Thursday, May 31, 2012

End of the Fifth Month

Five months of self-employment in the bank and what have I learned? Well, first I truly LOVE working for myself. As if that's any sort of news flash, right? I was talking to a friend who recently left my former company, and I was telling her it takes a while to de-program from the pace we used to keep. Our jobs were BUSY. We were on a constant merry-go-round of deadlines, publication schedules, editing, writing, designing. It was nonstop. We loved it, but it was a lot to manage. For me, it was doubly complicated by the thriving writing career that cropped up from something that started as a hobby and turned into something more than I ever could've imagined. As the fifth month ends, I think I've succeeded in deprogramming. I don't think about what I SHOULD be doing for the day job at this time of year anymore. I've stepped off the merry-go-round. I'm still a little dizzy because merry-go-rounds make me sick, but I'm better than I was.

I've learned that I'm not quite as disciplined as I thought I was. After working at home for 13 years, I figured, hey, I've got this covered! Turns out that when you don't have 27 co-workers and their needs framing your day, it's easy to forget that you are supposed to be WORKING right now. It's me vs. the computer and sometimes me loses. I've learned that's okay. You can't force the creative process. If it ain't happening, walk away and do something else for a while. The words will come back. I've learned that I need to compartmentalize. I'm fortunate to receive quite a lot of reader mail every day. I've learned that each email does not have to be answered the minute it is received. Now I save reader mail--the nicest part of my day--for the end of my day and that seems to be working out well. I can take an hour or two at night and veg in front of the TV and answer emails.

I've learned to not let my accounting and bookkeeping slide. I update my business accounts every day rather than twice a month. Of course I hate that part of self-employment, but it is a necessary evil. Luckily, I have an accountant who does the true heavy lifting, so all I have to do is provide the info. That sounds easier than it is, especially if I let it slide. I'm trying to be more disciplined about that. What's funny is my mother was a bookkeeper by trade. She would've taken care of the accounting books before the other books, you know, the ones that MAKE the money? :-)

I've learned that it's okay to take a day off every now and then, and I've learned it's fun to take a day off just because I can. I recently worked 12 straight hours getting Season for Love ready to go to the copy editor. That night I was making dinner and it occurred to me that I could take the next day off if I wanted to. The day after that, too. So I did. And I loved every minute of my two days off, even though I worked for a portion of both days. "Work" these days doesn't feel like at all like work.

Finally, I've learned that it's okay to exhale. Eighteen months after I self-published my first book, my business is booming, I'm writing a lot, I've got plans for books that will take me well into next year and things are good. Breathe... For the first time in YEARS, I feel like I can breathe...

I'm thankful every day to the readers who continue to make my lovely new life possible. You are among the true blessings in my life, and I am grateful for every one of you.

Now for some book news:
Reminder that Fool for Love, book 2 in the McCarthys of Gansett Island Series is on sale for 99 cents for a brief time. Get it while it's cheap! You will enjoy it more if you read book 1, Maid for Love, first.

Joe Cantrell, owner of the Gansett Island Ferry Company, has been in love with Janey McCarthy for as long as he can remember. At the same time, Janey has been dating or engaged to doctor-in-training David Lawrence. When things go horribly wrong between David and Janey, she calls her “fifth brother” Joe, one of the few people in her close circle who lives on the mainland. Janey decides a few days with Joe is just what she needs before she goes home to the island to face her parents and family with the news of her broken engagement. It was bad enough for Joe loving Janey from afar, but having her in his house is pure torture. Will he take advantage of this opportunity to show her what they could have together? And what will Joe’s best friend and Janey’s protective older brother Mac have to say about it?Get Fool for Love here:


Friday, May 25, 2012

An Interview With Self-Publishing Sensation Bella Andre

It's a real treat to welcome my friend Bella Andre to the blog! Bella was one of the first romance authors to take the plunge into self-publishing in 2010 and has been a runaway success ever since. Not only is she generous with her time and advice, she also writes great contemporaries. If you haven't read her Sullivan Family Series, you are missing out on some very fun books! Here are some thoughts from Bella about self-publishing and what we can expect from her in the near future!

Marie: Congratulations on all your self-pub success! Could you tell us a bit about your publishing journey and how you ended up pursuing self-publishing?

Bella: My writing journey started with songs, actually. I was a performing singer-songwriter for ten years before I even thought about writing fiction. Of course, I've always been a ravenous romance reader - devouring a book a day when I can.

One day, two characters started to have a conversation inside my head! Instead of checking in to the nearest psych ward :-) I wrote it down. A couple of years later I sold my first novel. After writing for four major publishers, in 2010 I found myself with more stories to tell and the self-publishing revolution just beginning. I took a leap of faith and wrote the sequel to my most popular novel at the time, TAKE ME, which is about a full-figured heroine and the man she's loved forever. LOVE ME (the brother and sister's story) came out July 2010 and when readers kept writing to thank me for writing the love story they'd been waiting for, I wrote my next original self-published novel, GAME FOR LOVE, the 3rd book in my Bad Boys of Football series. I released it Christmas 2010 and that was when everything went nuts! The awesome kind of nuts. :-) Since then, I have written and released 5 books in my Sullivan family contemporary romance series. The latest, IF YOU WERE MINE, just came out this week!

Thanks to self-publishing, when my fans ask for more books—and for them to come out quickly—I am able to give them exactly what they want!

Marie: You haven't been shy about saying that 2011 was a banner year for you. What you think the secrets to your success might've been?

Bella: Yes, 2011 and the first half of 2012 have been phenomenal! I'm thrilled to have sold 700,000 self-published ebooks so far, the majority at an average price of $4.99 per book.

Marie: You are, without a doubt, one of the hardest-working authors I know. You even do your own *gorgeous* covers. Talk about what you like best about doing it all yourself and what parts of the publishing process you are happy to offload to others.

Bella: Thank you for the compliment on my covers. I really love being able to put out a final product that is exactly what I envision for my story, and I am very involved with every step of the publishing process. Even though I work with some fantastic contractors who help me with things like creating the digital files for each retailer, I first mastered how the process works on my own first.
Of course, I have always hired copyeditors and proofreaders for my books to ensure they are as polished as possible.

Marie: Your self-published Sullivan family series has been very well received and garnered terrific reviews. I'm a huge fan, as you know! What's on tap after all the Sullivans get their happily ever after?

Bella: Thank you so much! And thank you, too, for always being one of my first readers for each book. Your insight as a fellow contemporary romance writer is invaluable.

I love my Sullivans and hope to continue writing their stories even after all eight of the original Sullivan siblings have their happily-ever-after's. There are many more Sullivan cousins in Seattle and New York, fortunately. :-) And of course, I'd very much like to go back in time to tell the mother's love story with their father at some point.

In addition, I do have another series waiting in the wings about a series of sexy (of course!), connected heroes.

Marie: Ohhh, I love the idea of Mama Sullivan's love story and maybe a second change story for her too? I digress... Of course the no. 1 question posed to successful self-published authors is what it would take for you to sign a traditional contract at this point in your career. Do you have any interest in being traditionally published again? If so, what would it take to lure you in?

Bella: My motto is never-say-never! I try to stay positive no matter what comes and always be open to new and exciting developments.

I'm thrilled that my Sullivans will be debuting in other countries! The first five books in the series will be released in Brazil soon! I have also sold my self-published books to Italy, Turkey and Japan.

Marie: Congrats on the foreign sales. That's awesome! If you had one piece of advice for authors considering the self-published path, what would it be? Feel free to add second and third pieces of advice--LOL!

Bella: Go for it! Take the time and effort to right the best book possible, but don't get too caught up in the technical details. Concentrate on your story and connecting with your readers. Many of the big retailers now have very friendly self-publishing platforms.

Marie: What do you see as the "next big thing" in books, e-books, digital publishing, etc.?
Bella: The next big thing? Why, that will be Zach Sullivan's book, IF YOU WERE MINE, won't it? :-)

Marie: But of course! Here's some more about Zach Sullivan's story:

Can two people who have both sworn off love find forever in each other's arms? Find out in IF YOU WERE MINE, the fifth book in Bella Andre's bestselling Sullivan family contemporary romance series.

The last thing Zach Sullivan wants is to take care of his brother's new puppy for two weeks. Until he meets the dog trainer, that is. Heather is bright, beautiful, and he can't stop thinking about her. Unfortunately, she just might be the only woman on earth who wants nothing to do with him.

Heather Linsey can't believe she's stuck working with one of the city's top dogs, auto-shop tycoon Zach Sullivan. Especially when his focus is clear from the start—not only to learn how to deal with his temporary puppy...but also to make her his. Having sworn off love at seventeen when she realized it was nothing more than a pack of lies, Heather has stuck to her vow never to fall for a charming man.

Get it here:

Thanks so much to Bella for spending some time with us today! Here's wishing her many sales of IF YOU WERE MINE!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day and Other News

Hope all the moms out there are having a wonderful day. My day began with breakfast in bed made by my husband and son, along with my daughter's special contribution: chocolate covered strawberries, which should, in my humble opinion, be their own food group. They are one of my all-time FAVORITE things. I also received some candy and flowers and a HUGE card declaring me the best mom ever. Since my kids are 16 and 13 I suppose I should count myself as fortunate that they still think so with all my many rules and restrictions that make their lives so miserable. Hey, that's my job, right?

As a special offering to all the moms, I'm offering my book GEORGIA ON MY MIND as a Kindle freebie this weekend. If you've already read GEORGIA, then you know that the loss of my own mother, now almost eight years ago, featured prominently in this story. Much of what Georgie Quinn goes through after losing her mother mirrored my experiences. There's also a cast of irascible senior citizens in this book that are fashioned after my dad and his hilarious group of friends. And finally, you get three romances for the price of one when the Caldwell brothers meet Georgie and her two roommates. Get it for free here until Tuesday. If you have a Nook, Kobo or iPad and want to read Georgia, you can download the free Kindle app to any device with an internet connection and get the free copy.

In other news, I was excited to hear this week that Harlequin will be bringing out the Fatal Series in mass market paperback under the HQN imprint starting in the fall of 2013 and going forward from there. I'm looking forward to gaining some new readers of the series through this offering, and I signed on for two more books in the series, Fatal Attack and Fatal Mistake. I'm looking forward to getting back to work on Fatal Attack when I get the recovered items off my damaged hard drive--hopefully by Tuesday of this week. What an ordeal that turned out to be. Note to all who rely on computers: back up more often than I did and don't drop your laptop.

Have a great Sunday!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Catching Up

So I had this big idea about blogging every day, and then I wake up to realize a month has gone by with no posts. I continue to be committed to blogging more often, but the best laid plans...

It's been a busy month around here! In April, I ventured with the family to Spain, where our daughter was born nearly 17 years ago when my husband was stationed there in the Navy. We had a great time showing off our old stomping grounds to the kids. At 16 and 13, they were at the perfect ages to appreciate the adventure of visiting a foreign country. One side benefit I hadn't expect is that Jake, who will be in 8th grade next year, will be more interested in starting Spanish classes than he might've been before the trip. We'll do whatever we can to interest him in school, so that was a plus. Emily loved seeing where she was born as well as the first home and the beach boardwalk that was the site of her very first outing.

For our part, we were surprised by how environmentally conscious Spain has become since we were there. Hundreds and hundreds of wind turbines and solar farms dot the landscape. The car we rented, a jazzy Mercedes (mama loved that car!), had a fuel-efficient feature that shut it down when idling. Hotel room keys are required to get lights in the rooms. We were surprised to realize Europe is so far ahead of the U.S. on these things. Because the European Union came into existence after we lived there, we had to figure out the ins and outs of the Euro, which was an adventure. Dan and I were both surprised that our rusty Spanish came back as if it had been yesterday when we last used it. The funniest episode I had occurred when ordering room service in Spanish and getting all the way to the end and not comprehending a question. So I said, En ingles? And he says, "Anything else?" LOL! Then he said, Room number? I said, "839." He growls, En espaƱol! He wouldn't let me cop out at the end, which I thought was hilarious! Then there was the trip to the farmacia to get cold medicine for Jake. Since I didn't know how to say sneeze or cough in Spanish, I worked around that with fake sneezes and coughs. The pharmacist says, "AH!" Jake and I got a good laugh out of that. When in doubt, improvise!

The other lasting impression is how very, very nice the Spanish people are. There's an old-world courtliness that you don't see very often anymore, and even the kids commented on how nice everyone was. We felt very welcome and totally safe everywhere we went. Well, I didn't feel very safe sitting in the midst of a rowdy group of bachelor party revelers on the flight from London to Madrid, but I was thoroughly entertained!

In other news, I've had an exciting month on the book front! We sold the French rights to the McCarthy Series at auction, Fatal Consequences won a Bean Pot Award (left), Fatal Destiny won a Holt Medallion while Fatal Justice and Everyone Loves a Hero received Awards of Merit from the Virginia Romance Writers, and I had the honor of delivering one of the keynotes at the Romance Writers of America New England Chapter conference in late April, which was a real thrill.

I'm hard at work on Season for Love, book 6 in the McCarthys of Gansett Island Series, and I'm still hoping to get that out in June. After that, I'll be finishing Fatal Attack and then turning to McCarthy book 7, Longing for Love, featuring Tiffany and Blaine. I also plan to write the much-requested fourth book in the Treading Water Trilogy (which will ruin the whole "trilogy" concept--haha), called Coming Home. It will feature Kate Harrington and Reid Matthews, closing the circle left open in Marking Time. I know a lot of you have wanted to see closure for Kate and Reid, and I'm all about giving my readers what they want. :-)

Back to work I go! Tell me what you've been up to lately!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Guest Blog with Vanessa Kelly/V.A. Sykes

Thanks so much for hosting me on your blog today, Marie.  Some of your readers might know me as historical romance writer Vanessa Kelly.  In fact, I do have a new historical coming out in October, called His Mistletoe Bride.  But I don’t want to talk about my historical romances, but about the contemporary romances I write with my husband under the pen name of VK Sykes.

Writing books with one’s hubby is an interesting experience, but it’s worked out pretty well for us.  Our first book, CaddyGirls, was released by digital-first publisher Carina Press, but our subsequent books are self-published.  We’ve enjoyed diverging from the traditional path.  It’s given us control over our work and allowed us to write the stories we wanted to write—stories which don’t necessarily fit in the box of traditional publishing.

Plus, I get to pick out the covers, which means looking at pictures of hot, partly naked men in a variety of interesting poses.  For some reason my husband usually passes this particular chore on to me.  Ah, well.  One must suffer for one’s art!

I’m very pleased to tell you that hubby and I have recently released two new books.  Both Fastball and Hot Number are sexy contemporary romances.  Fastball is actually a prequel to our award-winning romance, Hardball, which came out last year.  As you might surmise from the title, Fastball is a sports romance, starring a very sexy major league baseball player as the hero.  And when I say sexy, I mean sexy!

Hot Number is also a fun and sexy romance, set in Las Vegas.  It features a brilliant but nerdy math professor who decides to have a wild week in Vegas.  Unfortunately, she ends up getting busted for card counting by a casino chief of security.  Fortunately, said security chief is also very hot, and he’s definitely out to give our heroine a wild ride.

Releasing two new books is certainly a cause to celebrate, but I’ve got other good news to share. Both Fastball and Hot Number have been released under the branding of a new author’s group called Rock*It Reads (RIR, for short).  All the members of RIR are traditionally published authors committed to producing high quality, self-published romances. We do that by ensuring that our self-published books receive a strong editorial review, go through a solid copyediting process, and are properly formatted for a multitude of popular eReaders.

The members of RIR are Monica Burns, Pamela Clare, Lila DiPasqua, Cheryl Holt, Kris Kennedy, Margo Maguire, Mia Marlowe, Elisabeth Naughton, Sharon Page, Joan Swan, and moi, writing as both Vanessa Kelly and VK Sykes.  Please check out our beautiful new website for all the latest on RIR and our self-published books:  We’ve got lots going on, including a new review column in collaboration with Barnes & Noble.  Our B & N column, called Love Rocks, will be spotlighting the best in self-published romances, unearthing those sometimes hidden gems that you might miss.  We’ll be putting out a new column every two weeks at  We hope you’ll join us!

Vanessa Kelly writes Regency-set historical romance for Kensington Zebra and contemporary romance with her husband under the pen name of VK Sykes.  You can find her on the web at or at  And be sure to visit her at or follow her on her blog: