A Sneak Peek of Trick or Thief #cozymystery

Trick or Thief is almost here! One more day to be exact. Here’s a look at the first chapter to whet your appetite


Chapter 1

A ghost first appears

I walk into the kitchen of Callie’s Cakes and collapse on a chair in the corner. I am in no mood to be at the cupcake bakery, but I promised Anna and Callie, the co-owners and my close friends, I’d stop by today. If I didn’t show, the two would get worried. Trust me, no one wants the troublesome twosome worried.

I used to work as a barista at the bakery while I was in college. Since I graduated in July, I’ve been working full-time at my first love – the Youth Center. I used my inheritance to build the facility. It’s my dream to help troubled youth by offering them a safe place to learn, hang out, or simply relax. But things at the center just got weird. I’ve been up all night trying to figure it all out.

“You no look so good,” Anna says in the worst Spanish accent ever.

I don’t bother to open my eyes to answer her. “Who do you think you are? Ricky Ricardo?” I shouldn’t be surprised she’s channeling the character. After all, I often refer to her and Callie as Lucy and Ethel.

“Here.” She shoves a cupcake in my hand. “Have a cupcake.” Anna is the baker extraordinaire of Callie’s Cakes. She thinks cupcakes can solve any and every problem.

I open my eyes to examine the sweet treat. It’s a ghost cupcake. A chocolate cupcake with buttercream frosting in the shape of a ghost to be exact. There are even dots of frosting for the eyes. Adorable. With Halloween around the corner, Anna’s been baking up a storm of Halloween-themed treats.

“Where’s my coffee?” I may love cupcakes, but coffee is my addiction. I can’t survive without it.

“Eat your cupcake,” Anna orders.

“You know, cupcakes are not the answer to every single situation.” Nevertheless, I take a bite and groan as the taste of vanilla buttercream and chocolate cake goodness hits my tongue. Yum.

“You’re obviously tired. Sugar will help. See? Cupcakes are the answer.”

I can’t argue with her reasoning. Whoa. I must be tired if I can’t argue with Anna’s reasoning. Callie walks out of her office and joins us. “What’s going on?”

Anna shrugs. “I don’t know yet. I’m still on the calm-her-down-with-a-cupcake part.”

“Cupcake?” Callie looks around. “What cupcake? You didn’t give me a cupcake.”

Anna rolls her eyes. “Maybe because someone – aka you! – told me to stop you from gorging yourself on cupcakes.”

“Eating one cupcake is not gorging.”

Anna crosses her arms over her chest. She’s barely five-foot-tall, but she has attitude for days. “You’ve set your wedding date now. I am not allowing you to cancel the wedding because you gained weight when the real problem is you still don’t believe Ben loves you.” She snorts. “As if.”

When Anna got married on July 4th this past summer, Callie was not a happy camper. Don’t get me wrong. She was happy for her friend, but she was also feeling awfully sorry for herself. I didn’t get what the big deal was. She’s been engaged since before Christmas last year. All she had to do was set the date. But she kept putting it off. Ben finally offered to elope. She lost her mind at his suggestion.

To everyone’s relief, Callie finally set a date – Valentine’s Day. How in the name of coffee she’s going to pull off a Valentine’s Day wedding in less than a year is beyond me. I’m going to sit back and watch the chaos erupt – as it always does with these two.

“I trust Ben loves me,” Callie insists.

“Hardy haha.” Anna slaps her thigh. “Good one. Tell me another.”

I sigh and relax back into my chair. I was wrong. The bakery is the perfect place to be to distract me from everything else going on in my life.

“Anyway.” Callie clears her throat. “We’re not here to talk about me. What’s going on, Kristie?”

Shootawhoota! I should have known I wouldn’t get away with not telling them my problems. Maybe if I give them a little hint, they’ll let it go. “Problems at the Youth Center.” Not a lie.

Callie grabs a chair and pulls it close. “What kind of problems?”

“Nothing big. Some issues with the stockroom is all.”

“Issues with the stockroom?” Anna asks. “Don’t tell me you have some type of rodent in there. I can tell you from experience, rodents are a pain to deal with.”

Callie turns her attention to Anna. “What are you talking about? Do we have rodents in our stockroom? Oh no, the health inspectors are going to jump for joy. You know they hate me.”

“If you hadn’t tried to tell them how to do their jobs, it would not have been a problem.”

Callie frowns. “It’s not my fault they were referring to the wrong health code.”

Here’s the thing about Callie, she’s a major nerd. Major. Her oversized brain is full of trivial information. Information she can’t help but spout at the most inappropriate times.

“We don’t have rodents,” Anna says. “No need to worry about those nasty health inspectors.” She raises an eyebrow at me. “Do you have rodents?”

“No, gross.” Why did she jump straight to the worst possible problem there could be in a stockroom? “There are some problems with the inventory.”

“Oh no. Are you running out of funds? I can ask Ben if he’ll help me set up some police fundraiser. Those usually work.”

Callie’s future husband is a detective with the city police department. I’m fairly certain he wouldn’t be excited to help put together a fundraiser for the Youth Center. Don’t get me wrong. The guy is super nice. And way patient. He asked Callie out for over a year before she finally said yes. He’s also a big supporter of the Youth Center. But fundraising is not in his wheelhouse.

“Logan will help as well.”

Logan is Anna’s husband. I’m positive he wouldn’t be any help at all. Nope. The man has looking intimidating down to an art. I call him Mr. Scares the Pants Off of Me. He has this I’m-Scary-And-I-Know-It look intended to make suspects pee their pants. Not the man I want to help raise funds.

Luckily, I don’t need to raise funds – yet. I put the money left over from my inheritance into a fund for the Youth Center. It covers most of the annual running costs. I do rely on the city for additional funds, though. Between the meals we feed the kids, the classes we teach, and the security, the place is not cheap to run.

“No need to gather the troops. I’m not running out of food or anything.” I sigh. Unless I want to listen to them take even more outrageous guesses, I’m going to have to explain the issue to them. “But food is going missing.”

“What do you mean going missing? Like oops! Where did it go?” Anna asks.


Anna claps her hands. “Oh my cupcake. You’ve got a ghost. How exciting!”

I’m glad my problems can entertain someone.

Callie clears her throat. “She doesn’t have a ghost. She has a thief.”

Which is exactly what I’m worried about. If I have to file a police report, it will lead to extra scrutiny of my center. There’s nothing wrong with how I run the place. I always cross my t’s and dot my i’s. But extra scrutiny costs time. Something I do not have.

“I know you have the best security money can buy in the place. What do the security tapes show? Did alarms go off? What did the security team say?”

The best security money can buy? Snort. If I had the best security, then I would know who’s been sticking their fingers in my pantry. “The security guards aren’t on the premises twenty-four seven. And the security tapes are blank.”

“Told you! She has a ghost.”

“You do know ghosts don’t exist, right?” I have to ask. She looks totally serious.

“Oh come on, you’re not one of those people who only believes in things you can see, are you?”

I’m not answering her question. I am not getting into a discussion about whether ghosts exist or not. “Anyway, not a whole lot of food has been stolen. But it’s worrying. I need to have my entire security system evaluated because if someone can steal a bit of food when the security cameras are down, then there’s a chance worse things could happen.”

This is the reason I’ve been up all night. I don’t care about someone stealing a loaf of bread and some peanut butter. I do care about my security system failing. A wide array of teenagers come into the Center. Most are good kids looking for a safe place to hang around while their parents work. But there are also a bunch of troublemakers.

“I’ve got an idea.”

Those words coming out of Anna’s mouth scare the daylights out of me. Anna thinks she is a super amateur sleuth. In fact, she would probably leave out the word amateur and call herself a super sleuth. She’s convinced she solved a bunch of murders. Not exactly. Mostly she stirred up enough trouble the culprits were eventually caught.

“Let’s hear it.”

At Callie’s words, I groan. Callie is usually the voice of reason. Unless her bakery or her job as a college professor are threatened, she’s pretty chill. But when her best friend Anna gets excited about some mystery, Callie jumps all in. Thus, my referring to the two friends as Lucy and Ethel.

“Fine. What is your idea?” I’m not going to get out of hearing whatever crazy plan she’s concocted now. I might as well act as if I’m interested in what she has to say.

Pre-order Trick or Thief for just 99 pennies today!


Why I’m a failure at BookBub ads. I think. #WriterWednesday #AuthorToolboxBlogHop #BookBub #WritingCommunity

As an indie author, I’m always on the lookout for ways to get my books in front of new audiences (and therefore increase my book sales and revenue). Amazon and Facebook are the most obvious ways to advertise books. Amazon is the biggest bookseller in the world and Facebook is the largest social media platform in the world. But what about BookBub?

BB_LogoGetting a BookBub Featured Deal is still considered one of the best ways to sell your book. (A BookBub Featured Deal means being included in the email BookBub sends to its hundreds of thousands of subscribers.) But getting a BookBub Featured Deal is a dream that doesn’t come true for many of us indie authors. It’s also very expensive and doesn’t fit the budget of many. Personally, I’ve given up on trying to get a BookBub Featured Deal as I’m exclusive to Amazon.

Thankfully, BookBub also offers paid ads. Are BookBub ads the next great advertising platform?

In a word, no. At least not for me. I’ve tried BookBub ads on various occasions during various times throughout the year. I’ve tried them for my cozy mysteries and for my romantic comedies. I’ve tried them to help with new releases and I’ve tried them with sales. All to no avail. I just can’t get the ads to make money.

Before you go and tell me I need to do more testing, let me say I’ve taken my quest to master BookBub seriously. I’ve taken two courses. Both of which were not free. I learned all about using CPM, finding similar authors, graphics, etc. What I apparently didn’t learn is how to actually make money using BookBub ads.

So, what went wrong and is there a way to correct it?

Amazon Exclusive vs. Wide  My books are exclusive to Amazon. Unfortunately, it appears BookBub ads work best for wide authors. I’ve searched and searched but I can’t find any actual data regarding what platforms BookBub subscribers prefer. I imagine BookBub keeps this information private and I can’t blame them. A search of several Facebook author groups, however, reveals that wide authors have better success with BookBub ads.

Romance vs Mystery According to BookBub, the vast majority of their subscribers are mystery readers with only 11% of their readers enjoying romance. This is evidenced by my very best BookBub ad which was for one of my cozy mysteries.

BB ad 99 cents

Cost Result
$ 84.48 Over 100 pre-orders

Considering the price of this book – 99 cents – 100 pre-orders did not come anywhere near to paying for the nearly $85 in advertisement costs. This was book 4 in the series and I did eventually make up for the cost with read-through of the previous three books in the series.

Deal One thing all of the BookBub ad experts agree on is the book you are advertising must be on sale. BookBub subscribers expect a good deal. My very best cost per click for a BookBub ad was 34 cents. (This is considered a good CPC for BookBub) With a CPC of 34 cents, it’s impossible to earn the cost of the ad back as the royalty on a 99 cent book is around 33 cents.

Should you still try BookBub ads?

Based on my experience I suggest the following:

  • Go wide.
  • Use a book in a series to ensure revenue from read-through.
  • Try a $1.99 deal instead of $ 0.99 deal.

Let me know how it turns out!


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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A Sneak Peek into Knee Deep, my new romantic comedy releasing July 29th #Romance #99c #MustRead #Newrelease

Knee Deepbook 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. Seriously, I can’t wait. So, I decided to share Chapter 1 of the novel on the blog today. Enjoy!

Knee Deep _ Cover

Chapter 1

Introducing Violet – the woman scorned

“We need to talk.” Oh, crap. I am so busted.

I should have known better than to try to pull one over on my boss, Frankie. Of course, she figured out what I’m up to. The woman seems to know everything going on in our little corner of the world. It’s like she has the entire suburb bugged or something.

Frankie only moved here temporarily to stay with her grandparents after a horrible accident left her scarred and unable to walk. But then her physical therapist turned out to be a total hottie. One thing led to another and now she’s married to the hottie and has an event planning business with her former assistant, Jackson. An event planning business where I’m currently working.

“I’ll be right there,” I sing as if I have no clue what’s going on. Lie.

I hang up the phone and take one last look around my office. I am totally playing Ms. Melodramatic. It’s not like I’ll be leaving the company this very second, but I am going to miss this place. Whoever Frankie and Jackson had design the offices of F&J’s Events did an awesome job. The place has a modern, hip feel while still maintaining the character of the old mid-20th century office building.

I rush down the stairs and wave to Bailey, the office manager and general all-around get-it-done girl.

“What’s going on?” she asks.

I lift my shoulders as if I haven’t a care in the world. “Nothing.”

She rolls her eyes. “Yeah, sure, that’s why you look like someone stole the last piece of your chocolate.”

I keep my mouth shut and keep on moving. I can’t tell her what I’ve been up to. She’ll see it as a betrayal. Hell, it kind of is a betrayal. What happened to me? I used to be the most loyal person in the entire world. And now I’m lying to two of my closest friends like it’s no big deal. I suck.

Oh, who am I kidding? I know exactly what – or should I say who? – happened to me. Luke freaking Bauer. Former love of my life. Current ruiner of said life. Ugh! Why can’t I stop thinking about the douchecanoe?

Frankie stands as I walk into her office and motions for me to take a seat. I perch myself on the edge of a chair. My knees are bouncing, and my toes are tapping. I am totally giving myself away by acting like a nervous Nellie. I grab the armrests in a death grip and tell myself to calm the eff down. For all I know, my boss called me into her office to talk about an event or, you know, work. Not my betrayal.

Frankie tilts her head and waits for me to speak. Not happening. I keep my mouth firmly shut. I’m not confessing to anything. At least not until I know how much she knows. Sneaky woman probably knows everything.

She folds her hands in front of her and clears her throat. “I hear you’re looking for a new job, Violet.”

Whoomp, there it is. She knows everything. “It’s not that I don’t like it here—” I start but she stops me with a raised hand.

“I don’t care you’re looking for another job.”

My brow wrinkles. “You don’t?” Huh. I’m kinda hurt by those words. And by ‘kinda hurt’ I mean big time hurt.

“Actually, I do. But I care more you didn’t tell me you want to leave.”

I didn’t tell her because she’d not only try to talk me out of it, she would talk me out of it. The woman is a master at getting her way. I do not envy her husband Brodie one bit.

“Um… I don’t want to leave. I have to leave.”

This gets her attention. “Is there something wrong? Has Jackson been harassing you?”

I snort. Seriously? The man may be intense when he’s in ‘business-mode’, but he would never harass me. He is head over heels for Frankie’s best friend, Shelby. Shelby is beyond crazy. Normally, I’d jump at the chance to make friends with her crazy ass, but she and I haven’t exactly warmed up to each other. Not when she’s buddy-buddy with he who shall not be named.

“No, Jackson hasn’t been harassing me.” Unless you count making me work my ass off and being a perfectionist, harassment, which I don’t. I had zero experience in event planning when Frankie and Jackson took a chance on me. I’ll take all the ‘harassment’ Jackson can dish out for the opportunity to learn the business. I’m a glutton for punishment like that.

“Then why do you have to leave?” Her eyes widen. “Oh shit. I’m not harassing you, am I? Hold on. Don’t answer. I’ll call Jackson in here and you can discuss it with him.”

I roll my eyes. “You can jump off the crazy train now. You are in no way no how harassing me. How could you even think such a thing?”

Frankie takes a deep breath. “I have been told I’m a bit hard to take and something of a workaholic.”

I feign surprise and clutch my non-existent pearls. “You? A workaholic? Say it ain’t so.”

“Hardy har har.” She taps her fingers on her desk. “If it’s not a problem with me or Jackson, what is it? I know it’s not Bailey. You two are as close as sisters from different misters.”

“Can we just leave it at I need to leave?” I plead.

“Um, no.” She shakes her head. “You’re an asset to F&J’s Events. I know better than to let a good employee walk away.”

Who knew being a good employee would ever cause a problem? I keep my lips zipped. I’m not talking about him. And yes, this is all about him. Of course, it is.

Frankie’s eyes widen, and she slams her hand on her desk. “Holy cow! I should have known it. It’s Luke, isn’t it?”

My head drops and I stare at my hands fisted in my lap. I can’t look her in the eyes and admit how weak I am. “I can’t be around him. It hurts too much.”

“But he doesn’t work here.”

“Maybe not, but he’s in your little group of friends. Every time you invite me somewhere, he’s there. Every time I meet you at the bar, he’s there. Every time there’s a dinner at your grandma’s house, he’s there. I can’t get away from him.”

And I can’t see him. It hurts too much. The man ripped my heart out and then stomped all over it with his shitkicker boots. I’ve used duct tape and string to put the thing back together, but those repairs fail in a spectacular fashion whenever the man is near.

The door flies open and Bailey stomps in. “You’re leaving because of Luke?” At my nod, she growls. “Men! They ruin everything!” Since she’s wearing a big honking engagement ring, her tirade doesn’t have the effect she’s hoping for.

“What if we promise to ban Luke from the premises?”

I snort at Frankie’s suggestion. “As if. Shelby will kick your ass if you dare to suggest such a thing.”

“Hey! I’m the boss here not her.”

“Does she know that?”

Bailey takes the seat next to mine and grabs my hand for a squeeze. “We really can’t convince you to stay?”

“You’re leaving soon anyway,” I point out. Not only is the woman engaged to Roman the billionaire, but she recently inherited a shit-ton of money from the dad she never knew. Well, she knew him, but she didn’t know, know him as she had never met him. It’s a complicated and long story. Anyway, her days as an office manager are limited.

“Well,” Frankie says as she stands. “I hope we can remain friends.”

Is it wrong I’m hurt she’s giving up so easily? Of course, we’ll remain friends. Friends from afar, that is. Frankie and Bailey are awesome. Some of the best women I’ve ever met but being in their vicinity means staying in Luke’s crosshairs. And I need to get out of the target zone as soon as possible. I keep my thoughts to myself. No sense in them realizing how bad Luke has hurt me, although I think they might be starting to figure it out.

At Bailey’s sniffle, I start backpedaling. “I’m not gone yet. I still need to find a job. Plus Ms. Bossy-Pants made me agree to a two-month notice period.”

“It’s standard industry practice.”

I ignore Frankie’s comment to apologize to Bailey. “I’m sorry. We can always see each other when you’re not off galivanting with your future husband.”

“And you’re my maid of honor.”

“I am?” I assumed I’d be in the wedding but maid of honor? I’ve known her for a few months whereas she’s known Frankie for years. “But—”

“Nope. It’s settled. I don’t want to hear anything about it.” She stands and strolls from the room as if the matter is settled. I guess it is.

I knew leaving F&J’s Events would be tough. I didn’t expect it to be this tough, though. Damn it. Just when my life is getting back on track, Luke rolls in and dumps all over it again. Maybe I should move to another city. No, another state. Maybe another country. Wherever I end up, it needs to be far, far away from Mr. Life Destroyer.


Pre-order Knee Deep for just 99 cents now! 

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.

editing 2

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.

new-libris-stole--262494S 83-flat-1-300-0-1440-1440_b

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).


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.


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:


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.


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.