Tag Archives: Amazon

Why Are Romance Writing Contests Becoming Less Popular and Can We Save Them?

27 Jan
Awards and contests have historically played a part in helping authors get noticed (and get a contract). (Image purchased with web license via Shutterstock)

Awards and contests have historically played a part in helping authors get noticed (and get a contract). (Image purchased with web license via Shutterstock)

There was a fascinating discussion on RWA (Romance Writers of America) Chapter Leadership group just a few days ago about how so many established chapters are jettisoning their long-established writing contests or have already abandoned them.

This is a bigger deal than it seems since, in the past, contests were a great way for chapters to fill their coffers, supplementing dues with entry fees that enabled its members to benefit by having the funds to get terrific speakers, which in turn attracted new membership, etc. It’s unlikely we’ll see the end of the Golden Heart (the RWA’s premier award for an unpublished romance fiction manuscript) but chapter contests? According to the listserv, there were a decent number of responses indicating they had given up their contest within the last five years.

Will chapter romance writing contests go the way of the dodo bird? (Public domain image via Wikipedia)

Like so many endangered species, the contest appears to be dying, with many RWA chapter board members saying they could no longer garner the minimum number of entries required or that well-known authors cranking out multiple books a year and the overburdened editors reading them were no longer as available to wade through submissions. So why is the demise of such a time-honored writing tradition taking place now?

I’ve got a few educated guesses, but my main reasons for the end of the chapter writing contests are improved technology, the recession, and the meteoric rise of self-publishing.

Technology

Older technology made collaboration and feedback harder. (Public domain image via Pixabay)

Older technology made collaboration and feedback harder. (Public domain image via Pixabay)

Technology is clearly a biggie. Even ten years ago, social media was still in its infancy (we are talking the Friendster era) and videoconferencing for people who did not work at a fancy corporation with a dedicated room didn’t really happen until 2003 when Skype was born. Even then, most people had a very variable (and slow) connection which would have made the transmission rather hiccupy, so this particular technology was reserved for a few years for loved ones thousands of miles apart (and probably phone sex).

You’re wondering what this has to do with writing contests. Since a major reason for people entering contests is for the detailed critiques often given, entering a contest in the hope you’d make the top entries and warrant detailed feedback from a knowledgeable person in the industry must have been incredibly attractive. Now, we have Harlequin contests where readers can vote on manuscripts in real time and regular writing critique groups meeting on Google Hangout where they can not only chat with each other but look at one another’s screen to see specific comments made on their story by other members. Even editors have said that the electronic revolution has made it easier to find good writers with manuscript acceptances also much faster (sadly, the rejections are faster, too).

With blogs maintained by well-known editors and even publishing imprints (Harlequin is truly a coach to fledgling writers of category romance), authors are no longer writing blind, instead inundated by the crap-ton of information that exists. While this can certainly be overwhelming, none of us lack information from expert sources, which is more than could be said even a decade ago, when would-be authors clutched a copy of The Writer’s Market in one hand, and Stephen King’s On Writing (originally published in 2000) in the other. Both are still terrific, but check out all the other books that now exist – just for romance writers!! Note the majority of them are available in ebook format only. More on that later.

The Recession

With contest fees ranging from $10 (often a member price) and up, entering a manuscript (or just the first few chapters of a hopefully completed manuscript) can get pricey.

We all need a little help getting published. But with so much technology at our fingertips, are contests the answer? (Public domain image via Pixabay)

We all need a little help getting published. But with so much technology at our fingertips, are contests the answer? (Public domain image via Pixabay)

It’s like the college application process – first the standardized testing scores, then the application fees, etc., and all sent to a person (the college admissions officer) whose job it is to tell people “no” and take only the best candidates. With most publishing houses in the “most selective” category – accepting only a tiny percentage of applicants from their slush piles or even agented manuscripts – this business of entering contests to garner attention or have a honor or two for the query letter can get expensive.

There is no writer out there not feeling the recession. Belts have been tightened and while RWA members are scrimping to pay their national dues and perhaps belong to a couple pertinent chapters, I doubt many people feel there is a lot of extra cash to spend on contest entries. The would-be or even published writer’s emphasis is instead on what can be done to bring in income while waiting on their first (or next) contract or working to add to the books or novellas they’ve put out that year. Conducting online workshops, self-publishing (see below), and adding new skills like copyediting, cover design, or helping authors with their WordPress site are frequently heard additions to many a writer’s arsenal. With an unemployment rate of 6.7% as of December 2013 in the United States (and that’s not including all the people who got kicked off the rolls because their benefits ran out – they still don’t have a job, FYI), the pressure is on to bring in income and contests are an outgoing expense with little future realization of funds. In short, they can be a bad investment.

Self-Publishing

With any luck, this fairy godmother has got a publishing contract under that cloak! (Image by Kerri Polizzi via Flickr, labeled for reuse with attribution)

But even with technology offering more options to writers for feedback and the recession putting the kibosh on non-essential expenses for would-be authors, the biggest factor in the demise of the chapter writing contest is undoubtedly self-publishing. The sole reason for entering contests has always been for professional feedback so you could get published. In the past you would hear the occasional NYT best-selling author discussing how they garnered the attention of an editor because of a couple of chapters that got in front of an editor judging a contest…and the next thing they knew they had a contract. *waving fairy godmother wand*

This is a story you rarely hear any longer, first and foremost because there are fewer editors in the world with the seemingly endless consolidation of traditional publishing houses. The ones left are also working their asses off to find fresh voices from the comfort of their offices, while their assistants read slush pile submissions and mine the web for prospects and everyone pulls a ten hour day while wearing the editor uniform of New York Black. But the real reason no one mentions contests as a stepping stone for publication is because authors can do it themselves.

We’ve all heard of the self-published writer who posted something to Amazon and ended up saving their house or the success of the outstanding hybrid author Bella Andre, who was dropped by her publisher, and decided to publish her own books (woo-hoo Sullivan series!) only to make an astronomical amount (in 2011, she reported to the Washington Post that she was topping $20,000 per month and the number was climbing). In an outstanding turn of events, she then was able to turn back around and re-sell those publishing rights to her self-pubbed work back to traditional publishing house Harlequin, who re-released them in paperback form for the readers without a Kindle or Nook on their bedside table.

The dilemma for the self-published always seems to come down to how to reach the target audience. Certainly these authors earn more per book (a LOT more) in terms of profit but move fewer books on average, so self-publishing has its pros and cons. Forbes magazine actually found the authors with the greatest income to be hybrid authors, ones who capitalize on the traditional publishing promotion yet add to their (and the publishing house’s) bottom line by keeping their audience interested with frequent novellas or short stories related to their series between full-length novels.

With authors becoming more comfortable either DIYing their own book covers or having some good friends in their chapter who are excellent copyeditors or website designers (see above recession skills section), authors are feeling like self-publishing is definitely within their grasp. I think most authors I speak to are leaving traditional publishing on the table and participating in online pitches (Twitter is a common space for this) or saving their pennies to attend RWA National or great state conferences (New Jersey’s Romance Writers conference, Put Your Heart in a Book, is popular among mid-Atlantic writers for the number of New York editors who hear pitches at it). Somehow having control over publishing a book or two, while perhaps also looking at going the traditional route, is seen as more attractive then submitting manuscripts to chapter contests, and I can understand why.

How Chapter Contests Could Evolve

Awesome chapters like mine (I had to show our killer logo designed by the ever-so-talented Vikki Jankowski, our president) are eager to combine our efforts with other chapters. Who is with us? What would that look like?

Looking at the above pressures and taking a new approach to chapter contests is the answer to save the genre. The goal is to help writers get published, right? The foremost piece to consider is that there are chapter costs to pay judges (good ones) for their time. Why are we all so separate as chapters even though each of us belongs to RWA? If several chapters in my home state of Pennsylvania could band together with some New Jersey chapters and the awesome Maryland Romance Writers, think of how much money we could offer as a prize or to pay the fee of a big name judge!

This type of contest could also garner more media coverage, giving the contest more cachet in terms of the author actually being able to use the award in a query letter or to help sell a pitch. With videoconferencing available, there are no longer the same set of excuses to not do this kind of collaboration. Let’s wake up, people, and smell the 21st century coffee! My awesome chapter, Pocono-Lehigh Romance Writers, is already reaching out to local chapters to see what cooperation potential exists – let me know if you’re interested in getting on our outreach list.

So what are our possible options for the reinvented contest?

  • Since increasing use of technology is vital for successful writers, what about a “best romance author website contest” with maybe unpublished, debut author and published author categories? The chapter can collate a rubric based on the many best practices articles out there by publishing house editors etc. and publish their criteria. Not only does this make what is being evaluated clear, but it can be used as a template for new authors when designing their site. The top 5 finalists could receive a critique and suggestions from the judge(s) with a cash prize or in kind design services (can you give a gift card for WordPress plug-ins?).
  • American Idol and Dancing with the Stars know what they are doing in terms of crowdsourcing with polls. What about a contest for “best use of social media by a romance author”? This doesn’t even have to include a fee but could simply be utilized as a method for getting some media attention to romance fiction and/or the chapter.
  • Best book cover design. There are some truly awful book covers and some that you would never know were not done by a Big Five publishing house. You could have individuals, small presses, ebooks only, and traditional publishing each have their own category in this kind of contest.
  • With academic analysis of romance fiction a growing field, a contest could be built around “best literary, historical or popular culture nonfiction work (article or book) about romance fiction”. Promoting the contest to the universities with romance writing and popular culture programs would garner a slew of entries from students perhaps looking for extra credit and you might be able to convince author/academics like Jennifer Crusie or Eloisa James to be a judge. I bet websites like Popular Romance Project and Romance University would be great partners for a contest like this.
  • Pitches are still something most writers need to do…and they are scary. What about a contest that is a “best pitch” contest with video, Twitter, and email categories? Getting name editors would be key here for cachet and for relevant feedback, but technology would make this straightforward to do.

Contests can be made relevant for the modern age, we may just have to rethink what the current demands are on writers and adjust accordingly.

Have your own thoughts on the romance writing contest? Please feel free to add to the conversation by leaving a comment. Let’s all figure out how best to help writers!

Sunday Reflections: Upcoming Books, Fun Stuff and Great Deals You Might Have Missed, December 29, 2013

29 Dec

Upcoming Books and New Releases

Courtney Milan fans have probably already purchased The Countess Conspiracy, the third book of her The Brothers Sinister series, but in case you haven’t, this full-length novel is only $3.99 on Amazon since its publication on December 17th, and hopefully will stay at that great price for a little while. With a hero who is a brilliant rake promoting scandalous revolutionary scientific theories and the heroine the woman to whom those theories actually belong, this is bound to have plenty of conflict and tension (sexual and otherwise).

Fans of Karen Marie Moning‘s urban fantasy Fever series should be aware that the seventh book in the series, Burned, is available for pre-order with a July 22, 2014 publication date. Because of the enormous popularity of these books, be warned that even the ebook price is steep at almost $12 (but that’s still a bargain since the paper version will be in hardcover format).

Yet another summer release to plan for re: beach reading is the next Kate Daniels book by the powerhouse writing team of Ilona Andrews. Magic Breaks will be available as of July 29th, so check your vacation dates to make sure you are somewhere you can get a copy at midnight to begin reading the next installment of this amazing urban fantasy series.

Also falling under the category of “series books I will cheerfully pay full price for” is Darynda Jones‘ next book in her Charley Davidson series, Sixth Grave on the Edge, which will be released May 20th. This urban fantasy series starring the hilarious and irrepressible Charley – who happens to be an irreverent grim reaper helping departed souls get to the other side – and her love interest, Reyes (the sexiest Son of Satan you’re ever going to meet), is always alternately funny, hot, and heart-stopping. I’ll be posting an entry on the whole series in honor of Darynda doing a workshop for my local Romance Writers Association chapter (woo-hooo PLRW Chapter!) For fans who would like an autographed copy of the hardcover version, Darynda has announced on her website that she has made arrangements through Author, Author, so if you order before the end of April, you can get the autographed book right around the release date.

Cat Johnson has quite a following for her hot military romance series, Red, Hot & Blue, and it was wonderful to read recently on the Samhain publishing blog that the next book, The Commander, features the leader of all those sexy, Special Ops guys we’ve seen find their HEA. Not only is this older hero in his forties, but he finds love with a sexy, older woman who is fifty and a single mom. It’s about time! The Commander comes out on New Year’s Eve and won’t take any prior knowledge of the series to enjoy it (she always writes these so you can pick up any one of them with no difficulty).

Gena Showalter recently blogged about her uber-enthusiastic reaction to the cover reveal of her latest Angels of the Dark paranormal series and – holy crap! – we can see why she loves it. Burning Dawn is now available for pre-order with a release date of April 29, 2014 and please note that the paperback version is significantly less right now than the Kindle version if you are open to the format you receive it. This series features violent angels on the brink of darkness who each find a woman who helps them find meaning in their fight for goodness and light – so good!

Harlequin’s partnership with Cosmo has produced their high quality (and successful) Red Hot Reads line and fans are eating up these steamy contemporary romances. To add to the success of such incredible stories like Cake by Lauren Dane and Ripped by Sarah Morgan, we can now add category romance superhero writer Heidi Rice whose story, 10 Ways to Handle the Best Man debuts on January 14th so pre-order now. Since it’s Rice, you’ll get a guarantee that you’ll want to be one getting handled by her hero, I promise!

Contests & Giveaways

If you’ve been intrigued by Harlequin Presents multi-author Sicily’s Coretti Dynasty series, you’ll definitely want to enter their contest to win all the books in this extremely successful series featuring a wealthy Sicilian family with more than the usual amount of scandal and vendettas to go around. Just leave a comment on the post about what you are most looking forward to in 2014 before January 6th for a chance to win!

The always wonderful blog TheBookPushers is clearing their shelves and offering a giveaway for readers who might be interested in some of their themed bundles of books. From contemporary to historical, erotic to New Adult, there’s something here for everyone, so comment before January 1st on what bundles look interesting to you to see if you could win!

Fun Stuff

Nalini Singh Psy-Changeling fans should be sure to take a look at her website in order to enjoy her bonus stories for Heart of Obsidian, which are now up on her story page. Keep in mind that newsletter subscribers got an incredible Christmas present from Singh this year, a bonus epilogue to her amazing novella, Declaration of Courtship, starring the hunky dominant SnowDancer lieutenant Cooper and his shy mechanic Grace, now mated and going to the celebration of their alpha’s mating (so it’s post Kiss of Snow). Such a great epilogue (be warned, you’ll go out and re-read Declaration of Courtship again – I did!)

Speaking of great presents, Ilona Andrews have put out a new, fully re-edited version of their Curran stories (specific scenes from the Kate Daniels novels told from the hero, Curran’s perspective) and are offering it to fans for free on their website for a time, available in all ebook formats, for devoted fans. No new stories as of yet, but it makes for a great read.

It’s not too late to give something to the reader in your life and what do they want more than uninterrupted reading time? Trust me, nothing. Smart Bitches, Trashy Books have a fantastic downloadable free gift certificate that you can make out for the reader in your life offering them a certain number of minutes (30, 60, and 90 minutes are the options and remember you can give a ton of the certificates to add up to whatever amount you want) devoted solely to their reading, all in a very attractive certificate form bound to appeal to romance readers. Show your romance reader how much you love them by offering them this particular gift for the New Year!

Business Insider magazine has made a wonderful interactive map of the U.S. featuring the most famous book set in that particular state, and it’s gotten a few of them on my to-read list for sure! Check out your favorite states while pondering what people who’ve never visited are gleaning about your home.

Harry Potter fans have always been annoyed that you can’t easily buy ebook versions of the series via retailers due to J. K. Rowling’s restrictions on them, but now Amazon users can purchase the whole series via the author’s Pottermore business and have them delivered in the proper file format right to their Kindle! For $57.54, this is actually a great deal for all seven books (over 4000 pages of Harry). With almost every possible format (I didn’t see iBooks, but pretty much every other reading app is an option), once purchased you can send your books to any and all your reading devices. Fans of the series who find the hardcover books too heavy for their bubble baths (What? It’s just me?) may want to indulge in the super cool collector’s paperback version which forms a fantastic image designed by artist Kazu Kibuishi when placed together.

Great Deals

Virna DePaul’s excellent Bedding the Wrong Brother novel is currently available for only $.99 and fans of friends to lovers have a lot to love in this story about a young woman who has been good friends to one twin brother while crushing on the other. After an ex tells her that she’s tepid in the sack, she asks her friend to help her hone her technique but ends up with her crush instead – a man who has interpreted her easy way with his brother and stiffness with him as disinterest. He decides to seize the opportunity to “tutor” her in the ways of the bedroom while convincing her she’s everything he could ever want, but her feelings of inadequacy when combined with her long-standing feelings for him might get in the way of any happiness they could have.

If you expected Santa to bring you a Kindle and his lines got crossed, you should know that Amazon is offering some pretty good deals where you can order one, paying only 25% of the cost up front (and they send it to you!) with reasonable installments spread out over the next year. I’ve also seen some great deals on the 2nd generation iPads and iPad Minis (Apple is on the third generation as of the latest release) on QVC and HSN, with installment plans and deep discounts available as well. If you’re looking for some basic apps, video and a great ereader, one of these deals might be useful. For romance readers, so many books are only available in ebook form, or the cost is so much lower, I definitely feel that purchasing a device could potentially pay for itself over a couple years for an avid reader. Just a thought!

Royal watchers and fans of movies like The Prince and Me are loving Megan Mulry’s Unruly Royals series, especially when you can get the books at a great discount. Right now, If the Shoe Fits, the second book in the series is on discount for only $2.99 for the ebook edition. When a modern playboy Earl becomes fascinated by a no-nonsense American not interested in his fast lifestyle, our hero finds himself having to dig deep for meaning in the hope of charming a woman who just might be everything to him, if he can get her to see beyond his reputation.

Happy reading and have a book-filled New Year in 2014!

December Read-a-Thon: Fangs, Fur and Mistletoe by Selena Blake Offers True Love, Paranormal Style, for the Holiday Season

11 Dec

Fangs, Fur & Mistletoe (Mystic Isle #1 – Coco and Grayson) by Selena Blake (Ecila Media, December 1, 2012)

I had read and enjoyed a few of the novels from Selena Blake‘s Stormy Weather series, (including the holiday novella from that group of books, A Cajun Werewolf Christmas, currently available for free on Amazon) so when I saw that she had a paranormal series set on an island that provides sexy Club Med services for paranormal creatures – and that the series occurs at Christmas – it seemed like an excellent candidate for my December Read-a-Thon.

Granted, there are few references to the holiday season in this wonderful novel, but it’s Selena Blake, so, who cares? Fangs, Fur & Mistletoe (love the title!) is the first book in Blake’s Mystic Isle series, centered on a group of female vampires belonging to the same Parisian coven who decide to head to the playground of the paranormal set for a little holiday relaxation.

It’s easy to see why Blake’s Mystic Isle series is her top-rated collection of books on Goodreads – the first novella-length installment has a tough job ahead of it. Fangs, Fur & Mistletoe not only tells the story of our first couple, vampire Coco and her long-lost enemy, werewolf Grayson, but it must also set up the other four women who will be the future heroines of the other books of the series. Not easy to do in approximately 100 pages!

Yet Blake pulls it off, beautifully. Coco Jeffres is fascinating – one of the few black vampires in existence, she is pureborn of two vampire parents. Although she’s lived for well over a century, she combines a modern sensibility with loyalty and old-world values. A little glum from having broken up with her boyfriend, Dmitiri two months ago (she’s glum because she knew it went on too long), she’s looking forward to Mystic Isle as a place to have hot rebound sex and finally shake off her doldrums.

Tropical beaches (albeit moonlit ones - Coco is a vampire after all) abound in this steamy holiday romance. (Public Domain image via Pixabay)

Tropical beaches (albeit moonlit ones – Coco is a vampire after all) abound in this steamy holiday romance. (Public Domain image via Pixabay)

The last person she expects to run into is the grey-eyed, uber-hot werewolf she encountered on the battlefield one hundred and eleven years ago. Sworn enemies then, she never forgot the overwhelming feeling that swept over her in his presence. Now that their kind no longer fight one another as a rule, who is to say what could happen? The thought that he might be here with some stacked werewolf female is more depressing than sex with her ex, but Coco cannot stop thinking about the man she’s never forgotten.

Grayson West is at Mystic Isle alone, hoping for a little sun and relaxation prior to shipping off on another mercenary mission. While he had definitely planned on a hookup or two as part of his itinerary, seeing the blue-eyed, chocolate skinned vampire who fascinated him on the battlefield over a century ago has taken his breath away. He’s never forgotten her and watching other men circle around her in the Mystic Isle bar makes him want to stamp his possession on her until it’s obvious she belongs to him.

While Coco and Grayson don’t attempt to deny the heat between them and find themselves falling for one another with astonishing rapidity, dangers lurk in the form of Coco’s loyalties. Grayson feels too much to be kept hidden away like a dirty secret, but the histories of Coco’s good friends and coven members come into play on this sensual isle and may change all their destinies.

Where to start? Both Coco and Grayson are outstanding characters – with all the backstory necessary to set up the series, I could not believe how well Blake manages to sketch their characters. Their fighting history is extremely sexy, as is Coco’s loyalty to her coven members, particularly the scarred new vampire Izzy who has good reason to hate werewolves. Each of the women on vacation is equally as interesting and mysterious and I cannot wait to see them find their mate, particularly the cool and celibate Valencia (who will have her story published in 2014).

Blake’s sex scenes are also flaming hot and fulfill the definition of great sex scene writing, with plenty of emotion and character development packing the pages. You will not need to turn up your thermostat with this book on your e-reader!

An outstanding start to an intriguing series, Fangs, Fur & Mistletoe is a great addition to your pile of holiday romance reads. Get it in your to-read queue for some tropical holiday fun and try some other Selena Blake while you are at it. You won’t be disappointed!

Happy reading! 🙂

Sunday Reflections: Upcoming Books, Fun Stuff and Great Deals You Might Have Missed, Week of October 20, 2013

20 Oct

Upcoming Books and New Releases

It’s no secret that I adore Lauren Dane’s writing, so I was thrilled to see that she’s partnering with author Megan Hart to publish a duology (is that what you call an anthology with two stories?) on December 3rd entitled There All Along. The stories sound amazing, but even more intriguing that (despite the cover – not that I’m complaining) these stories are set in futuristic worlds. Considering Dane nailed science fiction romance in her jaw-droppingly awesome Federation Chronicles series, I feel like I’m in good hands. As usual.

Rock star romance seemed wicked hot right now, and the feedback for Crash Into Me by Tracy Wolff tells me this particular author is one to watch. Based around the band Shaken Dirty (mrrroooww), this series will work through the sexy romances of its members, with the first book focusing on the lead singer of the sister of another one of the band’s members. Bring on the music, people.

If you’re beginning to think about holiday romance, you might want to take a closer look at the Fiction River anthology Christmas Ghosts, featuring stories from romance authors like M. L. Buchman, Mary Jo Putney, Kristine Grayson and Kathryn Rusch. Combining holiday romance with a dash of the paranormal sounds like a great idea to me (that is what Dickens capitalized on after all), so I want this under the Christmas tree (or at least the virtual one on my Kindle).

While this could totally go in my “Great Deals” section, it is so awesome (and won’t be published until November 10th) that I wanted to feature it here. For only a week (and I think that’s ending soon!), the 10 book bundle of Dangerous Attraction, featuring award-winning authors like Kaylea Cross, Jill Sanders, and Rebecca York is only $.99 on Amazon. Pre-order it at this great price and lock in an amazing value while perhaps finding a new favorite author (Kaylea Cross won’t steer you wrong, I promise!).

Filing also under the “holy crap what a great deal!” and the recent releases category is the Dark and Dangerous: Six-in-One Hot Paranormal Romances collection – also for only $.99 right now. This would be an amazing price for just Jennifer Ashley’s Hard Mated, one of her fantastic Shifters Unbound novels but that it also has books from Bonnie Vanak and Laurie London (and other authors I’m dying to explore) pushes this into the instant “click to buy” territory.

I love Tawny Weber and her Blaze books with Harlequin are always a must-buy for me, including her upcoming holiday novel, Naughty Christmas Nights. Two competitors in the sexy lingerie business go head-to-head to win an important department store account but find themselves just as intrigued to try out the merchandise…with each other.

Contests and Giveaways

Romance readers don’t often get a lot of dystopian offerings, so interested parties might want to check out Ellen Connor’s paranormal dystopian Dark Age Dawning trilogy, particularly since the first book, Nightfall, is part of a Goodreads giveaway if you enter prior to October 21st.  When the daughter of a prophet is kidnapped and taken to a remote cabin in the Pacific Northwest, she does not expect that the ex-Marine who cares for her can be a believer in her father’s ravings when she is not. But as the world changes exactly as her dad anticipated, these two people must ride out the Change together, and see if they can forge a new future in a world gone wild. Interesting to note that Ellen Connor is the pen name for two wonderful, established authors, Ann Aguirre and Carrie Lofty, so you should definitely take a chance on this one!

Are you in the Atlanta area at the end of March? If so, you might want to enter the contest for The Novel Experience Event Giveaway where you could win a multi-day VIP pass to the author events and signings to be held at the Hyatt Regency March 28-30th. Sponsored by Romance Ink, the same literary nonprofit that brings you the popular Authors After Dark conference. With authors like Carrie Ann Ryan, Melissa Schroeder and Joey W. Hill, this conference has me wishing Georgia was a little closer!

Nora Roberts fans are busy awaiting the first book in her paranormal romance The Cousins O’Dwyer trilogy, Dark Witch, which has an appropriate debut date of October 29th, but did you know you might be able to win a copy? Enter the Goodreads giveaway before October 21st to see if you can get a free copy of this anticipated novel. With Roberts’ trademark wonderful characters, an Irish setting complete with castle, and a dark evil that wants to deny love when it takes root, this is bound to be a worthy read for the dark nights surrounding Halloween.

With only three days left, historical fiction fans will want to enter the FictionVixen rafflecopter giveaway for several upcoming releases, including Elizabeth Hoyt’s Duke of Midnight, Eileen Dreyer’s Once a Rake, Jennifer Delamere’s A Lady Most Lovely, Anne Barton’s Once She Was Tempted, and Lily Dalton’s Never Desire a Duke. Entering couldn’t be easier and the payoff is tremendous.

Fans of the TV show Once Upon a Time or readers who love reinterpreted fairy tales should take a look at Jessica Aspen’s novel The Dark Huntsman. A witch trying to save her family from a murderous queen is pursued by the queen’s enslaved huntsman, who soon decides that he can break free of the queen by using this young woman’s power. But his commitment to freedom is soon surpassed by his feelings for the brave woman attempting to do the right thing and he must decide between his life and hers. Enter before October 22nd for a chance to win.

Harlequin’s Paranormal Romance blog is having a giveaway of five of their recent books, including The Night is Forever by Heather Graham, Sleep with the Lights On by Maggie Shayne, Claimed by the Demon by Doranna Durgin, Out of the Night by Trish Milburn, Spy Glass by Maria V. Snyder. Just leave a comment letting them know what magical power you’d love to have and why by October 28th at midnight and you’ll have entered!

Fun Stuff

Maybe because I have Jill Shalvis on the brain (see Great Deals) but like books, movies that feature animals in any capacity always draw me. But what happens when said animal meets an unfortunate end? (I hysterically sobbed for about an hour after I Am Legend because I did not see that coming!). Luckily for me, the website Does the Dog Die? The Most Important Movie Question exists. With icons hinting at the content (happy dog face for every animal is okay, crying face for you know what, and troubled face for the in-between), the reviews solely let you know what happens to the animal(s) in the movie. And the animal does not have to be the focus of the film. The synopsis for Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004) is “Ron Burgundy’s dog, Baxter, is punted off of a bridge. He eventually shows up again, having miraculously survived.” Why do you need to know more?

Great Deals

In anticipation of the upcoming new release in her Animal Magnetism series, Rumor Has It (November 5th) fans of Jill Shalvis will be pleased to note that the third book, Rescue My Heart, is on sale on Amazon for only $1.99. Since this is the book that precedes the one about to come out (and the heroine of Rumor Has It is introduced in this book), this bargain is both fabulous and practical to get you all caught up.

OMG. Cynthia Eden‘s fantastic paranormal series, Bound, has been bundled as Forever Bound so you can get the first four books for a mere $.99. What a deal!! I love all these books but Bound in Sin (#3) about the werewolf who thinks his teenage love has been killed only to see her return years later – as a vampire, his mortal enemy – is heart-wrenchingly awesome. Be sure to take advantage of this wonderful bargain. This deal is supposedly for only one week (and I’m not sure of the start date) so act quickly.

Delilah Marvelle’s Mistress of Pleasure historical romance is currently discounted to $2.42 (which seems like a weird price, but who am I to judge?). Featuring the granddaughter of a courtesan and the duke to whom she succumbs, this novel seems to have some intriguing twists and turns worth exploring, particularly at that price!

The ever-funny Molly Harper’s The Care and Feeding of Vampires is discounted right now to a mere $1.99. Considering this is the first in her Half Moon Hollow series, it might be a nice way to introduce yourself to this outstanding paranormal author known for her mix of sensuality and humor. Consider it a Halloween present to yourself.

Carla Cassidy’s Western (with a dash of suspense) Cowboy with a Cause is free for download on Amazon right now and it’s worth checking out. A former dancer with health issues and a sexy tenant is a hot combination, but the suspense element and the fact that the heroine is in a wheelchair take this story into interesting territory.

Fever by Joan Swan got rave reviews when it came out last year, but if you missed this thrill-a-minute tale of a wronged convict and the woman he kidnaps, you can grab it at Amazon for the discounted price of $1.99 right now.

That’s it for this week. Happy Reading, everyone! 🙂

Sunday Reflections: Upcoming Books, Fun Stuff and Great Deals You Might Have Missed, Week of October 6, 2013

6 Oct

Upcoming Books and New Releases

Historical Romance writer, Katherine Ashe, is giving readers a fantastic Christmas present with the release of her holiday novella, Kisses, She Wrote: A Christmas Romance. When a rakish earl stumbles across the diary of a wallflower princess whose fantasies are anything but demure, sparks are going to burst into flames that will light the Yule fire, for sure. One of the best pieces of this novella? It’s currently only $.99 on Amazon. If you’re too eager to wait until December 3rd, then check out Ashe’s website for a tantalizing snippet. Ashe fans might also want to note that her full-length Regency ghost story (with a romance at its center), Captive Bride, is also reduced down to $.99 as well.

Samanthe Beck’s McCade Brothers series has just become one of my favorites since I read the associated novella in Lovers Unmasked and bought and read the first book in the series, Lover Undercover (awesome!!!), so I was thrilled to see that the next installment of the series, Falling for the Marine, will be out at the end of October. A marine helicopter pilot with a back injury is anxious to get back into the pilot’s seat but when he’s hot neighbor is the masseuse assigned to him she’s not the only one with straying hands. Entangled publishing is great with pricing, so this hot novel by a great author is only $2.99. Mine is already pre-ordered!

Dianne Duvall just released the fourth book in her Immortal Guardians series, Darkness Rises, featuring a beautiful swordswoman who gets the drop on vampire and the two-hundred year old guardian who realizes the vamps she’s killing have influential friends, a fact that puts her and his fellow guardians, in danger. Released on October 1st, this 400+ page paranormal romance is under $6 for its ebook version which suddenly places the series on my “to-read” list!

Fantastic new author Kat Latham (who blew me away with the first book in her rugby-based London Legends series, Knowing the Score) will be offering a connected Christmas novella to her series, Mine Under the Mistletoe, due out on December 5th. I’ve already pre-ordered my copy! No cover art as of yet, but I’ll let you know when it comes out.

I was impressed with the intensity of Shannon McKenna’s One Wrong Move, which made me thrilled to see its sequel, Fatal Strike, was just published in trade paperback and ebook form at the end of September. Containing more of a pronounced paranormal element than its predecessor (which still had one, it was just subtle) this book features a captured woman tortured like a lab rat with injections that bring out psychic powers. She finds herself escaping to a safe place where a handsome, protective man exists who always makes her feel better but she thinks he’s a product of her imagination until he bursts through the door. Bring. It. On.

Giveaways and Contests

While Lauren Dane fans are reveling in the publication of her latest book in the Brown Siblings saga, Drawn Together, this week, they need to not forgot that this prolific author does not rest on her laurels, but always has yet another amazing book coming out. Her Bound By Magick series is about to have the fourth book published in early November, Wild Darkness, but readers should note that Goodreads is actually having a giveaway (ending October 11th) if you wanted to see if you could win a copy.

Author Cassandra Carr has always given us great sports romances, so it’s not a surprise that her recent contest is running under a “Hockey Hotties” moniker! Enter to win a selection from her backlist of great hockey romances by leaving a comment on the webpage.

Sports romance fans need to run not walk over to Give Me Books in order to enter that blog’s Extreme Jock Giveaway. I’m still reeling from the prizes – 44 author signed paperbacks, 97 ebooks, 19 ebook sets, various swag and even a few book retailer gift cards!! Be warned that the Rafflecopter giveaway is naturally extensive with so many authors participating (you’re going to spend a decent amount of time tweeting and clicking those Facebook like buttons for entries) but it’s so worth it.

Entangled Teen has collaborated with Hesperia Loves Books to produced an unbelievable giveaway to support Breast Cancer Awareness and research. Running for the month of October, this giveaway gives participants the chance to win over twenty books, many of them signed, by authors such as Jeaniene Frost and Lori Foster. Tweeting and posting on Facebook about the giveaway gives extra points, but consider the multi-point bonus that comes with donating to the National Breast Cancer research program (the link is right in the rafflecopter giveaway). I did in honor of my Aunt Martha who is currently fighting breast cancer (and who loves romance) and I’m sure you can think of someone who has suffered through this disease. SUCH a great cause!

Paranormal romance readers who like their books a little to the left of steamy hot are already familiar with Joey W. Hill’s Vampire Queen series, but right now on Goodreads, she’s also giving away the first book in her Arcane Shot series, Something About Witches. Featuring a witch who prefers the reliability of a handgun to a spell and the sorcerer she pushed away years before who needs her help, this book (and series) is worth a look. This was the intention of Berkeley Sensation publishing who are gearing up for Hill’s new release on December 3rd, Unrestrained, by giving away books from all her various series. Thanks, Berkeley! Enter by October 11th for a chance to win.

Historical mystery readers who love their puzzles with a touch of romance will want to enter the Goodreads giveaway for Banquet of Lies by Michelle Diener. In Regency London a young woman must pose as the French chef of a nobleman in order to be positioned to ferret out her father’s killer and protect the document he entrusted to her prior to his death. Her employer’s curiosity and obvious romantic interest runs the risk of exposing not only her identity but also attracting exactly the one person she needs to avoid if she is to survive. Enter by October 11th for a chance to win.

If Banquet of Lies has you thinking about French food and Paris, you might want to check out the Travel Channel’s contest to win the “Parisian Trip of a Lifetime!” Six days and five nights for two at a cushy hotel in the City of Lights, including a half-day private tour (I think I’d go just for this), a two-hour Parisian bakery workshop (okay, nix the previous statement, I’d go for this), and $1500 spending money. *sigh*

Karen Hawkins’ second book in her The Duchess Diaries series is also being offered as a Goodreads giveaway and historical romance readers will definitely want to give How to Pursue a Princess a good look, whether they win or not. A young woman is pressured to make a good match and hopes she’s going to fall for the wealthy Earl her godmother thinks is perfect, until the hot and penniless Russian prince walks into the room. Whoops. Enter before October 12th to take this one home.

Signet Publishing deserves some major kudos for the outstanding covers of Marie Claremont’s historical series Mad Passions. This Victorian romance series has just had the second book in the series, Lady in Red, come out on October 1st, but if you haven’t yet picked it up, you may want to try to win a copy by entering the Goodreads giveaway before October 15th. This dark series’ installment features a young noblewoman who manages to escape the asylum in which her father has placed her, to run right into the arms of a duke who might very well be her salvation. That he finds her torment to mirror his own only binds them together as they fight for her future.

Fun Stuff

My deep-seated admiration for Laura Kaye’s writing is hardly a secret, and I’ve put on the Sunday posts how much I’m looking forward to her upcoming book, Hard As It Gets, which is the first in her new Hard Ink series. Thankfully for her fans (and quite frankly, any woman who enjoys eye-candy!), Avon Publishing has produced a fantastic video with her being interviewed about her inspiration for the characters. She’s delightful, the Baltimore backdrop lovely, and the tattooed figures…um…quite inspiring. Take a look!

Macy’s is selling a dress by Tommy Hillfiger featuring a great print that is row upon row of books. In the shirtwaist style, this looks awesome with boots and is a reasonable $79.95. I’m so on this.

For every girl who used her mother’s bangles to mimic Wonder Woman’s cuffs or pretended to be Barbara Gordon turning into Batgirl, there is a great nonfiction book, The Supergirls: Fashion, Feminism, Fantasy, and the History of Comic Book Heroines by Mike Madrid. Right now this informative text is an amazing $1.99 at Amazon, so feed your inner Superwoman and download it in a flash.

Great Deals

I was thrilled to find on M. L. Buchman’s blog a note that some of his fantastic novellas which accompany his The Night Stalkers military romance series were being offered in a “romance bundle” from StoryBundle. Not having heard of that particular store, I went to take a look and was wowed by the mission of the website. Designed to promote indie authors by offering their books together with other books as a “bundle” around a given theme, the site’s founders hope to encourage you to find new authors you might enjoy. Unlike the great $.99 bundles on Amazon I often promote, StoryBundle also 1) lets you set your own price for the bundle (although it suggests an incredibly affordable one) and 2) encourages you to add an extra percentage which they donate toward charities encouraging writing and literacy among children. How awesome is that? Books are downloaded in either .mobi or .epub form so Kindle users or other ebook readers can all handle the files. Take a look at the romance bundle to realize that this is no pure donation – not only Buchman’s books but also independent books from Stephanie Laurens, Jo Beverly, Mary Jo Putney and Kristine Grayson. WOW!

Historical romance writer Courtney Milan’s Turner series novella, Unlocked, is on sale for $.99 right now on Amazon. A little over 100 pages, this story features a wallflower determined to stand up to her former tormentor upon hearing he’s returned to England. That he’s here to apologize for his past behavior doesn’t seem to quench her ire and the nobleman in question finds he wants much more than her forgiveness.

I’ve never read a suspense story that happened to be a Western, but I’m about to change that with the news that B. J. Daniels’ Harlequin Intrigue novel, The New Deputy in Town, is free for download on Amazon right now. When a new lawmen has to solve a bridal shower murder and everyone in the heroine’s family had a motive, things are bound to become complicated quickly.

Lyndsay Sands’ Argeneau Vampires series is understandably famous, so it’s always a good deal when they are discounted. Right now, The Accidental Vampire, the seventh book in the series, is marked down to only $1.99, a terrific deal. Starring a new vampire trying to adjust to coffin life on her own who gets set up by well-meaning friends on a blind date, the heroine is thrilled to discover the experienced vampire Victor Argeneau on the other side of the table. He’s good-looking enough to have his pick of woman with a heartbeat or without, but he definitely wants to help her, particularly after the realization that someone wants to put an end to his sweet fledgling’s new existence.

Having just reviewed Jennifer Ashley’s latest in the Highland Pleasures series, The Wicked Deeds of Daniel Mackenzie, I’m thrilled to note that the accompanying Christmas novella, A Mackenzie Family Christmas is actually FREE right now on Amazon for its ebook form, so run over and grab it while the price lasts.

I love Cat Johnson’s Westerns but her Red, Hot and Blue series has always demonstrated she knows her way around a man in uniform (and out of it as well, mrrrrooow!). The third book in the series (each named after the hero), Jimmy, is now available for free download at Amazon, so check it out. An undercover Special Forces hero, the red-haired daughter of a senator, and one unbelievably hot one night stand (did I mention terrorists?) all make for an unbeatable combination.

That’s the scoop for this week. Happy Reading! 🙂

Despite a Major Production Gaffe, Entangled’s Unmasked Lovers Anthology Is Fantastic

25 Sep
Lovers Unmasked by Katee Robert, Cari Quinn, Samanthe Beck and Tessa Bailey (Entangled, September 23, 2013)

Lovers Unmasked by Katee Robert, Cari Quinn, Samanthe Beck and Tessa Bailey (Entangled, September 23, 2013)

Unlike the many cranky reviewers of the world who do not like anthologies, I adore them. Not only do great short stories and novellas pop up from my favorite authors and series, but I’ve noticed that great authors tend to gravitate to one another (or are brought together by good editors) so I invariably find new authors to sate my insatiable need for more good books.

Just in time for October, when we begin thinking of disguises, Entangled Publishing has come out with a doozy of an anthology entitled Lovers Unmasked, and they have not stinted on lining up some heavy-hitting authors for this collection. I was so psyched that I pre-ordered this puppy as soon as I heard it was available. I mean, Cari Quinn and Tessa Bailey? Color me there.

Except there is a pretty big problem with this anthology. Namely, Cari Quinn’s story is not in it.

I wish I was joking. Originally, the pre-order version also listed Lauren Blakely, but her story for whatever reason got cut from the final version of the anthology, leaving us with four terrific authors – Katee Robert, Cari Quinn, Samanthe Beck, and Tessa Bailey. Okay, fine. I’ve never read anything of Lauren Blakely, so I can forgo her story. But I was really looking forward to all four stories.

And I only got three.

This anthology possesses three fantastic, totally wonderful novellas which are without question worth the bargain price of $3.79, but I absolutely LOVE Cari Quinn and really wanted her story of a schoolteacher who decides to seduce her best friend (“Tempted by His Best Friend”). Just in case I somehow missed it (?) I went through the table of contents and then leafed through every single page on my ereader. Twice. No Cari Quinn. I was also super irritated that the future books blurbs came after EVERY novella and were the same ones. Overkill people? Did these take up the pages meant to go to Quinn’s story? This sucks Entangled, seriously. I’ve got my fingers crossed that Entangled can do that Amazon update thing and notify us that a new version of the book can be downloaded if you’ve purchased it already.

While I gave it a good rating on Goodreads, I nevertheless expressed my frustration and my hope that I’d be getting an updated version of the book so I could read Quinn’s work, and what do you know, but she posted a response to my venting review! Take a look:

Goodreads screenshot

OMG, isn’t that nice? I don’t know if Cari Quinn was busy lurking on the Goodreads page and surfing Twitter for dissatisfied fans, but I immediately sent an email to Entangled just as she suggested. Way to rock the terrific PR, Cari! Sadly, it’s been a couple of days and still no Cari Quinn file. There isn’t even a note on the Amazon page for the book, nor the Entangled page (or their blog). Cari is doing the yeoman’s work of the PR on this gaffe. I hope she’s being paid extra for it.

Anyway, the three novellas I was able to enjoy are forehead-smackingly amazing, so let me tell you about them so you can still be tempted to go out and get this anthology. Each of the novellas are clearly related to another book, yet these talented authors have managed to write stories that stand alone (and leave you wanting the other book, but not because you have to read it to understand the plot of this novella). I’ve got several new books on my to-read list now!

“Seducing Mr. Wright” by Katee Robert

Two Wrongs, One Right (Come Undone #3 – Nathan and Chelsea) by Katee Robert (Entangled, August 12, 2013)

Danielle has been chatting up the mail guy in her building for a couple of months over twice weekly coffee get-togethers, meetings that have made Tuesdays and Thursdays her favorite days of the week. While she is usually stand-offish and noncommittal around men, Grayson has a way of seeing through her, with the result that she’s opened up to him more than anyone but her best girlfriend, Chelsea. He knows about her night school ambitions, her rough relationship with her domineering military father, and that she’s historically shied away from anything smacking of a “relationship.” With their office building hosting a Halloween party for all the businesses, Danielle feels this could be her chance to make a move on Grayson, even if she’s horribly worried that sex would change the friendship she’s come to value.

Chasing Mrs. Right (Come Undone #2 – Roxanne and Ian) by Katee Robert (Entangled, March 2013)

One look at Danielle in a skin-tight leather Catwoman suit and Grayson is ready to throw his good intentions out the window. He’s actually Grayson Harper, CEO of the major corporation on the top floor of the building (which he owns), and he planned on revealing that information to Danielle tonight. He adores this gorgeous woman who has never recognized him and has no idea of his wealth. At first he was just heady at the thought someone was judging him for himself and not his black Amex card, but as they grew to know each other over the last couple of months, Grayson began to realize that Danielle equated wealthy, successful men with her distant, pushy father who was rarely around, and then only to criticize Danielle and her decisions. He knows that she will probably run in the opposite direction when he tells her, so his end game is to blind her with pleasure to the point where she recognizes what could be between them and then spring his real identity on her. To say this woman is a little gun-shy is like saying a Howitzer is a small gun.

Wrong Bed, Right Guy (Come Undone #1 – Elle and Gabe) by Katee Robert (Entangled, July 2012)

Well, you know what they say about the best laid plans, right? Katee Robert is a FANTASTIC writer – just the kind of rich, emotional, H-O-T prose I love in a romance novel, and this novella (which feels longer based on how her writing is so tight that nothing feels left out) is fabulous. There are plenty of domination tones in the relationship but nothing super S&M; it’s more a matter of Grayson having a controlling personality sexually. He knows that Danielle is so feisty, her submission would be more about her trusting him enough to put herself and her pleasure in his hands which has has him utterly intoxicated. When he allows her to take the reins, it’s a real “aaawwww” moment that demonstrates how in love with her he really is. For Danielle, who has always been the one in control of her sexual encounters, it’s almost as if she doesn’t realize the depth of her feeling for Grayson as they are having a hot encounter in his office, but her body knows what’s going on. As her internal monologue states:

Who would have thought she’d feel most in control when submitting?

Probably one of the best parts of this novella is that it’s related to an extremely well-rated series, so when you are at the stage of feeling the sense of loss turning the final page of it, the good news is that you have the other books in Robert’s Come Undone series to turn to. If anything, having a few key references to Chelsea’s love story (she offers Danielle some much needed perspective) will have you ordering her book in the series, Two Wrongs, One Right (which is what I did!).

“Wicked Games” by Samanthe Beck

Lover Undercover (McCade Brothers #1 – Trevor and Kylie) by Samanthe Beck (Entangled, April 2013)

I had never read anything by Samanthe Beck before, but I was wowed by her ability to get me up to speed regarding characters and past events in this terrific novella. The heroine, Stacy Roberts, is the identical twin to Kylie, whose romance with hot cop Trevor McCade has been detailed in Lover Undercover, the first book in the McCade Brothers series. While Kylie is the “good twin,” Stacy has always been the bane of their hometown, a juvenile delinquent whose dreams of acting have come true, albeit with a stop along the way exotic dancing in a high-end gentlemen’s club for a couple of years.

While Kylie has found her happily-ever-after with her new fiancee, Stacy’s heart is broken. When she began getting letters threatening to out her stripper past to the press, she realized that she was endangering the reputation of her wonderful boyfriend, Ian Ford, Trevor’s partner. What is an upstanding cop and his nice middle-class family going to do with a stripper turned actress from the wrong side of the tracks? Since he had asked her to move in with him (not marry him) around that time, it seemed like a good excuse to cut and run before she changed her mind.

It’s been six weeks and Ian is pretty tired of playing the waiting game. Stacy is unbelievably sexy and he knows she loves him even if she can’t say the words. He understands her as well as her sister, realizing that everyone except her twin has always abandoned Stacy. He figured asking her to move in with him was a way of easing her into something more permanent. He’s only just realizing that his hands off approach while he lets her come to her senses could easily have been interpreted as backing off their relationship. When Trevor calls with the information that Stacy has gotten threatening letters and than she and Kylie are planning on going to their old strip club’s hot Halloween costume party (without bodyguards), Ian has got a makeshift costume as a cat burglar on before you can say “John Robie.”

This novella is super angsty and unbelievably hot (like habanero hot on the caliente scale) and the reader completely understands the pain both Ian and Stacy are going through. While it’s pretty easy to spot the villain, knowing who it is doesn’t make it any less scary as you wonder if Stacy is going to lose her chance to tell Ian that she loves him. May I compliment the talented Ms. Beck on a terrific epilogue? That was one of the most fun wedding scenes I’ve read it quite some time! Yes, I immediately went out and purchased Lover Undercover so I could get a close up of Kylie and Trevor’s journey to love. And Trevor has brothers? *fans self* Color me there!

“Protecting What’s Theirs” by Tessa Bailey

Protecting What’s His (Line of Duty #1 – Derek and Ginger) by Tessa Bailey (Entangled, February 2013)

Business owner and girl from the rough side of the tracks Ginger Peet just got some startling news via pregnancy test. It’s not that she doesn’t understand how or when it happened – her boyfriend of nearly a year, Lt. Derek Tyler, has always made sure the mechanics of sex is at the forefront of both their minds in the most pleasurable way – and she remembers oh-so-well the moment in Florida that they went sans condom after she forgot her birth control pills back in Chicago. But this is a BIG life change, for both of them, and she’d only moved into his apartment a few months ago after Derek inched her gradually down the road to commitment. Having reservations about motherhood is pretty natural for a woman who had to raise herself and protect her younger sister from their prostitute and drug addict mother.

His Risk to Take (Line of Duty #2 – Troy and Ruby) by Tessa Bailey (Entangled, May 2013)

Derek loves and adores Ginger, so much that it overwhelms him at times, and while he wants nothing more than to go home and be with her (and in her) an informant just blew a case wide open. His department has a chance of nailing a criminal who not only is responsible for the death of some of his officers, but whose success in his next illegal business venture would mean countless lives lost if he took over more Chicago territory. When a fellow officer mentions that the kind of operation Derek is talking about is what in police parlance is called a “widow-maker”, Derek realizes that he must protect Ginger from the knowledge he’s doing this, and that means keeping his distance. That decision not only stops Ginger from sharing her news, but dredges up all the insecurity her love for him has kept at bay, with potentially disastrous results for them both.

Officer Off Limits (Line of Duty #3 – Daniel and Story) by Tessa Bailey (Entangled, June 2013)

Oh. My. God. I have been a gigantic fan of Tessa Bailey’s Line of Duty series from the get-go, ultimately impressed with her gritty, authentic voice and characters who are often smart, working class men and women who have defied the odds to make something of themselves. Derek and Ginger shocked me in the best possible way when I first read their story in Protecting What’s His.

Derek is a dominant with a capital D, not in the leather and chains way, but rather in the possessive, ordering, super-hot kind of way. While this could potentially make me as a reader run in the other direction, Bailey succeeds in making him empathetic as he communicates to Ginger how all the power rests in her hands. His almost relentless caring for Ginger and the way he accepts the ultimate responsibility for her happiness won me lock, stock and barrel, and that has not changed in the slightest with this gut-wrenchingly, wonderful novella. I had tears in my eyes at the end of it when they both realize what happened and contemplate what the loss of their relationship would have meant. So amazing. I cannot wait for the rest of this series!

I also cannot wait to read Cari Quinn’s story “Tempted by His Best Friend” and I’ll be happy to post a review when I finally get it. Until that time, do not let it’s absence prevent you from purchasing this amazing anthology. I was astonished at not only the quality of writing, but how each novella actually was well-developed to the point that it felt like a complete story – never rushed or ending abruptly as anthology stories can sometimes do.

Celebrate your putting up your Halloween decorations by running out and purchasing Lovers Unmasked for your ereader. You’ll be thankful you did!

E-reader Lust: How Amazon’s Newest Paperwhite and It’s MatchBook Program Can Make You a Better Reader

5 Sep

The Kindle Paperwhite is incredibly bright, offering no glare in outdoor conditions and a strong contrast for readers, making it easy on the eye.

My e-reader lust knows no bounds. Perhaps because I am such a voracious reader and love ebooks as much as paper ones (sometimes more) I’ve yet to meet the e-reader I didn’t like – Kobo, Nook, Kindle, and tablets like the Nexus or my wonderful iPad (both sizes are amazing). I have an iPad which I use for other aspects of my life, but naturally my Kindle app (and iBook and Nook apps) are the center of my reading existence as they allow me to access the more than 1300 ebooks I have in my Amazon account (and no, I am not making that number up). With so many authors putting out novellas and short stories ONLY available in e-book form (and many outstanding authors debuting solely with electronic books), I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the romance genre without one.

Yet despite my slutiness in all gadgets electronic, I do believe strongly in Kindle products and apps because I think that Amazon has the market cornered with its combination of great selection, some of the best prices, and access to my library with virtually every electronic device on my desk and in my pocketbook. Whether it’s my phone, computer or iPad, I can grab a hold of my books virtually anywhere and since I will begin reading my book in progress if you leave me alone for two minutes, that’s pretty important to me.

I actually bought a basic level Kindle last Christmas as a present to myself because 1) with the push buttons to advance rather than a touch screen I could put it in a ziplock and read ebooks during my marathon bubble baths, 2) I’m an Amazon Prime member for the free shipping and Amazon Instant Video access (so worth $79 per year) and that means I get to borrow books for free each month with an actual Kindle device and 3) it was only $69.

The shot of Goodreads on the newest Paperwhite.

All the various Kindles since the original one debuted haven’t really tempted me since their color screens and multimedia abilities are all matched, if not surpassed by my iPad 2. But when the Kindle Paperwhite came on the scene, oh, that’s when my e-reader infidelity ramped up! The Paperwhite is light just like my original Kindle (it’s the height and depth of a ballpoint pen, so extremely comfortable to hold) but the contrast with its e-ink beats everything on the market, with a no-glare screen that makes reading into the wee hours easy on tired eyes. But the newest Paperwhite, just announced a couple of days ago and priced at $119, has features which have ramped up the urgency and catapulted it into this year’s holiday gift category. Namely, Amazon is choosing this model of Kindle as the featured device to promote its seamless integration with Goodreads.

Now THIS is a development. While some people threw up their hands when Goodreads was acquired by Amazon earlier this year, I haven’t noticed any changes to that community as of yet, so I’m not getting my knickers in a twist about the partnership, particularly because I was hoping something like this would occur. You see, with those aforementioned 1300 books, I spend a pretty decent amount of time putting titles into my Goodreads account since I use it to religious track my reading, and a device/Goodreads integration would save me a lot of time and energy.

Organizing your Kindle books into collections is only an option on actual Kindle devices.

I adore Goodreads not just for the rating and tracking ability, but because I can organize my books into shelves, which are mostly for me to indicate where I keep said book (“in kindle,” “Lendle”, “my paper copy” or “in library”). But with the endless stream of book covers in my Kindle app, my inner librarian aches for a better way to organize these. On any actual Kindle device you can actually organize your books into “Collections” which would be utterly A-M-A-Z-I-N-G as I have always wanted to push each new book I buy and finish into subgenre romance categories (Paranormal, Suspense, Contemporary, Holiday, etc.) which would make it a breeze to pick for better blogging. Having my NetGalley books in a “Review These” collection would also be pretty nifty, making me that much more efficient, and this librarian adores efficiency like Seven of Nine loves running a diagnostic (Star Trek Voyager fans, anyone?)

Whether it’s with a thirty cent Ziplock bag or a state-of-the-art waterproof case, reading and baths are synonymous for romance readers.

But attachment to touch buttons is also becoming a thing of the past as the bathtub becomes fair game with the advent of accessories like the DryCase which works with a variety of devices (including my iPad) and would enable me to bring any device (*manic giggle*) into my fabulous cast iron tub circa 1930. I could even use their DryBuds to listen to music while I’m soaking since the case has a waterproof headphones jack! My God, I’d never get out…Take a look at the video to see how great this is and they are not even expensive – the DryCase retails for around $60 for the tablet size and the special earbuds are around $30. Considering that I’d pay as much for a decorative case that wouldn’t even offer protection from rain, I don’t consider that an exorbitant one-time cost.

MatchBook, bundling print and ebooks for voracious readers who want their authors anywhere, anytime.

Okay, so my most-wanted reading device is clearly fantastic, but Amazon also listened to experts like those at Publisher’s Weekly and realized that bundling ebooks with print books was a damn clever way to push more books. Duuuhhhhh. Enter MatchBook (super clever name!) where – like their audiobook offers which are discounted when you purchase the ebook – an ebook version of a book might be offered at a significant discount, with the majority landing in the $.99 to $2.99 range.

This could be a goldmine for Amazon, as I sometime make a print/Kindle choice for a lot of my books, often choosing a used print copy to save money since the Kindle version is not a discounted price (if I’m not going to pay the list price for the paper book, I’m hesitant to do it for the Kindle version). A used copy makes Amazon less money (and makes the publisher no money since they got their profit on the first sale of the book), but by bundling a new book and it’s ebook companion, I get two versions of the book (which I like to have for my favorite authors and series) and Amazon and the publisher make more of a royalty off me, while I actually save money. MatchBook will be retroactive, offering readers the discounted ebook versions off everything they’ve purchased from Amazon since 1996 that has an eligible ebook. With those 1300 books, I’m kind of curious to see how many offers I might have!

So I’ll be going to sleep with a smile on my face, dreaming of Paperwhites and bubble baths and even more books for my money. Take a look and see if Amazon’s newest offerings can fulfill your e-reader lust or if another device will fit the bill, but whatever you do, keep reading.

Read Faster By Switching Effortlessly Between Audio and Ebooks with WhisperSync

22 Nov

I don’t do it as much anymore since my commute to work isn’t that long, but back in the day I would listen to audiobooks all the time. Particularly in library school, I had a two hour commute (each way) with a ton of heinous city traffic, so audiobooks were a lifesaver. Not only would they allow me to do my reading for my literature classes while driving, but my involvement in the book made me incredibly patient about delays and tempered my road rage when jackasses cut me off.

However, the drawback to audiobooks when I didn’t have a long commute was that I wanted to enjoy the paper book or ebook, but that meant fast forwarding to part I was up to if and when I went back to the audiobook. Frustrating. Add to that that audiobooks are incredibly expensive, and you’ve got a recipe for abandonment, which I did.

Unsurprisingly, Amazon, known for creating good partnerships and being on the forefront of ereader technology, came up with a solution this fall for my dilemma. Calling it WhisperSync, they have worked with Audible, one of the leading audiobook vendors, to allow readers who purchase both a Kindle book and an Audible audiobook (with WhisperSync enabled) to be able to effortlessly go back and forth between formats, with the ebook or audiobook automatically picking up at the last place read. Cool, yes?

YES. The biggest complaint of all enthusiastic readers is “I wish I had more time to read!” so if it’s easier to read while you’re cooking, gardening, knitting, cleaning, working out, etc. you are getting through more books (and probably are more enthusiastic about those activities). Whether you have one of the Kindle ereaders or you are using a Kindle app on another device, you can utilize this new feature. What’s impressive to me is that the audiobook as an add-on is highly affordable (the expense of audiobooks can be quite prohibitive), I mean who wouldn’t get The Hunger Games audiobook add-on for $3.95, particularly if you had kids (*cough*) you wanted to entertain in the car?

Bimodal reading – physically reading the words while hearing them – actually improves and understanding, both for struggling readers as well as high-functioning readers. As an educator I’ve known this for a while, and encouraged it with ESL students who benefit from hearing the book as they are reading it. So many nuances of meaning can be extracted from the tone of voice and inflection of the narrator, and when you are unfamiliar with a word, hearing it pronounced gives you much more confidence in using it because you know you aren’t making a mistake. For the Kindle Fire line of ereaders, Amazon now has Immersion Reading, where a purchase of both the audio book and physical book comes together and you can actually read along with the performance of your book. Take a look at Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, announcing WhisperSync and Immersion Reading.

If you are someone who just likes audiobooks and listens to them all the time, check to see if your local library has a subscription to Overdrive, one of the leading vendors supplying audiobooks to nonprofit institutions. With just your library card, you can download the latest titles and best audiobooks on the market for free to your smartphone, computer, or ereader (they even just added the Kindle), keeping it for whatever length of time your library allows it to be checked out. On the Overdrive main page, there’s a place to put in your zip code and search for libraries near you who might offer this service. I think this service is a terrific use of your library, and clearly an affordable way of enjoying the medium for most people. Being able to download a couple audiobooks prior to a long trip – for free – seems like a great use of your tax dollars at work!

Keep in mind my one pet peeve about audiobooks which is the narrator has to be good! If you have a narrator you can’t stand, this is not going to work (and be open about narrators of different sexes than the characters – a good actor can work through that dissonance). Be sure before buying any audiobook, you listen to the sample (there’s usually a play button right under the book cover image) to make sure you’re going to have the best possible experience.

Happy listening! 🙂

%d bloggers like this: