only going to sell the stories I myself would be happy to read.

And I don't like things tied up in a neat little bow every time. I like the emotional angst, the stomach-churning, toss-the-book-across-the-room, curse-the-writer, cry-and-wail and sometimes the not-know-how-it-all-turns out roller coaster of it all. I like ambiguity, I like WTF moments, and I like realism. I like getting down and dirty with flawed characters who aren't always likable, but somehow manage to be compelling anyway.

Love 'em or hate 'em, if you made it to the end of the book I've done my job.

Let me put it to you this way. I've been reading Harlequin novels almost as long as I've been watching soap operas. I don't remember many specific story lines from the HEA books, but I can recite Luke and Laura's push-and-pull history verbatim. I'm a Scorpio, tried and true. I like dark/gritty/naughty so I am unafraid to dig in the dirt.

You should have seen what my Barbies were doing in the 80s. It was scandalous. Cheating was the very least of what my characters would do.

Through my teen years I inhaled equal parts V.C. Andrews and Danielle Steel. I fed off of angst/drama/controversy/taboo that followed character over one specific relationship. I liked being uncomfortable and sad and strangely titillated when the story called for it. I trusted my writers to lead me wherever they wanted to go.

As a reader, as a writer, I believe story is king. I submit to it, heart and soul. I don't care about rules. I like not knowing where I'll end up. I love being surprised and having my expectations turned on a dime. As such I'll never be content to confine myself within the rigid structure of a white-cover romance novel. I want to dance across the line of what is expected and what is accepted.

People have said I'll have a hard time finding an audience because of this, especially with all the genre-hopping I'm known to do, but I don't think that's true. Each book comes with its own audience, one that can appreciate its virtues (and flaws) individually. I think there are people out there who are like me, who want to see stories delivered in a frank and honest way, even when I unearth the rotting corpses of societal taboos.

That is the writer I've always wanted to be, whether I sell hundreds or thousands of books... or millions. I apologize for none of it.

You may not like some of the twists and hairpin turns I take you on. And I may not always give the characters what we want for them, but I can promise I'll always give them what they need. Most of all... I promise to make the ride worthwhile for those who embrace the total abandon of story. We're in this together, you and I.

We may not get there in one piece (or one novel,) but we'll get there... together.

Happy reading.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Halloween Treat... "Taste of Blood."

I had intended to write a free scary/romantic short story around the theme of Halloween for you all, but got seriously sidelined by an unexpected illness right at the end of the month.

Instead, I'm offering my thriller "Taste of Blood: A Reese Mackenzie Novel" for free, as a one-day promotion Halloween only.

"Taste of Blood" was a story that I developed with a producer/director, who was looking for a vampire-themed story he could film in Romania. By a stroke of luck I had a vampire story ("My Immortal") but he wanted to get away from the more traditional Gothic love story that contained. Instead, he wanted a grittier, contemporary, urban take on the myth that could basically be summed up in the pitch: "Interview with a Vampire" meets "Se7en."

What he did like from "My Immortal" was my heroine, who had a tenuous grasp on her sanity. This is largely due to the fact she used to be a vampire in a past life. So I developed the protagonist of TOB, Reese Mackenzie, to face similar paranormal challenges. Instead of being a reincarnated vampire like "My Immortal's" heroine, Adele, Reese has psychic visions concerning murder victims just 'cuz she was born that way. These start as premonitions prior to any contact, but once she heads over to good ol' Transylvania, her gift kicks into overdrive. She makes the frightening discovery that merely coming into physical contact with someone can give her the foresight of their death.

Reese already knows what can happen if she makes the mistake of telling people they're going to die before they do, so she hides from this gift as long as she can. Each clue hits closer and closer to home until she is propelled into action. Ultimately she becomes her own detective to piece together the clues left behind by this serial killer, who is bound and determined for the world to think he's a vampire.

Whether he is or not... eh, you'll have to read the book to know for sure. ;)

If you're a fan of my romances, this is not a romance novel - although there is a romantic element. This was written as a thriller/horror story, and it gets scary even for me. I get to flex a little different muscle with "Taste of Blood." And Reese is a lot of fun to write, and I can definitely see taking her into other mystical adventures in the future. Book One is mostly based on the screenplay I developed with aforementioned producer/director, that was sadly shelved after financing fell through. (Ah, Hollywood.)

The Kindle version is free for Halloween only, and I'll be giving away paperbacks through a Goodreads contest starting November 1.

So enjoy this spooky read as a Halloween treat from me to you. And if you do get to read the book for free, consider giving it a rating/review - especially if you really enjoy it and want to see another book in the series.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

#FavouriteMovieQuotes - Name some of mine and win free books!

#FavouriteMovieQuotes was trending on Twitter today, which made me smile. I love movie quotes and can often pop off with one for no particular reason at all. (Some movies I can quote verbatim, much to the annoyance of my DH, or darling hubby.) Rather than spam the Twitter feeds of all my followers, I thought I'd do a blog.

And since I'm doing a blog, I might as well do a contest.

Let's have some fun with this. I'll post some movie quotes and you guys can play along. Get as many of them as you can and you'll be entered in a drawing to win autographed copies of my popular GROUPIE saga, both books 1 and 2, (a $28 value,) or really any two books of mine you'd like to own autographed copies of. I'm flexible.

Here are the quotes. Send your answers in an email to:

Play all the way to the end of the month. I'll announce the winner on November 1.

1.) "When I lived in Porpoise Spit, I used to sit in my room for hours and listen to ABBA songs. But since I've met you and moved to Sydney, I haven't listened to one Abba song. That's because my life is as good as an Abba song. It's as good as Dancing Queen."

2.) "I'm disinclined to acquiesce to your request."

3.) "Not threatening enough? Listen, you take your hands off me or I'll knee your balls right through the roof of your mouth! Is that enough of a threat?"

4.) "Lose it? I didn't lose it. It's not like, "Whoops! Where'd my job go?" I QUIT. Someone pass the asparagus, please."

5.) "You give us good salaries, paid vacations, insurance. You take away our problems and act like you've done us a favor. Well, you haven't, and some day there'll be an uprising, and the masses will regain the misery they're entitled to!"

6.) "Well forget it! I'm not doing it! This episode was badly written!"

7.) "Tell Victor that Ramon - -the fella he met about a week ago? - -tell him that Ramon went to the clinic today, and I found out that I have, um, herpes simplex 10, and I think Victor should go check himself out with his physician to make sure everything is fine before things start falling off on the man."

8.) "Do you think I'd speak for you? I don't even know your language."

9.) "That ain't Lake Minnetonka."

10.) "Well, you can't never let anything happen to him. Then nothing would ever happen to him. Not much fun for little Harpo."

11.) "That's good. A little anger. It's a bit late, but it's nice to see."

12.) "I feel like you're driving me to court martial. This is crazy. What did I do? I feel like you're gonna pull over and snuff me. What, you're not allowed to talk? Hey, Forrest!"

13.) "Is this a kissing book?"

14.) "Oh it don't make no kind of sense. Big ol' ox like Grady won't sit next to a colored child. But he eats eggs- shoot right outta chicken's ass!"

15.) "I was jealous. I was so jealous of you I couldn't see straight! You did everything you said you were going to do, everything! And your talent, this incredible talent! I can't even yodel!"

16.) "Dear Lord, we ask that you bless this food to the nourishment of our bodies. And we ask forgiveness, Lord, for the fornication that Mr. Sprock and me committed this morning on this very table."

17.) "I was hiding under your porch because I love you."

18.) "This is the Puppet Hospital and Burn Center. It's relatively new."

19.) "Lost my muchness, have I?"

20.) "Some day, and that day may never come, I will call upon you to do a service for me."

Good luck! :)

Monday, September 24, 2012

Rock Star, the sequel to Groupie, Available NOW!!

You've been waiting for it and it's finally here! ROCK STAR is available for your Kindle and as a paperback, and will be released for the Nook and through Apple and Sony shortly.

Also available for your Kindle, a GROUPIE/ROCK STAR ebook bundle! If you're new to the series or want to introduce your friends and family to the romantic saga of Andy and Giovanni, you can now purchase both books in a convenient, economical package.

Don't forget you can still enter to win one of five autographed copies of ROCK STAR through Goodreads through the month of September. Good luck!

I've had a lot of readers express how excited they were for this release. I'd like to thank you all for your patience and your support for this story and these characters. They are a lot of fun to write and I truly enjoyed revisiting them. I hope you do too! Don't forget to rate/review. I love to hear your feedback.

In the meantime here's some mood music... you can figure out where these songs inspired me during the story as you read along. ;)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

My Immortal - a labor of love.

Last year I published my paranormal romance "My Immortal," a story about a troubled young woman who finds the purpose for her future tied up in the secret of her past. She grows up believing she is corrupted and undeserving of love, so her entire existence is crafted around earning her right to even exist. She does this mostly through her journalism career, where she tracks down the scourge of the earth and rights all the wrongs that occur int he world around her.

The story picks up when our heroine Adele is tracking a serial killer attacking innocent children in her town. The sheer heinousness of the crimes infiltrates her troubled dreams, which have always been a landmine of unmanageable emotional debris. She comes to find that solving the latter may actually be the key to solving the former, especially when it seems that the killer is striking closer and closer to home.

As she spirals emotionally out of control her path crosses with a beautiful and charming stranger - who sees her in a way she never has dared to see herself. He offers her romance and she finds herself pulled toward this man who feels strangely familiar though they only just met. Nicholas Sterling awakes something in Adele that she never thought was possible.

He even manages the impossible: he brings her peace. He chases away her lifelong torment of nightmares and offers her a protection she never before thought she needed.

Meanwhile her lifelong friend Michael watches on as this smooth operator swoops in to romance a woman he has loved from afar since they were children. She put up her walls against the love she long ago recognized in her best friend's eyes, leaving him to find solace in the priesthood as he was kept at the fringe of her world. Now another man has crossed the threshold almost immediately, leaving the stalwart Michael bereft and unsure what to do to protect her.

In this stark juxtaposition of terror and romance, Adele finds herself falling in love while she's falling apart. She meets a cryptic stranger that lets her know she is far more connected to the killer than she would fear from her psychic dreams. It soon dawns on her that her connection to Nicholas is not a coincidence. Their love is too powerful to be new...she finally realizes it is an echo that reaches back centuries.

It is a love that ultimately demands everything. Though she long believed she had to fight for a purpose, Adele had been born with a purpose. Only she can bring an end to the reign of terror this killer has brought upon her town. She has to take a stand and possibly lose everyone she loves most in the world, to sacrifice against an evil that has risen from the ages - even if it costs her the love of more than one lifetime.

In "My Immortal" I explore the idea of soul mates and the immortal nature of love. I did this because of my own journey to love through loss, and dedicated this book - rightly so - to my first husband, Daniel. His fingerprint left an indelible mark on my life that reaches far beyond the clutches of death.

I did this using the immortality of vampires and toyed with the idea of how reincarnation can redeem even the most vile among us when the last act of life is to save the life of the one you love. I hope you enjoy. <3

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Save the Date: Groupie's Sequel ROCK STAR Releases September 2012

September 25 has been a rather special day throughout my history, including when I met my best friend in 1980:

And when I met my first husband, Daniel, in 1987.

Now we can add the "birth" of my newest baby: "Rock Star."

"Rock Star" is the highly anticipated sequel to my Rock and Roll Rubenesque saga that began with the sizzling debut of "Groupie." For those who have been anxious to see what has become of Andy, Vanni and Graham... buckle your seat belts. You're in for a thrilling new ride right through the dark underbelly of fame. I hold nothing back and spare no one.

In the second book in the series, readers get insight into the mind of the romantic hero, Giovanni Carnevale, as he reaches the pinnacle of success as a world wide rock star. Everyone wants a piece of him, but all he wants is the one thing he can't have. He's angry and he's entitled, with ample opportunity to make really bad decisions. The combination proves explosive.

Andy must watch from the sidelines as her beloved Vanni falls victim to grifters, scandals and alcoholism thanks to this self-destructive behavior. Things come to an emotional head when his estranged father comes on the scene just when Vanni thinks things can't get any worse.

Darkness shadows Graham Baxter as he begins his journey as a paraplegic. The powerful mogul bitterly handles this new vulnerability by lashing out at the people who could help him the most. He needs Andy more than ever, pulling her in yet another hopeless direction. Andy is put in the impossible situation of keeping the most important promise she has ever made, or saving the man that she can't help but love.

I get to turn up the scandals, secrets, passion and heartbreak to 11 in a very Jackie Collins type of way. Flawed characters face excess and all the pitfalls that entails. They fight as hard as they can to hold onto anything real in the fake world of celebrity.

It's a fun little sandbox in which to play around. I look forward to your joining me on the next leg of our journey.

Enter to win one of five autographed copies of the paperback, courtesy of Goodreads, from now until the end of September.

Read a sample chapter here!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Can a Good Man Love a Size 16 Woman?

This was a search phrase that brought someone over to my personal blog this past week. I had written a diatribe against the notion Rubenesque romances were unrealistic simply because most men (and certainly all "good" ones) couldn't possibly want a fattie. For the (female) blogger who made this assertion, this included any woman over a size 6. So me being me, I proceeded to feature hot superbabes who ranged in size from an 8 (Beyonce) to a size 16 (model Crystal Renn) in order to show how beauty comes in all sorts of packages.

Trust me, when straight guys are looking at women like Sofia Vergara, Salma Hayek, Scarlett Johansson and Christina Hendricks, they couldn't care less what the number is on the label of their clothes. They're kinda too busy doing this...

In my "Groupie" Rubenesque series of romance novels, my heroine Andy Foster is a size 16. She catches the eye of a rocker on the rise who finds himself insatiable for her fuller, more luscious curves. The books come with hot, sexy scenes and I never apologize for Andy's size because she doesn't feel the need to. She is comfortable in who she is, and it's that self-confidence - along with her hourglass figure - that keeps Giovanni Carnevale coming back for more. If you have a hard time believing that a size 16 girl could have that kind of effect on a hot bad boy rocker, I present model Kaela Humphries.

Also for your consideration, model Ashley Graham:

How about Fluvia Lacerda?

So is it really unrealistic to think a size-16 can be a beautiful, sexy and desirable woman? Only if you swallow the bullshit we're sold as women in this culture, and I most certainly do not.

I'm a proud writer of Rubenesque fiction because I refuse to buy into this cultural mindset women only are as valuable as the size dress they wear. Femininity is a beautiful mosaic that we forfeit for some tired ol' paper doll template with very little wiggle room. (Literally.) We're inundated in the media with this physical ideal of what women are supposed to look like, which is reinforced in movies and in books to drive it home that if you want a prince charming, you have to be perfect (i.e. young, thin, beautiful.) Any woman who finds love, then, should fit into this narrow example. We see this perpetrated over and over again to the point we accept it as the ultimate "fantasy" of what our happily ever after should look like. All you have to do is dye away the drab, fix or prevent those wrinkles, stuff down those love handles, pluck, tuck and otherwise change everything about you.

If you go by this media standard, then I guess the answer to "Can a good man love a size 16 woman?" is "Are you freaking kidding me?"

By no small coincidence this mindset helps sell magazines and fuels multi-billion dollar diet, beauty and fashion industries. No matter what is wrong with you, there's a product on some shelf to help fix it. How convenient is that? We are continually (and successfully) sold this bill of goods that the only things we need to worry about are how to lose those pesky extra pounds and how to find/land/keep a man. Go stand in any grocery store checkout line anywhere and peruse all those blurbs meant to entice you into picking up and buying a woman's magazine.

What is the media telling you about yourself? It's telling you that you are one hot mess, and only their sage and all-knowing advice can save you from your biggest problem. You know... YOU.

I'll let you in on a little secret and save you about $5 on that's all hogwash.

Men aren't nearly as obsessed about our weight as we are. They know what they like when they see it, and that runs the gamut between slender and athletic to voluptuous and "womanly". Many men like curves. Studies have even suggested they are biologically predisposed to. They salivate over buxom beauties that are closer to a double digit size than a size 0. They sing happily about Brick Houses and Big Butts, while we give more and more of our money to those who get rich off of convincing us we're fat and ugly (and that fat always equals ugly.) We fixate on that stupid scale while, honestly, they're more concerned with how confidently we carry what we got. This is why the average American woman can be an unforgivable size 12 yet still find a husband, have a family and generally enjoy life despite what the media would have her believe.

The real world application of sexual attraction is a little more complex than what you see on a magazine.

Some men even find what we consider our fatal flaws kinda sexy. It means we're not perfect. When you think about it that's a lot of pressure to put on a mate.

In fact, judging that all men can only love a certain size woman isn't giving guys a whole lot of credit. Sure they are visually stimulated creatures who have a propensity to think with their penises. But shouldn't the guy you're with be able to love all the things that make you uniquely you the same way you love all the things that make him uniquely him? I mean... isn't that what the ideal of love truly is? Being unconditionally accepted and valued for who you truly are, warts and all?

The real-world answer of "Can a good man love a size 16 woman" is a resounding yes. Thankfully for all the people who don't fit in the paint-by-numbers boxes of mainstream media (which is the majority of us) love isn't a formula. Good men can love a size 12, a size 2, a size 24 and a size 10. It's not about the *size* - it's about the woman inside. It's a novel idea, really... that someone can be loved for the sum of their parts and not something likely in a constant state of flux like one's dress size.

Many people will tell you that what they thought they wanted and where their hearts eventually landed were completely different. Love is funny like that. If you create within you a woman worth loving, which has nothing to do with the size dress you wear, a man is going to find himself falling in love with you. The trick is to be the kind of woman he never knew he wanted/needed, which is kinda what happened with my darling hubby, Steven. I'm sure 14 years ago if you would have asked him to conjure the woman of his dreams, it wouldn't have been me. Instead he got more, in almost every sense of the word.

In my not-so-humble opinion this is the very quality that makes them "good men." If you've been dumped on your ample fanny because some guy couldn't handle your extra padding, the problem isn't really yours. It's his for being a superficial jerk. Wipe that dirt off your shoulder and move on. One day you'll be so thankful he dumped you so that a truly good man could find you and give you all the love that other guy didn't think you deserved.

But let me also propose this: if a "good" man dumps a size 16 woman, it probably has nothing to do with her size. More than likely it has everything to do with how she views herself because of that size.

See, this is really the crux of the whole problem. I can bet you the woman who asked that question had just been dissed by the guy she fancied and it probably wasn't the first time. This is a pattern that has repeated, so she ended up in that spot where she wondered, "What's wrong with ME?" since clearly she is the common denominator.

If you're being continually dumped by otherwise good men, it may indeed be something you're doing wrong. But that has dick to do with the size you wear. Despite what our culture will tell you, being overweight is not a personality flaw or inherent failure. It's simply a physical condition. Carrying a few extra pounds isn't really even a "bad" condition, despite being "aesthetically displeasing" to many. Some detractors will jump on the "health" bandwagon of fat-shaming but the simple truth is you can't determine someone's health by the weight they carry, and that's usually just a straw man argument anyway. The teenage boy mooing at you at the grocery store couldn't give a rat's ass if you are in more danger of developing heart disease or diabetes anymore than that guy at the bar sizing up the hot chick with a cigarette in one hand and a martini in the other cares much about her liver or her lungs.

It's not about health, it's about fat. And here's the great thing about fat... you can lose it. No, really. You can. If you think your weight is holding you back most of the time there are steps you can take to change your current physical condition. The problem isn't with the weight. It's with your attitude. If you don't love yourself you're not going to do the things you need to do to take care of yourself. Period. So whether you plan to stay a size 16 or not, eventually you're going to have to give up hating your own body.

A remarkable thing happens the minute you do. The people around you then begin to treat you with the same respect you show yourself. The person most guilty of not being able to love the size 16 woman is the size 16 woman. Societal distaste aside, odds are the one beating you up most for being a size 16 is you. You've bought into the fantasy the media sold you. If you were a size 4 and a guy didn't love you, you wouldn't blame your size. So that means you accept inferiority based on nothing more than a dress size, which kinda makes you the superficial douchenozzle and not the guy at all.

Worse...if you think no one can love you because of your size then that sadly becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. You're never going to believe that a man could love you despite your size because you clearly don't. Even if you do luck out and find "a good man," he begins the fruitless endeavor to fill the holes you keep gouging in your own self-esteem. Anyone trying fill that bottomless pit of validation will inevitably tire from the strain.

Even some of those "good" men.

Can a good man love a size 16 woman? I argue that only the best men can. So do your part to hang onto them... love yourself as unconditionally as you wish to be loved and give these poor guys a break. If you have a good man who wants to love you, he already thinks you are the body beautiful. Own it, diva!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

New Kindle release "Picture Postcards"

If you've been itching for a new contemporary Rubeneseque romance, I just released my novel "Picture Postcards" for your Kindle. (And if you're on All Romance eBooks, for your Kindle and various other e-readers as well.)

Technically "Picture Postcards" was the second novel that I wrote. I completed it in 1995, right after the sudden death of my youngest son, Brandon. I spent two months crafting what I wanted to be akin to the romantic comedies I so enjoyed watching. Needless to say I needed the lightheartedness of such a story in such a dark time, and it totally fit the bill. It had a fairy tale feel about it, much like "Sleepless in Seattle," and was written entirely because Harlequin put out a call for any romances that revolved around the written word.

My idea was originally very simple: have a young woman intercept romantic but anonymous picture postcards written to someone else. Hilarity would then ensue as she tried to piece together the mystery that would result in her finally meeting the man of her dreams that she had the misfortune to find through someone else's mail.

Ultimately this book would be the first to get legitimate interest from an agent and I was signed in 1997. However many publishers felt the heroine was "too perfect." (Some even felt it was more suited to the screen, which made me convert it to screenplay form years later. I shelved it to work on other projects, but it was a very pivotal book for me in my development as a writer.)

Eventually I would learn the more flawed a heroine was the more I enjoyed writing them. It made Picture Postcards stronger for the lead character of Caitlin to have certain quirks and an endearing naivete that got her into trouble more often than not.

As time wore on I was able to fix the existing problems but I wasn't sure how I could save the dated plot. Our world is super-connected now where it wasn't back in the mid-90s when I originally crafted the story. It was harder to sell a concept that a couple of lovers would lose touch over several weeks or months just because they were on opposite sides of the world. Thanks to email, Facebook, cell phones and Skype, there is no opposite side of the world anymore. Even my best friend and I chat for hours every night despite being hundreds of miles apart. If he were to vanish into thin air it wouldn't take weeks or months for me to notice.

This threw my whole "fairy tale" concept into a blender and made me almost permanently shelve the project. But then I had an inspired stroke of creativity that put the whole thing back on track so I could bring it to you, a more mature evolved piece that is fun, romantic and a little fanciful. Kind of like the person who wrote it. ;)

I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it.


When full-figured Caitlin O'Neil moves to Los Angeles to begin her career as a creative director at an up-and-coming art gallery, she feels confident that after years of self-imposed celibacy she can find a suitable gent for a long awaited romance.

Los Angeles was a sea of millions of souls, after all. How hard could it be to land one who was intelligent, kind, romantic and appreciated a successful, fun-loving gal with generous curves?

After a few disastrous non-starts, however, Caitlin decides romance is a safer concept when contained within her mailbox. Anonymous and poetic picture postcards arrive every week without fail, addressed to the former occupant, and weave a romantic mystery reality can't quite match.

Around the time they stop, a couple of men enter Cait's life who turn her heart upside down. One is the suave and sophisticated Reuben, who whisks her away on unforgettable dates to sweep her completely off her feet. Her other steady is her best friend Robert, a romantic cynic who keeps her laughing and always comes to her rescue when she needs him the most. Will they be able to fill the gap left by the mysterious postcard writer?

Or, as the postcards mysteriously start up again - this time to Caitlin herself, could it be possible that one of these two very different men the man she'd been dreaming of all along?

It's just a 20th Century fairy tale, made possible by the United States Postal Service.

Read sample chapter here.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

American Idol Top 11 Perform Songs from the Year of Their Birth

By now we are all aware that Jermaine Jones - otherwise known as the Gentle Giant - was disqualified from American Idol because of outstanding warrants, but the story indeed may go much deeper than that with TMZ reporting how the absent father cried fowl on Jermaine's emotional back story.

All I know is they brought back a contestant, which they have never before done, adding a "spare" to the top 24 and it is that "spare" who gets eliminated the same night we'll whittle the group down to the Top 10, i.e. the official tour lineup.

Had Idol not televised this confrontation between Jermaine and the producers we might have brushed it off as business as usual, but this time it sounds more like a cheap marketing ploy to get some extra ratings. It was all very sensationalistic, even for Idol.

Forgive me for being skeptical but I don't buy it. Surely these folks have been burned enough in the past to do a thorough background check on these folks prior to the live shows.


The YOB theme is always iffy given the huge wealth of songs each contestant has to choose from. Anything can happen, but generally one brave soul will sing a song we're not so familiar with, some will sing older songs that technically qualify because they were made in the year of their birth and some will take on songs from singers they have no business trying to emulate.

In other words, we're in for a more critical review of tonight's performance show.

Phillip Phillips started the festivities with "Hard to Handle" by the Black Crowes. That I didn't pick it yesterday was a total oversight on my part, it is kinda the perfect song for him. Given the dude just had surgery he really rocked his choice and started the show off right. But even still, I haven't connected to him emotionally yet. I can't tell you why. There's no real reason. Without his guitar he looks a bit awkward, but it may be just a Joe Cocker type of spastic that just comes with that type of performer. I guess I'll have to get used to it.

Vocals: 4
Style: 4
Stage Presence: 4
Individuality: 4
Song Choice: 5
Total: 21
Probability of moving on: Strong

Jessica Sanchez chose wisely (i.e. sang a song off my wish list from yesterday) with "Turn the Beat Around." TECHNICALLY it's a disco hit but Gloria Estefan breathed some flavor into it in 1995 when our youngest contestant was born. She came out belting it out just like disco diva in her sparkly pants. She also owned that stage with a prowess way beyond her tender 16 years. This girl is a major contender because she can do more than the ballad, no matter what the judges say. LOVE this girl. Let her spread her wings however she wants, guys.

Vocals: 5
Style: 5
Stage Presence: 5
Individuality: 5
Song Choice: 5
Total: 25
Probability of moving on: Strong

Heejun Han picked "Right Here Waiting" by Richard Marx. Another ballad. Color me surprised. Instead of telling me how funny this guy is, why can't we see his personality on the stage? My patience is wearing thin. If he gets through to next week and does another ballad, I'm afraid he'll earn himself a zero.

Vocals: 3
Style: 4
Stage Presence: 3
Individuality: 3
Song Choice: 1
Total: 14
Probability of moving on: Questionable

Our 1983 baby, Elise Testone, picked "Let's Stay Together" and had an impromptu sing-off with President Obama. That was kinda righteous and made my whole night, frankly. I loved that she went back to her songstress roots with this song. She had a lot more confidence with this song than the Whitney debacle of last week. It was good to see. By the end I really didn't see much to criticize. Let's hope her fans rally to keep her in the competition.

Vocals: 5
Style: 5
Stage Presence: 5
Individuality: 5
Song Choice: 5
Total: 25
Probability of moving on: Good

Oh, DeAndre. My sweet little DeAndre Brackensick. I love you. I do. But you just committed a Geevie Idol Sin by singing one of my most hated songs, EVER. NO. NO NO NO. They should have let him sing Disney. Blame Jimmy Iovine but... I had to fast-forward.

Vocals: 4 (Based on past performances)
Style: 4
Stage Presence: 4
Individuality: 4
Song Choice: 0
Total: 12
Probability of moving on: It's in his fans' hands now.

(Dre, hon, if you stay, next time check my blog. I won't steer you wrong, sweetie.)

Shannon Magrane had the choice to do No Doubt's "Don't Speak" but opted to take on Mariah Carey and Boys II Men.


Another ballad. Surprise, surprise. She could have done something more youthful and exciting but no. She took on Mariah Carey. BIG mistake. You should never attempt to sing a Mariah song UNLESS you can sing it better than Mariah. And Shannon can't. Another misstep.

But at least she dressed young. Progress?

Vocals: 3
Style: 4
Stage Presence: 4
Individuality: 4
Song Choice: 1
Total: 16
Probability of moving on: Questionable

Colton Dixon sang White Lion and stayed true to some harder rock roots, which is always good to hear. But he, like Phillip, leaves me cold for some unknown reason. I'm missing the star quality of Adam Lambert and swagger of Daughtry. Colton sounds the same on every single song he sings, no matter what he sings. At this point it's really take it or leave it with me, but at least it was more exciting than a ballad, which makes him invaluable to this season.

Vocals: 4
Style: 4
Stage Presence: 4
Individuality: 4
Song Choice: 4 (White Lion = good. Unknown song = risky.)
Total: 20
Probability of moving on: Good

Erika Van Pelt, our EVP, chose - guess what - ANOTHER BALLAD.


I just really don't even know what to say. She's just not living up to the potential she alone has to be a standout artist this year. I'm so frustrated. Like Heejun, if she gets through to next week and does another ballad, it's zeroes from here on out.

Vocals: 3
Style: 4
Stage Presence: 4
Individuality: 3
Song Choice: 1
Total: 15
Probability of moving on: Questionable

Jimmy tried to steer Skylar Laine away from her 1992 Bonnie Raitt pick, "Love's Sneaking Up On You." I'm not really thrilled by her original choice given the material she could have picked, including Faith Hill's "Piece of My Heart" - which would have given her a chance to rock with southern flavor. Pretty boring overall. Another missed opportunity.

Vocals: 4
Style: 4
Stage Presence: 4
Individuality: 5
Song Choice: 2
Total: 19
Probability of moving on: Good

Thank God for Joshua Ledet. My hair is STILL tingling. Serve that man crawfish before each and every performance. It didn't hurt his song was my fantasy pick, "When a Man Loves a Woman," which puts me two for two for the evening. And two of my favorite performances at that.

Go figure.

This boy evokes ghosts of Sam Cooke or Jackie Wilson on stage. I think the only thing I've ever thanked Michael Bolton for was that he released this remake in the year Joshua was born so he could sing it.

Vocals: 5
Style: 5
Stage Presence: 5
Individuality: 5
Song Choice: 5
Total: 25
Probability of moving on: Strong

Hollie Cavanagh sang a ballad but she can. And she should. She picked Celine Dion which is risky business for any lesser singer, but Hollie can pull something this epic off almost effortlessly.


This is one of my favorite Celine Dion songs of all time and it has deep personal meaning to me, so I've heard (and sung) "The Power of Love" quite a lot since 1994. That's why it was easy for me to tell whenever she slid off-key, which is easy to do with that kind of monster song. For that reason I had to ding her, but I still believe she has a long Idol journey ahead of her.

Vocals: 4
Style: 5
Stage Presence: 5
Individuality: 5
Song Choice: 5
Total: 24
Probability of moving on: Strong

I think the Heejun, DeAndre, Shannon and EVP have the most to worry about tomorrow. So I guess we have to ask ourselves: who do we want to see live in concert?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

American Idol Top 12 (11?) Songs from the Year of Their Birth (Wish List)

So I hear our Top 12 will be cut prematurely this week with the departure of Gentle Giant Jermaine Jones, who (possibly?) has a criminal history he left out of his bio when he applied/participated in the show. Sad, but the show must go on.

As the contestants get younger and younger I get further away from my music of choice (1970s/80s.) It's hard to narrow down an entire year's worth of music when I was too busy raising small kids to even worry much about Billboard's Top 40. But this is a pretty wide open theme night with tons of possibility and fortunately for several of our girls the whole Whitney Houston thing is out of the way for the season (I hope.)

We'll start with our oldest contestant, Elise Testone, who was born in 1983. Like any 13-year-old I was plastered to my radio and I had several favorites I think she could do serious justice to with that smoky voice of hers. Hits like Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart"

Or Laura Branigan's "How Am I Supposed to Live Without You"

are tailor-made for a contestant like Elise. Call me crazy but I kinda want to see her take on more of a vocal challenge - maybe someone like.... Steve Perry?

Whatever it is I think it needs to be light years away from any kind of uptempo dance tune. That's not who Elise is, and she desperately needs to remind us this week who exactly that is.

(Song she's not allowed to sing: "True" by Spandau Ballet. It will result in an Instant 0 I don't care how good she sings it.)

Erika Van Pelt, or EVP, was born in 1985. Fortunately she already burned through a Heart tune and I hope she steers clear of any of the other Heart hits from that era because it is clear that does not resonate with the audience. Instead she needs to rock. Fortunately for her Pat Benatar had a big hit that year with "We Belong:"

If she wants to go a little rougher around the edges vocally, she could lay down the law with Tina Turner's "Better Be Good to Me"

Anything by Heart or Whitney Houston will earn her an Instant 0.

Heejun Han was born in 1989, which is a year I strongly connect to Guns N' Roses. I have to admit the thought of his tackling a GNR hit kinda makes me chuckle to spite myself. There was also a lot of fun music that year, which I would really desperately like him to incorporate into his stage persona. He's the class clown, but he gets behind that mic and he's a serious crooner. Too serious, actually. It's kinda Dr. Chuckle and Mr. Bored Stiff.

It's kinda ... confusing.

It's a challenge to get him out of the box and perform but I kinda think maybe he should tackle Bobby Brown's "My Prerogative."

He could also have a little fun with Milli Vanilli (no DeAndre hair jokes please) or even Tone Loc.

If he absolutely HASSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS to do a slow one, let him try to conquer the last note of this ballad by Sheriff:

(It was actually released in the early 80s but re-released and hit the charts in 1989, so... it qualifies.)

Phillip Phillips was born in 1990, which makes him as old as my son Timothy.

I didn't get a whole lot of sleep that year, so I don't remember much of it. He's a hard one to predict even if I remembered every single song released that year. He has shown the propensity of taking a song you wouldn't expect and doing something you wouldn't expect him to do with it.

The impish part of me wonders with Mr. Steven Tyler would say if he Phillified something like..."Janie's Got a Gun:"

Talk about your challenge. He could also tackle something like "Epic" by Faith No More. With all the balladeers this season it may do him some good to do something that rocks in order to set himself apart from the pack.

Colton Dixon is a child of 1991, and the biggest hit that year was "(Everything I Do) I Do It for You," by Bryan Adams. I kinda heard that enough the 90s so he'd really have to knock it out of the park for me to get behind it again. Another oldie but a goodie, if not exceedingly slow, is "Wicked Game" by Chris Isaak.

How he could totally win my favor? Do a little Queensryche.

Joshua Ledet has some good R&B tunes he could choose from in 1992, including a couple of old soul remakes:

Hollie Cavanagh has some serious vocal chops, that much is clear. She could close the show with a gospel-infused rendition of the MJ classic "Will You Be There." (I get chills just thinking about it.)

She could also branch out and appeal to one of the judges with her rendition of "Crazy."

Skylar Laine can use this opportunity to bring some of that fiesty fun that made her an early favorite for me, and fortunately for her 1994 had some big hits from country powerhouses like Martina McBride:

Reba McEntire:

and Patty Loveless:

I think DeAndre Brackensick should play to his base with something for thah ladies...

or maybe... if Prince is feeling especially generous...he could allow DeAndre to sing "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World."

(As you know we can't link or embed songs from his Royal Badness. But DeAndre was tailor made to sing his music, so let's hope our favorite eccentric musical genius lets go of the reigns *a little.*)

Shannon Magrane
survived to fight another day and God only knows we'll get another ballad to show for it. Maybe something Disneyfied:

Or take on the King of Pop with one of his ballads:

But she could amp up the tempo just a tad and still give us something inspirational:

Jessica Sanchez
is our youngest contestant, and unlike her toughest competitor Hollie, Jessica has shown a bit of versatility when it comes to music selection. She does ballads really well but she doesn't HAVE to do ballads, which makes it more fun to see what she is going to do.

I'd love to see her do something more upbeat with a little attitude.

And though I'd normally caution anyone away from Mariah, she could do something a little more youthful with:

This is my fantasy list for tomorrow's idol. Which means NONE of the songs I chose will likely be picked.

But it sure is fun trying to put a singer to a song, isn't it?