Love it? Review It.

Love it? Review It.
Heroine wants to save the man she loves, but not everyone is cut out to be a killer.

The last Bookbub I looked at was Tuesday’s. Today I caught up.

A few interested me, but not enough to buy. I’ve been wanting to cut back on my TBR pile. So the book has to interest me big time. Wednesday, nothing. Thursday, thought about one, but decided I’ve read too many like it and have been disappointed. Friday, interesting, but a no go.

Finally, Saturday’s has three I’m interested in. An erotic Romantic Suspense: Hero offers to pull heroine’s business out of debt if she obeys him in all ways for 30 days. Historical Romance: A Scottish warrior inherits an English earldom and an impoverished lady will teach him “proper” etiquette. Sci-Fi romance: Girl goes to war torn planet and meets two warriors.

I try to narrow my choices by looking at the full blurb on Amazon or iBooks. Sometimes it reveals the book isn’t what I really want. Maybe too heavy on history, or doesn’t really concentrate on the romance. And I’m not talking about sex. I like the one-on-one relationship building. I don’t mind a little arguing as long as it doesn’t get stupid. You know, arguing for argument sake.

Then if I’m still interested in the book, I read the sample. I can’t tell you how often I read the beginning and became SO bored. Then others are just not to my taste.

So far, I’ve bought the erotic Romantic Suspense. Passed on the Sci-Fi romance. The blurb did it. So not what I thought it would be. Maybe the author or editor messed up in telling the summary, but that’s the way it goes. Still thinking about the Historical Romance.

When it comes to To-Be-Read piles, mine is small. Around 10 e-books, and about the same in paperbacks.

I refuse to mistreat the authors who go out of their way to provide a deal that takes you years to read. When you finally read the book you bought 2-3 years ago, and it turns out to be great, and you go in search for the author, don’t be surprised if you can’t find another book from that author. Please understand. The author thought no one liked her books. You didn’t read it and review it, or tell your friends because you took so long to read it. For an author to make only $100 a year on her books isn’t enough to keep going.

And don’t get me started on selling a book that took months, if not a year to write for 99 cents. Someone told me recently that charging more than 99 cents for an e-book is horrible. She says the author doesn’t have to spend money on paper and printing. Like that’s the only reason a person reads a book. Maybe I’ll try to sell her a bunch of books with nothing printed inside. I bet she wouldn’t pay $7 dollars for each then. It’s the words inside that makes them valuable.

Think of it this way, I use a computer to write my books and often have to get a new one every two to four years. (Salesperson in the store said they aren’t made to last no more than two years. Bull crap!) When you write everyday in your spare time, they get overused and/or obsolete. My wage from a day job pays for it. Not my writing. Then I go to a writers conference to hear experts talk about how to make my manuscripts/books better, fresh, or more exciting. Again my day job helps pay for my airfare/gas, hotel, food, and the huge conference fee. Not my writing. Even if I go to a local college to take a class or two, I have to pay tuition. Not provided by my books. I giveaway book marks (readers still love them despite most read e-books), pens, t-shirts, and gift cards to readers. Day job, not writing. Let’s not even get into the costs of ads.

If I self-publish a book, there is the cover art that can range from $20 (if I do the design) to $400 (by a professional designer and you could pay even more if you want a unique design/cover). I can format the inside of the book through Draft2Digital free. Then there’s the editor. She receives $350 to $450 a book. Some editors charge a lot more. So I dare you to tell me again the book is worth less than a dollar.

You say, why do all of that? Just write a good book, they will come. Despite what the movie, Field of Dreams, make you believe, it doesn’t necessary work that way.

Even if you have a publishing house–I’ve had the biggest–behind your book advertising the hell out of it, you still need to help.

Book signings do little. They are more to stroke your ego. Actually, I say go for it. Authors need all the ego stroking they can get. It’s a rough, thankless job. Kind of like being a mom. At book signings, I’ve given away more books than I’ve sold just with the hope they will read the others.

Sure most publishers give the author books, but only one of the two large publishing houses I’ve been with gave me six. Yep. Six. And those I gave to relatives because they think you’re being cheap by not giving them a book. To cover everyone, I usually have to buy a few extra. The other publisher gave me zilch. My book was published in e-book only. I will say they provided the most advertising to readers and bloggers (that’s the one I mentioned above). Of course, the self-published copies were provided to my family at my cost. You know, I’m rich off all of those books. NOT!

As you can tell, authors deserve more for each book. No matter what, be sure to tell your family and friends about the latest book you enjoyed and write a review and share it everywhere!  Thanks!

T-Shirts Are Not For All Occasions

IMG_1345First remember, my blog, my opinion. I can’t tell you what to do. I can only tell my family. HA!

And no, I’m not about to talk about hockey. I just want to first show you I do wear (what I consider) unfeminine clothing on occasion. That includes T-shirts. For years, I had only two or three T-shirts and that was mostly to wear when I’m painting walls or doing housework. But when I started watching and going to hockey games, I wanted to support my team and decided it would be okay to wear their T-shirts. Yes, they have a few cut for women, but those are tight. If I was forty years younger and fifty, okay, hundred pounds lighter, I would wear them, but I’ve seen the women at games, most are like me. Bless their hearts. NHL believes all women who support their men are thin and young. I can tell you, they need to increase the offers in plus sizes. Us fat people have money to spend, and we don’t have to ask hubby.

Anyway, for the last twenty years or a little more, I’ve seen women going to restaurants (not talking about fast food), movies, shopping (dear GOD! I won’t even get into talking about Walmart) at nice department stores, and even funerals wearing T-shirts. Yep, funerals. Remember T-shirts were originally made to wear beneath a shirt.

When my daughters were growing up, I would buy them nice classic feminine clothes, especially for the fun dances the school put on. What do the boys wear? T-shirts and cargo pants. Why? Why? They ruin the pictures with their sorry clothing. I won’t blame their moms (much), but as my daughter grew older, they learned to tell the fellows what to wear. Yes. They don’t want to be embarrassed by being seen with clueless boys/men.

How many times have you been out about and seen two people together (I’m not talking about gay couples) and cannot tell who is the female? Both are wearing baggy T-shirts, blue jeans, flip-flops, and their hair cut above the ears or hidden beneath a hat.

Personally, I’m proud to be a woman. I don’t wear frilly clothes and rarely wear dresses (though I love them, but hate my fat legs), but even overweight as I am, if you saw me walk by, you would know I’m female. Even with a T-shirt on (rarely out and about unless going or coming from a game), I have a purse, girly shoes, dangling earrings, makeup, and my hair below my ears and styled like a woman. (I really wish I could grow it long to my shoulders, but my hair is baby fine.)

You don’t have to wear stilettos (more power to you if you can) and a neckline down to your navel or skirt up to your butt. RuPaul can do that and as of today, he’s not a woman (he does look good in or out of a dress and makeup). I say you can be comfortable without a blasted T-shirt and still be feminine.

Be proud to be a woman and let others know it, even in subtle ways.

 

 

 

New Covers for The Circle Books

Here we go. Starting June 12, 2018, one book a week will be re-released with a new cover. I’m so excited and hope if you haven’t read them, you’ll give them a try.  Click on MY BOOKS above to see the back blurb on each.

 

Female legs and revolverFemale legs and revolverFemale legs and revolver

A Beautiful Life Being Published

A Beautiful Life Being Published

aXnH+gU1TWSC+R6CZW9BeQA few years ago, I posted on another blog about how wonderful it is to be a published author. Some of it was me teasing (aka sarcastic/ being funny) and a commenter thought I was for real and scolded me for not being appreciative of my good fortune. Anyway, I thought I would talk about what people expect when you become published. If you’ve been reading my posts for any time, you’ll know I love lists. So here we go.

  1. 1. Non-writers (not necessarily readers) believe you are rich. Less than 1 percent of published authors make enough for a living or more. No. I don’t have a link confirming that. But think, saying someone is rich because they were published, for example, with a traditional publisher like Penguin/Random House. That would be like saying a person who owns a business is rich. Did you know only 20% of new businesses survive their first year? So that means 80% lose money and close up. Writing is a business, a business most writers love, but they don’t work out for everyone.
  2. Writing takes time from being with family and friends. Many writers are overweight, manic depressives, alcoholics, drug addicts, etc., because once a person is published they are pressed by their publishers and fans to write more and faster. Most writers have a day job to pay the bills until they can make money. See #1 above. So we can be found on our computers (or handwriting in notebooks)  early in the mornings to late at night and all the times in between.  And yes, I know some authors can write a book in a few weeks. That’s all I’ll say about that. And yes, I’m a little green with envy, but … (biting my tongue).
  3. People expect you to give your books away. People become offended because I don’t give them a book. Family and friends are to support what you love, but they don’t want to buy. First, when you’re traditionally published, most authors only receive five to twelve books free from the publisher. Those are to be sent to reviewers, but I always gave them to my immediate family, signed. If you’re independently published (indie), then those books you hand over to family and friends are paid by you, and they don’t necessarily cost only two bucks.
  4. Reviews can be confusing and they don’t always help authors to become better writers. They can push an author into a gray funk. Yes. We try to avoid reading them, but it’s like driving down the interstate swearing you won’t look at the wreck, but we always glance at it. No matter if the majority of your reviews are five stars (coffee cup, hearts or whatever the fuck a person makes up), the four and less can kill you and the percentage. I really wish Amazon would do away with the stars. I’ve seen one stars because the author charged a dollar more a book than author xyz. That’s not why the review section is there. Read the book, review it, and then at the end, say (without affecting the stars) please lower your prices because we all know you’re rich. See #1 above. I’ve seen one stars because it’s written in first person. The blurb on the story is in first person. That should’ve been a clue, not counting there is usually samples on the same website page. Or one person gives four stars because it’s a great read. Four stars out of five, really? Great? Yes. The five stars are for those certain authors they love. Geez! Or one star because the hero has the same name as the reviewer’s lying, cheating SOB of an ex. That’s why stars (and the other kind) should be done away with. Yes. I need to write a blog about it.By the way, editors at publishing houses you submit to do look at reviews (mainly the number of stars) in particularly, at that troll paradise place called Goodreads.

    I know I struggle to improve my writing. Though many readers appreciate my writing (see picture above of an award). I’ve learned it doesn’t matter how well you promote yourself or the publisher does, it all boils down to the writing, the story you have to tell and how you write it. That’s what I figure where my problem lies.

    The word I hear in several of my reviews is gritty. That means, per the Merriam-Webster dictionary, “having strong qualities of tough uncompromising realism.” I guess it’s okay for romantic suspense about assassins to have the term used, but I want more. So my next book will be a pure romance. Of course with sex, I’m not going off the deep end here. By changing the type of story and writing it in first person (oh, yeah, I’m going there), maybe I will find my niche.

  5. Author swag rarely sell books. BUT, I have to say if you send out 300 bookmarks and get one sale, it’s really worth it. For they may decide to buy your other books and tell their friends. That’s how the good things get started. Swag like pens, bookmarks, and other cutesy and cheap items for giveaway at book signings or in the line at the grocery store can be easy to carry in purses or computer cases. Really, in a way, they are items every writer loves because it is an ego thing. A way to tell strangers that you’re published.
  6. That brings me to doing giveaways on FB or websites/blogs. This is more than just bookmarks or postcards. If you give away big items like flash-drives, tablets, and huge dollar amount gift cards, be sure to advertise and/or pinpoint those fans who will celebrate by mentioning your name often. I’ve given away books and gift cards where people didn’t come back and acknowledgement their win with the info I need like their email address.  I do not add them to other lists. And I can understand not wanting a romantic suspense book if you read only historical romance. So be careful where you comment. If you do and see that you might win a book you’re not interested in, say “Don’t include me in the drawing.” If you think that’s rude, it’s just as rude not to accept the prize. You’ve prevented someone else from winning a book they may love. You can always add “I have too many books to read for now.” You know you won’t be lying. All readers do. Not lie, but have a huge stack on their Kindle or on their bookshelf or both.
  7. Book signings can be boring. In all of the signings I’ve participated, I’ve talked more to the authors around me than to readers. Don’t get me wrong. I’m an extrovert and will wave freebies at passersby to get them to stop and talk to me. Packages of M&Ms attached to postcards with pictures of a nearly naked man on the front will stop most attendees in their tracks. But if you’re not a well-known author, the readers will ease on by otherwise. I can tell you, you can go to every friend’s book signings before you’re published and chances are they won’t be there for your first. Bitter? Oh, yeah. Couldn’t help but let it spill out. I guess I’m in a mood.
  8. And no, once traditionally published doesn’t mean you’ll be forever published that way. Many, many reasons and it’s so hard to explain to non-writers. It can be from your editor leaving and the next one assigned can’t stand you and/or your writing to you don’t write the type of books they want no matter what they thought in the beginning. Goodness, there are hundreds of reason for not carrying on with the same publisher. If you’re lucky enough to click with the publisher, editor, and fans, I say bully for you! Stick with it until you know you need to write something different. Get that fan base and remember them when you’re writing your next book/series.

With all that said, I do love being published, traditionally and indie. I love writing the stories about two people falling in love and having fun doing it. Though I will say halfway through most of my books, I’m cursing as bad as my characters. I always wonder why in the hell I’m doing this, but when I hold that completed book in my hand. I feel proud that I finished something not everyone can or is willing to do. Maybe when my grandkids get older they will think Nana was one crazy woman, but they will remember me. They’ll know my name and know what I loved to do. Write.

Quote from Full Heat

“A sprinkle of cherry blossoms floated over a cheek, down one leg to

Full Heat_Swafford

behind her knee. What else did the woman have hidden?”

Storm watching Mary Jane walk naked into his bedroom

 

Amazon

iBooks

Barnes and Noble

Kobo Books

Google Play

Books a Million

Giveaways For Fun

This is a copy of the email I sent out today to my newsletter list.

Being a fan of my books, I thought you might like the opportunity to come and win a bag of author swag (some of mine but lots of other authors), including signed copies of NAKED HEAT and CIRCLE OF DECEPTION.

Two of the bags are from my local Romance Writers of America chapter’s Romance Readers Luncheon held each year in November. To learn more about it, you can check it out at SouthernMagic.org. The speaker for 2018 is NYT bestselling author Cathy Maxwell. The third bag is by way of author Hildie McQueen. She’s a sweetheart, and it’s so cute!

I’ve started up a Facebook group that I hope you will like to join. That’s where once every three months I plan to do giveaways, paste deleted scenes, ask your opinions on titles, covers, and general writing ideas. Of course, I’ll gladly answer any questions you have about my books or to do with writing.

So if you’re interested in participating, here’s the link. FACEBOOK GROUP. Must join the group for a chance to win one of the bags and future giveaways.

Present giveaways for US addresses. Most future ones will be available for International addresses.

zr5NtkovThmJveSXAaYo3Q

pMI8qoxwQ%GmJwRoRWR5AwtMY8jMgqTm2vXdax1u4Thw

So What’s Next?

So What’s Next?

If you’ve been wondering about what I’ve been up to and what you should expect next from me, here’s a little information. Presently, I finished a book I’ve been working on and off for a handful of years. Book one in my Southern Crime Family series. It will be first of three I hope to publish a month apart at the end of next year.

I’m also working on another book written in first person about a bounty hunter. Hopefully, it will be something everyone will love.

If you’re interested in excerpts and announcements about my books, you can sign up for my newsletter.  If you just want to know when another book will come out, you can sign up to follow me on BookBub and/or Amazon. Or do all three.

My newsletter

BookBub

Amazon

Of course, you can follow this blog too. Look on the right near the top.

On Sale!

Hidden Heat is on sale for 99 cents for a limited time. Sexy undercover cop infiltrates a motorcycle gang and meets former MC president’s daughter with a smart-mouth. Hot sex and danger. Be sure to check it out and buy!

!FB meme
FACEBOOK LINK

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

iBooks

Kobo Books

 

First Line Short Story

Yesterday, I went to a workshop my writers group sponsored, and it was so much fun. The presenter mainly talked about motivation. As in how a writer can use encouragement or habits to put their butt in a chair and write every day. Otherwise, you will never get done that book, short story, or article you’ve been dreaming about writing.

One exercise I enjoyed the most. In any book a person reads, the first line in the first chapter is important. It should be able to draw a person in to read more. The presenter gave us a choice of several first liners. One was “It’s so huge!” You can imagine that was a favorite. Anyway, I picked the one you’ll see below. Hope you like the itty-bitty short story.

**be aware that I use naughty words**

Sliding down the stripper pole isn’t as easy as you might think. When I took the bet from my friends. I was already down six beers, and really should know better than to take their dare. The asshats.

Everyone claps and hoots, trying to encourage my rhythm as I dance around the pole. Playing the part, I yank off my shirt and twirl it above my head. The servers and dancers laugh and shout their advice.

Kid Rock’s Cowboy blasts through the speakers. Grabbing the steel pole, I jump up and try my best to hold on with my jean-clad legs, but I slide inch by inch down the slippery bastard. And who knew the fucking thing rotates by itself? I tighten my grip and lean back. Lifting my arm as if I won the lottery.

More shouting reminds me I need to move with the beat. So I thrust my hips and swing around the pole. The colors and sounds swirl by and my head feels light. A little cross-eyed, I fall to the stage, and the pounding of the music vibrates through my body. Not letting my friends get the better of me, I jump up, sway, regain my feet, and begin a bump and grind. Dollars rain around my feet.

Fuck the pole. I’ll just dance around and make a few bucks. Then I can buy another beer when the song stops. I do every dance I can remember from what Mom taught me. Two stepping, I trip and my friends catch me, helping me to stand as the song ends.

“You win, Luke. I never thought you would do it.” Rich hands me the fiver he had promised if I show the girls I could do it too.

****

I always love a twist and not just on a stripper pole.  HA!

Same Tale, Different Story

Same Tale, Different Story

Some years ago, I had an interviewer to ask me, how does it feel to compete with Businessman Wearing Capeestablished writers?  I thought you might like to see my answer.

Wow! That’s really a good question. I guess I’ve never really thought of my becoming published as a competition with other authors. Maybe because I’m aware of the vast opportunities to take one story and turn it into a hundred directions. Over the years, I’ve heard we basically have a certain number of plots to write. Seven to ten are the most common quantities given. A good link to go to that explains this is HERE.

With those basic plots, we have an indefinite number of stories to tell. Since everyone has their own way of speaking, in this case, writing a story, we can have thousands, even millions of authors and never hear the same story, especially word for word.  Plus each reader has their own special need inside that drives them to purchase certain type of stories. I personally love forced marriage plots, contemporary or historical, along with CircleofDesire mm canything involving spies and assassins. The last two are why I wrote CIRCLE OF DESIRE, my debut book. Most authors do write what they want to read. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

Readers want their need fulfilled more than once a year. Some have a monthly, weekly, and for those fast readers, a daily addiction. My addiction can be seen in the stack of novels waiting in my shelves to be read and the same number downloaded on my iPad

What I’m getting at is there’s room for many authors. Some who will be an instantaneous best-selling author (al la Stephenie Myer) and others who’ll take a few years to reach that same point of success (the fabulously talented Sherrilyn Kenyon). Of course, the publishing world has room for all of us in between authors.

What the heck…

Young Couple Sharing Special Moment and PresentLately, I’ve been struggling with my writing time. So much going on in my life. Nothing bad, just a lot of things and several changes. One is that we’re moving this summer out of our home of twenty-four years. Plus the summers are crazy at the day-job. Lots of overtime. And I need to learn to say no with volunteer work, but I love helping people.

I’m not sure when I’ll finish the book I’m working on. Only ten chapters left before I write the two most beautiful words in an author’s work: THE END. Luckily (oddly), no editor is waiting for it, but my agent wants to see it.

Funny, but I rarely talk about my current manuscripts, not because of superstition. It’s because I don’t want to hear someone say, “Oh, that’s like so-and-so’s book.” That always pisses me off. No one writes a book like I write. Yes. I do understand what they’re saying. The book is similar in a key point of the plot, character(s), or location of the other author’s. I can tell you most authors don’t want to hear that. We all think our books are unique. In one way particularly. Our voice. That is, our word choices and rhythm.

But, here I am writing a blog post, and telling you about a book I listened to. Another time suck, but one I love to do it. Side note: this isn’t a review site, but I love books. That’s why I love to read (or listen) and write them. So I figured when I especially enjoy one, I would pass on a little recommendation.

CAKE by J. Bengtsson   (Audio)

For the blurb, click on the link above. As many current contemporary romance books, the hero and heroine are 23 years old. The girl is sweet and pretty level-headed.  No diva attitude or oversexed heroine. Considering my heroines are very demanding sexually, 51jggA8BjOL._SL300_that’s saying something about the author’s writing. HA! For it held my attention. And if you’re wondering, the hero wasn’t a horn dog. They were very likable. Great sense of humors for both.

Overall, I would recommend this for anyone who enjoys a soft “rock star” book (pun intended). No drug use by main characters, no drinking, or too crazy groupies. Light on the sex. It played with how to have a relationship with a celebrity. How people have certain expectations from those who are famous, including expecting they do not deserve privacy.

A thread in the story included that the hero had a horrible trauma when he was a young, and it comes up throughout the story, but not in a heavy angst-y way.  In fact, I thought the author handled very well.

Only negatives were, their families were near to perfect. If you read any of my books, you know my heroes’ and/or heroines’ families were more like real ones. Neurotic, self-centered, demanding, in general, big pains in the butt. Or is it only my family? Hmm.

By the way, it does not end in a cliff hanger though you will think so at first.  Good twist. I don’t consider that a spoiler. For I freaking hate cliff hangers. I was getting mad, and so I searched on the review site to see if someone talked about it. There wasn’t one, so I continued on and was very happy with the ending.

I checked out the second book in the Cake series. It’s the middle brother (though the blurb mentioned he’s a younger brother).  Looks interesting, but I think I want a hot book next. I can take all the sweetness between the two and their families only so much.  Maybe I’m jealous of the couple.

Almost forgot, the narrators did a great job.  Once again, I was so happy to come across a male narrator who didn’t make a woman sound whiny.

Researching Mundane Words

photo meThe things you learn when you double check something you’ve never really thought about such as the difference between button-down and button-up shirts. I’ve always called a dress shirt (besides dress shirt) a button-up shirt. Well, it turns out that’s wrong. A button-down shirt includes the button on each collar to hold it in place (that’s the button-down part). The button-up does not. AND a dress shirt will always have the buttons on the collar. Thus always a button-down shirt. The things authors have to know.

By the way, my mom would always correct me as a kid when I referred to my top as a shirt. She said boys wore shirts, girls wore blouses. I can see that except when it’s a t-shirt. (Of course, the spelling of t-shirt is another argument. ) HA!

Enough is Enough

1pic for blog[Reprint of post from Romance Magicians’ blog May 29, 2011]

This still applies and maybe will help others to understand the need to continue and be dedicated in becoming published with a traditional publisher or in finishing a novel and becoming self-published.  

When is enough enough? I’ve thought about this a lot the last couple years. My first submission was sent out in 1992 and I didn’t send anything else out for ten years. Partly because I had no self-confidence and partly because life got in the way. In 2002, I decided I wasn’t getting any younger and if I really wanted this, I had to find out what I was doing wrong. Nothing has been as important to me to accomplish since I wanted a second child. She was born eight years and 12 hours of labor after the first one. This delivery was a hell of lot longer.

I worked on improving my grammar, bringing out my voice and learning how to pitch to editors and agents. I practiced writing query letters, talking to an editor and agent at conferences, and being the best I could be as a writer. For the next nine years, I drank, ate and slept writing. Am I perfect? Oh, goodness, no! But I have ten books to prove my perseverance. Being at my RWA chapter meetings helped and encouraged me to keep trying.

One evening at a conference, I had the pleasure to relax with Sherrilyn Kenyon in her hotel room, and we were talking about what it takes to be a published author. Sherrilyn’s road to publication and staying published was a hard one. If you ever get a chance to hear her talk about that road, do so. It’s scary but also an uplifting story. Anyway, she mentioned how sad it was that a friend of hers had given up on writing. She’d read her work and hadn’t understood why an editor hadn’t snatched it up. She encouraged me to keep trying.

Since I couldn’t quit my day job, I gave up watching television, having floors I could eat off of, and reading one book after another. All my spare time was dedicated to what I wanted most. To be published. But my rejections continued to come in.

So the question is still how to know when enough is enough?

I believe it is when you can say, I quit it all. When you no longer have a story nagging at the back of your mind, or you read a book and say I can write better than that or I wish I can write a good story like that. When you don’t imagine dogs and dragons in the clouds or hear words of mystery and intrigue whispered in your ears by the wind. When you can close your eyes at night and don’t feel the presence of someone looking over you (good or bad). When you can ignore the wide-eyed pleads of your children or nieces and nephews to repeat the stories of your childhood or the made-up scary ones. Then that’s enough.

I came close, but thanks to the Good Lord, I wanted more.

This post was written just after I had gotten my first call from HarperCollins. Now it has been three books with HC and two books with Random House (Loveswept). So see, hard work pays off. Keep trying and decide what you want and be willing to change.  Goodness knows, the publishing world changes often, and as an author you need to be willing to do that too.

Poetry and Sex

When I think of Jack Drago in Circle of Defiance, I think of how different he is from all the other heroes in my books. He loves cats. In fact, owns a white one named Kinky. His best friend is a female (Marie from Circle of Danger), and strangely, considering how he falls in love with unavailable women, he never touches her sexually. And he recites poetry when he’s amorous (fancy way of saying horny).

Though his brother hates his guts, he has a soft spot for the big guy (Rex from Circle of Deception). Hey, he made sure that his brother and his brother’s sweetie reunited. No one knows the real Jack. Totally misunderstood by all who hate him and that’s a lot of people in The Circle. Bless his heart, he even ended up being dumped in Sand City, Alabama drunk and in trouble with the organization that should be looking after him. But one woman understands him, better than he’s comfortable with. She doesn’t have a sweetheart or husband, but I imagine Jack believes she’s unattainable because her dad is the head of a dangerous syndicate. The same one that hung his brother naked by the ankles in a warehouse (Circle of Deception). To Jack, Katerina is merely a challenge. He loves challenges.

Here’s the beginning of the novella.

The sharp smell of blood and alcohol penetrated the cool air as the glass door closed behind Katerina Savalas. She hesitated and scanned the unfamiliar surroundings. Being in the less than safe side of town, she wanted to get her business done and over with as fast as possible.

Never in her wildest nightmares had she imagined stepping into such a place. When her dad kicked her out of the house, she’d sworn she’d find another way to express herself. Too many people believed it to be the perfect way to protest. Instead, it became a rebellion that led to a habit. Not her. No way.

Looking at an intriguing drawing on the wall, she shook her head. Maybe it was a tiny bit tempting.

“Hello, pretty little girl, what can I do for you?” The man smiled and his skin pulled at the black swirling pattern covering one side of his face. A chain connected his pierced nose to a large spool in his ear and jingled when he moved around the counter. He stopped a little too close.

She swallowed, trying to keep her stomach from turning upside down. Just thinking about a needle sinking into her skin gave her the willies. Taking another deep swallow to settle her stomach, she forced her legs to stiffen and hold her up.

Wrenching her gaze away from the maltreated chunk of fat and skin, she looked over his shoulder to regain her composure. “I was told Jack Drago’s here.”

“Who told you that?” His tone was threatening.

“Phil at the Sandbox,” she answered, straining to see around a curtain in the back of the room.

Whoever named the bar had thought they were cute, playing with Sand City’s name. She agreed the place was pretty decent as it sported a couple pool tables in the back and a small stage for local bands. Even on Tuesday nights, families gathered and enjoyed an old movie shown on a drop-down screen. A person could call the atmosphere homey, for a bar. She’d visited it several times since moving into the small town. But then again, the Sandbox being the only bar in town limited her choices.

The owner had told her to hang around until late that evening. Jack often showed up by nine. The problem with that was she didn’t want to waste any more time. So he’d suggested checking at Lonnie’s Place.

From what she’d seen so far of Lonnie’s, she preferred the Sandbox Bar and Grill.

“Phil’s going to get his ass beat, if he ain’t careful. He knows better than to give out info about Jack.”

“So he’s here?” When the man’s brow wrinkled in confusion, she added, “Jack. Is Jack here?”

The Mike Tyson wannabe leaned close, his onion-loaded breath bursting across her face. She moved back a step and pretended to scratch her nose. Anything to block the smell.

“Whatcha going to give me?” He grabbed her arm. “Everyone pays a toll.” The leer told her what he expected.

Without thinking, she pushed forward and brought her knee up hard. He hit the floor with a scream so high-pitched it came out more like a squeak before he curled into a ball. Thanks to her brothers’ endless roughhousing, she’d learned that little trick a long time ago. She grinned and stepped over his body, heading toward the large red satin curtain separating the back of the room. He’d think twice before placing a hand on her again. Nevertheless, she’d better find Jack quick before the man recovered.

Pausing for a second to take a deep breath, she then fisted the soft material, yanking it across the pole, making the large metal rings clank. She gasped.

Stretched out on a recliner, head shaved, broad chest bare, jeans and black underwear around one ankle with a large smirk on his face, was Jack Drago. A shapely blonde sat between his legs with her head bent over his groin.

Face hot, Katerina took one step back but hesitated, squashing the desire to turn and run. She needed his help, and she couldn’t put it off any longer. With her decision made, she forced her gaze to meet his, not caring about whatever she intruded on. Light blue eyes examined her with lazy, licentious interest. No matter how uncomfortable his stare made her feel, she refused to look away.

The man was still as gorgeous as she remembered with his grid-defined abs and huge muscled arms on full display. Some type of Celtic design covered one shoulder to wrist. Piercings through his nipples, one brow, and a loop in his lip made him look like a pagan god while the woman worshiped his . . . staff?

Warmth spread across her face and neck.

“Hey, you look familiar,” he said in the deep gruff voice she remembered. “I know.” He lifted a stubborn chin. “You’re that Savalas girl. Kristina. No. Katerina. Yeah, that’s it.” He slung a beefy arm over his head; his relaxed pose displayed muscles and toned body like a romance novel cover. “Come over and tell me how she’s doing. She claims to be a pro at it, but I think I’m her first.” He chuckled as he lifted a bottle of Devil’s Cut in his other hand and guzzled a third of it.

Shaking her head, Katerina held up a palm. “No. No. I’ll pass. I didn’t mean to interrupt.”

The blonde huffed and leaned back. “I’ve been doing this for ten years, and I’m a hell of lot better at it than the fellow in Atlanta you were telling me about.”

Fellow? Eyebrows raised, her gaze returned to his face. He swung both ways? Then a mechanical humming stopped. What in the world? Unable to resist any longer, she peeked over the blonde’s shoulder.

She breathed a sigh of relief on seeing the artwork the woman worked on. Feeling a little stupid ― it was a tattoo shop ― she eyed the design.

On the left side of Jack’s groin, a large black ink pattern depicted a fallen angel with wings curled over a bowed head and around a bruised, bloody body. Dark feathers brushed Jack’s abs and ended where his thigh and torso met. The design was beautiful and poignant.
When Jack’s cock twitched, she realized where her gaze had drifted, and her face heated again until it probably looked like an overripe tomato.

She twirled around, giving him her back. “Uh . . . I need to talk with you. After you pull up your pants.” The image of his cock would be seared on her brain for the rest of her life.

New ad

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Kobo Books

Be on the lookout for the paperback book with the novellas, Circle of Dishonor and Circle of Defiance, coming out soon!

The Emerald City

wizard-of-oz-quoteBeing a published author is like being Dorthy going to the Emerald City. You want to get to that beautiful, magical place of where your wonderful story will be presented to the world. But you have to go through trials and detours. Scary things like flying monkeys trying to hold you back and witches trying to stop you, but when you finally arrive, it takes your breath away. It’s more than you ever imagined. You’re fascinated by all of the exciting activity, and how everyone wants to make your story pretty as possible.

And then you go to see the wizard (booksellers and reviewers).  Still a little scary, but you know this is what you want and you’re determined to show how brave you are. Then with a lot of clanging and smoke billowing, you find out the truth.

It’s what is in you that makes you successful. Not all the hoopla or even the polishing, your writing is all that counts and will bring you to where you should be. So simple, yet so difficult.

[As you can tell, I quite often relate writing to movies. My post is from the one I did for the Romance Magicians’ blog on January 15, 2016, but changed a little.]

 

Website: www.carlaswafford.com
Twitter:  @carlaswafford
Facebook: CarlaSwafford, Author
Amazon: Carla Swafford Books
Barnes & Noble: Carla Swafford Books