5 things you didn’t know about Luke Bauer, hero of Knee Deep #romcombooks #romancenovel #romance #characterguestpost #love #fridayreads

Knee Deep, book 4 of the Love in the Suburbs series, is almost here. Yeah! I can’t wait to share Luke and Violet’s story with you. Although I do admit to having had a ball teasing everyone about their background in the previous books in the series. I’m evil like that. Today’s blog is from Luke – the guy who seems like a total sweetheart until Violet walks in the room. Then, he turns into a man we do not know. Without further ado, take it away Luke.

Knee Deep _ Cover

Dena asked me to tell you ten things you didn’t know about me. The woman can be persistent as hell. She reminds me of someone else I— *Clears throat* Never mind. Anyway, you’ll have to settle for five things you didn’t know about me as I’m pretty much an open book. And no, I won’t be telling you the story between Violet and me. That secret is going with me to the grave. Anyway, here you go:

  1. I’m a big brother. I grew up as an only child to a single mother. I asked my mom for a brother until I was old enough to realize why she couldn’t just go to the corner store and pick me one up. I don’t want any kid suffering the loneliness I did as a child, so I volunteered to become a big brother. I’m currently the proud big bother to Jake.
  2. I take part in a charity bike ride to support breast cancer. My mom died when I was in my early teens from breast cancer. Watching someone I love suffer through cancer has made me determined no other son will have to go through the pain of losing his mother at a young age like I did.
  3. I have paruresis. Using the word paruresis sounds way cooler than what it actually means – a fear of peeing in public. Women don’t have to pee in public in front of strangers, why should men have to? And that’s all I’m saying about that.
  4. I wax. My arms that is! What were you thinking? No. Don’t answer that. It’s fairly normal to wax if you have tats. Since I have a full sleeve, I wax. I have tats so people can see the beautiful artwork and not my hairy arms.
  5. Contrary to popular belief, I am not afraid of commitment. I’m sure when I find the one – and Violet is not the one after what she did to me – I will be all in.

~~~

Dena here again. Okay, um… I didn’t realize Luke had such depth (except for that whole peeing in public thing – TMI, Luke. T.M.I.). Maybe I don’t give him enough credit. Of course, he’s a total jerk to our girl Violet, which doesn’t help. Us girls gotta stick together.

Did I pique your interest in Luke’s love story? Pre-order Knee Deep for just 99 cents for a limited time!

My research trip to a Hermes store ~ From back when we went to stores #amwriting #WriterWednesday

Wednesdays are all about writing here on my blog. One thing I love about writing is research. Seriously, I love it. Even better than sitting in stuffy library researching is actually going places and experiencing new things. Plus, you get to tell the hubby you simply have to go because it’s research. Today’s blog is about a little research side trip I took a while back for my Love in the Suburbs series.

Remember when the world wasn’t undergoing a scary pandemic? Those were the days. Well, way back then, I went on a trip to Miami where I met up with one of my sisters. At the time, I was finishing with the edits of Hands Off. In fact, I spent the entire flight from Amsterdam to Atlanta (stupid layover) going through the manuscript one last time. While enjoying some adult beverages, because it’s not editing if there aren’t adult beverages.

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That’s a Bellini in a plastic cup in case you’re wondering

Once I arrived in Miami, I put the manuscript in my bag, not to be taken out again until it was time to travel home. Commence vacation!

One of the days while we were walking around Miami we stumbled upon the design district. Now, if you’ve never been to the design district in Miami, let me tell you, I do not belong there. No. No. No. The stores include places like Cartier, Dior, Fendi, and a whole bunch of other brands I can’t pronounce let alone spell. But there is someone who would be right at home there – Roman Cadwell, billionaire of Hands Off fame. As we happened to be there anyway, I decided I might as well go check out the first gift Roman gave to Bailey – a Hermès stole.

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New Libras Stole Hermès

My sister was all for it! What are they going to do? Kick us out? She said as she opened the door for her chicken little sister. We walked around the store for some time trying to find the stole without success. I was worried a store in Miami wouldn’t have one. It is a scarf after all. Finally, I put on my big girl panties and asked if they had any scarves. I was sent to the top floor where I not only found the stole, but the exact color I had imagined Roman bought Bailey.

This is where the picture of me modeling the scarf should be. Unfortunately, there isn’t one. Nope. Chicken Little reared her ugly head and I didn’t dare ask my sister to take my picture. The lady looking down her nose at me didn’t help my decision. And now not having that picture is one of the regrets of my life. Especially as the chance I’ll ever be in a store – let alone a Hermès store – ever again seems less and less likely.

And that’s the story of how I didn’t get a picture of me with a Hermès stole I could never afford (unless I want to eat noodles for the rest of my life).

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An interview with Violet from Knee Deep, the next book in the Love in the Suburbs series, releasing July 29th #characterinterview #MondayBlogs #Romance #Romancenovels #reading

Knee Deep, book 4 of the Love in the Suburbs series, is almost here. Yeah! In this fourth and final book of the series, Luke finally gets his love story. Today’s blog is an interview with Violet, the woman he used to love but currently can not stand to be in the same room with. Without further ado, take it away Violet.

Knee Deep _ Cover

What is your full name? Do you have a nickname? If so, who calls you this?

Hi! My name is Violet Scott. I do have a nickname – Petal. But he-who-shall-not-be-named calls me that. So, yeah, no one is using my nickname now.

Are you an only child? If not, how many siblings do you have? Are you close or are you estranged?

Some days I wish I were an only child. But no, I have four siblings – two brothers and two sisters. They are all married and popping out babies like it’s no one’s business. We are quite close as my parents have retired and moved away to enjoy their golden years away from all the icky snow and ice. To be honest, though, I’m not always excited to see my siblings. They’re all super happy and in love. Blech!

Did you enjoy school? If not, why did you struggle?

I used to love school. And college was a total ball. But then, some bad stuff happened. Really bad stuff and I fell into a depression. It took me years to get back on track and return to school to get my degree.

If you could change one thing from your past, what would it be, and why?

This is an easy one. I would not let Luke Freaking Bauer run all over me. Nope. When he said all that nasty stuff to me, I would have told him exactly where to go. It would have not been a nice place, let me tell you.

Do you believe in the existence of soul mates and/or true love?

I used to. Not so much anymore.

On Monday morning, are you excited to go to work, or are you sad?

I love, love, love my job. I work as an event planner for F&J’s events. Since I started working there, my boss Frankie and my co-worker Bailey have become two of my best friends. I only wish they weren’t friends with you know who. I may have to leave this job if I want to avoid the jerk.

What is your greatest fear?

I’m afraid I will never have a family of my own.

~~

Yikes! Dena here again. Way to end the interview on a depressing note, Violet. Geez. Someone needs to cheer the girl up. I think I know just the man for the job. Mwahaha

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20 books to earn $50k a year? Snort. I failed this mission – spectacularly. Here’s how. Please learn from my mistakes. Someone should. #WriterWednesday #AuthorToolboxBlogHop #WritingCommunity #AmWriting

I often read about success stories in the writing community. Personally, I learn more from failure than success. Plus, success stories make me turn into the Jolly Green Giant of envy. So, hanging my head in shame, I will share my failures with you today. Please be kind or at least turn away before snickering at my ineptitude.

First of all, a little background in case you haven’t heard of the 20 books to 50k community. It’s somewhat self-explanatory. The idea is – if you have twenty books, you should be able to earn $50,000 a year and retire comfortably in Cabo San Lucas. Not where I’d retire but it’s not my idea either. No, this is the copyrighted brainchild of Michael Anderle. (Interested in learning more? Here’s the link to the FB group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/20Booksto50k/)

Sounds good, right? I thought so. Only problem is I completely and utterly failed at this. On July 29th, my twentieth book releases and – barring some major miracle happening – I will not be anywhere close to earning $50,000 this year. In fact, I’ll probably gross about half of that.

So, how did I go wrong? In oh so many ways. Let me count the ways:

Not writing to market

Writing to market does not mean finding the latest trend and writing books in that genre. It means ensuring the books you write fit into the genre you market them in. I totally failed at this.

When I first published my Gray-Haired Knitting Detectives series, I thought they were fun chick lit. Readers thought differently and shoved them into the cozy mystery genre. I thought – okay, why not? Wrong. Dena. Wrong. These books contained swearing and some sexual scenes. You know what cozy mystery readers really, really hate? You got it – swearing and sex scenes! I recently spent a month editing the novels in this series and re-launching them. My reviews have gone up and sales as well.

You’d think I would have learned from the above disaster. But no, I didn’t. When I wrote my next cozy mystery series, the Death by Cupcake series, I thought it was okay to have a stripper on the cover. I should have realized something was wrong when my blog tour operator refused to take my business. Of course, I’m pigheaded and went about my business. Can you say idiot? Luckily, I finally caught on and updated the covers to match the market.

20books250k_covers

Blurb Failure

All those experts who tell you your blurb needs to be short and catchy are right. Listen to them! Do not go ahead with that blurb that you think tells the story. The blurb is meant to entice readers. This all sounds obvious, doesn’t it? Apparently not to me who continued to write long meandering blurbs for years. I highly recommend listening to podcasts and taking courses to learn how to write better book descriptions. (Bryan Cohen is the guy who finally got through my blockhead.)

Here’s an example of what I mean:

20books250k

Not writing in series

There is absolutely, positively nothing wrong with not writing in a series. BUT – and it’s a big but thus the all caps – if you want to earn money with your writing, writing a series is the way to go. Once I decided to dip my toe in Facebook and Amazon ads, I quickly realized advertising for standalone books is way expensive. (The experts are not kidding when they say book selling is now a pay to play market.) I could make it work short-term, but not long-term. And long-term earnings is what I’m looking for.

Not building a newsletter

Like many authors, I started a newsletter and then felt guilty whenever I sent one out. No one wants to hear from me, I thought. So, I only sent out a newsletter when I had a book to talk about. But guess what? That means every time my newsletter went out, I was asking my subscribers for something. I wasn’t giving them anything. They had no incentive to remain subscribers. With dwindling subscriber numbers, I decided to start taking this whole newsletter thing seriously. I studied Newsletter Ninja and then wrote a novella to give away to new subscribers. I’ve since learned one free novella is not enough. You need to constantly provide new, enticing content for subscribers to keep them subscribed – giveaways, free content, exclusive teasers, etc.

Not building an advance team

I initially scoffed at the experts who advised an advance team to help launch your books. Why would anyone want to be on my advance team? I’m a no one. In the meantime, I’ve realized how much time and effort I put into finding reviewers and bloggers for each book I launch. Considering I’m increasing my productivity and thus the number of books I launch, I can’t keep this up. My advance team is now officially launched. There are less than ten members, but you have to start somewhere!

Writing in different genres

I’ve written about this a lot of the past year, but I’ll repeat myself here – if you write in different genres, you need to use different pen names. Here’s the problem: I write cozy mysteries that are clean reads and I write romantic comedies that are most definitely not clean reads. Cozy mystery readers are often offended by my romcoms. And my romcom readers often find my cozies silly. With my newsletter and social media, I only have one pen name meaning I’m advertising my romcoms to cozy mysteries who aren’t interested in romcoms and vice versa.

Not writing fast enough

Don’t get me wrong – you don’t have to write a book a month to be successful. But you do need to write constantly at whatever speed you are comfortable with. I initially farted around – writing a chapter here and there. In the past year as I’ve taken earning from my writing more seriously, I’ve worked on writing faster and on a schedule. I no longer schedule lunches and fun stuff during the daytime, and I try to write three chapters a day (just over 5,000 words). This allows me to bring more books to market. More books equals more money (or at least, that’s the idea, fingers crossed).

Approaching writing like a hobby

I saved this one for last, but it’s my biggest failure. When I started seriously writing, I had the luxury of not needing to earn money. My husband was making good money and anything I earned was simply frosting on the cake. But things change and now I regret my early attitude. Instead of having built up a bunch of super fans over the years, I feel like I began anew last year when I started taking all this writing and marketing stuff seriously.

I’m sure there are plenty more mistakes I’ve made, but these are the big ones. Anyone else feel like sharing their mistakes, so I don’t feel alone and naked out here in total honesty-ville?

~~

This blog post is part of the #AuthorToolboxBlogHop. This is a monthly blog hop hosted by @raimeygallant. Make sure to stop by the other author blog posts in this month’s blog hop to fill up your author toolbox! Just click on the graphic to take you to the list.

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June Reading Round-up #Amreading #bookaddict

June 2020 reading wrap up

I don’t know about anyone else, but I just can’t get my reading groove on this year. Concentration? What’s that? Attention span? I think I’ve heard of it, but I’m pretty sure I don’t have one. Plus, there’s that pesky pandemic, which we can blame pretty much anything on.

So, yeah, I only finished twelve books in June. If this sounds like a lot, please keep in mind I usually read four to five books a week.

Spoiler alert! – I didn’t actually finish twelve books. I DNF’ed two books (How to Choose a Guy in 10 days and His Human Nanny). Normally, I don’t include books I DNF on Goodreads, but since I bought these books and made it past the free chapters, I decided to add them. Okay, fine! I’ll admit it! Adding them also made me feel better about my dismal June reading habits.

Spoiler alert #2 – As long as I’m being embarrassingly honest here, I should probably admit that two of the books are actually novellas. Like a Wolf with a Bone and My Kind of Town, both from Shelly Laurenston, are short reads in her Pride Series.

The good thing about this list? Those books I did manage to finish I enjoyed for the most part. Avery Flynn is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. And I never turn down a chance to read Pippa Grant and Cynthia Eden. I’m up and down on Aurora Rose Reynolds. Her stories seem to repeat themselves an awful lot, but I did enjoy Hooking Him.

Favorite book of the month? This is one I didn’t expect to enjoy but stayed up half the night reading – Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. I thought it was smart and witty and readable. I recommend it to anyone looking for a pandemic read.

How did your June reading month go?

How to find book reviewers (in a kind of creepy and time-consuming way) #WriterWednesday #AmWriting #WritingCommunity

I have discovered a new way to find reviewers for my books. Warning: It’s super time-consuming and a bit stalkerish. If you’re okay with those conditions, read on.

Step #1 – Find a book similar to the book you want reviewed

finding reviewers 1In my case, I chose Jock Blocked by Pippa Grant. Although my upcoming release is not a sports romance, it is a romantic comedy and I fancy I’m funny. Not as funny as Pippa Grant (obviously, she’s make the big bucks) but funny in a similar way. WARNING: You should most definitely read the book to make sure it is indeed similar to your book.

 

Step #2 – Find the book in Goodreads and scroll the reviewers

I told you this would be time-consuming! You want me to go through every single review of the book on Goodreads? Have you lost your mind, Dena? Yes, probably. But it works. Trust me.

Step #3 – Find a reviewer who has a blog and stalk her!

Yes, you read that right. You are now going to stalk the reviewer. Go to her blog, her social media, etc. etc. Does she read similar books to yours or was the review a fluke? Is she accepting reviews at this time? Are her reviews good?

You will want to find a reviewer who loves your genre, writes fun reviews, shares them across her social media, and isn’t too critical.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not searching for five star reviews. Sure, I love five star reviews as much as the next writer, but what you are searching for here is honest reviews! Potential readers can sniff out false reviews a mile away. You don’t want those.

Step #4 – Approach your chosen blogger/reviewer

I am blatantly honest with potential reviewers. I tell them I saw their review of X book and I stalked them. If this turns them off, they are probably not going to like my books.

Step #5 – Offer a sacrifice to the gods

Cadmus is the Greek Literature God. Offering him a sacrifice (I usually go with wine) can’t hurt. And it’s yummy!

Good luck! Let me know how you get on.

Fireworks, Murder & Cupcakes! Monthly writing update #amwriting #Mondayblogs

Let’s start this month off with a bang!

red velvet 4th of july cupcake

I haven’t been doing as much baking during the pandemic as I’d like because no one in my house – except me – eats sweets. I’m not sure I would have married my husband of twenty-four years had I known this little factoid in advance. Seriously, who doesn’t love cupcakes? But with the Fourth of July coming up, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to work on one of Anna’s cupcakes from Fireworks, A Firecracker & Foul Play. I was a bit of a cheater as I used a cake mix to help with the cupcakes, but believe it or not, it was easier to find red velvet cake mix than red food coloring in Holland. At least that’s the story I’m sticking with. It has nothing to do with the red dye disaster of 2020. Nothing at all. I always wanted to pink baking stuff. Really. See the recipe below.

recipe

In writing news, I have an exciting announcement. I have decided to write another story in the Fat Girl Begone! world. This will be Blaze’s love story and it will be totally, completely FREE for newsletter subscribers (go here to subscribe). The story is up next in my writing roster. I hope to have it to you mid-August. I finished the first draft of A Hero for Hailey yesterday. As soon as it’s off to the editor, I’ll get to work on Blaze’s story.

Stay healthy. Stay safe. Keep reading.

 

Why cupcakes? Why did I chose to have my Death by Cupcake series revolve around cupcakes? #cozymysterywriter #mysterywriter #amwriting

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Fireworks, A Firecracker & Foul Play while being a standalone story is also book 5 in the Death by Cupcake series. The series is set in Callie’s Cakes a cupcake bakery where Anna the baker extraordinaire, Kristie the coffee-obsessed barista, and Callie the nerdy owner work. Why did I choose a cupcake bakery as the backdrop for this cozy mystery series?

Cozy mysteries can roughly be divided into three categories; animals, culinary and crafts & hobbies. My first cozy mystery series, The Gray-Haired Knitting Detectives, is of the craft & hobby variety. The name kind of gave it away, didn’t it? The problem with the knitting series was the old ladies were never knitting. To be honest they didn’t have much time to knit between investigating crimes and matchmaking their grandchildren.

Readers complained about the lack of knitting. The problem is I can’t knit. Oh sure, I’ve knitted the odd sweater or scarf, maybe even a pair of mittens once upon a time. But actual knitting? The type where you know what you’re doing and don’t have to start over about a hundred times and even then your finished product looks like a elementary school project? That I have no idea how to do.

So, when I decided to start a new cozy mystery series, I knew I had to pick a backdrop I’m actually familiar with. I started the Death by Cupcake series around two years after I stopped managing a Bed & Breakfast. One of the ways I tried to make my B&B stand out was the homemade baked products. I served homemade bread and muffins at breakfast and homemade cakes, cupcakes, and cookies at tea. An idea started to form …

I certainly don’t consider myself the best baker in the world. Not even close. But cupcakes I can do. Much better than cookies and cakes at least. I’d actually say my muffins are the best of my baked products, but muffins are simply not as fun as cupcakes. And so, the Death by Cupcake series was born.

 

How the idea for Fireworks, A Firecracker & Foul Play came about #cozymysterywriter #mysterywriter #amwriting

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Readers are always asking where an idea for a particular book comes from. Often, I’m not exactly sure. Mostly my muse visits me in my dreams and I wake up with an idea. She’s pretty awesome that way. Sometimes, however, an idea is sparked by a real life event, which is the case in Fireworks, A Firecracker & Foul Play.

Many lifetimes ago, I was a military police investigator in the U.S. Army. We were the detectives of the military base. We wore plain clothes and interviewed victims and detained suspects, just like a civilian detective. And just like in the civilian world, suspects sometimes fooled detectives.

Once upon a time, I interviewed a woman who I believed was a victim. I don’t remember what the crime was anymore. During the course of the interview, it became clear she wasn’t a victim but a suspect. I immediately stopped the interview to read her her rights. I treated her with kid goals as she was distraught.

A few days later I get pulled into my boss’ office. The woman had made a complaint against me. She said I harassed her! I was not a happy camper. I won’t lie and say I’ve never pushed the envelope when interviewing a suspect, but I know I treated her nicely. (Guilting suspects into confessing was my thing.)

For some reason, this memory resurfaced last year. As soon as I decided to write a July 4th novel in the Death by Cupcake series I knew I would use the story as a launchpad for Fireworks, A Firecracker & Foul Play. 

WHY I GAVE UP FINANCE TO BAKE CUPCAKES #CHARACTERGUESTPOST #COZYMYSTERY #DEATHBYCUPCAKE

In this post Anna of the Death by Cupcake series tells us why in the world she gave up the world of finance to bake cupcakes. Take it away, Anna!

~~~~

Thanks, Dena!

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People claim I’m obsessed with cupcakes. I’m part-owner of the cupcake bakery, Callie’s Cakes, where I’m also the baker extraordinaire. Of course, I love cupcakes. But obsessed? I wouldn’t go that far. Obsessed makes my love of cupcakes sound like an addiction. Just because I eat them every day doesn’t make me addicted, does it?

One thing I do believe about cupcakes is their ability to make anything better. Feeling blue? Eat a cupcake. Boyfriend dumped you? Eat a cupcake. Failed an exam? Eat a cupcake. Aced an exam? Eat a cupcake. Getting married? Make a cupcake wedding cake.

My obsession love of cupcakes began when I was in junior high. All the other girls were developing into women. Not me. I was stuck at five-foot-nothing and as straight as a chocolate sheet cake. I was not a happy camper. Then, this nerdy girl named Callie handed me an Oreo cupcake and I fell in love. Cupcakes became my life. And the nerdy girl? She became my best friend and co-owner of a cupcake bakery.

Now that I’m older, I’ve also discovered cupcakes are mighty handy when you’re investigating a crime. It’s remarkable how quickly a person will open up and answer your questions when you hand them a cupcake. Cupcakes are also handy for comforting a victim. Asking a victim questions before they’ve been comforted is never a good idea. Trust me.

And that’s why I gave up my work as an accountant and became a cupcake baker.