Hot, Hot, Hot…

Um, just to be clear about the title, I’m referring to the temperature outside, not announcing a steamy new story I’ve been working on…

Where I live, we’re smack in the middle of a stretch of triple-digit-temperature days; maybe it’s like that where you are, too.  At times like this I find myself wondering about two things:  1) could I possibly fit my whole body inside my refrigerator, and 2) why are hot summer days in movies supposed to be sexy?

I expect to be conducting my own experiments to determine the answer to #1 later today, but as far as #2 goes, I’m stymied.  In the movies it always seems like a hero and heroine can catch each other’s eyes across a stuffy room/barn/dance hall/gladiator arena and just barely resist the urge to pounce on each other as sweat already drips off of every inch of their exposed skin.  When I’m that hot and sweaty, I gotta admit that I’m not much in the mood for pouncing on anything except maybe a giant snow cone.

(Although my hubby and I HAVE been grappling with each other a lot for the squirt bottle and a good spot under the ceiling fan.  Does that count as sexy…?)

Maybe I’m just being snarky because I’ve been getting over a summer cold, though.  “Come hither” looks don’t work nearly as well when one’s eyes are red-rimmed and puffy. But at least it’s better than having the flu, if this video clip from Parks and Recreation is anything to go by:

So it definitely could be worse, I know, and I will try to keep that in mind.  In the meantime, if anyone needs me, I’ll be in the icebox…

And In Other Writing News…

Happy Monday!  I hope everybody’s summer is off to a great start.  Mine got off with more of a gasp and a wheeze, resulting in a delay in finishing All’s Fair In Love And Weddings, but hopefully things will start going smoothly soon.

Fingers crossed…

In the meantime, here’s the current opening excerpt of the book in which our heroine Prue first encounters our hero…

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Excerpt:

Prudence Collier’s first thought as she stood in the drizzling rain and stared down at the smoke rising from her borrowed car’s engine was that this certainly didn’t bode well, did it? As far as signs and portents went, if one believed in those sorts of things—and Prue usually felt it couldn’t hurt—this was hardly the most auspicious one with which to begin her trip. Disconcerting might be a better way to describe it. Maybe downright ominous. And of all the weeks when she could have used something more promising than ominous, this was the one.

“This baby? Purrs like a kitten. Sure, she’ll get you where you need to go,” her friend Jacob had assured her when Prue had raised an eyebrow at the sight of the car. It looked, after all, like little more than spare parts he’d scavenged from a wrecking yard and welded together—which, knowing Jacob, he might very well have done. He’d patted the hunk of metal then, and Prue could have sworn she heard something clunk to the ground immediately after that. She ought to have handed him back his keys then, but beggars couldn’t be choosers, and this was the kind of thing one was left with when time was short and one’s bank account balance was small.

Taking a deep breath at a time like this was supposed to be helpful, so Prue tried that. Then she tried another, and another. Nope, nothing. There was no crystal-clear epiphany about what course of action to take. Her car—or rather, Jacob’s car—was still smoking just as much as ever from mysterious places only now she felt lightheaded from overdoing her oxygen intake. So much for that idea.

She glanced at her watch and resisted the urge to kick the old jeep’s tires. Now what? Another ten minutes, and she’d miss the ferry. Sure there would be another one later, but showing up an hour behind schedule was exactly the kind of thing she didn’t want to do when she saw Natalie again. Same old Prue, she could hear her sister’s voice say in her head, cool and disapproving. Nothing’s changed.

Only Prue had changed. At least, she hoped she had, and she was not going to waste this chance to prove it. Nat’s invitation had been an unexpected but very welcome olive branch, and Prue had every intention of seizing it with both hands. She just had to get to the right island first.

Well, there wasn’t a lot of other traffic on the St. Thomas roads today, but maybe she could hitch a ride with someone else the rest of the way to the ferry. Failing that, she could always try running for it, but even though she had packed lightly, her one bag was not exactly small. She, however, was, and she was not likely to set any sprinting records while dragging her luggage behind her.

She frowned at the jeep. What the hell, she thought then with a shrug, and she kicked one tire anyway.

At least the rain was sputtering out. Downpours rarely lasted long here on the islands. Prue could say that with some degree of confidence because her family had made annual pilgrimages to the Virgin Islands since she was old enough to remember, and although she’d stopped coming along for the ride right around the time she’d dropped out of college during her freshman year, at her current age of twenty-six that was still a hefty number of family vacations she had under her belt.

But she had not been invited along on those in several years, which was largely her own fault. And that, she thought, was why she was not going to let a broken-down junk heap cost her this one. No offense to Jacob’s car.

So Prue left Jacob a voicemail message to let him know where the smoking remains of his vehicle sat safely off to the side of the road and then hauled her purse and her bag out of the jeep with the intention of setting off on foot. As she did so, the email from her sister that she’d printed out only two days earlier fluttered to the floor, dislodged by her movements. As wedding invitations went, it was hardly the most formal, and it made her suspect she’d been a last-minute invite, but she was so happy to get it at all that she didn’t care. Her older sister was getting married, and she actually wanted Prue there to help her celebrate it. The water might not be under the proverbial bridge yet, but maybe it was getting close.

Thrusting the email back into her bag, Prue swung it over her shoulder and locked up the car despite the fact that potential car thieves would probably just find the prospect of stealing the vehicle offensive. She then got just two steps away from it before the rain began to drizzle again. Frowning, she reached into her bag to feel around for a hat before remembering that she hadn’t packed one.

Swell. Well, that was the kind of thing that happened when someone packed in a hurry. And then just as she was wondering if she was ever going to catch a break today, another jeep—this one a rental, she noticed—slowed as it passed her and then pulled over to the side of the road.

“Need some help?” the driver called through an open window, and when Prue put her hand up to shield her eyes from the raindrops and caught sight of the speaker, she thought that as far as breaks went, this particular break was one a girl could really take a liking to…

Who Doesn’t Love A Sale?

I’m poking my head out of my writer’s cave for a moment to let you know about a special sale on one of my books–and no, I don’t really have a cave, but wouldn’t it be cool if I did? Kind of like the Bat Cave only with fewer bats and more ice cream…

Anyhoo… my Heavenly Bites Novella Collection is a Kindle Countdown Deal this week on Amazon which means it’s temporarily marked down from $3.99 to only 99 cents.  So if you haven’t read my novellas and would like to see what a buck will buy you these days, now would be the perfect time to use that Amazon one-click button.

Here’s the link, and here’s a pretty picture:

HeavenlyBitesPrintSCALED-2

Have a great week!  :)

Cover Reveal

Just got the official cover art in for my current project, another contemporary romance titled All’s Fair In Love And Weddings, and I’m very pleased to be able to share it with you now along with the book blurb–plus the cover kind of puts me in a summertime sort of mood, you know what I mean?

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All’s Fair In Love And Weddings

Prudence Collier spent the better part of her reckless youth proving that she was not aptly named, and unfortunately she burned a few bridges in the process, including where her family is concerned. So when her long-estranged sister invites her to her destination wedding in the Virgin Islands, Prue leaps at the chance to mend at least one broken family relationship and prove that she’s a changed person.

Tucker Davies, on the other hand, has come to the islands for a very different reason: to stop the wedding. As a childhood friend of the groom, he has reason to believe that his friend is about to make a huge mistake and is intent on not letting that happen. One thing he didn’t count on, though, was going up against Prue.

Determined to make up for the past, Prue resolves to keep Tucker from interfering with her sister’s happiness in the present and is willing to go to any lengths necessary to do so. Any. And if that requires a few tiny deceptions here and there, the occasional brush with the local authorities, and perhaps even instigating a barroom brawl, so be it. A sister has to do what a sister has to do.

But so does a friend, and Tucker has no intention of backing down, no matter how aggravating or even—to his surprise—appealing Prudence Collier can be.

The war is on, and neither side believes they can afford to surrender.

Which is a shame, because they’re both beginning to suspect surrendering would be a lot of fun…

(Coming June of 2014…)

Speaking Of Recycling…

Yesterday was Earth Day, and in honor of that, today I am recycling a piece I wrote last year in order to share it with you anew. If you print it out, I think you will also find that it is compostable, so it is doubly environmentally conscious. (Dang, I’m good!)

Isn’t It Romantic—Or…Could It Be the Death of You?

You might think that, as someone who writes romances, I would be prone to seeing opportunities for romance all around me in real life, too. And I am…to a certain extent. Problem is, I also like to write things like suspense and even the occasional sinister ghost story. Which means I have just as great a tendency to see the potential for harm in even the most innocent of situations.

What can I say? I’m an author. We’re a disturbed people.

So it makes it hard for me to plan elaborate romantic scenarios for my husband and me even though—in theory—I think date night is a wonderful idea. Maybe you do, too. If so, I feel it is my solemn duty to make you aware of some potential pitfalls you may not have anticipated. Consider these examples:

  • Go for a horse and carriage ride through the park. Surely you’re joking. Didn’t you see that Seinfeld episode? If you have no idea what I’m talking about, Google it, please. For your own protection.
  • Pass secret love notes in the library. Very romantic—until your love notes inadvertently get intercepted either by a militant librarian who shames you in front of the whole library…or by a secret government operative who mistakes your love-talk for an enemy agent’s code. Hey, it could happen.
  • Take a leisurely stroll through the woods, hand-in-hand. According to modern cinema, this is every axe murderer’s dream scenario. At least promise me you’ll bring pepper spray. Or a taser.
  • Meander along back roads without any particular destination in mind. Uh huh. Then your GPS breaks down, your car gets a flat tire, and three days later Search and Rescue workers find you and your sweetie battling it out over who gets to gorge themselves on that lone Tic Tac you discovered in the back of the glove compartment. Few relationships survive this kind of thing.
  • Share an ice cream cone on a scorching summer day. Certain people may be a tad possessive over their ice cream cones and turn feral if anyone else tries to take a bite. My husband has the scars to prove it.
  • Go for a midnight swim in a lake. Nothing good EVER lives at the bottom of a lake. Don’t you ever go to the movies?
  • Go singing/dancing in the rain. Concerned onlookers will likely call 911, and police will gently escort you to the psychiatric ward of the nearest hospital.
  • Walk barefoot in the park. Um…not everybody cleans up after their dogs when they walk them, you know.
  • Kidnap your special someone from work. A coworker gets the wrong idea, makes a call, and WHAMO!—a SWAT team tackles you in the parking lot.
  • Sign up for a sculpting class together. Sure it was romantic in Ghost. But it didn’t turn out so well in Naked Gun, did it? And who’s going to clean up the mess, I ask you? Who?

I hope these examples have given you reason to think twice before diving willy-nilly into something reckless like a moonlit picnic or any other hazardous activities with your special someone. Take my advice: just stay in, curl up on the couch together, and read a good book. Like, say…The Bargain, a delightful contemporary romance featuring a socially-awkward tomboy and the reformed ladies’ man she just might sweep off his feet. No, really, it’s delightful. My mother said so.

And in the meantime…let’s all be very careful out there.

Feldman’s How-To-Format-For-Self-Publishing Guide (Or…How To Wind Up In The Fetal Position)

Nearly every author who’s writing these days has at least considered going the self-publishing route, even if only for a brief moment.  Some authors then simply lie down until the feeling passes, but others decide to take the plunge.

After having a couple of books published the traditional way, I decided to take the self-publishing plunge myself to see what it was like.  And since I’m not exactly rolling in dough, I decided to save money on publishing costs by learning how to do the formatting myself. Lots of other people were doing it, and I figured I was a halfway-intelligent person.  How hard could it be, right?

Take Kindle formatting for example.  You’ll find plenty of technical advice online and elsewhere about how to go about formatting, but here’s my own personal approach and what worked for me:

1)  Scour internet for advice on Kindle formatting tips.  Wonder if you should be troubled by the fact that much of it is dated 2010 or thereabouts.  Keep searching despite the ominous cloud of doubt forming over your head…

2)  Stumble across assorted YouTube tutorials on Kindle formatting.  Start watching first tutorial.  Realize two hours later that you’ve somehow transitioned to watching funny cat videos instead.  Backtrack to original tutorial.

3)  Download help-guides such as Amazon’s Building Your Book For Kindle and read from cover to cover.  Discover you did everything WRONG when you first typed up your manuscript, including spacing, tabs, page breaks, etc. and will now have to figure out how to go back and alter it.  Weep gently.

4)  Eat ice cream.

5)  Go back and alter original manuscript to fit Kindle formatting parameters.  Wonder why your computer’s version of Word doesn’t seem to match ANY of the ones in the online YouTube tutorials.  Resist urge to go back and re-watch funny cat videos.

6)  Learn what that Hyperlink option is in Word that you’ve never even known you had before.  Use it to create a Table of Contents that allows you to hop around to desired spots in your manuscript.  Hop to every single one just to make sure they work, cackling with glee when they actually do and earning worried looks from your spouse/roommate/hamster.

7)  Upload cover art to Kindle Direct that you have either A) purchased from an experienced and professional cover artist or B) attempted to create yourself for free and now would like to burn before someone else sees it.  (Now while it’s true there are some folks out there who have great confidence in their abilities to doodle around with software and create something marvelous, I am not one of them, so options A and B were the only possibilities for me.)

8)  Try to convert your manuscript to HTML.

9)  Fail miserably and curl up into fetal position.  Unfurl after spouse has coaxed you out with offers of more ice cream.

10)  Eat proffered ice cream.

11)  Reread directions on converting to HTML.  Attempt conversion for second time.  Jump up and down with joy when it finally works.

12)  Enter book’s information on Kindle Direct website (description, keywords, etc.) and upload brand-spanking new HTML version.

13)  Preview book on the handy dandy Kindle Previewer tool.  Wonder why book has mysterious extra symbols showing up that you don’t remember putting there.  Find a gazillion typos that you’re positive weren’t there before.  Wonder if God is punishing you.

14)  Consider having ice cream pumped into you intravenously.

15)  Fix typos, convert to HTML again, upload revised file, and preview.

16)  See mysterious extra symbols are just as mysteriously gone now.  Don’t know why, don’t care.  Grab spouse/roommate/hamster and dance around the room.

17)  Publish.

18)  Celebrate by eating ice cream.

Again, this is just what worked for me.  You might prefer a different approach.  Some writers prefer to hire someone to do the formatting for them, which–in hindsight–might actually have been cheaper for me considering all the money I spent on ice cream.  On the other hand, I did feel a tremendous sense of pride afterwards, knowing that I had accomplished this particular feat myself.  After I stopped twitching, at least.

And on that note… best of luck in your self-publishing adventures.  :)

Sending Stories Abroad

Since I can’t afford to send myself to Europe, I’ve been wondering if the next best thing would be to see if it would be feasible to send my books there instead, à la foreign translations (although I’m sure they wouldn’t enjoy the food nearly as much as I would). Foreign markets are both an intriguing possibility and a bit of a mystery to me.  What exactly is involved in translating a book for a foreign market?  What are the legal ramifications of undertaking such a project?  Would I get to work with someone who has a charming Italian accent?  So many questions…

Recently, I was fortunate enough to stumble onto a podcast featuring author Courtney Milan and her experiences with foreign publishing rights that helped answer the question: can I really do something like that with my own books?  And basically the answer is no, not unless I come into a large sum of money sometime soon.  Drat.  Guess I’ll have to start buying lottery tickets again.

I know what you’re thinking: buying lottery tickets is not a practical way to plan for a project such as this one.  Not to worry!  I have a back-up plan!  Namely, to learn a foreign language and write the translations for my upcoming contemporary romances myself. Foolproof, eh?  Granted, it will take some time, but I’m already off to a good start.  For example, I already know how to ask where the post office is in Japanese, and from there it’s really just a hop, skip, and a jump to “Darling, I love you, and I cannot live without you. Let us go to the post office together and mail off our wedding invitations.  But…where is the post office?”

I’m working on my French, too.  I can count to ten, ask where the toilets are, and explain that my sister would like bread and milk.  The storyline practically writes itself.  I’m telling you, I think I’m on to something…

C’est vrai, n’est-ce pas?  :)

Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day

We can’t all celebrate St. Patrick’s Day by going to Ireland–although it sure would be lovely, wouldn’t it?  So here’s a little music and some beautiful landscapes to help you travel there even if it’s only in your imagination…


Happy St. Patrick’s Day!  :)

And The Nominees Are…

No, I’m not going to the next Academy Awards, but I am tickled pink to share the news that my second Crimson Romance novel, The Bargain, is one of the nominees for a RONE Award in the category of Contemporary – General:

TheBargainCover

Pardon me while I do a few fist pumps in the air…

…Okay, I’m done.  (For now…)

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The RONE Awards are featured on the online magazine InD’Tale’s site here, and the folks at InD’Tale are very supportive of self- and small-publishers–thank you, InD’Tale!  I was thrilled when an InD’Tale reviewer gave The Bargain a lovely 5-star review a few months ago, and to be included as a RONE nominee now is a wonderful bonus.

Voting for the Contemporary – General category will be March 17- 23, and if you’ve read The Bargain and are interested in voting for it, here are the directions on InD’Tale’s website:

“You must be a subscriber to vote online.  If you choose not to sign-up, you can still vote by sending your specific votes to:  anasmith@indtale.com   Emails will only be accepted during corresponding week of voting. Please include Genre, book and author in your email.”

The book’s up against some other great titles, so regardless of the final outcome, I really am just honored to be nominated.  Thanks again, InD’Tale!  :)

Cover Reveal (Or, My Babies Are Growing Up)

An author’s books are sort of like her babies, and I love to coo over my babies as much as the next proud mama.  I haven’t started carrying photographs of my books around in my wallet yet, but that may not be far off…

Today I’m cooing a bit because my three Heavenly Bites novellas that have previously only been available as either Kindle or Nook ebooks are going to be available in paperback shortly, knock on wood.  Not as three individual paperbacks–because as novellas they would be pretty skinny and might wind up getting used as coasters more than as reading material–but as a collection.

So these three babies:

PastelsandJingleBells 200x300-1     LoveLessons 200x300     PlayingCupid 200x300

will soon be available in paperback with this cover:

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I’m expecting a proof copy in the mail any day now, and if everything looks hunky-dory, this baby will be up on Amazon soon afterwards.  Can’t wait to hold a copy in my hot little hands!

Yep, I’m a proud mama.  :)