How a Book Becomes a Book

On Thursday, I turned in the developmental edits for my upcoming contemporary sports romance Changing the Play which will be published under a new pen name, Julia Blake. Authors know that this is cause for celebration. Developmental edits are a big deadline, and getting them out of the way is a huge relief. But others might be wondering what that actually means. Even though I'd published independently before signing with Pocket Books, I had to admit to being fuzzy on the whole publishing process at traditional houses. Today I'm going to try to walk you through some of the major steps that gets a book from draft to publication using my experience with the second in my Governess series, The Governess Was Wanton.

The First Draft

It seems logical that the first step in publishing a book is to actually write the book. Depending upon where you are in your career and the terms of your deal, however, there might be a whole negotiation before you ever write a word of prose. (Selling on proposal is a topic for another day.)

When my agent sold the Governess series, we had one completed book (The Governess Was Wicked) and proposals for two others (Wanton and The Governess Was Wild). Those proposals were really just two to three page synopses of what would happen in the book were I to write it.

If you have a completed novel when you strike a deal, the editor can begin working on it immediately. However, you've sold on proposal or there are multiple books in a deal and not all are written, this is the time when an author's got to get to work. When my Governess deal went through, my editor was able to get cracking on The Governess Was Wicked immediately, and that meant I had to get writing Wanton STAT.

I wrote Wanton over about five weeks, revising it up until the deadline. Then, blurry eyed and tired, I turned it in to my editor. That was stage one complete.

Developmental Edits

My editor took my first draft of Wanton and read it through. Then she wrote me an edit letter which is a document with recommendations about what to change, which parts need to be strengthened, and what new directions she'd like to see the story go in. Often these are very big picture changes to a book that develop character and plot (ie developmental edits).

In the case of Wanton, the edit letter included a big ask: rewriting the ending of the book because it was too similar to the ending of Wicked, which would be published immediately before itGetting a note like that is nerve wracking because it seems like such a huge undertaking. ("I have to rewrite the whole end of a book? How do I even do that?!") In the end, however, my editor was absolutely right, and the new ending has one of my favorite scenes I've ever written.

Accepted Into Production

Once you've handed in your dev. edits and your editor has gone through them, they might ask for another round of edits. However, if they're happy with the changes made, your book will be accepted into production. Rejoice!

This is typically when authors get paid some part of their advance. (Advances are split up into parts. I've heard of a lot of different advance structures. So far I have been paid half on signing and half on acceptance of the manuscript.)

Line and Copy Edits

Next my editor did a line edit of Wanton (think a very close, line-by-line reading of the content of the text with lots of comments and markups in track changes) before she hands the book off to a copy editor. Some editors may send the line edits to their authors for approval and changes first, but the way we work I got the line edits at the same time as the copy edits.

The copy editor is looking for technical, grammatical problems with the manuscript. This is also the stage where the manuscript is checked for consistency. Copy editors have to be very detail oriented, and I've got a huge amount of respect for them because their job seems impossibly hard to me.

When Wanton went for copy edits, the copy editor made a list of all names, places, and dates referenced in the book. This is like a little bible that your book (and your series if you wind up writing multiple books in the same world) has to adhere to. They're looking for consistency in names, timelines, physical descriptions. It turns out I'm not a strong timeline writer (I'm trying to get better!) so ages and dates are challenging for me. I received several notes on Wanton about whether someone was 28 or 30, what color some else's eyes were, etc.

When I got back my line and copy edits, everything was marked up in track changes. This was my time to then accept or reject the changes in the manuscript. If I agreed with my editor and the copy editor, I would accept a change. If I didn't, I would STET the edit in a comment, which basically meant, "I don't agree with you, please leave the text as it was." With historical romances you have to be particularly careful because not everyone is as familiar with conventions of the time like how siblings were addressed. (I'm the eldest of two sisters, so I would've most often been referred to as "Miss Kelly" and my younger sister would've been "Miss Justine" until either or both of us were married.)

This was also the time where I got to write my dedication and my acknowledgements pages.


Once you send back your copy edits, it's time for the pages to be set. This is the first time your book looks like an actual book. Since Wanton was published exclusively as an ebook, this meant that my editor sent me a PDF proof of what the book was going to look like on an eReader screen. This is particularly exciting because in my case it meant seeing the title page, pretty chapter headings, page breaks, etc.

The purpose of looking over a proof is to make sure that all of the changes from the copy edits made it in. It's also a time to sweep for typos. Thankfully I was far from the only set of eyes on the book because at this point I'd read my own manuscript at least eight times. Try editing something you've written and read that many times. It's...hard.

Proofs are the only time that I actually print out and hold my book anymore. I mark up actual pages with colorful pen (my favorite is pink which, now that I think of it, may delight or irritate my proofreader) and then send photographs of the galleys back to my editor to point out where I found typos.

Proofs are not the time for major content changes to a book. They are, essentially, a last check of the book to make sure everything looks okay.


Rejoice again! You have a book that readers can actually read!

There's a lot more that goes into prepping a book for publication including back cover copy and marketing, but that's a whole separate blog post for another day. In terms of the editorial process, you're done and ready to move on to writing your next great novel because writers never stop writing.

7 Things I Learned When I Went Through My Old Writing

For the first time since Labor Day, I don't owe anyone anything. I've met all my deadlines, and I'm project-less (at least I am until copyedits come back on two of my books). It's glorious. I've been taking this rare free time to read, cook, catch up on Outlander, and do some serious spring cleaning. But while I was totally on board with deep cleaning my apartment and sorting clothes for donation, I kept ignoring the big task that's sat on my to do list for years: cleaning out my box of old writing.


About seven years ago, when I moved into an apartment with my friend on the Upper East Side, I bought myself a huge plastic filing bin and a bunch of folders. I printed off all the old ideas that had just been sitting on my laptop, and started organizing. I filed away a whole bunch of concepts, character sketches, plot maps, synopses, and in some cases partial manuscripts of up to 45,000 words. Then I never looked at anything in that box again.

I'm sad to say, that box moved with me and has been sitting on top of the cabinets in my studio for five years.I'm not even sure I opened it up to add things. Sunday night, I decided that enough was enough. I had to sort through every piece of paper in there and figure out what to keep and what to toss.

I learned a lot in the two hours it took for me to sort everything in my box. I haven't had a chance to read everything in it (there's only so much wine in the world and I can't drink it all in one nostalgia-laden, cringe-worthy old writing session). I do plan to read everything, however, because among all of the — sometimes very — rough sketches in there are some ideas. Some good ones. Ones that could at some point become books.

So, here's what I learned when I made myself look at all of the ideas I thought were good enough to write down seven years ago.

Be prepared.

Yeah, you should probably be ready for a few "Why did I write that?" and "Wow, that's better than I thought" moments, but that's not what I'm talking about here. To go down nostalgia lane, you need to be properly prepped with tools. I dragged out a trash bag, mixed myself a Negroni, put on Hasley's BADLANDS, and set to work.



I like organization...and that's not necessarily a great thing.

The first thing that jumped out at me when I started attacking my mound of paper was that I like organization. Like really like it. My box of concepts was stuffed full of neatly printed, binder clipped paper. Everything was grouped with its appropriate project (some of them have amazing names, but more on that later). Things were split into folders that I'm sure made plenty of sense seven years ago. Everything looked neat.

Same goes with the content of those files. I always thought of myself as a pantser until I buckled down and started writing really serious. Now I will not start a project without at least a synopsis and often a few notes on character, plot, timeline, etc. mostly because I can't remember the details of what I pitched if it's not written down. If my agent sells a series, I need to remember months down the line what books two and three are supposed to be about. I thought I'd become a plotter because of professional survival.

I once knew how to read this plotting tool. I now have no clue what I'm looking at.

Turns out, I loved plotting when I was starting out. I had notes. I had deeply detailed character descriptions. I had synopses. I was all over the organization...

...so where are all of the manuscripts that should have come from such excellent plotting?

Some just didn't work. It happens. Not every idea becomes a book. Some manuscripts can be fixed, but I've also written a few that couldn't.

What concerned me a lot more was that I could see a bad pattern developing in this box. I used plotting as a crutch. If I broke a plot down in every possible way I could think of, I could tell myself that I was still doing work even if I wasn't producing workable, completed drafts. But look! I had all of this paper. I was working.

Nope. That's busywork and not productive work.

Breaking out of the habit of constantly researching and making notes is another long blog post, but suffice it to say I did it out of necessity. I made deadlines and forced myself to stick with them. Suddenly I couldn't spend days ripping apart a manuscript that wasn't even close to being complete. Making myself put together a manuscript and start submitting it to agents changed a lot of things.

I'm an office supply junkie.IMG_5470

I pulled a lot of binder clips off of duplicate manuscripts. A lot. I have so many hanging and regular folders, I shouldn't be allowed into a Staples unattended ever. Same goes for stationary stores. How many legal pads does one woman really need?

My sister was a pretty good editor when she was 20. 

It's generally not good when someone unequivocally hates your main character. It's generally great when they tell that to your face and don't let you write a bad book that no agent or editor is going to want to buy because of an odious heroine.

And yes, I did read that the first chapters of that manuscript. My heroine was pretty horrible. My sister will be so pleased to hear me tell her she was right (she's also now in a publishing grad school program so good call, baby sis).IMG_5476

A lot of it is bad, but it's still my work and that's pretty cool.

I wasn't as embarrassed as I thought I'd be going through this box. I actually kind of wish one of my close friends was with me so we could comb through the pages. I think it would have been fun.

Don't get me wrong — a lot of what was in this box was bad. Like cringe-worthy bad. But most of it was also straight from brain to paper. It was rougher than a rough draft, and that's okay. What I had was a box of fresh ideas that I was excited about enough to jot down and store away.

I'm looking forward to going through my box of ideas slowly and seeing what's in there. Maybe nothing is usable. Maybe something becomes a book or a series. It's the promise of possibility that's exciting.

Writing makes you a stronger writer.

Someone I was once close with used to love Malcolm Gladwell and his 10,000 rule. The short version is that Gladwell argues it takes 10,000 of practice to become an expert at something whether it's hockey, piano, whatever.

While I don't completely buy into Gladwell's argument, I do think that consistent, conscious engagement with writing will make you a stronger writer. You've got to be open to learning and mentoring and criticism, but if you put in the time consistently your writing will change over time.

This box represents lots of hours and lots of writing. Butt in chair, hands on keyboard writing. Is all of what I wrote in 2008 good? Nooooo. But did I get better? Yes.

When I told my old roommate I was digging through my writing from when we lived together and that some of it was "utterly awful stuff," she said something really smart:

"We all do this. We all look back on old work and think it's terrible. It means you're growing!

And you'll grow until you stop."

She's a pretty brilliant lady.

You'll find some gems.

If you're like me, you'll uncover some gems while digging around in your own box of concepts. I found four rejections from when I submitted a literary short story to a bunch of journals. Those make me laugh now, but the thing that made me happiest was finding an old photo from college. It was taken on move-in day of my freshman year with my roommate who would go on to become one of my two closest girlfriends in college.

So enjoy this photo of me as an 18-year-old with a ribbon belt (thanks, 2004), and I hope you'll be kind to your past self when you tackle your own spring cleaning.


How to Organize Your Writing Life: Tracking Characters

Espresso Shot (4)When you're a writer, the struggle to stay organized is real. Different drafts. Different books. Different projects. Release days. Blog posts. Facebook parties. No matter the stage of your career, we all have responsibilities pulling us in different directions. Organization is key to making sure that everything gets done when it should without leaving you feeling completely overwhelmed.

Every Wednesday throughout the month of May, I'm sharing some of the tips and tricks that I used to keep my writing life in order. We've already covered your calendar and your daily writing goals. Today we're tackling tracking your characters.

Keep Record

I started to keep notes on all of the characters that appear in my books about three novels, four novellas, several short stories, and countless pitches into the process. I really, really regret not starting from day one. I'm still playing catch up on entering all of my character names as well as their defining characteristics.
So here's what I recommend. No matter where you are in your writing career, build a spreadsheet for your characters. Start it now. Today. And keep it updated. It will save you when you're editing manuscripts you haven't looked at in awhile. Even better, you can build your mini character profiles while you're writing and keep yourself on track as you draft.

What to Include

Your character spreadsheet can be as extensive or minimalist as you like. Here's a look at the things I track:
  • First name
  • Last name
  • Title (mainly for historicals)
  • Book the character appears in
  • Role (hero/heroine/antagonist/secondary character)
  • Race
  • Height
  • Hair color
  • Eye color
  • Profession
  • Additional notes
Once I enter all of that information in, I use Excel's sort function to alphabetize by first name. That makes it easy to find characters fast, and it also helps me notice any trends. I have a tendency to like men's names that start with an "E" and women whose names start with a "C." I don't know why, but having a visual remind of that is hugely helpful.

Use Your Spreadsheet

Just like a calendar or a to do list, a character spreadsheet is only helpful if you actually use it. When I'm writing, I have it popped up in the background. If I write about a new character, I'll add their traits to the sheet. Similarly, I refer back to that sheet if I'm drafting and I can't remember the color of a character's eyes (something I seem to be incapable of). Doing this will save you a lot of annoying stopping and starting while you're editing a manuscript--especially if you haven't looked at it in a few weeks.
If you are interested in getting a copy of my character spreadsheet, just send me an email to juliakellywrites@gmail.com, and I would be happy to send you my template.
Good luck, and happy writing!

Do You Have to Get to "I Love You?"

One Week in WyomingAn earlier version of this post appeared on the Contemporary Romance Writer's blog and in the RWA-NYC April Keynotes. One of the cardinal rules of romance is that a story has to end with a happily ever after. But does that mean a couple has to say, “I love you,” at the end of every romance? Maybe not.

It’s a question I asked myself when I wrote “Seduction in the Snow”. The story unfolds over a week at a ski resort. Both Evan and Lydia tell themselves that their sexy hot tub encounters are just a vacation fling. Lydia is particularly tough to sell on the idea of love. Having seen relationship after relationship fall apart after a few short months, she’s scared of the big “L” word.

Of course, this is a romance so we all know where the story’s heading—for the happily ever after—but given Lydia’s resistance to the very idea of love, I didn’t feel that a big, “I love you,” exchange at the end of the novella would be fitting with her character. Instead, I decided that Lydia and Evan should show us their deep commitment and potential for future happiness in a different way.

As authors we have a responsibility to really get to know our characters. What are their fears? How can we push them out of their comfort zones? Would they actually say the words that we’re writing on the page? While “I love you,” is the backbone of many happily ever afters, it doesn’t have to be if it doesn’t fit with your character’s personality.

Another thing to consider is your book’s timeline. Romance authors tell stories that unfold over decades, months, weeks, days. There’s such vast variation in the timelines in our genre that a one-size-fits-all approach to the happily ever doesn’t always work. If a character is more in touch with their emotions and open to the idea of falling in love, the, “I love you,” exchange rings true. But we know our heroes and heroines will continue to grow after our stories are complete. If that’s the case, “I love you,” may realistically take them longer to get to.

Whether you decide to have your hero and heroine say, “I love you,” or not, the most important thing to remember is that it’s our job as authors to write a convincing love story. That means you’re not just telling the reader that the hero and heroine love each other. You’re showing their deep commitment through the actions and emotions. Write your story with that in mind, and you’ll have your readers falling in love.

My novella "Seduction in the Snow" appears in the sexy, contemporary romance anthology One Week in Wyoming. For more posts like this one, follow my blog or sign up for my newsletter.

Tropical Dreams (Coming This Spring!)

Waikiki-Beach-Hawaii-485x728 I've got some exciting news today. I just turned in the first draft of my novella The Wedding Week that is set to appear in the anthology One Week in Hawaii!

All four authors behind One Week in Wyoming are taking you to the tropics for our latest book featuring four sexy contemporary romances set in Hawaii. It's been the perfect antidote to living in the frozen Northeast, and we can't wait to share it with you. It's set to release in the spring with updates coming soon.

Keep an eye out on this site, Facebook, and Twitter for ongoing updates about release dates, or sign up for my newsletter for news, special content ,and giveaways straight to your inbox!


Go Forth & NaNoWriMo

For my little band of writer friends, the end of October isn't a time to ask, "What are you and/or your kids going to be for Halloween," but rather, "Are you going to do NaNoWriMo?"

I've done National Novel Writing Month three times and "won" it once. Each time I've gotten something valuable out of the experience.

Sure, it's meant putting aside some basic human necessities like laundry and food that takes more than 10 minutes to prepare.* Hitting a 50,000 word count in the space of a month that also has holidays like Thanksgiving rolled into it is tough. But here's the thing. You're going to have 50,000 words of editable work if you win. Even if you don't, you're going to have something on a page and that's a lot easier to craft and edit than a blank Word document. .

After winning NaNoWriMo for the first time last year, I also noticed an unexpected side benefit: I write more. Rather than the 1K I was cranking out a night after my day job, my numbers started ticking up. If you break NaNoWriMo's word count down into equal parts, you wind up with 1,667 words a day.** Now I routinely write between 2,000 and 3,000 words a day, five days a week. That's a whole lot of words that I can directly attribute to NaNoWriMo ratcheting up my productivity.

So, to all of you who are on the fence about NaNoWriMo or anyone who has always wanted to write a novel but didn't know how to go about it, I'm challenging you to write along with me. The words you get out on the page don't have to be good. They just have to be words, and I want you to write them fearlessly.

Now go forth and NaNoWriMo!


*I basically live off of pesto and grilled chicken during the month of November.

**Once you write to that 1,667 words a day goal for a month, you will never be able to forget that magic number.

Love is Love: An Essay for Queer Romance Month

QRM Author badge_300A version of this article appeared as a part of Queer Romance Month. I met Jonathan and Andrew* when I was a little girl. My parents were very involved in the Los Angeles art world, and both men were talented artists. Jonathan was a classical musician and Andrew was a painter and animator. They were a part of my parents’ life, and since my parents often brought my sister and me along to concerts, cocktail parties, and dinners, that meant Jonathan and Andrew were part of my life too.

While the adults chatted at cocktail parties, I explored Jonathan and Andrew’s home. It was one of those dark, shingled Hollywood houses up in the hills complete with a kitschy mosaic driveway (my mother told me they loved the ironic tackiness of it). Andrew adored cats. I have very clear memories of wandering the hallways in an uncomfortable, formal dress with white stockings and shiny shoes, peering up at the endless feline drawings brought to life with the swipe of a pencil or the curve of a brush.

There was never any question in my young mind that Jonathan and Andrew were a couple. I thought they were married just like my parents until I reached my teenage years. In freshman health and sex education class, I learned that only straight people could be wed in California—or anywhere in the United States at the time. I was stunned at the realization that I could get married as soon as I turned 18, but Jonathan and Andrew couldn’t.

That was the moment I became an ally.

Given my age, Jonathan and Andrew never shared with me whether they wanted to be able to get married. I do know that from the outside looking in they were devoted to one another in the same way that my parents are. The same way my aunts are uncles are. The same way that my friends who are now tying the knot are. They radiated a quiet comfort that spoke to the deep love that ran between them.

I went off to college, and I saw Jonathan and Andrew less and less. On occasion a party would fall on my winter or summer breaks, and I would be swept up in the old crowd for an evening. Now instead of handing me sodas, everyone snuck me glasses of wine and asked how my History major was progressing. Jonathan wanted to know about my plans to intern in journalism, and Andrew would walk me around to look at the cat pictures I’d loved as a little girl.

I moved to New York for graduate school and got my first job in broadcast journalism. I went home to Los Angeles even less often. One day after working a grueling morning shift, I got a call from my mother. She caught me up on the family gossip before becoming rather quiet in the way she does when she has bad news. Andrew had cancer. He’d been diagnosed some time ago, and their group of friends was only just finding out now because he could no longer hide the strain that chemo was taking on his body. Chemo that wasn’t working. My first thought was for Jonathan—his partner and the man he looked for whenever he walked into a room.

Andrew died shortly after my mother called me. I was still thousands of miles away and could not attend the funeral, but I’m told it was both quiet and beautiful, just as I remember their love. A violinist played in Andrew’s honor, and Jonathan was surrounded by the friends and family who loved him most in the world.

I chose to share a little bit of Jonathan and Andrew’s story because their love matters. Romance authors write about love at all stages, from the first flush of attraction to the comfort of a committed relationship, until death do us part. Those stories are not the sole property of white, heterosexual couples. Queer romance, multicultural romance—all of these books are important because the thrill of new love feels the same no matter what form it comes in. And when that love is taken away, it hurts just the same.

Love is love.

*The names have been changed out of respect for the privacy of the real Jonathan and Andrew.

Defending the Marriage of Convenience

Beautiful brideThis article first appeared in RWA-NYC's September Keynotes newsletter as part of the tropes issue. I love a good historical marriage of convenience romance. I just do. I know some people find the trope tired—like an old friend you’ve seen one too many times—but my love for the “we have to get married because we just do” storyline will never die.

Historical settings are removed enough from my every day life that I can easily accept that there might be social and economic reasons for a hero and heroine to marry even if they don’t love each other. Take the Regency period. Between securing a woman’s financial future and ensuring a man’s lineage through heirs, you’ve got plenty of reasons why a man might ask a woman to marry him whom he hardly knows—let alone loves.

As an author, getting the wedding over and done with achieves a few things. The marriage immediately creates conflict because these two relative strangers must now figure out how to live together as a couple. At some point, the barriers between them start to fall. Even though they might resist, affection grows between them. And the best side effect of the marriage of convenience? Our hero and heroine no longer have to worry about those pesky societal rules saying they can’t kiss or, you know, have sex. Often it is that physical intimacy that shows the hero or heroine that they’re falling in love even as they try to resist.

Now, you might notice that I’ve only talked about historicals so far. I generally have a tough time enjoying marriages of convenience in contemporary settings because I’m always left asking why?

Why would a modern hero and heroine who are intelligent, attractive, independent people have to get married if they don’t want to? If a man said, “My inheritance is dependent on us getting hitched,” to me I’d probably run in the opposite direction the moment I realized he was being serious. Likewise, when I read about a man who must get married because his corporate environment only trusts so called “family men,” my first thought is always, “It’s time for a new job.”

The problem with using the trope in contemporaries is that it becomes a lot harder to justify forcing the hero and heroine to wed. Let’s take a look at some of the common external conflicts forcing historical couples together. Pre-martial sex has become the norm in this country. With entails a thing of the past, how many families are really desperate for a male heir these days? And even better, most women now have the means to hold a career, own property, and manage their lives as they see fit.

So what is a contemporary author who wants to play with the marriage of convenience trope to do? Get creative.

The key to using a marriage of convenience across genres of romance seems to be finding new, interesting ways to twist and update the trope. If you set off to write a marriage of convenience romance, ask yourself what you can do to avoid sending the hero and heroine down the normal path to love. Breathing new life into the old trope can help keep readers racing to the end to see how your hero and heroine will finally fall in love.

Listening for Love

A version of this post ran on September 8th on One Week in Love. Hi all, Julia here. I've talked before about the importance of music and writing, but today I'm going to touch on the songs that I listened to while writing, editing, and generally wringing my hands over "Seduction in the Snow" in the upcoming One Week in Wyoming anthology.

When I start writing a book, I create a playlist with the working title and begin throwing songs on it. Since I write historical as well as contemporary it can be tough finding lyrics that match the scenarios I think I might write (although let me tell you, if I had better French of any Italian there's a whole world of crazy opera arias that would fit historical romances pretty well).  That's why I go for a mood that feels like the book I'm writing.

Now, if I'd written this post back in March when I worked on the first draft of "Seduction in the Snow", I would have said that I put that playlist on and started working away. That's what it was like until mid-July when I read an article that said most people are less productive when listening to music with lyrics (even in languages that they don't understand). That flipped a switch in my writer brain, and now I suddenly can't write to anything that's not instrumental. Instead I put my playlists on about a half hour before I think I might sit down to write to get me back in the right frame of mind for the story.

Okay, playlist time. For "Seduction in the Snow" I wanted a few angsty songs, some confused, "Wait, are we a couple or not?" lyrics, and a whole lot of sexy girl-power blues rock. If I'm being totally honest, I would admit that I just listened to Pistol Annies' "I Feel a Sin Comin' On" on repeat. The problem is that just one song makes for both very poor playlists and blog posts. Here's a more expansive look at what was on my Spotify list.

[spotify id="spotify:user:juliabottles:playlist:1BDXB0MTLjqH7QhLIwYz2l" width="300" height="380" /]

If you would like to read "Seduction in the Snow" for yourself, you can buy One Week in Wyoming for $0.99 wherever ebooks are sold.

One Week in Love

OneWeekInWyoming-1600x2400August is coming to a close, and that means that the release day for One Week in Wyoming is getting closer too! On September 9th, you can get your hands on the sexy contemporary anthology featuring four stories by Alexis Anne, Audra North, Alexandra Haughton, and myself. Until then, we have a new website for our One Week in Love series of books. Stop by, watch our welcome video, peruse some blog posts, and say hello!

A New Look

A couple of my short stories are getting a fresh, new look thanks to Audra North who designed the covers. You can download both Accidentally (On Purpose) and Earn It at major ebook retailers (although I'm still waiting on Barnes & Noble and will update once that's up). Most are priced as free right now, and I'm hoping that soon Amazon will match to make both stories free as well. UPDATE: Amazon has price matched Earn It and Accidentally (On Purpose) so they are now free for Kindle! Also I'm now a Goodreads author!

UPDATE TO THE UPDATE: Nook books now available. Thanks for being so patient, Nook readers!

What do you think of the new look?

Beautiful portrait of young man lips

Amazon | iBooks | Kobo | Nook | Smashwords

JK-Earn It-band FINAL

Amazon | iBooks | Kobo | Nook | Smashwords

And don't forget that my anthology One Week in Wyoming is coming out September 9th!


Available for preorder at iBooks!

Novella Release Date Set

young lovers kissing on the couchI'm happy to announce that my first novella is now available for preorder with iBooks! One Week in Wyoming is a sexy contemporary anthology of four stories set at a luxury ski lodge in Jackson, Wyoming. I had the pleasure of working with Alexis Anne, Audra North, and Alexandra Haughton on this project, and we couldn't be happier to be sharing these couples' stories with you. Here's the blurb for One Week in Wyoming:

Four couples, seven hot winter nights...

When best-selling romance author Joan Halliday invites four single female writers to stay at her family's luxurious Wyoming lodge, she's counting on a quiet week of bonding on the slopes and in the spa.

Bruce Halliday was looking forward to a relaxing reunion with his college buddies in the wilds of Wyoming…but when his wife's group meets Bruce's unattached friends, the sparks start to fly.

And here's the description of my story, Seduction in the Snow:

When a gorgeous, glasses-wearing winemaker sits next to Lydia Reed on a flight to Wyoming, she starts fantasizing about a vacation fling. It isn't until she finds out they're staying at the same lodge that she realizes that they can have their few nights of fun in the snow.      

Evan Sullivan's so wrapped up in his winery that he can't even think about a relationship.  But when he falls into bed with Lydia, everything changes. Now he has just a few days to convince the headstrong writer that it's worth taking a chance on him. 

The book officially releases on all platforms on September 9th. For the very latest update be sure to sign up for my newsletter!

First Kiss Undressed

Earn It

FirstUndressing1-300x300Jana was done.

Just fucking done.

She slammed the door of her tiny studio apartment and let her purse slide off her shoulder. It fell with a thud to the cheap, laminate floor. Her boots were covered with mud thanks to a speeding cab hitting the wrong puddle at just the right time, she was soaked from the torrential rain, and she was pretty positive she had a snag in her last pair of tights. Now all she wanted in life was a glass of bourbon the size of Texas and a long soak in a steaming hot bath.

She threw her keys down on the bar at the end of her hallway and shucked her coat off. Snatching up a bottle of Jefferson’s, she marched straight into the kitchen, threw some ice cubes in the glass, and poured.

The sweet burn of the bourbon hit the back of her throat, and her tense shoulders dropped an inch. Not much in the grand scheme of things, but it was a start.

Glass in hand, she wrestled her way out of her boots. It was more than likely that the churned up grease, dirt, and mystery gunk that accumulated on every Manhattan road would fuse with the leather, ruining the shoes. The next logical step would be to grab a kitchen towel and clean them, but it was Friday night and she was in a foul mood.

Reaching around her back, she pulled on the zipper on her dress to free herself. It was halfway down when the harsh sound of the door buzzer cut through the silent apartment, making her jump. She frowned at her intercom. She wasn’t expecting anyone.

The ice cubes in her glass rattled as she padded over in her ruined stockings and hit the “Talk” button. “Who is it?”

“Me.” The crackle of street noise obscured his voice, but she’d have known Wes Murphy’s voice anywhere. After all, she’d been in love with him for nine years.

She leaned hard on the button, willing him away even as she asked, “What are you doing here?”

“You told me to stop by and pick that book up.”

She dipped her head so her forehead bumped the edge of the intercom. She’d totally forgotten they’d emailed from their respective desks earlier that day. She’d teased him about not having plans on a Friday night. He’d asked what could be better than digging into a new book—added bonus that he got to see her. The no doubt careless words had melted her just a little. Now with her back up and her temper flaring, they just pissed her off.

Still, she pressed the “Door” button long enough to make sure he cleared the double door of her building’s lobby.

Knowing she looked a hot mess and caring not even the littlest bit about it, Jana went to hold the front door open. She liked listening with anticipation as his feet fell heavy on the two flights of stairs to her walk-up apartment. The top of his head would bob up first, giving her a glimpse of the thick curls he wore cropped close to his head. Then she’d see that grin as he spotted her. The grin that made something twist inside of her.

It was no different this time, except that she was sopping wet with her arms crossed over her chest.

Wes’ smile faltered just a little at the sight of her, but then came back at full force. “You’re wet.”

“Bad end to the week,” she muttered.

“I’m sorry.”

“So am I.” She stepped back to let him into the apartment.

Once inside, Wes peered around at the carnage. “What happened to your shoes?”

“Boots,” she corrected. “I had a run in with a cab.”

“Who won?”

She shot him a look and turned retrieve his book from the living room.

“Your dress is unzipped.” He said it as though it was half question, half revelation—like he had only just realized that Jana got undressed like every other woman.

“And?” she challenged him, hands on her hips.

Wes approached her slowly, looking for signs of an attack all the way. She thought he might be angling for a hug or some other show of friendly camaraderie for her rotten day, but instead he put a hand on her shoulder and spun her around. She could feel the weight of his fingers on the zipper tab that hung between her shoulders.

He pulled carefully, stretching the moment out. The intimacy of it cut through her. She nearly gasped as the zipper went lower. Lower.

Keep it together.

She might have stood a chance and been able to move away to safety, but then Wes touched her. A finger traced the line of the zipper down her spine until it stopped at the small of her back. When he stepped back, she was shaking.

With a hard swallow, Jana looked over her shoulder. His gaze fixed on the skin he’d just exposed. His tongue flicked out over his lips.

“What do you think you’re doing?” she asked.

“Just helping.”

And wasn’t that just like Wes. Hold her in a hug just a little too long. Tuck her hair behind her ear. Work her shoulders over with his hands to ease the tension of the day away. He kept doing these things before hiding behind the barrier of their friendship. She was tired of this bullshit.

“Wes, kiss me or get out of this apartment. That’s all I can handle tonight.”

He was on her in a flash, his lips crushing hers with nine years of pent up need. She pushed up into him, pouring every once of anger at the day, desire for him, and annoyance at herself that she hadn’t commanded him to kiss her sooner. When his hands plunged into her hair and pulled a little, she gasped, giving him the chance he needed to rough her lower lip with his teeth.

“Jana,” he groaned as his hands dipped into the gaping back of her dress.

She pressed her body against the hard length of his before shoving his leather jacket off and tugging the hem of his worn in t-shirt over his head. Her hands ran down his arms, chest, stomach, wanting nothing more than to explore the man who knew her best and was still a mystery.

Her dress fell to the floor. All that covered her was a thin silk slip. He ran his fingers under the straps. “I’ve never seen a girl wear one of these,” he said, breaking the hot, frantic pace to reveal something sweeter underneath.

She looked up at him. “Now you’ve seen me.”

“Is that okay with you?”

Rather than answer, she lifted her hands to the thin straps and pushed them off her shoulders. The silk pooled at her feet.

He followed suit, undoing his belt and pushing his jeans off.

Standing there in the middle of her apartment—nearly naked—they simply stared. She’d never imagined their relationship would come to this. Ho could she when he’d never done anything?

I never did anything either.

“I’m glad you finally kissed me,” she breathed.

He reached out and stroked from her elbow to her wrist before lacing their fingers together. “I’m glad you finally told me to.”

“I’ve been telling you for years, you just haven’t been listening.”

A smile tugged at the corners of his mouth. “Then I’m glad I finally paid attention.”

He pulled her to him, wrapping his arms around her so that all she could do was rest her cheek against his chest. That was just fine with her.

“We’re going to bed.” His voice reverberated low through his chest. “Then tomorrow, if you haven’t kicked me out of your apartment yet, we’ll take it from there.”

“And what if tomorrow works?”

“Then we see about the next day. I’ve waited nine years to get up the courage to kiss you. You think I’m letting go now?”

It was her turn to smile. “As though I’d let you.”

“I’m still going to want that book.”

She cast her head back and laughed. “Earn it.”

With a grin, he boosted her up so her legs wrapped around his waist and walked her across the living room to her bed. When her toes hit the edge of her bed, he murmured against her lips, “I will. Promise.”



Thanks for reading! This is part of the First Undressing blog tour.  The full schedule is posted on Audra North's website and please check out today's other posters Amber Belldene and A.L. Parks!

If you liked this story, please consider signing up for my newsletter for the latest news on releases, free short fiction, and giveaways!

The First Kiss Blog Hop

FirstKiss-iconI couldn't be happier to be participating in the First Kiss Blog Hop! In March a video of strangers kissing for the first time went viral. It was sweet, sexy, and compelling. It turned out that those strangers were actors, but it inspired a group of more than 20 authors to write first kiss short stories of our own.

Today Mary Chris Escobar, Pieper Vaughn, and I are posting our installments of the First Kiss Blog Hop. I hope you enjoy this short story and check out all of the other authors too!

"Accidentally (On Purpose)"

It was official.

I was going to kill my roommate as soon as I got home.

I stood in the middle of an airy Brooklyn studio adorned with nothing more than a camera, tripod, and complicated rig of lights. My right hand smoothed up and down my left arm — a nervous, child-like gesture I’d never shaken— while I tried to calculate exactly how many seconds it would take me to sprint out of the metal double doors, through the lobby, and down to the comforting anonymity of the street below.

The click of a heavy boot on white-washed floorboards made my head snap up. I spun on my heel to see Jessalyn, filmmaker and my tormenter for the day, approach. Behind her followed the most beautiful man I’d even seen.

He wore his hair cropped as close to his head as the clippers could go which only served to bring out the sharpness of his cheekbones. His deep brown skin glowed like he was lit from within, and his eyes flashed with a spark of amusement behind a pair of thick, navy rimmed glasses. But it was his lips I couldn’t stop looking at. Full. Beautiful. Biteable.

Who are you?

I laced my hands together to keep from broadcasting my nervousness. This man was so far out of my league it was laughable. Whether he was Jessalyn’s assistant, colleague, or partner didn’t matter. He wasn’t for me.

But someone else was.

I swallowed hard as Jessalyn asked, “Are you ready to start, Meredith?”

“Su-sure,” I stammered.

The woman put a hand on my arm and smiled. “I promise you’ll forget the camera is here as soon as we get started.”

I very much doubted that. You see, I was about to kiss a total stranger. On camera. While it was rolling.

The thought made my stomach flip. Growing up I was the type of girl who threw up before going on stage during mandatory school musicals. Thankfully I’d grown into a slightly less tragic version of myself, but I still required a pep talk complete with notes before every phone call. I was the last person who should be doing this. And yet I had agreed to it.

I couldn’t tell if Jessalyn chose to ignore my obvious distress or really didn’t see it. Either way she turned to the god of a man standing next to her, and said, “This is Meredith.”

He stuck out a hand, his smile warm yet shy. As if I wasn’t a melted pool of woman already.

“I’m Jason.” The bass of his voice rumbled through me as we connected — palm to palm. I don’t know whether the voice or the touch made me shiver more.

“Great,” Jessalyn clapped her hands together. “Let’s get started. It’ll just take a minute to get the camera rolling.”

I glanced around me looking for my leading man before meeting Jason’s eyes accidentally (on purpose). He stuffed his hands in his pockets and rocked back on his heels. Suddenly it all dawned on me.

Jessalyn wanted me to kiss Jason.

Oh fuck.

The urge to run gripped me, but it didn't stop me from sending up a silent thank you.

“Is something wrong?” he asked.

A quick shake of my head and I squeaked out, “Nothing!”

Very convincing, Meredith.

We stared at each other in silence. Jason cracked first, the edges of his lips quirking up. “It’s kind of awkward isn’t it? The whole kissing on camera thing.”

I huffed out a breath. “Beyond awkward.”

He cocked his head to one side. “So why do it?”

He didn’t know me. I could have told him anything, but the truth was a lot easier than concocting some lie on the spot. “My roommate went to college with Jessalyn. It’s hard to say no to Becca, so when she said they needed volunteers for this project I just sort of agreed.” He started to nod, but that wasn’t everything. “And I might have been drunkish at the time.”

That got a full-fledged, from-the-belly laugh from Jason. My heart pounded a little faster. I liked that I’d been able to make him laugh like that.

“My sister got me. She thinks I don’t take enough risks,” he said.

“Older or younger?”

“Older. Of course. She always thinks she’s right.”

The words tumbled out before I could stop myself. “That’s probably because she is.”

"Don’t you ever tell my sister you said that,” he said.

“Your secret is safe with me.”

Now over the worst of my embarrassment, I'd apparently decided to try flirting with the man assigned to lock lips with me in a few moments. That was new for me, yet something about the fact that I knew we'd be kissing soon calmed me. I suddenly felt bolder than I had in a long time.

I could do this. I just had to kiss Jason. My task wasn’t exactly torturous, and no one would blame me if I enjoyed it.

That cool, collected attitude lasted until Jessalyn called out from behind the camera, “I’m rolling! Whenever you guys are ready.”

I froze.

Finally Jason reached out and touched me. He placed a gentle hand on mine to stop its anxious rubbing at my other arm. His fingers entwined with mine. He stepped forward and caught up my free hand, running his thumb over the pale skin of my wrist. My mind stopped racing. All I could focus on was him.

My gaze slid up to find that his dark, rich eyes had softened. “Is this okay?” he asked.

He was concerned about me. He wanted to know if this was really what I wanted.


The answer hit me with such force it sent me reeling. I wanted to taste him. To feel his beautiful mouth under mine. To press flush against him while the power of that strong, tall body loomed over me. I wanted this stranger.

Screwing up my courage, I rose on my tip-toes and brushed my lips over his. He didn’t move, only tightened the grip on my hands a fraction. I took that as encouragement, a silent nod that this was okay. With a little less caution, I feathered his lips again before pulling back. His move.

With the utmost care, he traced his hands up my arms until they framed my face. Then Jason kissed me right.

His lips opened over mine, inviting me in. There were no sparks or symphonies — none of that movie stuff — only a deep, delicious burn that coursed through my entire body. I needed to feel more. Without thinking, I brought my hands to his biceps and dragged my body closer. His arms dropped to my waist to pull me in.

A low moan reverberated through his chest as he ran his tongue over my lower lip. I gasped my mouth open just enough for him to slide in and stroke me. He tasted of a hurried mint to mask a cup of coffee. I sighed and poured my hunger for this stranger into every suck of my lips and lick of my tongue. I let myself sink into the fantasy.

Just as quickly as the kiss started, it was over. Jason broke the connection before it crossed from slow and seductive to something more fiery. Regret sliced through me. I began to ease away, but he tightened his fingers at my hip and brushed his lips over mine once more. Only then did he release me, his hand lingering a moment longer than perhaps it should have.

I stepped back, stunned by the heat that rose up in my cheeks, as he fixed me with a smoldering stare.

“That was—“

“Yes,” I cut him off.


“That was great guys!” shouted Jessalyn from across the room.

The studio. The camera. The waiver I'd signed. It all came rushing back, forcing me into a reality I wasn't ready for.

“We’re done?” I tried my best to keep my voice neutral.

“That’s it. Easy, right?” asked Jessalyn.

“Easy,” I repeated.

“Okay then,” said Jason.

Jessalyn turned to me. “You have a coat?”

“I do.”

“Let me get that for you.”

Jason said a curt goodbye and strode out of the studio. I watched the metal doors bang behind him, signaling the end of all of those possibilities swirling in my head. Jessalyn pulled my bright yellow coat out of a closet and handed it over. I buttoned it against the lingering spring chill and tried to ignore the leaden feeling spreading through my chest.

In the building’s ancient elevator, I slumped against the wall and let my head fall back.

I should have done something. Asked him for his number. Asked him for a drink. Asked him to take me to bed. Anything. Now he was gone.

But I kissed him first. I opened my eyes as the elevator doors groaned apart. I made the first move. That — Becca would tell me — was progress.

I braced myself for the first brisk bite of air off the East River as I pushed open the building’s front door. With my hands stuffed into my jacket pockets, I put my head down and began to walk.


That voice sent butterflies backflipping in my stomach. I glanced over my shoulder to see Jason jogging towards me.

“You walk fast,” he said.

“What are you still doing here?” I blurted out.

He actually looked bashful. The beautiful specimen of a man who I’d just kissed in a weirdly manufactured fantasy moment was shy. Around me. The thought warmed me.

“I wanted to see if you wanted to get a drink sometime,” he said.

I didn’t even have to think about my answer. “Yes.”

He blinked. “Yes?”

Tendrils of anticipation stirred in me again. “I would like to see you again. A drink sounds great.”

He laughed and rubbed the back of his neck. “Well, I’m really glad to hear that.”

I sucked in a deep breath and said, “How about we get a drink now while we decide where you’re going to take me for a drink later?”

With a grin, he crooked an elbow. “I know just where to go.”

As I placed my hand on his arm I couldn’t help but think that this could be the start of something very good.

First Kisses

25 Romance Authors25 First Kisses simpleWhat is the best part of a new romance? I love the sparkling banter laced with flirtation and tension, but really we all know it's the first kiss. It's hoped for but not guaranteed, and when it finally happens everything slows. The world falls away, desire fires through you, and then -- when lips finally touch -- your mind goes blissfully blank. The first kiss is magical.

Starting today, 25 authors are writing about those first moments as part of an exciting spring blog hop. The stories are short -- around 1,500 words -- but they're big on passion and romance. The entire list of participating authors is at Audra North's website. My story "Accidentally (On Purpose)" goes live this Thursday, April 10th. I'm posting along with Mary Chris Escobar and Pieper Vaughn. I hope you enjoy reading your way through all of the stories and discover some wonderful, new authors in the process!

First Draught: Music as Muse

I love technology. It lets me write and edit so easily I often take it for granted. It's brought some incredible people into my life and helped me keep in touch with old friends and family. It's fantastic. Until it doesn't work.

That's what happened Tuesday when the women behind First Draught and I tried to talk about music and writing. Our chat experienced major technical difficulties both as we were trying to get on air and then while it was going. However we pushed through, and here it is in all its hot mess, hilarious glory.


As always, comments and questions are welcome!

Saying Yes

One of my journalism professors taught me the most valuable professional lesson I’ve learned. He stood at the head of the computer lab twirling his glasses around and around by the arm as was his habit and said, “Say yes.” We were all stressed graduate students willing to do anything to get out of class on time so we could catch a few minutes sleep on the radio lab couches. Staring at our professor in silence seemed like the best way to keep inching closer to naptime.

In his Texas Hill Country drawl he continued, “When someone asks you to apply for a job, say yes. When someone asks if you want to freelance for them, say yes. You never know where those opportunities will take you, but they’re going to get you moving and that’s a lot better than standing still.”

I didn’t really understand my professor’s message for a long time. Then I decided to approach writing as a career rather than a hobby, and things started to click. I finished polishing my book, queried, signed with my agent, and watched her shop my historical romance around to editors.

The book didn’t sell.

I continued to write, joined RWA, and attended the national conference in July. I met brilliant, passionate women who loved doing this writing thing too. We exchanged tweets, then emails, then ideas. When those ideas snowballed into potential projects I found myself faced with a question: should I focus on churning out my next book or say yes to joining those projects?

There were a lot of things to consider. I could probably dedicate more time to my current work in progress if I focused solely on that, but I’d miss out on the opportunity to get my name out there in the form of some indie projects. Moreover, I wanted to learn from these other women and push myself out of my comfort zone.

I pitched one of the ideas – an indie anthology set in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, with three other authors – to my agent. She backed up what I was instinctively thinking. I should say yes.

I can’t tell you how glad I am. There’s something reassuring about being an unpublished author trying to play the long, slow waiting game of traditional publishing who knows that she’s going to have work out in the near future. Now I’m looking for opportunities wherever they come up. I’ve said yes to regular, live Google Hangout chats with the other women of First Draught and blog hops about process and flash fiction. I’ve said yes when invited to panels and readings which have led to growing friendships with other authors. The best part is that all of this has reinforced my decision to make writing my profession and not my hobby.

My initial worries about these other projects sucking up time that could be spent on my WIP were valid. I understand how easily that could happen to anyone, but if anything I’ve found that saying yes has forced me to focus and allot my time more efficiently. Now I work on a strict Sunday through Thursday schedule. I have a word count for the WIP I will eventually send to my agent, and I hit it even if it feels like pulling teeth some nights. Any extra time gets tacked on to that main project or can be dedicated to one of my “Say Yes” projects. It’s incredible what you can do when you have limited time to execute things.

So I’m passing along the same advice I got: say yes. Agree to do things that take you outside of your WIP every once in awhile. Build relationships. Collaborate. Push yourself out of your comfort zone.

Yes can be a magical word if you take a chance on it.

VIDEO: The Balance Myth

Happy belated new year everyone! I took some time away from blogging and writing to be with family, but now I'm back at it for 2014. Of course, that means figuring out how to fit writing in around a very busy season at my day job. That makes the most recent chat that Alexis Anne, Mary Chris Escobar, and I did particularly topical. Check out our Google Hangout talking all about the myth of balance in a writer's life and whether we think male authors ever get asked how they "do it all." http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dl-rv8bKOX8

As always, I'd love to hear what you think. Leave a comment about balance, writing, or your goals for the new year below. You can also reach out on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr.

Happy writing!