Posts tagged with: liz talley

Putting on Your Big Girl Pants

liztalley_princenotsocharming2500So this isn’t going to be one of those how-to posts some of the Rubies are so good at (I’m looking at you, Hope Ramsay :))

But this, rather, will be more confessional. See, I’m going to totally get naked here. Don’t worry. You won’t have to look at this 44 year old pudgy body, but I will open up about my career – the good, the bad, and the meh – for the last year.

Let’s begin with a brief bio: finaled in Golden Heart, sold first book three months later, sold two more five months later, embarked on career with Superromance, signed 8 book deal, realized publishing was changing, stuck in 8 book deal, signed book deal with Berkley, signed short story with Storyfront, sold two books to Montlake, turned down three book deal with Harlequin, subbed two more books with Montlake, got rejected, writing a new proposal…

And six years later, here I am. In that time, I’ve had some bright moments – a Rita final, RT Superromance of the Year, Amazon book of the month. But I’ve had some bad times too, namely, realizing I can’t control what happens. I CAN’T CONTROL WHAT HAPPENS.

What looks to be a sure thing, turns south quickly. And thus, this is where we are in publishing. So what, you may ask?

Indeed. So what.

Well, here’s what. All this time I thought if I wrote good books I believed in, if I made my deadlines, if I jumped through publisher hoops, and if I smiled a lot and was agreeable that I would reap the rewards of my efforts. That’s what we tell ourselves, right? That’s what we tell our children. That hard work pays off. Except sometimes it doesn’t.

It just doesn’t.

So two weeks ago, I made a HUGE decision to take the series my publisher felt all meh about and publish the remaining books myself. You may be like “So? Lots of authors do this.” But it feels bigger than that. Because this wasn’t about tossing something out there and seeing what happens. It’s about the foundation of what I believed being shaken, about me losing some faith in what I thought I knew and about me putting faith in myself. So for me, it was big. I quickly set about getting covers (that look awesome, btw), finding an editor (done) and creating my own publishing company – ARTalley Books, LLC. I applied for my EIN and uploaded the first offering Prince Not So Charming to Amazon. In two weeks’ time, I changed my destiny.

Here’s the whole point of this post – I resisted taking action for far too long. I didn’t believe in myself, and though I’m still quivering in my slippers, I now believe in myself, and something about this is freeing.

Yes, freeing.

I did it myself. Myself. Like a big girl. LOL.

And, though I’ve heard so many people rave about self-publishing (and just as many complaining about it), I never understood how empowering it is to make your own decisions. I chose the cover and I wrote the blurb. I selected my own meta data and figured stuff out. I’m still blown away by myself. Which is silly, but it’s true. I sort of want to huff on my fingers and polish them on my shirt. Did you see what I just did? Yeah, me. I started a business.

So what does this mean for you and what’s the point? Um, honey (and I say that in a non-offensive, non-patronizing way), if I can do it, you can too. And I’m not merely talking about self-publishing. I’m talking about writing that book you’re scared to write or starting that editing business you’ve been mulling over for months. Or maybe it’s something non-writing related – running a marathon, leaving that jerk, or quitting your day job. Deep down you know what is right for you. Stop doubting who you are, stop making excuses. Put on your big girl pants and get busy.

It’s beyond time.


Liz Talley is the new owner of ARTalley Books, LLC. She has published twenty-one stories the traditional way, but as of Nov. 17th, she’ll be doing some things her way. And that has her pumped! You can find out more about the newly bold Liz at http://www.liztalleybooks.comor find her on FB at

Oh, and if you want to support her new business and get a fun little novella in the process you can buy Prince Not So Charming here

HOT Reads Edition of Fan Girl Friday

Welcome to Friday! Can I get an AMEN?

And we have a long weekend. I can almost hear a gospel choir in the background. Yes, we get an extra day and that means more time for….READING! possibility - Beth

So what do we have on tap for you this edition? Well, a few sales from two Rubies and a couple of recommendations plus a new release. You ready to check these out and then give us your recommended Labor Day weekend reads?

First the sales…let’s check out the deals:

Ruby Sister Laurie Kellogg has The Parent Pact FREE. A Little Bit of Deja Vu will be only $1.99 and Baby, I’m Back! will be only 99 cents. All only at Amazon. Here’s the page where you can score these deals

And from yours truly (Liz Talley), the first book in my new Morning Glory series Charmingly Yours is on sale for $1.99! I’m a little too excited about having a book on sale because as a trad pubbed author I don’t get to run sales. It’s the perfect light escapist read that’s heavy on romance with a tinge of Women’s Fiction. And the cover is really cute if I do say so myself. Here’s the link where you can score this one:

Oh, and Ruby Skye Jordan has a fabulous promotion and giveaway going this Labor Day weekend. Plenty of books on sale and a change to win books. There will be 24 WINNERS with tons of great authors (72 of them!) participating. You can ENTER HERE:


From Tamara Hogan:

Last week, I read former MTV VJ Dave Holmes’s new memoir, “Party of One: A Memoir in 21 Songs.” A “hilarious memoir of a perpetual outsider fumbling towards self-acceptance, with the music of the ‘80s, ‘90s, and today as his soundtrack,” Holmes, now Editor-At-Large at Esquire magazine, brings serious writing chops and massive pop culture cred to this bittersweet – and did I say hilarious? – coming of age story.

 Here’s a shortened link:

From Elizabeth Langston

I recommend Noelle Adams for adult contemporary romance. A Negotiated Marriage and Listless are two of my favorites. LISTED will make you cry. A Negotiated Marriage is a modern marriage of convenience. I also like her Willow Park series. It’s set in a small mountain town in NC. Attending the same church is the the common thread throughout the series–but that is one happy congregation, because these books are sweet and steamy (is that even possible?)


And finally a NEW RELEASE from Ruby Julia Day (Yes, a pen name…we have a few of those but no worries, they’re still Rubies!)

  I have a new book releasing on Tuesday, Sept 6.  If you want to add it tomorrow, it is available for pre-order.  If you want to wait until next week, that’s fine too.  The book is THE POSSIBILITY OF SOMEWHERE.  My first YA contemporary romance. 

Here’s a link to my books page: that might be easier than including a gazillion buylinks.




HOT READS Edition of Fan Girl Friday

Well, it’s Friday again. How did that happen? Rolls around quite regularly, doesn’t it? And since that means the weekend is here, we’ve got some recommendations for you for some RUBY RED HOT READS!

First Elizabeth Langston has a recommendation our first FROM THE TBR STACK:it ends with us

I’ve always been fascinated by Thomas Jefferson. So smart, eloquent, and flawed.  When I saw America’s First Daughter on sale recently, I grabbed it.  I’m loving it; the research and detail is amazing.

America’s First Daughter: A Novel by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie

Autumn Jordan’s rec sounds pretty but may be a bit twisted:)

The Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchinson

If you want to read an emotional psychological thriller where every characters’ personality is revealed like an onion being peeled, then the The Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchison might be for you. It might not be for you if you’re faint of heart. I gave this book a 4.75 rating. 

LINK to The Buterfly Garden

 And let me add my rec for you. I’m in the middle of Colleen Hoover’s It Ends with Us and I’m really enjoying it. This is the first time I’ve read this author, and I particularly like the secondary thread of the journals. They’re sweet, funny and touching. It just came out at the beginning of this month and it’s a pretty hot read. If you’re looking for a nice escapist book, it’s perfect for you. Here’s the link:


Ruby Sis Addison Fox has a sweet new cover reveal over on Heroes and Heartbreakers. Go check it out:

AT LAST is the first in my new contemporary series about a trio of adopted brothers in Brooklyn. Here’s the story overview and the cover, as well as a link to the cover reveal on Heroes and Heartbreakers.

And the SIZZLING SALE for this week comes from Ruby Autumn Jordon:

For the first time ever, Seized By Darkness by Autumn Jordon is on sale for $.99.  Seized By Darkness was Voted a Kindle Book Reviews Best Indie Romance finalist. In this romantic suspense, Autumn has a different take on the topic of human trafficking and the story is about the young girl who was taken, escaped years later and then works with the U.S. Marshals to taken down the New Jersey based ring. Check it out here:  Hurry the sale ends soon. Then follow up the experience with Obsessed By Darkness.  


So now we’re looking for your recommendations. Any new releases caught your fancy? Or how about an old favorite your digging out of your own towering TBR stack? Know of any incredible reads on sale? We’d love to know about them!


What you see….what they see….

mosiac chairOnce upon a time in a galaxy far, far away I was a kindergarten room mom.



And as the room mother, when the annual silent auction came around, I was in charge of gathering up donations. Oh, and making a class art project to sell at the auction. Yeah, making an art object with the children in the class. Making an art object with children in the class that was something mosaic. MOSIAC!

Feel free to feel horrified.

I was.

So as I pondered what in God’s creation I could actually do for the class mosaic project, my glance happened upon an iron chair beside the pool that had come with my house (the owner had left it). It had lovely form and if I spray painted it and ripped the ruined cowhide upholstery from the seat, I could paint it and made a new seat…a new mosaic seat. It was brilliant. Truly brilliant. So I took myself off to the local craft store, bought outdoor spray paint in a lovely ivory and a mosaic kit. After lots of cursing and breaking of stones and glass, I hauled it all down to the kiddo’s classroom and the class “helped” me glue on the stones and glass. The kids loved placing the little bright bits of color. It was a true class effort. Sorta. After the making of the mosaic was complete, I sprayed the chair, set the grout and VIOLA! Precious mosaic class art piece for the auction. And, y’all, it was so pretty. I seriously wanted it for myself, but as instructed, I hauled the now heavy chair down to the auction and proudly placed it in the spot for our class.

Two nights later, dressed in my best business casual, swilling from a goblet of wine, I prepared myself for the comments that would come my way. “Oh, my gosh, I LOVE the chair! How did you do it?” or maybe “You have the best auction item. It’s going to fetch a small fortune!” I mean how could it miss? It was adorable and the kids had made it and it was creative and out of the box and….

…no one bid on it.


My precious was a clunker.

I was slightly crushed and somewhat insulted. How could no one bid on my cute chair? Well, here’s the point of this whole post (I know you were wondering) – the chair had to fit a certain person. Not everyone goes to an auction looking for a garden chair for their sunroom, right? A cute handprint painting with little silver beads glued on can go on a desk or a wall.  A wind chime made with mosaic tile can clink outside on any porch (and grandmothers LOVE wind chimes). But a chair? Has to have a spot. And match. Not an easy sale. In my creative lala land, I thought I had something different and thus I assumed it would be well-received. And I was wrong.

And, so we can draw the same parallel with our writing. We often complain that editors and publishing houses (and readers) want something different but not too different. How many times have we heard this? A dozen? Ten dozen? I’m pretty sure all my rejections letters arriving in SASEs (remember those?) said something pretty much like that. And every editor on every panel I ever attended wanted something fresh, not overdone, original….but then said it was too hard to market, they didn’t know how to shelve it, and could I add a secret baby? The book of your heart may stay the book of your heart (fresh and original though it is) if you can’t market it. Which means you have to know the market, you have to know what’s selling, you have to know your buyer, er, reader, and you have to think like a business woman and not a creative genius stuck in lala land wrapped up in the false knowledge your precious is going to sell, sell, sell and break the record for best auction item in the history of class auction items.

That does not mean you won’t find your reader….after all, my cute little chair found a home with the school secretary. She was the only bidder and got a steal of a deal for $30. But she loved that chair. Told me several times over the years how cute it looked in her sunroom next to her houseplants. But I learned my lesson. I had to know my market if I wanted to have my art project go for $350.00 (what the other class made with their cheap wall hanger….seriously!). It doesn’t matter how cool your project is. If there isn’t a market, you’ll be left to wonder why someone didn’t recognize your genius.

Hey, you really do learn all you need to know in kindergarten!

By the way, I have a new precious out. Just released yesterday. It’s my first single title with a new publisher and I’m hoping like mad it’s not a mosaic chair of a book, but rather a pretty little sparkly gem that will look good on everyone’s bookshelf. Here’s the link so you can check it out on Amazon. You’re feeling pretty sorry for me and my chair right now. Hey, I know how to soften a buyer up. LOL.


A Dark Horse is Born

Over the past few months I’ve been swamped. Spring is always busy with baseball, end of school activities and, since I try to write 2-3 books a year, a perpetual deadline. So, yeah, busy. Which means I haven’t blogged here in a while. It’s good to be back among my peeps.

Since I’ve been MIA, I thought I would share a day from my journal several months ago. It was a really good day, a click-my-ruby-slippers-together kind of day. We’ll skip the days with headaches, dirty socks and dismal book sales for now.

March 26, 2015, aka Golden Heart/Rita announcement day

7:00 am – Today is the day calls go out BUT I’m going to pretend I don’t know and act accordingly. Okay, fine. I have to promote the Ruby announcement party. That means I can’t pretend to not know. I’ll just pretend not to care. RITA schmeeta. Who cares? Doesn’t really mean anything. Besides I’m writing today. I have a deadline. Focus, sister. Focus.

9:30 am – Ah, Starbucks! My true friend with your muffins and much needed caffeine. Let’s get the laptop open. And maybe sneak a look at phone and see who has finaled.

10:00 – No writing done. Okay, one sentence done. Sinking realization I’ve entered wrong category. Let me hop on email loop to Rubies and share my idiocy (cause misery loves company). There. Feel better (but not really) but better. Try to focus on wip.

10:15 – chat with fellow writer about Chapter business. Don’t mention RITAS. Don’t think about the fact the categories are filling up. RITAS don’t matter anyway. Right? Right.

11:05 – Screw it. Check Twitter. See lots of congrats. Feel happy for friends. Sad for self. Consider saying to hell with it and buying a cake pop.

11:12 – see I have a message on Twitter. Wait. Abigail Sharpe wants me to check my messages. Why? Wait. What? Is this a sick joke? She better not be asking me something about the Golden Network. Is she in the Golden Network? I can’t remember. But, this could mean something.

11:13 – Send Abigail a message that I’m not at home. Send a question mark. Then send cellphone number just in case.

11:14 – pretend to write. Look at  friend writing across the table and try not to vomit.

11:20 – phone rings. Unknown number from Florida. Pick it up. Answer calmly with hello.

11:20:20 – break down crying when she says she’s calling on behalf of RWA. Scare writing friend. Alyssa Day says magic words  – “Is this Liz Talley? I have really good news.”

11:21 – look at writer friend who looks worried. Her eyes get big with unasked question. I nod and say something into phone that is gibberish.

11:21:20 – hang up and shake like leaf.

11:24 – wipe eyes and call husband’s office. He’s with a patient. Damn it. Leave message. Get on Ruby site and drop the bomb that I finaled in the RITA! The MFing RITAs that seconds ago meant NOTHING!

11:25 – call Mom (should have called her first!) Explain what the Rita is. Assure her it’s a big moment.

11:26 – call agent, switch over to tell husband, switch back to agent. Shut computer down. Who can write a sex scene at a moment like this?

11:35 – go to lunch. Eat grilled chicken and veggies because now I have to buy a dress and not resemble a baby hippo in it.

Rest of day – accept congratulations, try to get a grip on reality, and wash baseball uniforms. Oh, and answer perpetual question of “what is there to eat around here?”

So there’s a glimpse into a helluva day…a most wonderful day. Other good days came as a result of this day, things like getting Godiva chocolates and flowers, receiving invites to fun things like receptions, and getting that pretty little pin to wear at conference. I’m sure by now you’re thinking,  “Okay, sister, we get it. You’re a finalist. Whoop-dee-do.” And I understand.  Because what does it really mean? A pin, a moniker behind a name?  Why bother sharing this day with you?

Because often I’ve thought about quitting. Just letting my writing career slip from my fingers much the way my child’s hand slipped from my grasp at the playground. At some point it just all pulls away and you’re left standing, wondering if that’s all there was to it. You sit day after day on the sidelines, sending congrats to other people, watching them talk about the calls they got, the big news, the deals, the numbers, the accolades. And you feel like you suck. You fondly recall a moment when you were one of them. When you believed in yourself.  That’s how I’ve felt for the past two years. Very much like a nobody sitting on a park bench waiting for someone to remember she existed.

I don’t share the wonder of this day to gloat or to cheerfully say “looky here what I did.” No, I share it because I am you. I’m every writer who wants to quit and do something better with her time. I’m the writer who felt alone, who wondered why everyone else was doing better than she was. I’m the writer who doubted everything she did. Who didn’t know if she should write more, promote more…get another job and forget about writing.

And I’m the writer that on that day not only felt joy, but sincere, SINCERE relief that I might have some small glimmer of goodness still in myself somewhere.

In essence I’m every writer out there.

So there. The reason why I needed to share this. And I’m sure you’re wondering about why I called this a dark horse. It’s because if I had an extra $100 I wouldn’t bet on myself. No. Seriously. I’m so dark a horse for this award, you might as well call me Midnight, Ebony, Obsidian and every other word you’ve used to describe your hero’s black eyes. But that’s okay, cause I made it to the track this time. I’m happy to be on the fricking track.

So I don’t even have a question to ask. Maybe you can think of something in your own life this pretend journal entry (like I keep a journal…I can barely find my list to the grocery store) can relate to. Do you feel like you’re on the sidelines? Are you waiting on something good to happen in your writing life?




Read a Romance Month


(I’m hi-jacking this post….but Darynda can keep her cute pic up there because she’s the blogger on RARM TODAY – go check out her post!)

So this is Liz Talley and just in case you didn’t know, August is the month of romance! SO this is OUR month, people. It’s our chance to stuff the good wonderfulness of romance books down the throats of all those prigs who scoff and turn their uppity noses to the sky at us and our inferior product. Oh, you didn’t know? Romance is trashy.

Which is why it totally fits me. In fact I may wear white after Labor Day this year. And I know how to tease my hair Texas-sized. Oh, and I’ve been known to mix silver and gold jewelry and I do love a good Moonpie. Yep, I fit right into trashy…except we all KNOW that romance writing is some of the most beautiful, clever, satisfactory writing out there…and we all love it.

Yes, this is our month.

Read a Romance Month was started by Bobbi Dumas RARM pic

The first Read-A-Romance Month was launched in August 2013 by Bobbi Dumas, an unabashed romance fan and advocate. As a freelance writer who specializes in romance and women’s fiction, Bobbi has been privileged to write about the books, writers and other great aspects of the publishing industry, especially as they affect and impact women. She primarily writes reviews and features for NPR and Kirkus, the book media site where she also pens a popular romance blog.

This month over on her website ( you can find 93 award-winning authors blogging and giving away fabulous prizes to help celebrate romance books. Isn’t that fun?

So I decided to ask a few Rubies why they love romance books so much and here are their answers:

Gwynlyn  MacKenzie

Why?  Because sometimes reality sucks.  Between the covers of a romance, the ending is always worth the struggle to reach it, and that translates so well to real life, infusing optimism into the darkest days, kindling the belief there will be light at the end of the tunnel.  Love is the most powerful force on earth.  Romance celebrates it, illuminates it, and shouts to the world that love is now, as it has always been, the answer.

 Anne Marie Becker

 For the escape and for the moment of triumph. When life around me feels crazy, which is most days, escaping into a character’s world for a few minutes is precious relief. And knowing they will overcome all obstacles to achieve the greatest reward is reassuring in a world where there are no guarantees.

 Heather McCollum

 For the escape and for the moment of triumph. When life around me feels crazy, which is most days, escaping into a character’s world for a few minutes is precious relief. And knowing they will overcome all obstacles to achieve the greatest reward is reassuring in a world where there are no guarantees.

Jennifer Bray-Weber

 To live vicariously in a time and place unlike my own. To relive the first blush of love. To sigh in satisfaction of a HEA. Yeah…that’s why.

Tamara Hogan

 I love reading romance because no matter what the era or setting, or how many dire complications might arise, I know the characters will find their way to each other by the end of the story.

 Jeannie Lin

 My first romance novel was handed to me in middle school by my BFF. “You’ve got to read this,” she said. “So we can talk about it after.” That’s how we’d first become friends. In elementary school, we happened to check out the same books at the school library and ended up chatting about them afterwards. This is why I read romance books to this day — to engage in rich and emotional conversation over books. And make new friends.

 June Love

 I read romance because of the roller coaster of emotions. I know the guy will get his girl. I know the woman will get her man. But, it’s their journey that keeps me turning the page. No matter how bad things get between them, love will win. And, that happily ever after is why I keep reading romance.

Elizabeth Langston

 I read romances because they remind me, over and over, of a universal truth. Love is worth fighting for. It takes work. It doesn’t always fall into place at first but we can keep trying and we’ll find it. Love is the most precious thing in my life and yet it’s free.

 Vivi Andrews

I read romance novels because I crave resolution.  In a romance, the questions get answered, everyone works through their issues, the world gets saved, and love conquers all.  And the girl always, always gets her guy.  Justice and symmetry and endings that make you sigh?  Yes, please.

 Diana Layne

Since HEA’s are not guaranteed in real life, I read for escapism, knowing I’ll get my happily-ever-after.

 Elisa Beatty

I read romance because it lets me re-live all the emotions of falling in love: the crazy attraction, the uncertainty, the frustration and fear, the giddiness, the tears, the bliss, the intensity of passion. I don’t want quite that much drama in my real life (I’ve been married almost 20 years, and am very glad to be past the thrill-ride stage), but it’s so much fun to read about it. 

Elizabeth Essex

I read romance novels because the HEROINE ALWAYS WINS. Always. I want the heroine to win the way a plant wants water. Romance books lift me up. They are  empowering, inspiring and just ripping good yarns!

Jackie Floyd

 I read romances for the HOPE they give. The hope that everything will work out and that Happily Ever After is a possibility for everyone.

 Anne Barton

Romances let us experience  that scary, wonderful, crazy feeling of falling in love over and over again. We count on them to make us a little breathless and leave us happy. Who wouldn’t want that in a book?

Laurie Kellogg

 I read romances for the endorphin high I get from the happy ending.  It’s the same as feeling you get from eating chocolate. I’m an HEA addict.

Addison Fox

I read romance because it makes me happy. A genre totally devoted to the idea that love matters. ::sigh:: It doesn’t get much better than that!

Don’t you love those answers? And I bet you’re thinking of exactly why you love having romance novels in your life. And I want you to share with us why you pick up a romance novel as opposed to something else. We know you love all books, but why is romance one of your favorites? Leave a comment and you’ll be entered to win my two releases this month – The Sweetest September and the re-release of A Little Texas PLUS a $15.00 Starbucks giftcard.

If you want to see why I read romance, you can go to



Ruby Release: The Sweetest September by Liz Talley

Amy_SweetWelcome, friends, to the party I’m throwing for myself. Presumptuous of me, huh?

But, oh well, today is a great day to celebrate, Friday and all that, so I figured why not throw a release party and invite all of you?

The Sweetest September is my 13th book, and I’m banking on it being lucky ’cause I’m positive that way. And not only am I celebrating another book released into the wild, but I’m celebrating a new me. Yeah. A new Liz Talley.

Once upon a time….a long time ago (aka, when the fab Liz Bemis set up a website design and promotions business) I put myself out there as Liz Talley, Romance Through the Seasons. Liz and I thought long and hard about what I wrote and she came up with a really cool idea based off some images I gave her. She’d asked me to think about my writing and what I wanted to represent to potential readers. I immediately hit upon the seasons idea because at that point, I liked to chose a different season in which to set my books. And the image that I finally settled on was a tree. I liked the imagery – the growth, renewal, and, well, trees are pretty awesome. So she came up with a website in which there was a tree and it changed with the season. It was very cool. Really.

And then I got a few more books under my belt, and Liz said, “Maybe we need to freshen your look” and so we did. She created an fantastic set of seasons that changed accordingly.

And it was good.

But this spring, I attended RT in New Orleans where I received the Reviewers Choice Award for Best Superromance (humor my bragging – I’ve never won anything before). At the book signing I sat next to the energetic, sexy Damon Suede (I say sexy because I don’t have a chance with him…and he’s totally cute).  Anyway, over the course of me taking pictures of him with his fans and assisting him with marking his books with stickers, we talked about the business. At one point, he leaned over and said, “I love your bookmarks.” To which I said, “Oh, thanks.” And then he said something quite transforming -“But they don’t really tell me much about who you are as an author.” Well, I sort sat back (not physically…but in my mind, I totally fell back, mouth open.) I took a deep breath and asked, “Huh?” And because Damon is a kind person, he broke it to me quite gently that I needed a brand that said something about my writing and what I brought to the reader, and while bucolic scenery is nice, it says nothing. I left the book signing hot (it was a bazillion degrees in there), flustered (those lines!) and confused about who I was.

The next day while lunching with my fabulous Rubies, I brought this up and guess what? They AGREED with Damon.

Set me on my ear, I tell ya.

But with my faithful sisters’ aid, I began to really think about what kind of books I write….and what I wanted the reader to expect when he/she first made contact with me.

So I took suggestions – magnolia, Southern, sassy, modern, small town, mint julep, porch swings, cotton fields, plantation houses – and I contacted Wizard Liz Bemis (Yeah, that’s her moniker around here – magic behind the curtain). And she started tossing those suggestions into her vat of creativity. And she came up with this:

I think it’s the perfect combination of modern and country. It’s bright, sassy, slightly nostalgic and fresh. It’s what I hope people associate with my stories. And since I’m no longer limiting myself to romance, it still fits my overall writing tone and style.

So as I launch this new book, the first in a series set in fictional Magnolia Bend, I happy to say I feel renewed, energetic and optimistic about who I am. Which sounds weird, but y’all know what I mean. We all need a little spit and polish at times, a little fresh coat of paint. Feels good. Gives us a little oomph. So if you haven’t thought about branding and who you are as an author. If you haven’t looked critically at what you’re portraying through your website and promotional items, maybe it’s time you do.

It worked for me….and I’m really hoping I get to sit next to Damon again sometime. Maybe whatever he comes up with next time will land me on a list or lead to a six figure deal. He’s genius…which is why his branding is a light bulb.

So tell me today who you are as an author? Have you every changed your vision?

Oh, and since this is a party of sorts, we need a gift. And cake. Man, I wish I could share some cake with you. But I can give away a present. How about a lucky commenter (Rubies included) wins a $10.00 Amazon card and a copy of any of my books? Oh, and here’s the link to the book on Amazon in case you want to take a peek,. Happy Friday, friends!



It’s Hot in Here: Researching Fire Fighters

Minden fireman Tony Hall demonstrates how to wear the equipment

Minden fireman Tony Hall demonstrates how to wear the equipment

Honestly, I can’t believe it’s July already…and I can’t believe I’m facing the start of another book. My fifteenth Superromance. Yeah. Crazy.

So I pretty much thought by this point, I’d run out of ideas. It’s been a constant worry – what if the story ideas just stop? But, like most of you, something triggers an idea and BAM! I’m off and running with a new story. So when this particular one came to me, I knew where I would start, I knew what kind of heroine I was dealing with, and because my hero Jake is in other books, I knew the charming, devil-may-care firefighter hid dark secrets and a tragic past. What I didn’t know was anything about being a firefighter.

Kinda a big problem.

You see, both Eva and Jake are firefighters which means much of the action will take place on scene of fires and at the fire house. Much of their conversation will revolve around their fellow firefighters. Heck, they’ll be sharing a shower in the firehouse. So I sorta had to know what being a firefighter was all about.

Clueless, I took to Facebook to ask for some recommendations. And as you suspect, I got lots of help. Seems everyone knows a firefighter. Cha-ching!

So that got me to thinking about how writers do research about things they have no clue about. So, I’m here to share my experience in working with experts because I’m fresh off of being a good researcher after my field trip to a local fire station yesterday.

First, think about what you will need to know. Sometimes it’s hard to gauge just the amount of information you’ll need. Do you need to have the ear of an expert in the field? Or is it something you can easily look up on the internet? In other words, how integral is the research? There have been books where I needed a small fact which was readily available with the click of a mouse. For example, when I wrote chef Rayne Rose in A Taste of Texas, I scanned an article on the latest trend in culinary arts, chose one and after a few clicks found a few recipes that sounded perfect for her. At that point I knew could toss in dialogue about making a reduction or chopping cilantro she’d grown in the herb garden and it would read as authentic without my having to contact a chef and grill him or her (punny, huh?)  But this wasn’t the case when I wrote a college football coach. In Under the Autumn Sky, the plot centered around recruiting violations and watching Friday Night Lights, while helpful in a lot of ways, wasn’t going to teach me about recruiting schedules, NCAA sanctions or scouting reports. I needed someone who could tell me exactly what recruiting highly rated high school players was all about.  So assessing how important your research is to the plot is the first thing you need to do.

Next, determine the best expert source. This can be hard, too. In the case of my current wip, I knew I needed to talk to a firefighter. But not just any firefighter. I needed one from a small town roughly the size of my fictional Magnolia Bend and I needed one who had been on the job for at least a decade. Finding this fireman wasn’t hard to do. I grew up next door to him. But when I wrote about sugarcane farming in The Sweetest September, I didn’t have that luxury. I live in North Louisiana. We don’t grow sugarcane here which meant I had to find an expert willing to talk to me about harvest, crop rotation, pesticides who didn’t live right around the corner. Or when I wanted to learn about whooping cranes. Not so easy since their habitat is not my area. So often you will have to do some digging to find the best source and expert. Luckily, we live in a time of social media, so a nicely-worded plea will often reveal a friend who knows an uncle or a cousin who works with someone who knows exactly what you need to know. There are days I truly bless the wonder of FB and Twitter (and Google!) in finding what I need.

Next, make contact with the expert. A polite, professional email usually does the trick in establishing first contact with an expert. And strangely enough, people are willing to help in most cases. Why? People love to talk about what they do. Truly. Well, pretty much. I’ve met with detectives, football coaches (this is the research trip my husband actually went on!), doctors, attorneys, bankers and now a fireman. I’ve had phone interviews with the head of the sugarcane league, a Mardi Gras float builder, and a surgeon. I’ve exchanged emails with wildlife biologists, police officers and secret service. It amazes me how considerate and enthusiastic people can be about meeting with a writer.

Next, be prepared. Go into the interview with prepared questions. Bring a notepad to jot down incidental notes, and take your camera to capture pictures. Have your business card ready and behave in a professional manner. If the expert relays that he or she only has a certain amount of time, respect that time, and always ask for permission for any sensitive information. Leave your contact information and ask for further contact information from the expert…or other experts who might aid you. If you are doing the interview via telephone or email, make sure the expert is agreeable to further follow up questions.

Finally, thank the expert. You can do this in a variety of ways. I brought cookies (cause what firefighter doesn’t want a plate of cookies to snack on during the domino game on their shift?) But a lovely thank you note works well, too. And if you want to mention on your dedication page the help you received from your expert, that’s a really lasting way to show your appreciation for the help you had on the research.

So there you have it. It’s a bit common-sense, but it’s always good to  be reminded. Haphazard research can lead to frustration during edits…or really nasty reader letters. You can have a great plot, great characters, a high concept and strong marketability, but if your research is dodgy, you’ll have regrets. So the next time you’re starting a new book, take the time to do proper research…and don’t be afraid to tap an expert on the shoulder and ask for help.

Oh, and so you know, my upcoming August book The Sweetest September includes research from experts in banking, law and sugarcane farming, and my November anthology Cowboys for Christmas includes research on women’s volleyball and being a large animal vet. I’m pretty sure I can deliver a breech foal now. So tell me what is the most interesting research you’ve done? What experts have you contacted or met with? I’d love to know.


It’s Easy to Give Advice

So the other day after killing myself in Zumba class, I headed toward the exit of my gym. To the left of me is an area where several older people gather to have coffee and donuts (I know!) after they work out. It’s a busy area and they never fail to make me smile. Well, this particular day as I ditched my empty water bottle, I heard several older men complaining about the way other people let their kids mooch off them. It was the whole virtuous “Teach a man to fish” conversation and they were quite spirited about it.

And all I could think was “Yeah, but you’re not living it. You’re sitting here, popping donuts, spouting off about how you would NEVER let your kid mooch off you. Easier said than done.”

I left and as I walked to the car, my mind flipped to how much advice we get as parents – don’t let them have a bottle past a year old, no passies past age 2, start them on vegetables first….yada, yada, yada. And it follows a parent all the way until….well, until a parent is hobbling around the track and wolfing donuts at 77. Everyone seems to know best.


Advice. Sigh. It’s everywhere in the writing world, too. From the time you join an RWA chapter or some other writing group, well-intentioned people are lined up to give you gentle (or sometimes bone-jarring) advice on what you should do. Whether it’s “stop using so many ellipses” (yeah, I know I use a lot of ’em) to where you should advertise your book for sale, someone somewhere is going to make you feel like you’re doing it all wrong. And you will believe them, the same way I believe all those experts in parenting magazines when they said to give a child choices to give him a sense of independence (Thank you Parents magazine for EVERY SINGLE fight I have with my youngest over what he wears each day) or those well-meaning moms who made me feel like I was the worst mom in the world for not packing organic lunches, monogramming their shortalls, and skipping the occasional room mom party. We all get sucked into believing other people know what is best for our story, the submission process, and promotions.

And that’s not to say we all don’t need some advice sometimes. Because sometimes good advice does make the difference to a plot or our sales. I’m not saying don’t listen to others, but instead I’m asking you to always listen to yourself. You usually know what is needed for the story. Know why? Cause it’s your story. Yours. And there is some satisfaction in knowing that you control that aspect of your writing life. You are the creator of your story. Bottom line.

This is something I must keep in mind with my new critique group. In my local RWA chapter, I felt there was a need for some mentoring and critiquing because so many of our members were new writers. When I first joined NOLA STARS, I had some very generous ladies who met with me once a week to read my work and show me how to be a better writer. Yes, I was easily influenced because I wanted to get better and please these more experienced writers, but at the same time, I was very certain to hold on to my vision. Some writers aren’t good at digging in their heels and that’s something I encourage my new critique group to do – hold on to your story.

So today, dear friends, I’m reminding you that advice abounds everywhere, but it’s easy to give advice when you are sitting in a different chair (eating donuts). Every author is different, every situation is different. Hold on to your story. It’s yours. It’s you. And it can’t be anybody else’s.

So today let’s talk about advice – have you ever received any from someone who just didn’t get it? Have you received advice that’s made a big difference in your career?

What I Really Want to Say on Twitter

iHis Forever Girls buy my book.

Truly. I’ve tried being witty. I’ve tried joining conversations. I’ve tried book blurb tours, giveaways, blogging six ways to Sunday, and going to reader conferences. I’ve bought book marks, reader trading cards, given away books, giftcards, and a kidney (okay, not an actual kidney but lots of heart-shaped things). I’ve advertised, helped host Facebook parties, given away raffle baskets and done everything else but tap dance to sell books (and I’m willing to do that if I can find some tap shoes to fit me). But the results are always the same. My book sales are…oh, I can’t even say it….average.

So what I really want to say is JUST BUY MY BOOK ALREADY!

But that would be crass. That would turn people off and then my name would be blacklisted as “one of those authors.” You know the ones – they constantly tweet their reviews and links. Their signature line is eight miles long (with links!) and they slyly slip things in about their books in other people’s posts. Basically they do everything they can but shove the book in your face and beg you to buy it.

Sad thing is, I understand that desperation because sometimes I want to say the hell with it and just post “You people need to buy my book because I want to go to another conference this summer and need some money.” Too honest? Yeah, I thought so.

And there are times I want to tell people to NOT buy my book. Like reverse psychology will work the same way it did when my kids were six years old and I’d say things like “Don’t you dare put this toilet seat down” or “I bet you can’t run get the mail faster than I can.” By the way, those challenges no longer work on 14 year olds. They give you that blank stare than could kill pretty flowers and baby’s smiles. I figure if I say “Don’t buy this book. Nothing to see here, folks” maybe readers might get interested enough to check it out for themselves. But I know that won’t work any better than chasing people with nail files and bookmarks.

I feel like I’ve tried everything I can think of to sell my books (outside of setting up outside the Barnes and Noble, yelling “Come try a real book, whydontcha?” which could possibly get me arrested).

So what should I do?

I already know what you gals are going to say – shut up and write another book.

And that’s pretty good advice. You see, there is much about the world I cannot control (which drives Virgos like me nuts!). I can’t control what readers think, I can’t control how much promo Harlequin will give me, I can’t control distribution, shelf space or foreign sales. I can’t control whether someone will pick my book to review, how many people like me on Facebook or how many people enter my raffle copter. I can’t even control my damn covers. BUT what I can control is my writing. I can control my characters (or try to), I can control my reading a good craft book (rather than watching The Bachelor) and I can control the amount of time I spend with my butt in the chair and hands on the keyboard. That’s it.

Can’t make people buy my book, even if I want to shout on Twitter, Facebook, blogs 1,2,and 3 and from the parking lot of the Barnes and Noble BUY MY DAMN BOOK!

Because I don’t control the universe. Which is sad because if I did we’d all be a size four with perky boobs, gorgeous hair and Matthew McCognaughy, Brad Pitt and Henry Cavill (take your pick) giving us a foot rub…and we’d all be reading my newest book. See? Now you wish I were in charge 🙂

So here’s the premise of this whole post – don’t try to control the world. Just control what you can do (in the comfort of your own home…or Starbucks). Focus on your writing. Make it stronger. Make it tighter. Take it to the next level. Be a good friend to other writers. Don’t steal their thunder. Don’t whine (I don’t take my own advice sometimes). Don’t put the writing off. Control what you can control – which is how you put your story on the page.

That’s it. That’s all I got. (and in case you didn’t get it, this was advice to myself, too)

FYI, I do have a RUBY RELEASE this month and I’m adding the blurb and cover in case you’re interested in doing my will. When I snap my fingers you will go to Amazon and buy the book. 1…2….3… (okay, okay, I didn’t hypnotize you. Add that to the things you shouldn’t do to readers)

What are some promo Do’s and Don’ts that drive you nuts?

His Forever Girl

This forever is off to a rocky start!

Meeting Tess Ullo is definitely a sign life’s improving for Graham Naquin. After their spectacular night together, he knows there’s a lot more to explore between them! Good thing he’s aced the interview that will bring him home to New Orleans, his young daughter and Tess.

Too bad things don’t go the way Graham hoped. That job he lands running a float-building company? Tess thought it was hers so she quits to work for the competition. As they face off in business, he admires her talent…and keeps thinking she’s the one for him. Now he has to persuade her!


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