Friday, April 25, 2014

"The Undisciplined Bride" - Re-release and Friday Free Read

Like I said in my April Newsletter, I am currently revising some previous work for an exclusive run on Amazon to offer you bigger savings and more opportunities to sample the work. Today, a newly expanded THE UNDISCIPLINED BRIDE goes on sale for a Friday Free Read.

I gotta say, this story took me by surprise in a number of ways. My goal was to write a story about two very powerful leads who volleyed control and domination back and forth in their game of seduction. I didn't want to go the traditional route with a hero who was a billionaire, so I made Mateo Bravo a working class cook. I didn't want a typical ingenue of a female, so I made Peyton Prescott the billionaire who was also a raging bitch who bowed down to nobody.

Both of these characters are unexpected powerhouses. In my mind, this made any subsequent submission even hotter.

As always is the case, my characters took me by surprise and gave me oh so much more than I was asking of them.

Mateo turned out about how I envisioned him, which was sexy as hell. This is a man who knows he's a man, and bows to no one. The way he dominates the woman who is literally his boss was one of the hotter dynamics that I have written. (The Boiling Water scene, in particular, is a favorite. And the Elevator scene... I just can't even TALK about it.)

Instead the women of THE UNDISCIPLINED BRIDE were the ones who had a thing or two to teach me.

I knew I was going to make Peyton a nasty little thing. She is a bridezilla on the warpath to make everyone pay if her desires are not executed exactly the way she thinks they should be. She's rich and entitled and has no qualms whatsoever going after anything she wants. Unlike my other books, Peyton is not a plus-sized heroine. I don't make too much issue of it because honestly, it wasn't that critical to the story. She had a host of flaws to challenge the traditional idea of feminine beauty, the biggest of which is that she thinks she is better than anyone else, including almost each and every man outside of her Daddy. This is no wilting flower or demure southern belle. She is, on many occasions, a capital-C-You-Next-Tuesday.

In writing her, however, I learned a lot about The Bitch Complex. I love to figure out what makes people tick, and motivates them to act the way that they do. Being a writer especially, we are tasked to introduce (and answer) a number of questions to keep our readers turning the page. The Peyton in my head could have easily been one-dimensional. She was spoiled and entitled, a true princess in her own mind.

But why? Therein lies the story.

As I pealed back layer after layer, I began to discover an interesting human being under all the nastiness. In fact, as each chapter passed I began to respect her in ways I didn't expect to. She was powerful and strong in the only way she had ever been allowed to be, and those qualities made her a pleasure (and inspiration) to write. She just needed the right environment in which to grow. Thanks to Mateo and me, she got one. Her evolution throughout the story was one I was proud to witness.

Another character who took me by surprise right from the start was Peyton's childhood friend, Lissette Goodreau. I had NO idea what her story would be when I sat down to write. She jumped headlong off the outline and demanded a love story of her own. She got one, though it is unconventional.

Because of Lissette, THE UNDISCIPLINED BRIDE isn't just a romance novel. It's also a social commentary about love and identity and how we each get to define our Happily Ever After for ourselves... or at least SHOULD. I take on some sociopolitical topics that can be controversial for some readers. If you want pure escapism, this may not be the book for you. In fact, none of my books may be the ones for you. I don't write a story unless I have something significant to say, and I'll pull any trigger required in order to say it.

In at least three books, that was done literally. (And I still have my biker series to go, which should really scare the crap out of anyone who has walked any of these other ledges with me.)

For me, THE UNDISCIPLINED BRIDE challenges the idea of happiness. How do we define it for ourselves? And what happens when it looks NOTHING like what thought it would? How far would you go to be happy? And how much would you allow society around you to limit your own personal journey?

And all this came out of deciding to give a snotty bridezilla what for and take her down a notch or two. This is how my brain works.

(And I wouldn't change a thing.)

For those who have read THE UNDISCIPLINED BRIDE before, the story hasn't been significantly changed aside from an expanded ending. I tied in the connection between the Prescotts in Houston and the Fullertons in California. (If you've read ENRAPTURED, then you know that Prescott Petroleum, the company Peyton's family runs, was tied directly into the scandal involving Troy DeHavilland and the horse ranch down in Mexico. Those references are now a lot easier to spot in the newly revised version, and Jace Riga even makes a surprise appearance.

That's right. I'm continuing to build that big universe where my books and stories are connected. I get SUCH a kick out of that, I can't even tell you. It is my hope to Stephen King most of my romances at least, just so I can spend time with my favorite characters again and again.

If you haven't yet read THE UNDISCIPLINED BRIDE, pick it up today for free. Keep an eye out for other promotions over the next 90 days, before I release it wide again for Barnes and Noble and iTunes.

To get you in the mood...

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Love Plus One Re-Release

Like I said in the April Newsletter, I will be revising some of my older books for re-release. This starts with my novel, LOVE PLUS ONE, which was my best-selling title before the GROUPIE phenomenon hit. It remains a personal favorite of mine, so I was excited to get back into it and dig around. I also discovered there were some missed opportunities first time around. When you are a young writer, you tend to dance up to the line and then stop. Experience will take you tap-dancing right over that line, and that's where the true mastery comes in.

Needless to say, I'm excited to bring it to you all dressed up and purty. It even has a new cover.

LOVE PLUS ONE is where we meet Jake, Shannon and Jorge for the first time. If you've read the GROUPIE, FIERCE or FULLERTON FAMILY trilogies, you're already familiar with these characters. Here's your chance to get to know their story and see how the books in my universe all fit together.

LOVE PLUS ONE will be exclusive on Amazon for 90 days before I bring it back to Barnes and Noble, Apple, et al, so I can offer you discounts and freebies through Amazon. If you are a blogger who wants to review it, send your request to for a copy.

Here are the author notes on the book. Enjoy!

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.

Here's some music to set the mood, it factors into a key scene later on in the book. ;)

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

April Newsletter

First of all, a BIG thank you to everyone buying and reading the Fullerton Family Saga. Even months after the release, you keep these books either in or near the Top 100 for Sagas on Amazon, and I'm continually amazed by all the support this series is getting. You all seriously rock my world and I can't thank you enough.

You might have noticed that some older titles are no longer available for sale on either Amazon or Barnes and Noble, etc. I have taken down some of the earlier books to revise, repackage and resubmit. They will come back online slowly, through the Kindle Direct program first, so that I can offer more deals to the public with reduced prices and free reads through Amazon. The first such title to get this treatment is "Love Plus One," which will be available within the coming days, so keep a lookout. I'll announce either on my Facebook author page or Twitter (or both,) so make sure you follow me so you can be updated on all the latest news.

For those of you waiting on new books, progress is going along better than expected for The Leftover Club. I had pushed back the publication date until August, but things are going so well we actually might have a much earlier date. It's a book where I take some chances, go a little further than I have in previous books, get a little more graphic in the more liberally written sex scenes, so for those of you who ever wished I'd push that envelope, Roni Lawless and her gang are ready to give you a little bit more of what you want.

I'm also starting a new trilogy to be published in its entirety by the end of the year. The STORM series will center on bikers this time around. I came up with the story in 1989, when I was homeless and living out of my car in Los Angeles. The mood and tone will reflect this grittier reality, taking a break from the more glamorous tales I love to write. This book was largely influenced by my first husband, who was, in fact, a biker, and introduced me to my fair share of "guy" flicks back in the day. STORM is sort of my informal protest, and that's really the only clue you're going to get. This story will have a little bit of everything poured into the mix. I'm going to mix genres again with sex and romance amidst a contemporary thriller where the stakes are life and death as an unknown culprit picks off Hollywood's most vulnerable. This is the song that inspired the story, just a little taste to get you in the mood.

I can't WAIT for y'all to meet MJ. S'all I'm sayin.

For anyone who wants to meet me or get a book signed, I'm currently finalizing a five-stop tour starting this summer and going all the way to summer 2015. I should have more details by the May newsletter, but Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona and Michigan and Toronto? Get ready! I'm comin' for ya.

Finally I've figured out how to handle the conundrum of how much of a warning I need to put on the sales descriptions for my books. Since I write intense material for particular type of audience, I started putting disclaimers on books that stepped outside genre norms. The first, of course, was the Groupie Trilogy:

HEAs? Eh. Lots of sex frequent and fast? Eh. You buy my books, ya takes ya chances. I write stories, not formulas. The only guarantee you'll ever get from me is that if someone tells me I can't do something, it will make me want to do it. I like to twist expectations around. I find this fun. If you're a reader of mine you already know this, and most of you have told me time and again how much you like this approach and find it refreshing to the same ol' cookie-cutter template that repeats ad nauseam in a glut of other books.

I write brain candy escapism, but with enough realism to punch you in the gut. And that's the way it is going to stay, which, really, is warning enough. Some folks will like it. Some folks will hate it. That's how it works for everyone, and no specific warnings seem to minimize the damage.

Some folks won't read my books, and I'm OK with that. Some folks will be terrified to read my books. I'm even more OK with that. A writer recently told me that she wanted her readers scared as shit when they opened the first page of her novels.

I like that. This gives her liberty to take them anywhere and do anything. As a reader, I find that exciting. I'm more apt to read her books now because of it.

I ain't scared. Turn off the lights, start up the ride; let's DO this.

Since many readers are story purists like me, who want to go into a book without any spoilers of any kind, I've decided that a generic disclaimer works best for the kind of material I produce, rather than individual warnings on specific titles. I'm gradually adding the following warning for all my books written for an adult audience:


This author writes books that are written for a mature audience. Uncomfortable situations can and will be discussed unflinchingly and without apology, including those sociopolitical in nature. Many of these stories are written to be sex-positive, so sex is approached in a forthright manner, even in risque subjects such as triangles, cheating, polyamory and same-sex pairings. The frequency and intensity of these sex scenes depend SOLELY on the story being told, rather than formula or trend.

These stories are written to be angst-ridden. For sensitive readers, they may cause emotional triggers regarding abuse (sexual, domestic, emotional, religious,) disorders (eating and psychological,) and traumatic situations (up to and including death).

Most importantly, this writer does not heed rules that suggest "all books need a HEA." Books, in series especially, can involve cliffhangers.

If any of these are deal-breakers, caveat emptor.

(Basically, if you need a warning before you buy, don't buy. These are not the droids you were looking for.)


Currently watching:

American Idol
The Big Bang Theory
Once Upon a Time

Currently reading:

George Orwell
Jennifer Weiner
Ray Bradbury

Currently loving:

Workout for Nerds!

See you in May!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Paying Dues.

Recently I caught Authors Anonymous, a movie about a group of aspiring writers that falls apart when one of them finally breaks into the business.

It speaks to the randomness of luck and how it plays a part in a creative professional's career. You can work and toil for years perfecting your craft, doing all the right things, but still... lightning has to strike for something to really catch. And there is no rhyme or reason to it at all. It's a matter of being in the right place at the right time, or getting to the right person... to fight through all the gatekeepers until you find the one person who is going to open that door and let you through. Two equally talented individuals can start the race in exactly the same spot, but there is no guarantee that they'll get exactly the same breaks for exactly the same reasons.

That's why it's easy to get jealous or bitter sometimes just because of the randomness of it all. Even after you're published, there's no guarantee each book will sell. Some may collect dust for years, another may take off for reasons unknown. Stories have a life of their own and it's unpredictable from book to book which one is going to come with a little more pixie dust than the rest.

You just never know. And you never will. In order to make it in this business, you kind of have to be okay with that. According to a report in the Guardian, precious few writers will earn more than $1000k a year, which means for the rest of us, for the majority of the time, are struggling.

I'm an old-school writer, whose dream began way before the current digital revolution. Every single writer who made it through the traditional publishing gauntlet had their stories to tell about paying their dues, being rejected time after time, as they struggled to make their dream a reality. Best-selling writers will tell you about a wall, drawer or folder full of rejection letters, sometimes for books that went on to be their breakout novels. I'll never forget my first manuscript I sent that I got back splashed with red ink on every page with a "thanks but no thanks, try again later."

That shit was soul-crushing, I won't lie. Many creative professionals battle inner demons, and it was enough to drive more than one of us to the brink on more than one occasion. After that first critical rejection, I shelved my manuscript and gave up on my dream to be a best-selling writer because clearly it wasn't in the cards.

But a writer writes, even if there's no one to read it. That's what makes it possible to get up after getting knocked on your ass, and try again even though you were told "no."

The digital revolution has made this process a whole lot easier because you don't have to spend months or years or decades trying to break down the door. There are no more gatekeepers to keep you from the audience you seek. Within a few keystrokes, you can go from "aspiring" writer to "published author," though there are still some traditionalists who feel that you didn't earn that title.

They want you to pay your dues, much like we had to back in the olden days.

They'll think you're not worthy to read if you're self-published because there was no gatekeeper to ensure that your book was quality enough to take its place in the marketplace.

Again, this doesn't quite take into consideration the random stroke of luck I was talking about earlier. Just because a book is rejected by traditional agents or publishers doesn't mean it's not good. It's just that they don't feel they can make enough profit off of it to justify the investment.

In the e-book age, writers take this investment on themselves and as a result we get a variety of stories for every kind of reader. Sure that means we get Bigfoot porn, but hey. To each their own.

There were plenty of shitty books being published way before self-publishing became the norm. Like I said, it is really all random.

The problem with this new era is that you often pay your dues AFTER you hit publish, when you're a public figure with eyes on you to see how you rise or fall. Some unlucky authors get a target on their back, the object of cyber-bullying because they dared to make themselves known to the world. It's one thing to open an email saying, "Thanks but no thanks." To get your shit reamed on Amazon or Goodreads by people determined to take you down when you haven't spent years toughening your resolve through the traditional gauntlet leaves you unprepared to bounce back.

For some, it is a dream-killer. I've seen more than one writer fall.

I recently read a goodbye post from an author who had decided it was no longer worth the pain to make her dream a reality. It broke my heart to read it. Something she felt so passionately about, something she had invested in several books that - ironically - ARE selling, wasn't giving her back the return on her emotional investment. I have a few preachy opinions on this, mostly it goes back to "demand what you're worth," (i.e., if you're selling more than 100 books a day on more than one title, stop undercutting your prices at $0.99. Raise to $2.99 and get your full 70% commission so you CAN afford to continue) but in the end it doesn't matter. This poor writer has pulled the plug on her dream because the dues owed were more than she wanted to pay.

I've heard it said that if you can do anything other than a creative career, you should. It has to hurt you more to give up the dream than pursue it. This is not an easy journey, even though it's easier now to break into the business.

Maintaining the career, THAT is the trick. Because you never stop paying your dues. For 98% of us, there's no sitting back on a white sandy beach, our feet up, a tropical drink in our hand and living easy. It's hard work, especially for self-pubbed authors who pretty much have to wear every hat as a publisher/writer/agent.

Even with decades under my belt, I'm still paying dues. One book will sell pretty well, while another one won't see the light of day. A reader will get all excited about one title, but move on to the next big thing and forget all about me and my book. Some months I'll see more money than I've ever made in my life, the next I'm planning my budget around Ramen noodles and juggling which bill to pay and which to put off. It's feast or famine with every single book. According to the statistics, this is the reality for most writers. Despite the thousands of new indie writers who hit "Publish", nearly 80% make less than $1000 a year.

Some will tell you this is because indie books are crap, but more than 50% of traditionally published authors face the same reality. Most of us are not driving Audis, making movies, or creating lines around the block at book signings. If the criteria to call oneself an author depends on making one's living at the craft, then the vast majority of us are screwed.

In fact, I bet there are more people out there making more money selling books on how to sell books than actual fiction novels being sold. There's a scam for every desperate author out there who dreams of the day they will see their name on the New York Times Best Seller list. (Hint: If someone promises they can make your dream a reality if you buy their product, read their book, attend their seminar, especially if they've never read your work and don't have any inkling what you can do as a writer, generally they're full of shit. Like I said above, there is no rhyme or reason, no formula ... it's all the luck of the draw. Otherwise we'd ALL be getting 8-figure book deals.)

It's not easy. Bad reviews hurt. Your skin never gets thick enough to avoid the scars, no matter what the critics would have you believe. But these are the dues you pay to have the dream. Looking back, I'm glad for the olden days. They prepared me for the rejection, probably a little too well. Dipping my toe in the water, I was tempted to compromise myself in order to live the dream (i.e. making my living selling my work.) I gave away copies for free, I undercut my prices, I often was tempted to alter my stories to fit formulas that were more successful than others.

I've since given that up, because there's a couple of things you learn when you do pay your dues. You learn how much you want something... and you learn what you're willing to go through to get it.

Like Rocky says, you gotta be willing to take the hits.

The only real rule is this: Don't give up.

There are no shortage of miracles. You just have to stay in the game long enough to catch yours. The key is persistence, so sayeth the Master at 8:09 in the following clip:

Only you can decide what you're willing to do, what you are able to do. If Plan B is a viable option, then go for it. But if Plan B hurts, if you know it doesn't fit, then work the HELL out of plan A. Pay those dues until they pay off. It's worth it.

And so are you.

“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who had practiced one kick 10,000 times.” ― Bruce Lee