Wednesday, September 7, 2016

In case you've wondered what it's like to be an author with a new book release

I occasionally lament how exhausting book release weeks can be, and it’s true there’s a lot of busywork like writing guest blog posts and doing giveaways.

But sometimes I find myself in the days following a new book release going, “Why in the ever-loving hell am I so drained? I’m not doing THAT much, am I?”

So I decided to tally up some of the things I allow to consume me in the days surrounding the release of a new book (in part so you guys can tell me to knock it the @#$% off):
Did I mention I have a new book for sale?
  • Wake up at 3 a.m. on release day and immediately check to see if any reviews have gone live.
  • Read first positive review. Swoon.
  • Read first negative review. Swallow hard. Try not to cry.
  • Repeat process every 30 minutes throughout the day.
  • Check Amazon ranking every 20 minutes, even though it’s updated hourly. If rank has moved in a positive direction, rejoice. If rank has moved in a negative direction, feel certain my writing career is over and I’ll never sell another book.
  • Read more reviews. Listen to my mother, husband, and agent tell me to stop reading them. Covertly sneak looks at more reviews the way some people might sneak glimpses of online porn.
  • Send frantic emails to editors, agent, publicity team, and critique partners about whether there’s anything I/we can do to generate more sales or reviews.
  • Instantly regret 90% of aforementioned emails for making me sound desperate/needy/neurotic.
  • Realize I’m posting too much on Facebook and Twitter about my new release. Post something about dropping food down my shirt, blurting unintentional sexual innuendo at a colleague, running into a door, or dipping the hem of my dress in a toilet. Feel fortunate that one of these things happens to me every single day.
  • Tell myself not to read reviews.
  • Read reviews anyway.
  • Give myself a profanity-laden pep talk before pouring every ounce of energy into day job project, new book writing, or family time. Succeed for a little while.
  • Check Amazon ranking again. Panic.
  • Repeat process every day for a week.
  • Wonder why I collapse into an exhausted, jittery, emotionally-drained heap by the end of the week.
  • Repeat entire process again when the next book comes out in a few months.

I should probably start saving funds for my inevitable stay in an asylum. In that case, perhaps you'd be willing to purchase (and review!) my new book?! 

I hear mental health services are expensive.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Hey there! Remember me?

So I've become that author.

The one who blogs only when she has a new book release or something big to announce.

Six years ago, I blogged daily about everything from garage porn to peeling bananas with my toes. I had a surprisingly devoted group of readers for someone whose first book was still a year away, and I took time to reply to every single comment.

Times have changed.

Well, I still post daily with dick jokes and details of my own social awkwardness, but I do it on Facebook now. While I used to tweet dozens of times a day, I'm lucky if I hit Twitter a couple times a week now. Prize giveaways and book announcements happen mostly in my newsletter (you can subscribe here), which didn't exist six years ago.

Some of this is a matter of changes in social media. The marketing geek in me knows blogs aren't as popular as they were six years ago, and I'm hardly the only author who flocked Facebook as a better way to reach readers.

Some of it's just life. Six years ago, I was in a different marriage with no kids and an expectation that life would continue pretty much the same way. Today I'm happily remarried with two awesome stepkids whose presence in my world is a daily source of amazement. If you'd told me in 2010 that this would be my life now, I would have assumed you were under the influence of a strong hallucinogenic drug.

Six years ago, I was a weird career limbo between a December 2009 layoff and my October 2010 hire as the part-time PR manager for my local tourism bureau. I was essentially a stay-at-home writer, which was weird for someone who wouldn't see her first book on shelves for another year.

I still have that day job, even though I've reached a point where I could live on the author thing if I wanted to. I don't want to. My long road to reach this place (coupled with the fact that I really, really like my day job) keeps me trucking along, plus regular human interaction keeps me from getting weird.


In any case, it's true my time is more stretched these days. Between kids, a newish marriage, a day job, and a writing career that's seen me crank out 14 books in 5 years, I've dropped a few balls. That's unfortunate, given my fondness for balls.

So this is me, popping in for the first time in three months to say, Hey there! Thanks for reading. Sorry I'm not around much, but I hope we're connecting through at least one of those other channels I mentioned. Oh, and did I tell you I have a new book out?  Kirkus Reviews kinda liked it, calling Now That It's You, "A funny, poignant reminder that the baggage our exes leave can’t stop love from moving us forward.”

You can find the audiobook, eBook, and paperback versions right here.

Either way, thanks for reading. This blog, my books, my Facebook posts, my drugstore receipts . . . whatever rolls your socks up.

Until next time, friends.

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: 

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:

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, 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?