Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Cover Reveal - 'Just in Time for a Highland Christmas'

**Release - Late November 2014**

Just in Time for a Highland Christmas
A Highland Gardens Novella - Book # 2.5

Can a determined brownie craft a perfect match in time for Christmas?

When the Chief of Clan MacLachlan travels to the stronghold of his feuding neighbors to fetch his betrothed, she is gone. A year later, she is still missing. Making life more vexing, a band of reivers are stealing clan cattle, leaving behind destruction. Archibald MacLachlan determines to capture them and administer harsh punishment.

Though once in love with the man, Isobell Lamont refuses to wed her clan's enemy. After running away, she joins the band of reivers set on revenge.

Can Archibald forgive the raven-haired beauty? Will a journey through time bring them together for a Highland Christmas?

~Dawn Marie

Saturday, October 18, 2014

A new Bestseller

Xmas box event banner
It's such a pleasure to announce that SWEET CHRISTMAS KISSES is on the USA Today bestsellers list.
When I read the caption, the emotion made me speechless for a moment, then I kept mumbling, Oh my God, Oh my God. My husband saw my face pale and rush to my side. "Are you OK?" He thought I was having a heart attack. What a giddy feeling. But soon I shouted at the top of my lungs, "I'm a USA Today Bestselling Author," and I couldn't stop laughing and babbling. We had a drink to celebrate reaching this milestone and every author's goal or dream.
When I attended my first RWA National Conference in 2004 and saw some 4,000 writers, bustling in the ballroom for lunch, my stomach constricted. If all these people competed to be published there was no way on Earth I would succeed. And yet here I am, ten years later, standing on the top of the mountain, screaming, "TaDa!" 

MadMimiMailing list

If I made it, you can make it. Hard work, perseverance, a lot of support, a good network, and a "little bit of blooming luck".

Fourteen authors are all over the moon.

 Here are links to buy the bestselling box:
Her Christmas Cruise small

HER CHRISTMAS CRUISE, my contribution to this box, will take you on a wonderful cruise to Spain and Italy with Julia and Tony.

The perfect fiancé is a cheater and the fabulous Christmas wedding is off. But the would-be honeymoon cruise may fulfill the dreams of Julia and her unexpected companion.
More good news are always welcome.
Xmas Wedbox Final 2MB
You can pre-order TEN CHRISTMAS BRIDES now or buy it on October 21, 2014 at:
Kindle US Kindle UK Nook Kobo iBook
An Unusual Christmas S by Mona Risk
My contribution to this coming box is AN UNUSUAL CHRISTMAS.
Running away from Christmas celebrations and the demons of her past, Dr. Jillian has dedicated her life to saving third-world children. In Belarus, a baby girl, four little boys, and a handsome doctor may teach her the true meaning of Christmas.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

In search for the best book cover

For a number of reasons, including the fact I'm taking a cover art class this week, I've been thinking about book covers and what it takes for a cover to help make a sale. You always hear the expression "don't judge a book by its cover", but the truth is most people do look at a cover and decide if the book looks like it might be worth exploring.

The first thing someone sees is the cover, sometimes even before the title of a book. The cover is supposed to make a promise about the story. Is it humorous, serious, romantic, or suspenseful? Even before someone reads the blurb the cover should tell them something.

I have this one title that I wrote a long time ago, and have now published twice with two different publishers and have just put up for sale on preorder through Amazon and Apple. It is a contemporary romance novel called "Christmas With Sarah".

This is the blurb:
A family together at Christmastime—there couldn’t be a more perfect holiday scene. But for wealthy Silicon Valley entrepreneur Greg Wilcox and his daughter Sarah, one thing is missing—a woman to help wrap the gifts, bake the cookies and fill that emptiness in their hearts and home. Greg and Sarah both think Molly would be the perfect addition to their family, but they have to convince Molly first. 
Big Sur artist Molly Anders remembers the Christmases of her past, baking cookies and decorating a tree. More than anything she’d love to have a holiday like that with Sarah. Trouble is, she doesn’t want a man in her life as shiftless as Greg seems to be, especially as he stirs something in her that she isn’t sure she wants resurrected. 
Circumstances have pulled them together and led them into love but it will take trust and the spirit of the season for them to get what they really want for Christmas—a family.
So what do we know about this story? It has a little girl, a loving and probably sexy father, and a young woman who loves the child and is reluctant to get involved with the father. It is a holiday story and we can guess it has a happy ending. Something that isn't in the blurb is that the story is relatively light-hearted. Not quite a comedy but there is humor in it. That's something that it would be nice to see reflected in the cover.
So here are the two covers that this story had in the past.

The first cover was with Zumaya publishing. It featured a cute little girl and a Christmas tree, and over all wasn't a bad cover. I liked the blue background and the font used for the title and author name was very Christmasy. I'm not sure the cover said enough about the humor in the story though.
The next cover was with Cerridwen Press, which was an imprint of Ellora's Cave and what became their "Blush" line of non-erotic stories. Again we have the Christmas tree and this time I have a motorcycle helmet with Molly's name on it, something that shows up in the story. Again, not a bad cover, but the drab color of the cover always bothered me as it just didn't seem to scream light-hearted romance. 
So when I got the rights back to Christmas With Sarah, I wanted a cover that "popped" with color and that would make it clear this was a humorous romance. So after a chat with my favorite cover artist, this is what I got:
Okay, there is nothing drab about this. The green of her dress, the gold of the lettering, and warm colors of the background make me love this cover. And now I have her expression with its mischievous smile to provide that sense of humor that neither of the previous covers had. I had my artist dress my hero in his leather jacket as that provided a nice contrast with the fancy party dress, again hinting at some of the conflict in the story. This cover does a much better job of telling people about the story and it has one additional feature.
This looks like a romance cover.
I'm really happy with my new cover and the fact that once again Christmas With Sarah will be available for this upcoming holiday season. 
It is currently available for preorder at Apple and Amazon and will be released everywhere on October 25. I've got it priced at $2.99 for the next couple of weeks.
Tell me what you think about these covers.
Cheers, Janet

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


I’ve read about WHEN, during the day, you are most productive on the computer, and I’ve learned which ones of you listen to music while you work, but I’ve don’t know what you SEE while you're on the computer.  I’ll tell you about my VIEW, then you tell me yours.

For three hours in the morning, I write, sitting at my desk facing a window into my fruit orchard (ten trees).  I look directly at a big orange tree and a struggling grapefruit; plum and apricot trees to my right.  I stock two bird feeders with sunflower seeds, which brings the finches, twenty at a time.  Towhees, Oregon juncos, swallows and pigeons root around on the ground for food, and a troop of thirty quail march through at around 8:30 a.m., snacking on leftovers.  A brown bunny with a white tail, has joined this morning crew; favorite food: fallen apricot tree leaves.  A devoted pair of white doves show up, to forage and flirt.  Hummingbirds hover over the purple flowers of my Mexican Sage bush, pulling nectar from the blossoms. These birds and bunnies coexist; quarrels about position and power occur within species but not across species.  The bunny is as big as the quail, but they ignore each other.  Exceptions: when the scrub jay muscles in, other birds move aside to let the jay have access to both bird feeders, even if he’s too big to stand on the structures for long.  A bigger kerfuffle occurs when a red tail hawk swoops down.  Every bird and bunny disappears, hiding until both the hawk and his shadow are gone.

You may wonder, with all this activity, how I get any writing done.  Oddly enough, I enjoy writing and observing at the same time.  In fact as the birds fly in and out, fighting for position on the bird feeders, their activity energizes me to keep writing.  When I see how busy they are at the job of finding food, I get busy putting words on the page.  The conflict and one-upmanship in the orchard reminds me of the tension I must include in every single scene.  Once in a while, all the animals disappear for minutes at a time…that relief of tension exists in nature as well as in my books.  Where did they all go for no apparent reason?  On occasion, a distracted bird will hit my window, scaring me and the bird.  My heart skips a beat as does the poor finch’s.  He’ll stand on the concrete sidewalk, waiting for his head to clear and I’ll hold my breath, in sympathy.  When he flies away, I'm relieved.  And yes, once, before my eyes, a scrub jay downed a finch and pierced the finch’s belly with his beak, killing him.  The surprise.  The horror!  The stuff of my novels.

So I ask you.  What do you watch when you work at your desk, and how does what you see affect your work?

By the way, birds play a big part in my soon-to-be-released novel, FEAR LAND.  While you wait for that story, here’s LIE CATCHERS, a double mystery, spiked with romance:

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Clearing out your brain's attic

I'm working on a big series and it's one I drafted many years ago -- a few times.

It seems like whenever I learned something new as a fledgling writer, I went back and hacked away at this series or at least one of the books in the series.

Last year I decided enough was enough. I was mature enough as an author that I could actually write this story now. But oh, it was hard to give up those old drafts. I was ruthless, though. I went through them all, read the prose (oh, Lord, some of it was so bad), tossed out what I knew wouldn't work and kept a few scenes, etc.

Then I started really writing this series and you know what -- none of what I kept will work. These aren't the same characters anymore. I've learned enough as an author that I realized the way I was using those scenes was for my own enjoyment. They didn't help the plot and they didn't help with character development.

Once again I had to step back and jettison that old work. And it was just as hard as the first time. Someday I hope to re-read some of it (it's safely archived on the D drive of my computer) and maybe -- just maybe -- include some of it in my edits as I do finally prep of this series.

Or maybe I'll just laugh at it all and finally, truly, jettison it.

(more books than you can shake a stick at, although why you'd want to...)

Thursday, September 18, 2014

An Author Life

In a former life, I was a chemist. For years my writing consisted in detailing standard operating procedures or outlining contracts in a concise, straight to the point approach. When I started writing romance, I had to learn how to plot a story and present it from a specific point of view. Workshops, mentors, critique partners, contests taught me to hone the difficult art of writing and find my voice.
Nothing beats a specific daily to-do list prepared the night before to keep you motivated. Crossing out items on my list gives me a sense of achievement.

As soon as I jump out of bed I check my emails for anything important. My morning is then dedicated to various activities, errands, and chores. Walking, exercising, grocery shopping, etc… By noon, I am back at my computer browsing Internet, reading blogs and leaving comments, and advertising my books on Twitter and Facebook. It’s my promotion time. The afternoon and evening are for writing, revising, editing.

I love visiting new places but traveling was never a complete vacation for me, more like a research for interesting stories. Armed with my camera and a notebook, I traveled to more than fifty countries, snapped a gazillion of pictures and scribbled my impressions.

My inspiration sprouts from real life and people around me—they supply a rich canvas of plots and conflicts—and also from my traveling to fascinating places.

I live day by day and write what I feel passionate about; contemporary romances, romantic suspense novels, medical romances set in the various states where I lived, or the country I visited, France, Russia, Greece, even a paranormal romance based on Egyptian mythology.

Most of my heroines have high educational background and solid scientific careers, as I had. They also face difficult obstacles in their lives. But the similarities end there and the romance is specific to each heroine.

My biggest challenge is promoting my books. No one ever warned me that I would have to learn such an amount of technology to be able to sell my stories. I am lucky to have a computer guru at home who taught me to create website, blogs, trailers, book covers, newsletters,…

I always plot everything I do or write, and continuously create new to-do lists. Although I believe I can influence my future or help shape it through my work and actions, I don’t think I can plot it in the true sense of the word. One can always dream and hope that dreams will come true.

Writing is my shelter. Hiding in my own world, I create people I love. With imagination and patience, I force them to overcome their inner conflicts, fight obstacles and make love triumph.

Most writers are continuously plagued with self–doubt and need non-stop cheering to boost their morale and stimulate their muse. The reviews and praise I receive from reviewers and fans reassure me that I have written beautiful romance stories they love.

The life of a writer is a lonely battle waged against oneself, but we are lucky to bond with other authors through writers’ loops. My writer colleagues share and understand my struggles, lend support when needed and cheer my successes and joys. The daily exchange of emails resulted in solid cyberspace friendships and allowed me to publish multi-authors boxed sets of novels with other writers.
The most recent boxed set co-authored with the Main Street Authors is Wedding on Main Street and my contribution is Wedding Surprise that is not published on its own yet.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Resurrecting old works

Recently I've been spending a little time going through my file directory of writing projects looking for works that for one reason or another were abandoned without ever being completed. The reason for this is looking for additional material to publish without the strain of creating something from scratch.

These stories aren't bad. In some cases it is like seeing an old friend, one that I really liked but that I fell out of touch with. Mostly this was because the story and I ended up not seeing eye-to-eye on how the it was going to proceed. 

A big reason for abandonment was that I was mostly writing as Cricket Starr at the time... that's my erotic romance pen name and a Cricket book required a great deal of sexual situations. Not all stories lend themselves to that level of erotism so unless the story fit into one of the selling series I had such as the Futuristic Gaian stories or the Paranormal Hollywood After Dark, I didn't have a good place to market it.

One such story is "Dancing the Knight Away." Originally this was supposed to be an erotic novella about a young romance author at her first romance convention and her sexual adventures with a hot cover model. But a funny thing happened... the heroine turned out to be a really sweet lady and the hero a nice older guy who makes a bet with his roommate that he can get her to dance with him before the end of the convention. It was fun and a little sexy, but there wasn't nearly enough reason for these two to be warming a bed together when he couldn't even get her out on the dance floor. 

So a Cricket book it wasn't going to be and I didn't have a good market for it any place else. Rather than spend the time working on a story that I couldn't sell to one of my current houses and was too short to be sent to a publishing house I wasn't associated with. It was contemporary, there weren't any paranormal elements, and while I loved the characters, they just weren't going to cooperate with me as far as the sex was concerned.

So I abandoned my knight in costume armor and lady author to work on more profitable projects. 

But thanks to Indie publishing I no longer need to be concerned about simply adding this nice little novella to my list of publications. I can go back, finish off the rough edges of the manuscript, and put it out as one of my contemporary romances. I've already got the rights back to a story I had with Ellora's Cave from their Blush line that was mis-authored as Cricket Starr. I say mis-authored because it was originally a Janet Miller book at Cerridwen and I never changed its sex level to that of the Cricket level of erotism when Ellora's Cave folded the Cerridwen books into their erotic line. So there has been much confusion about that book over the years.

My intent is to launch Christmas With Sarah next month once final proof-reading is done, and have Dancing the Knight Away ready to go a week or so later. Then if I can find a third book to release... well you get the idea. I want to see if I can't build some momentum for these contemporary stories that I really like... even if there isn't a fang or spaceship to be found in them.

Janet Miller