Sunday, January 27, 2013

The "Mogul" party begins early!

"Mogul" drops in only 9 more days, y'all! We got a lot of fun stuff happening between now and then.

The amazing and wonderful Brandee at Brandee's Book Endings is featuring me along with author Michelle Warren all this week (Jan. 27 - Feb. 2) on her blog. There will be TONS of goodies, including a giveaway of the Complete Groupie Trilogy soft cover book. (A $24.99 value!) There will also be interviews (maybe even a character interview?) and sneak peeks of my books, including an exclusive teaser for my next book, "Fierce," which is a spin-off of the popular Groupie series. Andy's and Vanni's journey may be complete in "Mogul," but you're about to meet a brand new superstar who fights hard to carve out a place for herself in the pop music scene. Thanks to some of your favorites in "Groupie" and "Love Plus One," she'll get her best chance to do just that!

So go "Like" Brandee's Facebook page. She's a powerhouse who loves books, authors and readers. She's also hosting the Blog Book Tour of "Mogul." So many blogs, so many great reviews/interviews/giveaways. It's going to be spectacular. Details to come!!

Meanwhile... enjoy this little diddy from my "Mogul" playlist. ;)

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Happy Birthday, Steve Perry. The One. The Only. The "Voice."

One of the gifts that I received on Christmas, 1978, was a "Bert & Ernie" AM/FM radio. At the tender age of nine, I couldn't possibly know what this gift would come to mean to me over the next year. It was a toss-away gift at best, I was far more interested in the gifts that contributed to my growing Barbie collection.

Shortly after Christmas we moved to a new house across town. This wasn't unusual for my family. By the time I was 9 years old we had moved at least ten times. This move, however, meant a new school. A new school meant new people, and by the time I was 9 I was really kind of over it.

In the end, I spent the better part of 1979 in the safe haven that was my pink bedroom in our new house.

This is where I'd wile away the hours of that summer, creating stories using my Barbies and my Fisher Price Little People. It was just me, my imagination, and my only other constant companion that summer - my Bert & Ernie AM/FM radio.

It was that summer I discovered the true gift I had been given. Instead of listening to the Country/Western twang of good ol' Hee Haw music many of my hometown folks were listening to (including my own parents,) I was able to find my own music. I gravitated to the Top 40 station, spending many a Saturday afternoon with Casey Kasem. It didn't take very long at all before I discovered that I didn't much care for Country Western. I, instead, preferred the more popular beat of rock and roll.

Of course in 1979, the top 40 list was filled with all kinds of music - including the much maligned disco. (Yes, I liked that too. And I still do.)

But my favorite song of that year came from a rock band. They were called Journey.

I can't tell you why I latched onto a song that had such a primal, sexual beat and a message far too mature for my delicate third/fourth grade mentality. All I can tell you is that when that song hit the radio, I'd turn the volume up and belt it out with gusto. It was all about the music. I didn't care about bands or singers because my heart still belonged to Davy Jones of the Monkees. It would take another couple of years before Journey and Steve Perry entered into my consciousness beyond the music on the radio.

It was 1981 and my father had recently passed away. My mother worked long hours at the Levi plant in Amarillo, Texas. We had moved. Again. I was in a new place. Again. Fortunately the Good Lord above had sent an earthbound angel my direction in the shape of an eleven-year-old classmate, to guide me through the next painful periods of my life. We'd stay up for hours on the phone so I wouldn't feel so all alone. After he'd gone to bed, however, my babysitter was my television set. And one weekend I happened to catch a rerun of The Midnight Special. Imagine the thrill I got when I found out that Journey would be performing my favorite song!

The thrill soon abated the minute I got a look at the guys who made the music I so loved. Growing up in Abilene, Texas, I was used to two types of people: shit kickers and Air Force personnel. There weren't a lot of long-haired Portuguese guys or short Italians sporting Afros in my neck of the woods. The only band I knew up to this point, really, were the Monkees. To say that Steve Perry is a far cry from Davy Jones is a bit of an understatement. So I spent the better part of seeing that song performed for the first time wrapping my head around this entirely unexpected development. It wasn't until this unusual man stepped down into the audience and crooned to one of the girls in the audience that I went from "WTF" to "mmm okay." It was a moment that tattooed itself on my brain. Eventually it emerged in my popular Rubenesque romance, "Groupie," as one of the tactics the hot rock singer Vanni would use to win over the squealing fangirls who came to see the show. Looking back now I see it as a defining "idol" moment.

It wasn't the same starry-eyed infatuation I had when I saw Davy Jones for the first time, but the fascination lingered. Through the "Escape" era that followed, when Journey was all over the radio, I would remember that moment with a bit of a thrill. This is the magic of being a front man of a rock band. It's your job to make all the girls fall in love with you. They get to color themselves into the fantasy girls you sing about, so the more personal you make that connection, the more successful you'll be.

Never was this truer than that fateful night a couple of years later, when Mr. Perry unknowingly sent an arrow straight through a thirteen-year-old's heart courtesy of Friday Night Videos.

In 1983, those of us who didn't get our MTV had to get our video fix every Friday night after Johnny Carson. It was must-see TV in my house. And just like that night two years prior, the minute I heard that Journey was coming up with a new music video, an unexpected thrill surged through my body. Only this time it wasn't just about the music. I really wanted to see the lead singer again. Even after all that time, I hadn't forgotten the impact he had made on me.

Things had changed a bit down Steve Perry way by 1983. His hair was shorter and he sported a mustache. I wasn't sold on either look until he shaved off the 'stache half-way through the video. I was just getting settled in with all these changes when he did something that no one had ever done to me. He gave me "The Look."

Oh sure, he was probably thinking of Sherrie when he glanced ever so lovingly and soulfully into the camera. He had no way of knowing he was filming a gesture that would forever change the course of some daydreamy Texas teenager's life who lived a million miles away in another galaxy. But in that moment, that connection was with me. And everything I thought about love before then rewired itself in an instant.

It sounds silly now, of course. This was 30 years ago (GAK) when I was an impressionable, lonely, insecure teenager. And perhaps that was why I latched onto this new "love" with all the passion I could muster. If you have ever met a teenage girl then you'll already know that was quite a lot. Within a week I had purchased the Frontiers album and showed my mom the picture on the back cover, letting her know that was the guy I was going to marry.

(She was less enthusiastic about it than I was.)

It was a safe daydream when I was 13. At the time I was an awkward, overweight girl on the losing end of acne. Guys my age who noticed me at all only thought I served one purpose: the butt of the joke. I hadn't been kissed. I hadn't been asked on any date. I could only dream about getting the same attention the other girls who didn't fight my particular battles got. But for three or four minutes, I could listen to a song and I could do what I did best... I could pretend. I could pretend I was the kind of girl he sang about, the kind of girl any guy would write or sing any song about. I could daydream about the day a man would look at me, for real, and love me, for real.

Thanks to Steve Perry, I learned how to dream big. And it was a much bigger than the life I could expect marrying a high school sweetheart and settling down into a nice, traditional, picket fence lifestyle with 2.5 kids and a dog. I could reach as far as my daydreamy little heart could take me, which was fortunate. My life was never going to be traditional because *I* wasn't traditional. There were no high school sweethearts on bended knee, no picket fence futures on the horizon. I could either settle for much less than I deserved or shoot my expectations into outer space and just see where they landed. Steve was the first of such lofty aspirations. I learned how to hang on through the disappointments and never give up hope that one day I would find someone who was happy to give me the love I wanted more than anything, when all the evidence in my "real" life pointed towards a life of endless pain and rejection.

I wanted love so badly I made a lot of mistakes along the way. I kissed my fair share of frogs and settled for way less than I deserved, mostly because I bought into the lie that it's unrealistic to aspire to an "exceptional" life when you're less than ordinary. Instead I forfeited love for sex, trading in my self-esteem in the process. I got hurt - a lot - as my heart bounced around like a hacky sack from one loser to another. Despite it all, I found myself returning to Steve again and again. Something in my spirit wouldn't settle for settling. I wanted something exceptional. I wanted to believe I was worth something exceptional. His music... his songs... were my lifeline. Two notable occasions included a night in 1987, when I was in a hospital room and lonelier than I had ever felt in my life. I turned on MTV (because I finally could access the cable network) and they just happened to be running a Raised on Radio special, and suddenly I didn't feel so alone anymore. Around that same time frame, when I was distraught, feeling I was nothing and no one, I got the Journey newsletter with an interview with Steve, sending a much needed piece of advice to hold on, to believe, that I could be something great. Coincidences, maybe, if you believe in that sort of thing. I'm in the "Everything Happens for a Reason" camp. And I believed then (and now) Fate used these things to toss me a nod from the universe that I wasn't alone and I'd be okay, in a language I'd understand and could be open to receive.

I was able to grow beyond the limits of the ordinary, which were ill-fitting at best. His voice created a bubble that was safe. Pure. Untouched by the letdowns of "real" life relationships. It's still where I go when I feel sad. It still lifts me up when I'm down. It reminds me to never give up - that something better is coming. To hold onto hope. To never stop believing. (Yeah. I went there.)

Over these many years I finally figured out why that message is so universally powerful. It isn't so that you'll one day get that thing exactly the way you think you want it. It's so you are open and receptive to things even bigger and better than you'd let yourself dream. Obviously I didn't marry Steve Perry, but I married men who saw me the way Steve Perry saw the women he sang about - which was my heart's truest desire.

In the end, I can honestly say that Steve Perry was more than just a celebrity crush. He was a significant influence throughout my childhood. He was a beacon... a light in my darkness. Looking back I can't remember a day when he didn't brighten my world with dreams worth reaching for. Even after 30 years, his songs are my safe place to fall. It was more than just music. It was a connection that someone as disconnected as I was really needed in order to get from one day to another. He held my hand as I navigated over the perilous, rocky path of adolescence, and he didn't even know it. Without that... without him... I really don't know where I would be. As silly as it sounds, I mean it sincerely when I say I love him as true today as I loved him when I was 13.

So happy birthday, Steve.

And thank you.

Friday, January 18, 2013

"Groupie" on sale for $0.99! Limited time only! #fridayreads

It’s been eighteen years since I wrote my first genre romance, and sixteen years since traditional romance publishers told me my romantic heroines weren't relatable. In that time I’ve written (and rewritten) six more romance novels. In every heroine I have left a little bit of myself. Caitlin, from PICTURE POSTCARDS, is a hopeless romantic. Shannon, from LOVE PLUS ONE, hides herself in the shadows because she’s too insecure to claim love and success as her own. Jessica, from UNDER TEXAS SKIES, is a feisty, proud redhead that won’t back down to a male-dominated culture. Adele, from MY IMMORTAL, is much stronger than she knows, and has a purpose much higher than she’d ever believed possible. These are my strengths, these are my weaknesses. These are my passions.

With Andy Foster and GROUPIE, I was able to indulge some of the fantasies I’ve secretly harbored since I was a starry-eyed nine-year-old. I’ve been a music groupie the minute I first saw Davy Jones of “The Monkees.” I believed with my whole heart I’d marry Steve Perry after he stole my heart four years later. My first love was rock and roll, and decades later I know there is no known cure for my affliction.

Despite these ambitious beginnings, however, I’ve never chased a band or any rock stars. Yet to this day a long-haired singer with dark eyes and swagger continues to be my kryptonite. It’s a very primal call to tame the bad boy, and there are no boys more rebellious and compelling than those who strut across the stage in leather and chains, singing about the things they’d do to you if they could.

In GROUPIE, I finally let that inner groupie find out – exactly – what that is. Unfortunately for Andy, it starts her on an epic journey in an on-again, off-again relationship with someone who is completely wrong for her, which only fuels the attraction. Haven’t we all been there at least once?

I did a couple of things different in GROUPIE than my other novels. I made it sexier, because like I said, bad rocker boys are my weakness. If I’m going to live vicariously through my heroine, I’m going to do the things that I’ve never done. Seducing/being seduced by a sexy singer made the top of that list.

I also made her unapologetic about her size-sixteen body. There’s no angst on whether or not she’s good enough for him because of her weight. She knows he has just as much trouble saying no to her curves that she has saying no to his dominant, seductive nature. Needless to say, it’s been a lot of fun to write. There is a constant power struggle going on, which I find oh, so fascinating, and it inadvertently turned the whole sexy saga into a series. We’ll blame Graham Baxter for that. He wrote himself into the story and turned my neat and tidy original outline upside down. With the introduction of a better suited lover for Andy, it became obvious to me that there would be no “Happily Ever After” by the time I brought GROUPIE to a close. I was at a crossroads many of us women find ourselves eventually. Do we pick the one we love? Or do we pick the one who loves us the way we wish to be loved? Do we chase after raw and unbridled passion? Or settle for security and mutual respect?

What do you do when you love two completely different men? Can you be practical in matters of the heart? These are the questions I found myself unable to answer by the time I resolved the “plot” of GROUPIE. Andy and her bad boy rocker, Vanni, had too many starts and stops. They were nowhere near ready to settle down and commit, if they ever would be. They both had a lot of growing to do, especially Vanni. If I had been the one reading it and it ended with a happily ever after, I’d have tossed the book across the room. There’s no way someone like Vanni, who was an entitled commitment-phobe (read: womanizing asshole,) would forfeit his extracurricular activities right as his star truly started to rise and he was given free rein to indulge himself. He was too selfish, still. He hadn’t suffered enough. (I take care of that in book two, and it ain't pretty.)

My philosophy is if I can’t sell the story to myself, I won’t be able to sell the story to you. This triangle was a tangled mess, and I knew I’d need a lot more space to work things out. As such, GROUPIE became my first published series, with the subsequent ROCK STAR that released in September 2012, to keep the readers guessing whether I’d ever let Andy and Vanni reach their happy ending.

Not everyone who has read GROUPIE/ROCK STAR likes this approach, but frankly the critics have been fewer in number than I had expected. I published on a wing and a prayer that people would "get it." Much to my surprise, many of you have. The audience GROUPIE draws understands the constant push/pull of the triangle (even if they do want to throttle the characters – and by extension, me – on a regular basis.) The GROUPIE series trounced LOVE PLUS ONE as my personal best seller, and these are the books generating buzz and interest.

I guess I’m not the only one who harbors lascivious fantasies about sexy rocker boys. The question has never been whether or not we can love a sexy rock god. The true variable is whether he can learn to love us like we deserve.

And I gotta tell ya... it's a lot of fun trying to figure that out.

The journey continues with MOGUL, which will release in February 2013… but you can start with this little teaser into the highly acclaimed Groupie series.

Read a sample of Groupie here. If you like what you read, check out the whole book for $0.99 while it's on sale for a limited time.

Thursday, January 3, 2013


In 1995, Harlequin put out a call for new submissions with a specific slant. They wanted books that used the written word as an instrument to find romance. I came up with a plot that involved anonymous, romantic postcards that ended up in the wrong hands, in a comedy of errors to find true love.

At the time I was recovering from the emotional devastation of losing my youngest son, who had passed away January 1995 when he was only nine days old. I needed something light-hearted in which to immerse myself, so I tackled my first genre romance. Today it may be considered Chick Lit, or even a romantic comedy. Unlike some of my more angst-y stories, this one was written to be a good time: fun, flirty, funny, sometimes cringe-worthy, but uplifting good-time fluff.

Sometimes you just need it, you know?

Like I mentioned in the note for LOVE PLUS ONE, I initially envisioned my heroine as perfect as all the lovely ladies I had read about as a kid, when I would plow through Harlequin romances as fast as my aunt could pass them off to me. PICTURE POSTCARDS actually was the first to get an agent’s attention, but we ran into some trouble trying to sell it to publishers. They didn’t find Caitlin to be believable or relatable. She was, as they said, “too perfect.” I shelved the project for years, ultimately converting it into a screenplay years later. I figured I could leave how they pictured the affable Caitlin up to a casting director.

Bottom line, I wasn’t ready to give up on PICTURE POSTCARDS yet. I always loved the story, especially the nostalgic, almost whimsical, fairy-tale feel of it. Surely there had to be a way to make it work, I just had to find it.

As years passed I realized how dated my concept really was. What worked in 1995 wouldn’t work in the 21st century, and it seemed further and further out of reach with the introduction of each new gadget or gizmo. We are way more connected than we used to be, so finding love through misplaced snail-mail correspondence grew even more unrealistic by the year. When I decided to rewrite the story with a full-figured heroine, thus resolving the “too perfect” dilemma, I was then faced with the challenge of making my dated plot a contemporary story. It finally fit right into place with the realization there’s only one thing you can do with a modern day fairy tale: you tell it as a bedtime story. My solution enabled me to fall in love with the characters in a brand new way, simply because I got to see what their lives were like after “The End.”

For that alone, it was worth it.

Read the #1 rated sample here.

For Friday, January 4, 2013, you can download the entire full-length novel for a FRIDAY FREE READ as a Kindle e-book.