DAMAGE CONTROL is out now!

My m/m romantic suspense novel Damage Control is out today!

Senate candidate Parker Livingston chose his political dreams over a future with the man he loved. He lives with constant regret about not having Jackson Kane in his life. Or his bed. And when a strange woman is found murdered in Parker’s apartment, Jackson is the only person Parker trusts to help clear his name.

Jackson never forgave Parker for the way their relationship ended. He moved on, built a name for himself as a criminal defense attorney and swore he’d never let heartbreak back in. But when Parker shows up on his doorstep, wild-eyed and handsome and desperate for his help, Jackson can’t say no. Parker is a lot of things, but he’s no murderer.

Forced back together, searching for answers, their attraction returns with a vengeance. Any distraction—personal or professional—could be deadly. The murderer is still at large, and he’s made it clear one of them is his next victim.

Get your hands on a copy:
Carina Press
Barnes & Noble

GIVEAWAY: Win a copy of Damage Control + Other Cool Stuff

Damage Control is out a week from today! So, hey, how about a giveaway!

Want a signed print copy of the book? And also one of these gorgeous Dreamspinner Press autograph books from this year’s RT, signed by most of the authors who were there? I’ve also got a bunch of paperbacks I’ve brought home from various conferences I’ve been to this year, including books by Cathy Maxwell, Beverly Jenkins, Lauren Blakely, and HelenKay Dimon, among others. Winner gets to choose however many books they want from my conference haul.

U.S. readers only. You have until next Tuesday to do the thing and enter the contest. I’ll do what I can to mail books to you in a timely manner.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Where to Find Me at #RT18

I fly to Reno Monday night May 14th for the RT Booklovers Convention. If you’ll also be there, here’s where I’ll be:

I’ll be kicking around all day Tuesday and I’m putting together a prize or two for Cinema Craptastique Tuesday evening at 7pm.

12:15pm: Panic Free Pitching. This is a writer workshop on mastering pitching and querying.
2:45pm: Romance Bar Trivia. Join me, LaQuette, Rayna Vause, Amy Lane, Elle Brownlee, and Shae Connor for a most excellent trivia game. We’ll have wine and prizes! And wine! And prizes! It should be a blast.

8:45am: Make a Date with Harlequin: I’ll be signing paperbacks of Damage Control a full month before you can get it anywhere else! You don’t want to miss it.
10:00am: Dreamspinner Autograph Scavenger Hunt: The first 100 attendees get a neat commemorative booklet. Get signatures from all the authors for special prizes at Saturday’s FAN-tastic Day party.
5:15pm: Kensington’s Sparkling Stars of Romance: I’ll be signing paperback copies of Such a Dance!

I’ll be somewhere!

10:30am: Giant Book Fair. I’ll have copies of Out in the Field, There Has to Be a Reason, and Ten Days in August for sale!
6:00pm: FAN-tastic Day Party. I’ll be floating around and should have some books to give away, so come find me.

Full schedules for RT are online:
Agenda Booklet http://bit.ly/2rhdZVF
FAN-tastic Day Booklet http://bit.ly/2rdUNsS
Book Fair Author Seating Booklet http://bit.ly/2Krd3a5

Celebrate #RoyallyYours With a Brief History of the British Monarchy!

This article was previously published in the RWANYC Keynotes newsletter. Episodes 3 and 4 of the royal wedding serial Royally Yours, to which I contributed, are out this week! To get your hands on it, go here.

I had never considered myself an Anglophile or even knew that much about England until about eight years ago when I decided I should read Game of Thrones. The show had just premiered and I was into it, but I wasn’t sure I could make it through all those 1,000-page books. Then I read an article saying George R. R. Martin based a lot of the series on the Wars of the Roses, and since I’m a history nerd, I thought, “I’ll read a book about the Wars of the Roses instead of Game of Thrones!”

I ended up reading both, and the nonfiction book made me realized that I basically knew jack about British history. Which is sort of sad. I recently had my DNA tested, and it turns out basically all of my ancestors came from the UK, so I really should know something about where they came from. So after I read all about the Wars of the Roses, I picked up a general book about the history of England… and a book about the history of London… then I bought a 12-hour documentary on DVD… and you kind of see where this is going.

Prince William and Kate Middleton got married around this same time, so it was kind of fun to compare all ceremony and circumstance to the history. For nearly two-thousand years, royal weddings were mostly political affairs. The king needed an alliance with another country? He married one of his sons off to a princess from that country. The bride and groom didn’t even need to be in the same place; they could be married by proxy. So wasn’t it charming that Wills and Kate seemed to be a love match? And isn’t it even more charming that Harry is basically throwing generations of tradition out the window to marry an American?

Although it’s not like the prior two millennia years of British history were calm and dull. If I’ve gleaned nothing else from my weird, intense study of British history in the last few years, it’s that the whole line of monarchs—it’s nuts. It’s two thousand years of drama.

Let me drop a little history on you all.

Empress Matilda

William the Conqueror’s grandson, also named William, attended a party aboard a boat called the White Ship that was so hard core, the boat sank, killing all but two of its passengers. His death caused a civil war: the only remaining direct heir was William’s sister Matilda, and English nobility wasn’t really down with having a woman sit on the throne, so Matilda’s cousin Stephen showed up to challenge her. They traded the throne back and forth for a bit.

If you’ve ever seen a Robin Hood movie, you know about Matilda’s grandsons Richard the Lionheart and Prince John. Although John is not considered a great king, he did sign the Magna Carta. John’s grandson was Edward I, known as Longshanks, who you know if you’ve seen Braveheart. (Edward was… not a great guy.) Some historians think his son Edward II was gay; he favored a fellow named Piers Gaveston who exerted so much influence over him that the ruling barons of the day had him executed. This did not exactly endear Edward II to the barons, and a prolonged conflict ensued that eventually led to Edward being deposed in favor of his 14-year-old son.

Richard III

If you’ve read the Shakespeare history plays, you know about the next couple of centuries. Edward II’s grandson Richard II married Anne of Bohemia, the daughter of the Holy Roman Emperor, and the union was entirely diplomatic—Richard aimed to shore up England’s defense against France. After Anne died of the plague, Richard had an affair with Robert de Vere (and made him Duke of Ireland) and then the war with France got worse and Henry Bolingbroke—later Henry IV—decided he had a better claim to the throne than Richard, and that effectively kicked off the Wars of the Roses. (If you can get your hands on The Hollow Crown, the BBC’s production of 7 of Shakespeare’s history plays, I highly recommend it. Especially if you’ve got a thing for thin, pasty British actors; Ben Wishaw, Tom Hiddleston, and Benedict Cumberbatch all have major roles.)

Henry VIII (I am, I am)

Before being buried in a car park, Richard III was defeated by Henry Tudor at Bosworth, ending the Wars of the Roses and beginning the Tudor dynasty. (Fun trivia: The Tudors were Welsh. Succession gets tricky here; Owen Tudor, a Welsh nobleman, married Henry V’s wife, Catherine of Valois (mother of Henry VI), and had a son named Edmund, who married Margaret Beaufort, a descendant of Edward III. That’s the crazy thing about the Wars of the Roses; the Lancasters and Yorks were all related. Everyone who claimed the throne was a descendent of Edward III. Really.) Henry’s son Henry VIII was, of course, famous for divorcing and/or beheading his wives; perhaps not romantic as such. His daughter Elizabeth never married.

George III (“I will send a fully armed battalion to remind you of my love! Ba da da da da…”)

There may have been some love matches in the royal family tree. The Hanover dynasty kicked off with George I, the great-grandson of Elizabeth’s successor James. George’s grandson, George III, was thought to love his wife Charlotte; they had fifteen children. You know George III from such projects as the American Revolution and then his subsequent madness, for which his son, George IV was appointed to rule as Prince Regent in his stead (hence the Regency Period). George IV spent money the monarchy didn’t have on interior decorating, faux military uniforms, and mistresses, though he did have a legitimate daughter… who died in childbirth, leaving the crown without an heir. A scramble ensued to marry off four of George III’s sons, and Prince Edward “won”; his marriage to a German princess resulted in a daughter named Alexandrina Victoria. Romantic, huh?

George IV (Prinny)

Incidentally, George III instituted the Royal Marriages Act of 1772, which stated that no heir to the throne can be considered to have a valid marriage without the consent of the monarch. This meant the offender did not lose his or her place in the line of succession, but because the marriage was invalid, any children were considered illegitimate. The act was only repealed in 2015, although the first six people in the line of succession must still get the consent of the monarch to marry; without consent, the marriage is still valid, but the couple and their offspring are disqualified from the line of succession. (The Queen gave Harry and Meghan consent to marry under the newer Succession to the Crown Act of 2013. This act also makes gender irrelevant for primogeniture, so a female firstborn could inherit the throne without controversy. Previous female monarchs only ascended to the throne if no dudes were available.)

Victoria & Albert

By all accounts, Victoria and Albert were a love match, despite being first cousins—PBS’s Victoria is really great, for more on that—and royal weddings in the twentieth century were less political. Though not without scandal; Edward VIII abdicated to marry Wallis Simpson, after all. The royal family did not approve of the marriage, which would have made it invalid under the existing law. Considering the main objection was that Ms. Simpson was American and, worse, divorced—two things also true of Meghan Markle—perhaps the monarchy has stepped into the twenty-first century.

This cheap tour through British history is mainly to support the point that the British monarchy is interesting and weird, and Prince Harry choosing to marry a biracial American divorcée seems almost mundane by comparison. But I still like the romance of it. Also the fashion; I can’t wait to see what the various European royals wear on their heads!

Some suggestions for further reading!
The Plantagenets by Dan Jones
Foundation by Peter Ackroyd
The Wars of the Roses by Alison Weir

Royally Yours starts next week!

So who else is excited for the upcoming royal wedding?

Coming soon to an ereader near you is Royally Yours, a serial that takes place in London around the royal wedding. But you won’t find princes or princesses here; this is about the regular people who are in London for the wedding: a fan, a mad, a gardener, two milliners, a paparazzo, a guard, a butler, a bodyguard. This group of interconnected stories was written by yours truly, Megan Frampton, Liz Maverick, K.M. Jackson, and Falguni Kothari, and will start releasing one episode at a time starting next week, timed with the royal wedding.

The serial was a truly collaborative effort. The five of us spent 3 pretty intense days plotting it out and working out who all the characters were. I feel like we each contributed to every story, even though the author whose name is given for each episode did the actual writing for that episode. Each episode is about 10,000 words, so it can be read in one sitting, and all of the stories overlap, so I recommend reading the whole thing.

My story is episode 5, which sends the American made of honor’s hunky bodyguard on a wild goose chase around London with the uptight royal etiquette expert.

More soon, but in the meantime, you can get info on the serial here!


Coming this June…

Senate candidate Parker Livingston chose his political dreams over a future with the man he loved. He lives with constant regret about not having Jackson Kane in his life. Or his bed. And when a strange woman is found murdered in his apartment, Jackson is the only person Parker trusts to help clear his name.

Jackson never forgave Parker for the way their relationship ended. He moved on, built a name for himself as a criminal defense attorney, and swore he’d never let heartbreak back in. But when Parker shows up on his doorstep, wild-eyed and handsome and desperate for his help, Jackson can’t say no. Parker is a lot of things, but he’s no murderer.

Forced back together, searching for answers, their attraction returns with a vengeance. Any distraction–personal or professional–could be deadly. The murderer is still at large, and he’s made it clear one of them is his next victim.

And here’s the cover…

The book is now available for preorder from most retailers!

Carina Press
(more retail links soon)

RWA & the RITAs, with Book Recs

Last Friday, Romance Writers of America issued a statement in which they affirm their commitment to inclusion by pointing out a major problem with the RITAs, RWA’s major award:

• The number of finalist books by black authors is less than half of 1% of the total number of finalist books
• No black romance author has ever won a RITA

I’ve been a member of RWA since 2011 and have served on two chapter boards, most recently RWANYC, which is a very diverse chapter. I view that as one of our assets; we have so many different voices contributing to the conversation that it makes us all better writers. It also means we’ve had some difficult conversations over the past few years about what authors of color experience in the publishing industry.

Here’s a fact that breaks my heart: every single author of color hits roadblocks that have nothing to do with their skill or talent.

It’s a major problem that the RITAs have not honored black authors with awards, but it’s also a symptom of a larger systemic problem within the publishing industry.

I have a lot of thoughts on why and how and what we can do about it, but because it’s kind of inside baseball, I don’t think my blog is necessarily the right space for it.

But I will say this. I personally have gotten a lot out of RWA. I think as an organization, it can be a great advocate for romance authors, and it offers great educational opportunities. The annual RWA national conference is one of my favorite events of the year. But I completely understand why authors don’t want to pay dues to an organization in which they don’t feel welcome.

It’s also generally my instinct to roll up my sleeves and get to work. I’ve been volunteering for RWA in various capacities for several years, with the intent to affect change where I can. I don’t want to toot my horn, because this issue is not about me. But what I can do, as a member of RWA and a former chapter leader, is make sure authors of color have a seat at the table. We’ve done that in my local chapter. It makes a huge difference.

I also want to urge my fellow white authors to listen to what authors of color are saying, because I’ve seen quite a lot of posts by white authors that sail right by the major point: racism exists in the publishing industry. And it’s time to stop giving lip service to these issues and instead try to come up with concrete solutions.

Don’t get defensive. Listen, and vow to do better. We all have inherent biases. It’s important to recognize and work to overcome them.

In that spirit, I have some recs. I decided to put the focus primarily on writers of color from my local RWA chapter, but I’d love to hear recs for books you loved in the comments.

Lies You Tell by LaQuette. Mobster thinks his lover died, but surprise! She’s still alive. Also there’s a secret baby.

Complexity by Harper Miller. Closeted guy from the Bronx meets a closeted famous actor, and they’re content to keep everything a secret… until they start having feelings. (This is a novella.)

The Unconventional Brides trilogy by K.M. Jackson. (Book 1 is Insert Groom Here.) In book 1, the heroine and her fiancé have won their dream wedding in a morning show contest… and then the fiancé dumps her. So she gets a new fiancé. The whole series is charming and fun.

My Last Love Story by Falguni Kothari. Keep tissues handy. The heroine’s husband is dying of cancer, and one of his last wishes is that she get back together with an old flame who is also his best friend. It’s complicated.

Coming to Shelves Near You Soon! …ish!

Well, best laid plans and all that. 2018 has been significantly busier than I expected. If you follow me on social media, you may know that in my other life I work as a freelance editor, and business has been booming since about mid-December, which is awesome! As a freelancer, I’m always happy to have work. But all the work has kept me from other things like writing and leaving my apartment regularly.

Still, here’s what you’ve got to look forward to:

I have a thing coming out in May that I will have more to say about soon.

In June, you will be able to get your hands on DAMAGE CONTROL, my first book with Carina Press. It’s a light romantic suspense. Lite suspense. Diet suspense, if you will. More romance than suspense, basically. Someone asked me the other day if there was a dead body in the book, and there is! DAMAGE CONTROL is about a Republican US Senate candidate who finds a dead body in his apartment and enlists the help of the best lawyer in town… who happens to be his ex-boyfriend. Then there will be a sequel featuring secondary characters coming up in January 2019.

One maybe sad thing is that my Loose Id books are going out of print in the wake of the publisher closing. IN HOT PURSUIT is leaving shelves by the end of this month. I would like to maybe give it a quick clean up and put it back up to sale, but given how nutty my schedule has been, I’m not sure when that will happen. My only other book still with Loose Id is SAVE THE DATE, which I’d like to expand from a novella to a novel. Fingers crossed I can scrape together some free time to do that in a timely fashion! I believe that will go out of print in May, though, so if you want to read it in its novella form, now is the time.

In the meantime, I’m developing a series about elite athletes, and the Winter Olympics are giving me all kinds of plot bunnies!

So You Plan to Try NaNoWriMo

Because so many people participate or are now aware of it, I probably don’t have to explain that November is National Novel Writing Month, better known as NaNoWriMo. But the first year I participated, back when Stegosaurus still roamed the plains, I had the same conversation a lot.

ME: I’m going to try to write a novel in a month.
OTHER PERSON: Why would you do that?

There’s really only one requirement. You write 50,000 words of a novel in a month. It’s a word count goal that is challenging but definitely doable if you apply yourself. And I still enjoy doing it every year, because it’s a time to focus on one project and engage with a bunch of other writers, and it’s a tremendous amount of fun.

I’ve participated in every NaNoWriMo since 2002. Not all of those novels were good, or even complete. (In the early years, I had no idea what I was doing). But my published books that started out as NaNoWriMo novels include The Windup, Show and Tell, Such a Dance, and Ten Days in August. From 2003 until 2013, I also acted as municipal liaison for New York City, meaning that on top of writing, I also planned events for the region and wrote weekly pep talks.

Basically, I have some experience with all this. And although there’s still a rational part of my brain that’s like, “A novel in a month? Why would you do that?” I’ve figured out how to do it. So I thought I’d offer some tips.

1. Plan WHAT you will write. “But I’m a pantser!” Yes. I get that. I’m not saying you need a detailed outline. But consider jotting down a few words about who your characters are. Write a paragraph describing the basics of the plot. Think about why you are writing this story—what’s at the center of what you want to say. Because I’ll tell you a secret: When I sit down to write knowing what I’m going to write and where the story is going, the writing goes much faster. I don’t stare at the blinky cursor or try to reason out what’s going to happen. I just sit down and write.

I’ll tell you another secret: a lot of advanced planning makes my first drafts really solid. One of the prevailing ideas about NaNoWriMo is that, if you’re writing that fast, it all must be complete crap. But I’m here to tell you, I had the whole Rainbow League series plotted out in detail before I sat down to write The Windup one November. And while I did have to make some changes and revisions, the final version of The Windup is not substantially different from the first draft I wrote during NaNoWriMo.

(Planning tips: Jami Gold’s Beat Sheets are great. I made my own beat sheet for my writing based on Save the Cat, which ties in nicely with both Jami Gold’s sheets and with Gwen Hayes’s Romance the Beat, which is a book on plotting a romance. Also check out the handout (PDF) from my Plotting for Pantsers workshop.)

(If you’re REALLY allergic to planning, consider sitting down each morning to plan out that day’s writing. Or, if you hit a block, sometimes it helps to plan the next scene—just write out what happens in a paragraph or two.)

2. Plan WHEN you will write Think ahead about when you can make time for writing, because you’ll need a lot of it to write 50,000 words in a month. Think about when you are at your best and most focused. I, for example, am better in the morning. So if I push writing to the end of the day, it kind of feels like pulling teeth. But if I write first thing in the morning, it flows. Figure out when your ideal writing time is, and stick to the plan to write at that time.

3. Try Word Sprints and Pomodoros. The basic idea of the Pomodoro Method is that you work in 25 minute bursts. I do this all the time with my freelance work. I’ve got an app on my phone that tracks the timed bursts of productivity. So a day goes like this: 25 minutes of work with no distractions, then a five minute break where I can check my email or Twitter or whatever, then repeat a few times, then a twenty-minute break, then repeat some more. It sounds silly, but I swear it works. If I just do pomodoros (the 25-minutes of work + 5-minute break unit) all day, I can get a ton done.

Word sprints work similarly. Set a timer (10 or 15 minutes is ideal; anything more than about 20 minutes starts to feel like a slog). Then cut out all distractions and just try to write as much as you can. I do word sprints when I have writer’s block, because forcing myself to write usually gets me through the block. Similarly, you can try a 1k1hr (trying to write 1,000 words in an hour). You can bang out the words for the day in a series of sprints, is my point, and I bet you could do it in less time than you think.

4. Participate in the Community… But Don’t Let It Distract You! There’s a fine line, maybe. I know anecdotally from all my years as a municipal liaison that people who come to write-ins are more likely to make it to 50K than people who don’t. I think we all need that support, or need people to prod us on. Most regions have write-ins (which is what it sounds like; basically everyone shows up at a location, usually a cafe or library, and types away in the company of others), as well as an online forum, a chat room, public social events, etc. This also means it’s possible to be chatty and not write anything, so keep an eye on how you’re using your community time.

5. Try Something New. NaNoWriMo is only a month, so you could view it as a time to experiment. Try a genre you’ve never written before, play around with new tropes, try a different approach. (Try planning, for example, if your usual instinct is to be a pantser.) If it doesn’t work, it’s only a month. But if it DOES work, you could learn something useful about how to write a book.

6. Don’t Look Back! NaNoWriMo doesn’t work for every writer because it requires an approach in which the writer plows forward without revising. I personally have adopted this approach for my writing year-round; I like to churn out a first draft quickly and then take my time revising and polishing it. But I also learned during my very first NaNoWriMo that if I stop to edit, I will definitely not finish.

Some writers need to revise what they just wrote before they can move on, and that’s a valid approach. NaNoWriMo is not for everyone. But if you’ve never tried it, I recommend trying the straight-on-til-morning approach at least once. (And, again, it’s a month. If it fails, go back to your usual approach in December.) Basically, write, and don’t look at what you wrote until December. For some writers, this means changing the font to white so they physically can’t read what’s already written. (For me, it just means no scrolling backward. If I think of something I want to change, I make a note of it in my project notebook—oh, yeah, I have a project notebook—and fix it later.)

For me, it’s better to have the raw material I can revise and shape rather than nothing. I can slay the internal editor and focus on story.

7. A First Draft Is Not a Final Draft. One would think this goes without saying, but I’ve heard from a lot of editors and agents over the years who dread December because they are inundated with half-baked NaNoWriMo novels.

Here’s the deal: 50,000 words is a very short novel. (It’s The Great Gatsby or a Harlequin Presents.) Most novels these days run in the 75–100K range (with some variation, depending on genre). So that 50K you wrote in November is really a jumping off point. Not to mention, if you haven’t read any of what you’ve written, how do you know if it’s good?

Revision is part of the process. In my Other Life, I work on writing and reading books for school-aged kids, and one of the things we always teach are the 5 stages of the writing process: pre-writing, drafting, revision, editing, and publishing. Maybe you want to send your first draft to a beta reader or critique partner, but if you want a book deal, polish that thing before you submit it to the pros!

My advice would be to let it sit in December. After all that noveling time, take a break, reconnect with your family, celebrate your winter holidays. Then read the whole thing after the New Year. The time spent away from it will give you a new perspective. Because NaNo is for first drafts, not final drafts. The purpose is for you to stop saying, “I want to write a novel” and to write it. But November isn’t the end of the story.

I would say also, after all the years of both NaNoWriMo and professional authoring, my approach during NaNoWriMo is not radically different from my approach the rest of the year, but NaNoWriMo gives me an excuse to prioritize writing over some other things in my life—gotta make that daily word count. And if you’re a NaNo veteran, consider changing the challenge: up your monthly word count goal (instead of 50K, aim for 60K or 75K).

Good luck!

Out Now! What’s the Use of Wondering?

Out today! Book 2 in my New Adult WMU series, What’s the Use of Wondering?

Violinist Logan has spent most of his life training for a career in music. But as the pressure mounts during his junior year, he questions whether playing in an orchestra is the future he wants, or one chosen by his parents. His new roommate—that annoying jerk Peter from last year’s production of Guys and Dolls—complicates matters. Crammed into a dorm room with the overconfident but undeniably hot accounting major, Logan can’t stop snarling.

Then Peter sprains his ankle building sets, and Logan grudgingly agrees to play chauffeur. But instead of putting further strain on their relationship, spending time together reveals some common ground—and mutual frustration. Logan discovers he isn’t the only one who doesn’t know what he wants from life, and the animosity between him and Peter changes keys. But just as the possibility of a happier future appears, Logan gets a dream offer that will take him away from Western Massachusetts University—and Peter. Now he has to decide: will he live the solitary life laid out for him, or hold on to Peter and forge his own path?

It’s live at most ebook stores.

Dreamspinner Press: http://bit.ly/WtUoWDSP
Amazon: http://bit.ly/WtUoW

And don’t miss book 1! There Has to Be a Reason