As I’m ringing in another, hoping there are still plenty of “firsts” ahead of me, I thought I’d share with you some of the first lines in my books. Every author knows that we have one line, one paragraph and if we’re lucky–one page to grab you, the reader and keep you turning pages. I can spend days tweaking and reworking the beginning of my stories. When you look at them individually what do you think? Does the line make you want to keep reading or not so much?
1. Jahara Khateri’s life was over. As she stared out the windows of the crowded helo-train, she knew nothing could change the course of her life. She felt the hollow reality as obvious as the barren expanse of the desert stretching between her and the horizon.
2. Nicholas Gradin III splashed three more finger of thirty-year-old scotch into the crystal tumbler sitting on the antique desk, not bothering to add ice. He didn’t need some watered-down version of liquid courage. At this moment, he needed straight up, balls-to-the-walls confidence that everything would work out in his favor.
3. Margaret Callaghan hid her heartache behind dark sunglasses and the Starbuck’s double-double mocha latte she carried like a shield. The steaming coffee hadn’t helped dislodge the hot coal of despair burning her throat or soothe the quiver of her bottom lip. Mercifully, the front receptionist’s desk of Summit Rehabilitation and Wellness Clinic was empty at this hour of the morning, giving her hope that she just might be able to reach her office and pull herself together before anyone could question her misery.
4. “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust…”
How could this have happened to someone so young? Julie Tilling dabbed at the tears ruining the makeup she’d meticulously applied to her rounded cheeks. She stared at the coffin suspended eerily over the marred earth of the cemetery, not sure what to make of this farce.
5. Sara Lancaster had definitely made the wrong decision. Less than twenty-four hours ago she was sure this weekend was just what she needed. Eight hours ago, excitement had fluttered in her stomach as she’d left Boston, overjoyed to accept the invitation. Hell, just two hours ago she’d been giddy with anticipation as she’d collected her bags at the Key West airport and caught a taxi to the boat landing. But her tiny apartment and the bungalow where she currently stood weren’t merely thousands of miles apart—a whole world separated the comfortable life she’d finally made for herself and the fantasy she was standing in.
6. It wasn’t much of a noise, just an inconsequential thump in the night that was enough to rouse Professor Paul Morgan from his dreamless slumber. Still cradled in the gentle arms of sleep, his blood thick with sleeping medication, he wasn’t sure if he’d simply imagined the sound. But when another muffled bang was followed by a whoosh of air—he had no doubt the commotion coming from the first floor had nothing to do with his mischievous tabby, Zeus.
* UNCONTROLLED BURN *
7. Meghan Tilling’s body quaked with fear and the bone-chilling thirty-eight degrees of the cooler where she was trapped. She pressed her forehead against the icy metal of the door, her palm caressing its pebbled surface, trying to fight the panic lurking like a sinister shadow and threatening to overwhelm her in despair. How ironic that the annoyance of driving in a Maine snowstorm had kept her at Tilling Gardens and Plants, the business she co-owned with her two sisters. Finishing the shop’s holiday arrangements and festive decorations had seemed a better alternative to a white-knuckled drive home in the heart of a nor’easter. Except now, instead of being stranded in a ditch on the side of the road with a chance of being rescued, she was going to freeze to death alone in the walk-in cooler that was the lifeblood of her business.
8. Jesus. Even though Jonathon Brierton wasn’t particularly religious he prayed for Divine intervention. Not that he wanted any lightning strikes or halos of light illuminating the shadowed corner of the club where he’d hidden himself, but a little more help in the patience department would certainly go a long way at the moment. It went against his baser nature to sit back and wait rather than walking over and convincing the copper-haired beauty leaning over the railing across the way to put on his collar and join him in one of the private dungeons below.
9. Lilly D’Angelo wasn’t expecting a trip down memory lane when she sauntered into the dingy tavern, but the acrid stench and gruff hum of the Friday night crowd carried her back to one of the seedier establishments on Chicago’s south side nonetheless. Except for the clientele, the owner had managed to replicate nearly every detail right down to the blue haze of cigarette smoke and the soft crooning of a jazz band on the corner stage.
* A TOUCH OF LILLY (An All Romance Ebook BESTSELLER!) *
10. Deirdre Tilling slammed the spade into the soil. Her booted foot thumped down on its metal edge, driving it deeper and transferring her frustration to the wounded earth. She’d been working the flowerbeds around her farmhouse since noon. And though the sun stretched the shadows of the maples long across her lawn, painting their leaves a deeper crimson, the hours of heavy labor hadn’t helped ease the pain of loneliness.
People often ask me why I chose romance when I decided to write books. The answer was easy–it’s what I enjoy reading! And let’s face it, there’s nothing that makes my heart beat a little faster than a sexy hero (like Mr. Nina) and a romantic gesture.
I didn’t come at romance through the usual avenues of Judy Blume or sneaking Harlequin novels from my mother’s stash. Nope. I jumped right into romance around the age of 13 with The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough. What’s not to love about family saga, a forbidden love affair with a priest and illegitimate babies? This romance had it all! I was hooked. I spent summers throughout high school and college poring through every book of Danielle Steel’s and moving onto Nora Roberts (I bow to the queen of romance) and Sandra Brown.
It still eludes me exactly what makes a best seller in this market. It’s not only a great cover and catchy blurb. Not just wonderfully well-written story and great reviews. It’s not social media and guest blogs. You know how I know that? Because none of that is working for me. Been there. Done that. Have the bruises to prove it.
So I’m trying something again. I’m giving away one of books for FREE. That’s right, “BLIND HER WITH BLISS” is now free on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, All Romance Ebooks, and iTunes How long will I keep it free? I’m not sure.
What is it about that bad boy that attracts women? Oh, you know who I’m talking about… the man that swaggers into Friday night happy hour while you’re having an end of the week margarita with the BFFs. The leather jacket sits just right across those wide shoulders skimming along hips clad in faded jeans. And the two-day scruff doesn’t look unkempt, it just accents the dimple in his chin. He tips his chin at several tables as he moves through the bar and lands on a stool vacated by one of his equally naughty sidekicks. Oh, he is such bad news. You know it, yet you, and every other woman in the bar, is staring at this man who will no doubt break your heart.
Every author knows that we have one line, one paragraph and if we’re lucky one page to grab the reader. I can spend days tweaking and reworking the beginning of my stories. So I thought today I’d share with you the first lines of my books (with the names removed). When you look at them individually what do you think? Does the line make you want to keep reading or not so much?
So here they are in no particular order. Can you figure out which book they’re from? (And I included a line from a book that isn’t currently available at this time.):
1.) She slammed the spade into the soil. Her booted foot thumped down on its metal edge, driving it deeper and transferring her frustration to the wounded earth.
~ Deceive Her With Desire
2.) Margaret Callaghan hid her heartache behind dark sunglasses and the Starbuck’s double-double mocha latte she carried like a shield.
~ In His Eyes
3.) She wasn’t expecting a trip down memory lane when she sauntered into the dingy tavern, but the acrid stench and gruff hum of the Friday night crowd carried her back to one of the seedier establishments on Chicago’s south side nonetheless. ~ A Touch of Lilly
4.) She had definitely made the wrong decision. Less than twenty-four hours ago she was sure this weekend was just what she needed.
~ Invitation to Ecstasy
5.) “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust…” How could this have happened to someone so young? ~ Blind Her With Bliss
6.) It wasn’t much of a noise, just an inconsequential thump in the night that was enough to rouse him from his dreamless slumber. Still cradled in the gentle arms of sleep, his blood thick with sleeping medication, he wasn’t sure if he’d simply
imagined the sound. ~ Shadows of Fire
7.) He splashed three more fingers of thirty-year-old scotch into the crystal tumbler sitting on the mahogany desk, not bothering to add ice. He didn’t need some watered-down version of liquid courage.
~ Divine Deception
8.) She sauntered into the Whip and Bull Tavern, wanting only two things—a cold beer and a hot body. ~ Bonded Souls
9.) Jesus. Even though he wasn’t particularly religious he prayed for Divine intervention. Not that he wanted any lightning strikes or halos of light illuminating the shadowed corner of the club where he’d hidden himself, but a little more help in the patience department would certainly go a long way at the moment. ~ Maid for Master
10.) She raced through the shadows, her claws digging deep in the damp forest floor. Lush ferns of summer slapped at her muzzle but didn’t slow her speed.
~ Bonded by Need
What do you think? Do you have a favorite? Do you think any of them missed the mark?
And my latest book news? Well, I’m happy to announce all of the books in the Dangerous Affairs, sexy romantic suspense series, BLIND HER WITH BLISS and DECEIVE HER WITH DESIRE and CHEAT HER WITH CHARM are now available in audio format. What a kick-in-the-pants to hear someone else reading my stories! I hope you’ll check them out:
WELCOME! I’m so happy you found your way here. This weekend, over 40 authors are offering fun, and prizes and lots of sexy spring love in our “Fool for Love” blog hop. If you’ve stumbled upon my blog without finding your way to the “bus”, then click HERE to join in all the fun and see what fun other authors are offering.
Since writers are always looking for the hero that will grab a reader by the heart, I’m wondering what romance hero tugs at your heartstrings every time …
1. Cowboys are one of my favorite heroes. Just a few weeks ago one of those sexy men walked into my dreams and decided perhaps I should write a series set out west. Who doesn’t like a sexy man in a hat and chaps and a reeeeaally slow smile and eyes just for you?
2. And who can resist a man in (or out) of uniform? Like say … a fireman? My vampire firefighter, Reese Colton in SHADOWS OF FIRE is one of those sexy men you want showing up at your house, but not when he’s on duty … maybe just a social call?
3. Oh, yeah … why choose one hero when two can be so much naughtier! I’ve never written a book with twin heroes … but seriously … why not?
4. *sigh* That durn horse of mine is always running off and the neighbor is such a hero for bringing him back. I’m a lucky gal! (Actually, I call that good training!)
5. My favorite hero is that alpha male with soft gooey center only the heroine sees, like Cole Takoda in my SHIFTING BONDS series. This wolf shifter is both the police chief and the keeper of the heroines heart … what more could a woman want? Tattoos are just a nice perk.
6. And this guy is so bad … you know he’s going to be really goooood! That scars tells me he’s wounded and ready for some healing. He reminds me of Dallas Sawyer, the futuristic FBI agent in my sexy ménage A TOUCH OF LILLY
7. When I’m feeling down, I would love to have a musician to sing to me. Damon Corey in BLIND HER WITH BLISS is a concert pianist who pays the bills as a bad boy shock jock. *sigh* Yeah, that’s a lethal combination!
8. And when you’ve had enough of the city, a hero like Nicholas Gradin from DIVINE DECEPTION will take you for a ride on his motorcycle through the vineyards of New York to forget all your troubles.
9. Puh-lease, you didn’t think one of my badboy heroes wouldn’t be wearing a kilt? Have you ever visited my blog?
10. I grew up on the coast of Maine. I love the beach. And a man bare foot and bare chested in just jeans walking at the beach … oh yeah, it makes my knees weak every time! Rainmaker, the FBI agent in my novel IN HIS EYES spends a lot of time hunting down a serial killer on the beach.
11. And then there’s a hero like Jonathon Brierton in MAID FOR MASTER, the real estate magnate who will push you to limits you didn’t think you’d enjoy … 😉
12. What fun is a romance without a hero who makes himself comfortable while he’s waiting for his woman to come home?
Now get out the Windex and paper towels and clean off the monitor and your keyboard. I only offer the eye candy and prizes, you need to clean the drool up off your own chin! LOL!
So what type of romance hero is your can’t-resist-must-read-because-he-makes-your-knees-weak-and-your-heart-race-and-make-you-seek-out-your-man-must-buy-the-book hero? Curious writers want to know.
**** THIS CONTEST IS CLOSED ****
Anyone commenting on this post between now and SUNDAY, APRIL 6 at 4pm EST will be eligible to win a gift pack of goodies including a signed copy of DANGEROUS AFFAIRS. One winner will be chosen at random from the commenters on this post. Thanks so much for visiting! (Shipping to US residents only. An international winner will receive a $15 Amazon gift card in lieu of prizes.)
I am soooo excited! It’s been an awesome week. I just got the latest designs for my Romance Trading Cards and they’ve been ordered and will arrive early next week. Check them out…
…these characters have layers like onion. Each time Nina peels away more skin we learn something we didn’t know, or expect. Nina has a way with mystery. She tells the reader just enough to make them think they have the puzzle solved. Only to turn around and reveal they were dead wrong. Blind love has it all. A romance that ranges from sweet, to sensual, to holy crap my eyes may fall out of their sockets. Characters that are well develop and a setting you relate to from the first paragraph.
This book surpassed my expectations and I would def recommend it as a read.
Oh, and I have a release date for INVITATION TO ECSTASY, the second book in the XTC Resorts series … AUGUST 10! When I have a cover I’ll share it with you along with the first look at an excerpt.
Welcome to another week of Six Sentence Sunday. After several weeks off moving from Rhode Island to Maine, I’m trying to get my feet back on the ground again.
Last month was a wonderful month for my sexy romantic suspense story, “Blind Her With Bliss“! I thought I’d do a little happy dance and give you another six from the first book in “The Tilling Passions” series.
It was a wonder the man pouring his soul out through the piano keys didn’t simply collapse; an empty husk of a body, sacrificing everything to give life to the passionate strains of music filling the auditorium. Surely nothing so poignant could come from anywhere other than the heart. As melancholy notes penned by some dead composer plucked at her heartstrings, Julie could feel Damon’s sorrow filling her and resonating through every molecule of air.
As the emotional melody pulled her along its river of notes, she thought of her family. As much as they aggravated her, they also anchored her—gave her a sense of belonging. Damon had no one.
Thank you for your comments you leave week to week, they mean a lot to me. And don’t forget to go HERE to check out other authors participating in Six Sentence Sunday this week!
This post is about money … and how much it costs to self-publish.
A lovely writer was asking me about book covers for her new book that Createspace (the printed book arm of Amazon) said should be out in 2-3 months. Wai … What? *hear a needle scraping across an album* Before I could tell her about a wonderful cover artist, I needed her to explain to me about what Createspace had to do with when her book would be released.
Well, she’d paid them $1400 to “self-publish” her book. I almost fell over backwards. After I recovered I asked what was included in that price. Well, they were giving her an ISBN for both print and ebook … umm, both are free from Amazon. Okay, what else? Well they’d format her book. This is definitely something many people pay for because they don’t want to worry it’s not done right. But the fee I’ve found tops out around $30 per format. So this brings it to about $120 (epub, mobi (kindle), nook, kobo). And it included some editing which you can purchase for upwards of $.01 per word, so about $750 for a 75,000 word novel. It did NOT include a cover.
So she paid $1400 for services that she could have gotten for $870 … tops. I was so sad for her. I wish she had done just a little more research before jumping in. (Keep in mind … in the publishing world money should flow TOWARDS the author. That one piece of advice should be in the back of your brain as you’re making all your decisions.)
Then on the other end of the spectrum I’ve had more than one person mention they can’t afford to self-publish. But with a few really good beta readers (one to read for story consistency and a couple to read for typo/grammar), services you can trade with another author … you may be able to skip the editing fee. With patience, uploading to Kindle, Barnes and Noble, Kobo and Smashwords, even getting your book ready for print is easy enough. And if you’re not tech savvy, there are pre-made book covers for as little as $25.
There have been many bestsellers I’ve read in the self-publishing realm whose covers aren’t intricate. Yes, a cover is a reader’s first impression, but people will buy a book on a list even if the cover didn’t roll off the NY presses. When you make some money, switching out covers is a simple process. I’ve switched out several original covers for something that better fit the genre.
Let’s face it, this whole thing is a learning process. My feeling if you’re toying with the idea of self-publishing is that it’s better to have a book up and making some money than having it sit unpublished on your computer making nothing.
And to catch you up on what’s going on with me (because I think it’s important for people to share their numbers) … August Sales were amazing and I thought I’d finally found a formula that works for my books. Unfortunately my sales are pushed by the first book in my romantic suspense series being free. Amazon has decided they are no longer going to run the “free” book list next to the top sellers in a category. I have no doubt many of the readers who downloaded my free book saw it because they were perusing the paid books in the same categories.
Guess what happened in September … sales plummeted.
Blind Her with Bliss: Free 9079 downloads (16% drop)
Deceive Her With Desire: 360 sold = $711.30 (43% drop in sales)
Cheat Her With Charm: 282 sold = $563.75 (45% drop in sales)
Shadows of Fire: 14 sold = $34.38
Barnes & Noble:
Blind Her With Bliss: Free through Smashwords
Deceive Her With Desire: 18 sold = $34.92 (32% drop in sales)
Cheat Her With Charm: 14 sold = $27.16 (33% drop in sales)
Shadows of Fire: 4 sold = $9.71
Blind Her With Bliss: Free (no report)
Deceive Her With Desire: 10 sold = $20.90
Cheat Her With Charm: 2 sold = $4.18
Shadows of Fire: 1 sold = $1.23
The report is difficult to sort through in its current format, it appears I’ve made apporximately $150 in September across all vendors.
I am sure Amazon’s changes had a huge effect on my sales. I can’t say exactly what happened with B&N. Perhaps that’s just the ups and downs of sales. But the fact is … I wouldn’t change my decision to jump on this crazy ride. Feel free to ask me any questions. I’m an open book!
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Publishing is a tough gig! Since I’m only in my adolescence when it comes to writing and publishing I can’t tell you if the days of the typewriter and printed manuscripts were harder than publishing is now. I really don’t know if the number of digital publishers and the ability to self-publish is making life easier or harder for the author.
What I do know is that there are a TON of books being released every day. No, I didn’t look up the exact numbers. (Feel free to google it.) But just think of all the traditional publishers, then add in small e-presses then add in self-published books and you have a lot of authors trying to find readers. It’s a regular cacophony of word music and it’s definitely hard for an individual instrument to stand out among all the overlapping songs.
There are only a few soloists who stand out, which means most authors are trying to find that one little trick that gets them heard. What will make their melody resonate above the river of music? Figuratively turn up the volume.
Okay, enough music metaphors. LOL! You get the idea.
Let’s face it, we all tag and like each other’s books. Why? Because there are rumors that the “likes” on Amazon affects the algorithms for a book and possibly give it a little extra to get up on the lists. (Since no one knows for sure, that information can’t be verified.) At the very least, when a reader pops over to a page and only 6 people have liked a book, it doesn’t quite have the psychological boost that a book with 231 likes gets. People wonder what they’re missing if that many people like a book. Is this gaming the system? Could be.
Knowing the impact of reviews, last year I began writing reviews on Amazon and Goodreads for the books I’ve read. And guess what? I read a lot of self-published writers because that’s who I’m hanging with these days. If readers wanted to start pointing fingers they could say I’m padding the reviews of my friends … even if my reviews are totally honest.
The internet is a buzz about authors buying honest reviews. Yet, publishers (and authors) buy advertisements in romance magazines and books get reviewed. Isn’t that the same thing? There are stories of bestselling author buying thousands of copies of their own releases to have the new release climb the charts. So is all this gaming actually cheating the system? How far does it have to go before it steps over the line?
Is offering a book for free as a loss leader considered cheating? Some say yes. I don’t think so. What I think is that it’s one of those tools that’s allowed my books to actually stand up in front of readers and scream “Try Me!“.
I’ve had three self-published books out for nearly a year. And you can see March Sales, May Sales and June Sales were nothing that could be called a living wage. But after several backflips (which ain’t easy for a woman with MS) and lots of groveling (see the post with the June sales), I finally got Amazon to price match BLIND HER WITH BLISS, the first book in the Tilling Passions series for FREE.
And guess what? I can actually say my writing is starting to make the kind of money I’d always hoped it would. Here are sales for the last six weeks.
Blind Her With Bliss: 80,000 Free, 14 sold = $30.00
Blind at UK site: 4663 Free, 0 Sold = $0.00
Deceive Her With Desire: 760 books = $1550.40
Deceive at UK site: 34 books = $35
Cheat Her With Charm: 563 books = $1148.52
Cheat at UK site = 22 books = $23
Barnes and Noble:
Blind Her With Bliss: Free
Deceive Her With Desire: 47 books = $91.18
Cheat Her With Charm: 39 books = $75.66
Approximate sales for Apple, Kobo, Sony and Diesel = $480.33
As many of you know, I released a 4th self-published book this week. I’m hoping with an excerpt at the end of the third book that readers will begin buying that book and sales will only go up.
Will this last? I don’t know. I’m really pleased after all my back-breaking work last year that something is finally falling into place for me. All I can do is keep writing the best books possible and hope the readers continue to enjoy them.
So, what do you think? Do you think there’s too much “gaming” going on in the book business? Are the truly great books rising to the top or is it the author who knows how to play the system that comes out ahead? Let me know what you think, I’m curious about stuff like this.