Monday, June 6, 2016

How I became a USA Today bestselling author

Just over a week ago, one of my biggest dreams came true.

No, it's not the one where I'm flying naked over George Clooney's house and he uses his penis as a lasso to drag me out of the sky and onto his front lawn where he serves me red wine and potato chips and challenges me to a game of badminton. I'm still waiting on that one.

The actual dream I achieved was this one:



That's me hitting the USA Today bestseller list for the first time.

I wish I could tell you some cool story about how I found out about it when I was in the middle of dictating notes to my personal assistant as I sipped Perrier and typed a scene in my next bestseller while my live-in masseuse worked knots out of my trapezius.

What I was actually doing was standing barefoot in my office at the day job writing an email to my agent about how I was pretty sure I hadn't made the list despite all our best efforts, and even though we wouldn't know for at least four or five hours, I was totally okay with not making it (which was a total lie, but I wanted to sound brave and professional).

That's when I got a Facebook PM from my agency sistah Lauren Blakely (who clearly has a better sense of time than I do) with the words "YOU FUCKING DID IT!!!!" in all caps and a link to my listing on the USA Today bestseller list.

I promptly burst into happy tears and stumbled barefoot into the lobby of the Visitor Center where the front desk staff was explaining to a German couple how to find a nearby vegan restaurant.

"I just made the USA Today bestseller list!" I sobbed, or at least that's what I tried to say. What actually came out sounded more like, "Mwyffuh aaba sussay bwusella ish," which made the Germans frown with concern and the visitor information specialist say, "It's okay, she's a writer."

Which probably explains a lot.

I eventually stopped bawling and informed my agent and my husband and my parents and the UPS man and pretty much everyone elseI encountered for the next few hours, "OHMYGOD, I'm a USA Today bestselling author!"

It probably would have been cooler if I'd put my shoes back on and didn't have mascara rings making me look like a slightly drunk raccoon.

The rest of the day was great. Entangled Publishing sent me flowers. Lauren sent me wine. My longtime critique partner, Cynthia Reese, called from Georgia to congratulate me. "So what are you doing to celebrate?" she asked. "Well," I told her, "right now I'm writing a blog post for the day job about hiking trails. Then I'm going grocery shopping and making a buttload of food to serve my book club Thursday night. Then I'll probably clean the cat box." There was a long pause before she asked, "Can you at least wear a feather boa while you do it?"

I didn't get a feather boa, but I did get a sushi dinner with my husband. He posted a picture of it on Facebook, which looks all dreamy and romantic unless you know I'm wearing dirty pajama pants and sitting on our living room floor in front of the coffee table because that's an easy way for me to shove food directly into my piehole without pretending I know how to use chopsticks.



The next day, I returned to the day job just like normal. I came home from work just like normal. I took my dog for a walk just like normal and called my mom the way I always do. "So what is the USA Today bestselling author doing to celebrate right now?" she asked. "At the moment," I told her, "I'm picking up dog doo in a plastic baggie."

So that's the story of how I became a USA Today bestselling author without actually managing to become cool enough to be a USA Today bestselling author.

In any case, I'm eternally grateful to everyone who bought The Fix Up either on purpose or because you mistakenly thought it was a repair manual of some sort. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU from the bottom of my uncool heart.


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

On judging a book by its cover

I’m fascinated by the artistic process that goes into creating a cover for one of my books. I’m also fascinated by the thought of driving a bulldozer.

I'm pretty sure the two things are linked, since art and heavy equipment operation are two skills I lack but desperately wish I had. Since this is my author blog, I should probably focus on the book covers instead of the bulldozers (though I don’t rule out the possibility of a career change if the writing gig ever goes tits-up).

I’ve been thinking about book covers a lot lately, since Montlake Romance just unveiled the cover for my September 2016 release, Now That It’s You. Here's a look:


It's my third book with this publisher, on the heels of About That Fling and Let It Breathe. If you've read one of those titles and also read any of my other books, you've probably noticed something odd. Well, more odd than scenes about protracted lizard penises and storylines about ancient stone dildos.

While all my books fall under the heading of "romantic comedy," the books I write for Montlake tend to be meatier (and not in a pork sword/man meat/baloney pony kinda way). They deal with heavier topics like divorce, alcoholism, infidelity, and death. There's laughter and romance to be sure, but most readers report shedding a tear or two along the way. One of my favorite reviews for About That Fling came from Publisher's Weekly, and it included the line, "heartache and humor go hand in hand." Yep. That's pretty much it.

When Montlake was deciding on a cover for Now That It’s You, there was a lot of discussion about whether the book should be categorized as "romance" or "women's fiction." It kinda straddles the line between the two, which sounds like a recipe for an uncomfortable wedgie. In the end, they decided it tilts more toward women's fiction (the book club discussion questions in the back kinda solidify that). That's a big part of how I ended up with the cool (but decidedly different) cover you see above.

But now let's look at the other end of the spectrum.

The books I write for Engangled Publishing are fun, fluffy, frothy, and filthy. I totally just made that up on the spot, but I like the way it flows, so maybe I'll print it on business cards.

The covers of my Entangled books reflect a different sort of romantic comedy. You'll see lots of shirtless men and steamy clenches between two toe-curlingly sexy people. Looking at one of them may or may not inspire you to take off articles of clothing and hunt through your nightstand for extra AA batteries.

When The Fix Up released in December 2015, this is the cover they gave it:


I thought it was pretty awesome, and I still do. But this week -- five months after the original release date -- Entangled Publishing is doing a huge promotional push to see if we can make that book hit a bestseller list.

Crap, I wasn't going to put that in writing because maybe now I've jinxed the whole thing. Pretend you didn't read that, okay?

In any case, they decided the book needed a fresh new cover. Their data shows covers that look more like movie posters are currently selling like hotcakes, and hotcakes are almost as delicious as beefcakes, right? So here's the new cover they came up with:



And that's pretty groovy, too, isn't it? I honestly can't decide which I like best, so maybe I'll tattoo one on each butt cheek. Which one do you prefer? The covers, not my butt cheeks. Obviously my right butt cheek is superior to my left.

Anyway, here's where I'm obligated to tell you that The Fix Up is on sale through May 22 for only 99-cents. This is a great time to grab it, since it's the first book in my First Impressions series. The second book, The Hang Up, is coming out June 13. Wanna see the cover for that one?



Pretty, huh? Also, I really want that dress.

So what sort of book covers attract you most? Are you a greased-abs-and-heaving-bosoms sorta reader, or do you prefer a more stylized look? Please share in the comments!

And please buy The Fix Up while it's on sale. Pretty please with honey and sugar and pork swords on top? Thank you!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Two reasons today means something special

This morning I sat in bed with a chipped gray mug in my palms as I watched the sun rising pink and orange over a Marlborough vineyard bursting with wine grapes.

For the record, there was tea in my mug, not Sauv Blanc.

It’s March 23 here in New Zealand, but March 22 back home in the U.S., and there’s something very special about each of those dates.
Researching Let It Breathe six years ago.

March 22 is release day for Let It Breathe, my brand new romantic comedy. Actually, “brand new” isn’t the right word choice at all. Those of you who’ve followed this blog since the beginning might remember that. The whole thing began more than six years ago before I even had a book deal. The book deal came a few weeks later in February 2010, and Let It Breathe was slated to be the third book in the contract.

I got to work researching in March 2010, touring vineyards in Oregon’s lush Willamette Valley during this exact same week six years ago. I figured if I was going to write the story of a divorced vineyard owner falling in love with her ex-husband’s best friend when he shows up to build the winery’s new tasting room, I wanted to really understand my book’s setting.

But it turned out I got to understand the divorce part, too.

Because while all that research was going on, my marriage of 13 years unraveled like a snagged sweater. It transpired over the course of nine months or so, which happened to be the same nine months I was writing for Let It Breathe.

As you might imagine, the story took a melancholy turn. It was still romantic comedy, of course, but with a sadness to it. Years later, Publishers Weekly would write a starred review of About That Fling (my runaway bestseller from last year) and would use the phrase, “heartache and humor go hand in hand.” It was high praise, probably some of the best I’ve ever earned, and that’s the same sort of story I wrote with Let It Breathe.

But back in 2011, the timing wasn’t right for that kind of book. Not yet anyway.

First, I had to get through the hell of divorce. Then I had to shake off the crumbled debris and take those first, terrifying, exhilarating steps into new love. Then I had to write About That Fling from the ashes of that process.

And then I had to go back to Let It Breathe with fresh eyes, and discover that what I wrote all those years ago was actually pretty damn good. My amazing editor at Montlake saw exactly what I was trying to do with my story of a woman working to take her family’s vineyard to the next level while struggling with her private fears that her failed first marriage means she’s not cut out for relationships at all. With my editor’s help, we shaped that story into something I’m tearfully proud of. Maybe more proud than I was with About That Fling.

Sitting here now with my chipped mug of tea in a hotel bed in the heart of New Zealand’s Marlborough wine country, I’m staggered to look back on all that. Part of me still reels a bit from the losses—a marriage, a home, a writing career that didn’t follow the trajectory I expected at the start.

But most of me just feels deliriously happy about all the gains. A writing career I enjoy, a new home, a rich life filled with friends and family and readers I adore with the fierceness of a thousand blazing suns.

But I’m also grateful for the guy whose hip I just bumped under the covers. At least I think it was his hip.

He’s the other reason this date is significant. Because on March 23, 2011, we had our first “date.” I put the word in quotes because the impetus for it was actually me reaching out to him (then a distant acquaintance) asking for tips on surviving divorce. I might have also been hoping to take his clothes off. The details are hazy.

Things bloomed from there into friendship, then attraction, then love.

Cycling with my sweetie in New Zealand wine country yesterday,
the day before the release of Let It Breathe.
We got married in September 2014, and this trip to New Zealand is something we’ve both dreamed about since long before we met each other. Being here now—the mothership of the Sauvignon Blanc we’ve enjoyed over so many dinners together—feels like the achievement of a longtime goal. It’s not where I imagined myself when this whole thing started six years ago, but it’s so clearly where I’m meant to be that I’m swooning with the certainty.

Or maybe I’m swooning over whatever I just bumped under the covers.

In any case, as Let It Breathe  finds its way into the hands of readers today, I’m hoping it will touch you in some small way. Maybe it’ll make you laugh, maybe it’ll make you cry, maybe it'll make you tingly in the swimsuit area. Hopefully it’ll give you a little of all three.

Thank you for being part of this journey with me. Cheers.

Monday, February 15, 2016

A cheapskate tip, a funny backstory, and a chance to be part of a secret club

If only my brain recharged as quickly as my FitBit.
I got a FitBit a few weeks ago. Since that time, I’ve realized about half the steps I take are the result of me walking from my office to another room to grab something, then forgetting why I did it and having to repeat the whole process again in a few minutes.

It’s possible I’m a little scattered right now.

But since I like to share, here’s a bit of what’s yanking my attention around these days. 


Want a top-secret look at one of my unpublished books? 

I’ve been asked to revisit one of my beloved early novels, A Tricky Undertaking. Longtime blog readers will remember this manuscript as one that’s not only near and dear to my heart, but to my agent’s heart as well, since it’s the story that hooked her many moons ago.

I’m super thrilled to dive back in with some of my favorite characters, and I’d love to have fans to do some focus group reading for me. This is your chance to finally meet Brad and Officer Max and decide for yourself who belongs with my quirky, offbeat funeral home owner, Willie.

Want to sign up? You can do it at this link: mori.com/earlyaccess/trickyundertaking 

There are limited spots available, so register right away if you’re interested!

Get me while I’m cheap and easy

Entangled Publishing is celebrating five years in the biz, during which time I’ve published five romantic comedies and one novella with them.

To celebrate, they’ve put the whole freakin’ Lovestruck line on sale for 99-cents a book. That means you can nab the entire Front and Center series (Marine for Hire, Fiancée for Hire, Best Man for Hire, and Protector for Hire) plus the first book in my new First Impressions series (The Fix Up) for less than the cost of five tubes of generic KY Jelly at the Dollar Store.

The sale ends Feb. 21, so hurry up and do some one-clicking on all your favorite Lovestruck titles.

Funny how things work out 

Those of you who’ve read this blog closely for a few years might remember this post from January 2012 where I talked about getting through challenging things by taking it one bite at a time. One part in particular jumps out at me now:

…two weeks ago, I had one of the lowest points in my writing career. I can’t go into details, but suffice it to say, it’s the closest I’ve come to throwing in the towel as an author and becoming a shepherd instead. 

Wanna know something funny? The low point I was referring to was my editor telling me that Let it Breathe (which they’d originally acquired as the third romantic comedy in my three-book contract) wasn't the right next book for my career. There was too much melancholy mixed up with the comedy, and books with settings in bars or vineyards weren’t selling well at the time.

I was devastated. I’d poured my heart and soul into that book, working on it while I went through a pretty gut-wrenching divorce (which might explain some of the melancholy). But I sucked it up and wrote another rom-com, which went on to become Frisky Business.

But here's the funny part:  It turns out Let it Breathe was exactly the right book to follow About That Fling (my slightly melancholy romantic comedy that spent two months near the top of Amazon's bestseller list last fall), so Montlake Publishing acquired Let it Breathe for publication March 22, 2016. And almost exactly four years from the day I got the heartbreaking news that it wouldn’t be published, I got word that Let it Breathe received a starred review from Publishers Weekly (the highest praise from one of the most prestigious review sources in the biz).

While I’ll admit there’s a tiny, petty part of me that wants to thumb my nose at the previous publisher and be all, “See?! I told you it’s an awesome book!” I don’t think that’s the lesson here. The lesson is that it wasn’t the right time for that book four years ago, and now it is. It’s as simple as that. I couldn’t have known that then, just like I couldn’t have known the pain from the aforementioned divorce would eventually fade, and that I’d find myself in a new marriage that’s turned out to be the most amazing thing to ever happen to me.

So let that be the lesson. Well, that and never bring expired Reddi-wip into the bedroom.

Oh and also, you can pre-order Let it Breathe now so it’ll show up on your eReader right after midnight March 22.

So that’s what’s going on in my life lately. What’s new with you? Please share in the comments!

And don’t forget to sign up to be part of my focus reading group. Slots are limited, and here’s that link again:
mori.com/earlyaccess/trickyundertaking

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Why you REALLY don't want publishing advice from me

Something weird happens every January.

I mean besides the fact that my bathroom scale malfunctions, because clearly I didn't eat that many bacon-wrapped dates for Christmas.

Each January, I see a flood of emails, tweets, private Facebook messages, and the occasional note scrawled on the bathroom wall asking me for advice on getting published. "I've vowed to write a book this year!" they often begin, or even, "I've just finished my first novel!" And then comes the big ask: "You seem like you're doing well, so can you tell me how to get it published?"

The simple answer is no.

I'm not saying that to be a bitch. There are plenty of other ways I elect to be a bitch on a daily basis, but I'm generally pretty kind when it comes to encouraging my fellow writers.

I suck at giving publishing advice almost as much as I
suck at making a hairbrush look like a lightsaber instead
of like a dildo. You're welcome for that visual.
But here's the thing: If you see an author who's published a dozen or so books in the last 5-10 years, odds are good that person would give you horrible advice on the process of getting published. In fact, the advice they give might end up discouraging, confusing, or completely misdirecting you. Why? Because the publishing industry has changed at the speed of a roadrunner careening down an Astroglide-coated Slip-and-Slide. The knowledge we operated with at the start of our careers is now so laughably antiquated, we might as well tell you your best path to publication is chiseling your manuscript into a cave wall.

I made my first attempt at writing fiction in 2002. Back then, most publishers and agents still wanted snail-mailed queries. It could take a year to hear back from them, and if you did, they might ask you to print out the whole manuscript and lug that 987-pound mofo down to the post office. We'd heard of self-publishing, but it was that thing you did if you couldn't get an agent or a "real" book deal. Twitter was the sound the aforementioned roadrunner might make if he fell off the Slip-and-Slide, and Google sounded like something dirty you might do to yourself under the covers (on second thought, it still sounds like that). Aspiring authors longed to see our books on the shelves at Borders, because obviously everyone wants books in paperback and not those ridiculous newfangled eReader thingies.

You see where I'm going with this? None of that is true anymore, and as far as most of it's concerned, good riddance to bad rubbish.

But if you look at authors who've been cranking out books for a few years, odds are good that was their starting point. And after they slowly, painstakingly crawled their way out of the slush pile and worked their way toward royalty checks that allow them to buy both the cup of coffee and the donut, they crammed their brains full of new knowledge applicable to a different stage in their careers. Contract negotiations, social media marketing, branding, how to be a hybrid author, how to convince the IRS a sex toy collection is a write-off – these are the things we learn after we've been at it a while and reached some modicum of success. While it's useful knowledge after you have a few published books under your belt, you'll make yourself batshit crazy if you start fretting about those things when you're standing there with that shiny first novel in your hand and stars in your eyes.

Any advice I could give you on how to get a book published is either woefully outdated or completely useless to you unless you're at a point in your career where your agent can sell your next book based on the letters "TBD" (yes, that really happened, and yes, I'm eternally grateful Wolfson Literary pulled off that feat and then didn't bat an eyelash when I said, "I think this will be a romantic comedy about death and grief," though I suspect we both breathed a sigh of relief when my editor approved and the book continued on its publication journey for release September 2016. But that's a story for another time. Also, if I'd attempted something like that ten years ago, I would have been laughed out of the publishing biz quicker than you can say, "gofuckyourself, newbie.")

So what can I give you? I mean besides a pat on the butt and hearty congratulations on a major milestone. Seriously, completing that first novel is HUGE. Like go-ahead-and-drink-the-whole-bottle-of-Chianti huge.

Well, I can steer you to the FAQ page of my website, where you'll find a few links and tidbits of advice that may or may not be helpful. I can tell you that while there are wildly differing views on whether authors do or do not need an agent, I would sooner hack off my own nipples with a rusty spoon than operate without Wolfson Literary in my corner, and if you think you might also need an agent, agentquery.com is a good place to start. If the idea of writing a query in the first place is kinda daunting, visit Query Shark and start reading. Don't pause for food or potty breaks until you've been at it for at least eight hours (and preferably eight days).

Don't get discouraged. It's rough out there, and sometimes searching too hard for the magic secret to publication will suck all the joy out of your writing process.

Above all, keep writing. Let me repeat that: KEEP WRITING. It's the one thing you can do to guarantee you'll continue to improve your skills as an author and your odds of eventually landing that book deal.

But don't listen to me. I'm still back here setting up that Slip-and-Slide. Anyone know where I can find a roadrunner?

Monday, December 14, 2015

Confessions about my new rom-com, The Fix Up

It's release day for my newest romantic comedy, The Fix Up, which means it's time to expose a couple things to you guys.

Not those things. It's snowy outside, and my ladybits are very susceptible to cold.

Nope, I'm going to go ahead and expose myself as one of the laziest authors alive. That's the only way I can explain why I (a woman whose day job of 15+ years has been in marketing and public relations) decided to write a romantic comedy with a heroine who works in marketing and public relations.

It was a real stretch.

Not only that, but I have a lifelong fondness for whip-smart, nerdy boys with a great sense of humor and a healthy dose of social awkwardness to match my own.

Guess who the hero is in my new book, The Fix Up?

Technically, I guess we're all calling Ben Langley a "sexy geek," but make no mistake — this man is my favorite kind of nerd. The kind who thinks introducing a woman to the worst sci-fi movie ever made (Plan 9 From Outer Space) and then teaching her to thumb wrestle is an effective form of seduction (it is). The kind of nerd who can turn a woman on by talking about the chemical properties of fukalite (is it hot in here?)

Anyway, I hope you enjoy my newest romantic comedy, which is the first book in a new series called First Impressions. The whole series will be based around a marketing and public relations firm by that name (did I mention the laziness?) and the second book will come out in June and star a character you meet in The Fix Up.

You can nab The Fix Up here for only $2.99:
Oh, and by the way....I've got a pretty huge blog tour going on right now, with tons of opportunities to win cool prizes. For instance, I'll be at Bitten by Books from noon PST until late into the evening on Tuesday, Dec. 15 chatting about The Fix Up and giving away $50 in Amazon gift cards. Wanna join the fun? RSVP early using this link and you'll get 25 bonus entries in the giveaway.

Speaking of exposing secrets, did you already see the video I made with author Katee Robert? If not, you can check it out here:





So now that I've confessed my laziness, how about your share yours? Comment about a time YOU were supremely lazy for a chance to win a $5 Amazon gift card. I'll choose a winner on Friday, Dec. 18. Good luck!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Are handcuffs and wine a tax write-off?

An interesting side-effect of a writing career that finally takes off after a decade of so-so earnings is that you find yourself needing professional help.

I’m not talking about a sex therapist (though that does sound fun). I mean folks like a publicity agent and a tax accountant.

The former is a bit ironic, considering I’ve worked in marketing and PR for 15+ years, but there comes a time when an author realizes her time is better spent actually writing the books, as opposed to telling folks about them.

Then there’s the tax guy. Last year was the first time since I started writing fiction in 2002 that I actually showed a small profit on this author gig, and since 2015 is shaping up to be a bit heftier, I knew we needed a tax pro who’d worked with authors before.

The one we chose came well-referred by a creative colleague, and I knew we’d found the right guy when he walked in looking like a spitting image of Neil Young, and led us to an office that had walls adorned by Tibetan prayer flags and a Jimi Hendrix banner.

Did I mention he’s right next door to a marijuana dispensary? (Legal in Oregon, lest you feel the need to phone authorities).

At any rate, he cautioned us up front that he wouldn’t support any creative accounting in which we attempted to write off a personal Lear Jet. That said, he encouraged us to think outside the box in terms of what constitutes “research” and “inspiration” for my writing career.

I thought about it a moment. “I’m known for writing a lot of shower sex scenes,” I told him. “Could we write off our recent remodel project where we installed a two-headed tile shower?”

“No,” he said. “But I like how you think.”

So I thought some more. Not about tax write-offs, necessarily, but about the odd things that count as “research” when you’re a romantic comedy author. Sunday morning I did a guided tour of a local cave, an expense I could easily defend to an auditor because I have proof that a cave scene will appear in my June 2016 release with Entangled Publishing (tentatively titled The Hang Up, and though that one’s not for sale yet, you can pre-order the first book in the series, The Fix Up, which comes out December 14).

Other forms of “research” are a bit harder to categorize. In August my husband and I went out for a nice dinner to celebrate my 41st birthday, and we spent half the meal eavesdropping on a large family group. At the center of the discussion were two middle-aged brothers who engaged in such competitive conversation that I expected them to whip out their meat wands and rest them on the table to be measured. The bizarre dynamic between them inspired a key piece of the story for my third rom-com with Montlake that’s scheduled for release September 2016 (also not for sale yet, but you can pre-order my second book with them, Let it Breathe, which comes out March 2016).

And speaking of Let it Breathe, that book is set at a fictional Oregon winery that’s based around a number of real-life wineries I visited while researching the story. While I probably won’t be permitted to write off every bottle of wine I’ve ever consumed, I’m guessing I’ll be allowed to write off at least a few of the expenses I incurred (i.e. drank) while crafting that story.

Then there’s The Fix Up. It’s the first book in a new series called First Impressions, and all the books will be based around a PR and branding agency. Since my day job career has spanned 15+ years in that industry, it’s not tough to figure out I’ll be drawing from my own experiences in writing some of the scenes (though if my boss is reading, I swear the sexy scene in the conference room is just a figment of my imagination).

Does that mean my entire day job career counts as “research?” When you’re a writer, doesn’t everything that happens around you technically become fodder for your stories?

In the end, I’ll trust Neil Young  the new tax guy to tell us what’s permitted as a write-off and what’s not.


I still think the shower should count, though.