Author Spotlight and $10 Amazon gift card giveaway: Noelle Clark

Welcome to the Author Spotlight, Noelle, and congratulations on the recent release of ‘Honor’s Debt ’! Can you give us the blurb, please?

On a quest to make amends for a long-ago indiscretion, Honor unexpectedly discovers the one thing she’s been missing in her life.

Honor Quirk arrives in Ireland excited—and a bit anxious—about meeting up with the estranged family of her late great-grandmother. The welcome from the residents of Robinhill Farm, Dermot and Bryan, is confusing and far from comforting. One is warm, the other aggressive. The outwardly antagonistic Bryan makes it very clear he doesn’t want her there, branding her a gold digger.

Dermot, on the other hand, is delighted to meet her.

But Honor is no pushover and stands up to Bryan, letting him know that his bad attitude and trail of baggage have nothing to do with her. Despite their confrontational and hostile relationship, an undeniable attraction to each other creeps insidiously into the house on Robinhill Farm. They both desperately try to stifle the sparks, but living under the same roof makes it impossible. Unable to cope with the turmoil of living with Bryan, Honor runs away, straight into the arms of a charming newfound friend, Sean, who offers her a home—and love.

Shattered, Bryan finally takes control of his irrational belief that all women are evil, and fights to bring back the woman he loves. But is it too late?

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Your novels are set far and wide across the world: Cambodia, Italy, Brisbane, Ireland, and China. How important is location, and how important is it to describe those locations and cultures accurately?

I love selecting places I’ve been to, and fallen love with, for my stories. I set my heroines, and sometimes my heroes, in unfamiliar surroundings as I believe that we behave differently when we have to deal with new challenges—such as solitude, language, social mores, and cultures—than we do when we are in our comfortable hometown environment. There’s something about the human psyche that suddenly bursts into life, blooms if you like, when there’s a prospect of something new and different. We are more open to change when everything around us is fresh and exciting.

Apart from personal experience of places, I undertake research to ensure I give the reader an authentic taste of a place or culture. When other languages are involved, or even slang, I always enlist the help of someone from that place to check that I’ve got it right. I visit restaurants, cook authentic meals—I even did a course in Italian language for Rosamanti. But it’s the visits to the place that are the best way to pick up the aromas which will add spice to your tale, to spot the blossoms that will decorate your story, to get to know the people who your readers will fall in love with, and to infuse the story with all the elements of the senses.

Do you have a favourite location/culture, or part of the world?

This is a hard question. But to pick one, I would go with the Antrim coast of Northern Ireland. There’s a little seaside village there called Carnlough that is just beautiful and I’d like to set a story there.

You write both contemporary and historical romance. What are the best parts of each?

I’ve only written one full length historical to date – Stone of Heaven and Earth. It’s not romance although it’s a bittersweet love story. Research is the best part. That and bringing characters to life so that you feel you know them. I love doing research as much as my dogs love liver treats. Can’t get enough of it. But even writing contemporary romance, there still needs to be a degree of research to ensure that the setting, time, and the way the characters behave, are accurate.

 ‘Stone of Heaven and Earth’ is set during the period of 1914-1929 in both Brisbane and China. How did you go about researching historical accuracy for this novel?

This book is based on fact so I had some basic major plot items to begin with, and some primary documents such as letters and photographs. I contacted the head of a study conducted by Bristol University in the UK whose specialty is one of the major areas of interest in my book. He was very helpful, gave me lots of information and resources. I travelled to China and spent time there trying to piece together the story whilst dealing with the massive changes that have occurred in China since the beginning of the last century. I had two eye witnesses too, but sadly they both passed away a few months ago. The bits of the story I couldn’t validate, I made up, ensuring they are historically accurate in the political climate of the day.

Your heroines are mature women and heroes who usually don’t know they are ready for love. What is it about this combination that inspires you?

For many people, love the first time around doesn’t work out. There’s a good chance it will work out the second time around, mainly because people are older, wiser, and find the right person. Putting my heroines in a different, challenging, or even dangerous setting, can set off a series of inner changes. The light bulb moments when they change tack and move forward in another direction. In fiction, the hero happens to be there at exactly the right moment, and he too discovers that change can be a good thing.

Of all the characters you’ve created, do you have a particular soft spot for one?

Oh yes. Pietro Lombardi from Rosamanti is my ultimate hero. He’s not alpha, not particularly rugged – in fact he’s a chef, he sings while he’s cooking, he sings love songs to his pet goat Geraldina, he doesn’t mind shedding a tear when something moves him, and he’s beautiful on the inside as well as outside.

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What has your path to publication been like? How important is it for writers to learn their craft properly?

My first published book, Let Angels Fly, was accepted by US small digital-first publisher, Etopia Press. They’ve since published a further three books of mine. Honor’s Debt, which released on November 13th, was contracted by Secret Cravings Publishing. They’ve also bought books two and three of the Robinhill Farm series. I’ve learned so much since my first book. When going through publisher edits, I add my repeated errors/styles to a list and in each successive book I check for those. It’s vitally important to learn from the editors and try to never repeat the same things book after book.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve received?

Join organisations such as the RWA; go to conferences; network with peers; and do as many courses as possible.

When you’re not writing, what would we find you doing? How do you relax?

I’m always writing, or editing, or blogging, or networking with other writers on social media. I retired last Christmas from a lengthy career and now I’m a full time writer and I take it seriously. I relax by playing in my veggie garden, walking my little dogs, and I spend quite a lot of time with my five very small grandchildren.

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Could you give us a sneaky peek at one of your favourite parts of ‘Honor’s Debt’, please?

Here’s an extract from Chapter 5 of ‘Honor’s Debt’ – Book 1 in the Robinhill Farm Series.

The sound of a noisy vehicle coming to an abrupt stop outside made them both look up.

“That’ll be himself now.” Dermot stood, the smile that seemed to so easily grace his face suddenly gone. He went to refill the kettle then, as if on impulse, turned back to look at her. “Now, don’t you go worryin’ about Bryan, okay?”

The kitchen door opened and a shadow fell into the room. Honor glanced up to see the doorway totally filled by the silhouette of a tall, muscular man wearing dark clothing. His features were impossible to see, but a shiver rippled its way up her spine as the hulking figure oozed bad vibes in her direction. He didn’t move, just stood there.

The room seemed to tremble as his deep, resonant voice entered the small space of the kitchen.

“So, if it isn’t the crazy English tourist who can’t drive. I take it you’re lost now, and asking for directions.” He paused and his dark gaze flicked from Dermot’s to hers, obviously taking in the scene before him. “Well, if this isn’t a picture of perfect domesticity. Bacon and eggs?” His mocking tone stung and he stood, still blocking the doorway.

She glanced at Dermot whose face showed no trace of the relaxed, affable man of a few minutes ago. Instead, he looked at her for a second then over at the man in the doorway.

“Oh won’t ye come in now Bryan. Come and meet Honor.” Dermot reached over and picked up another cup and saucer from the sideboard behind him and placed it on the table. His voice was somehow different. “There’s still another cup in the pot.” He picked up the teapot and swilled its contents around, then poured it into the empty cup. The air in the kitchen had suddenly got very cold.

Slowly, the hulk in the doorway moved and entered the room. She gasped as she recognized him. The jet-black, short-cropped hair and beard, the strong jawline, those black eyes…now she understood what he meant about the mad English woman. A shiver ran through her as she realized that things had, all of a sudden, taken a turn for the worse. Ill-humor darkened his face, his eyes smouldered with disdain, and his countenance was most unfriendly. She took a deep breath and, even though her knuckles under the table were white from squeezing, her voice came out strong.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you at last, Bryan.” She extracted one hand and held it out to him, hoping he wouldn’t notice the slight tremor of her fingers. A flash of uncertainty showed in his eyes, ever so slightly. Good, he’s not as tough as he’d like to think.

His large paw reached out and took hers to give it an almighty squeeze. She couldn’t tell if the pain was meant to be a punishment, or whether he always shook hands like that. Whatever it was, it was certainly a different welcome from the warmth and affection she’d received from Dermot. She stared at his long fingers, the dusting of black hairs on the back of his hand and his olive skin.

“Here, Bryan.” Dermot handed him the cup and saucer. Bryan released her hand and wrapped it delicately around the fine china. The man’s a litany of opposites, she thought, vacillating from harsh to gentle in a heartbeat.

“Can I cook you some breakfast?” Dermot’s friendly smile was back. Honor breathed a sigh of relief and took a sip of tea.

Bryan pulled out a chair and sat down opposite her, staring at her with a mixture of loathing, curiosity and familiarity. Dermot busied himself at the gas range and the sound and aroma of bacon sizzling on a hot pan once again filled the small kitchen.

“Honor.” His voice, deep, almost a growl, sounded like it came from way down in his boots. “I’m truly sorry about your car. I’ll pay to have it fixed.” There was no doubting the sincerity of his words. Relief swept through her. She glanced at Dermot who, although curious, seemed obviously pleased that Bryan was now being sociable.

Her shoulders relaxed slightly. “Those narrow roads are really something, aren’t they?” She held his black eyes with hers, never blinking. “I appreciate your apology, but I think the insurance will cover it.”

A deep frown transformed his face. Did she imagine it, or did he glower at her now? Maybe he’s not used to women standing up to him, she thought.

Dermot broke the awkward silence as he placed a plate, piled high with shiny, steaming bacon rashers and fried eggs, in front of Bryan. “I’ll make ye some toast.”

Bryan’s eyes held hers as he responded. “Thanks, Derm. I could eat a horse.” A small sigh escaped his lips and he broke the intense gaze and turned his eyes to the meal before him. He grabbed the knife and fork and attacked the food.

The kettle on the gas hob began to whistle, the toaster popped, and the telephone rang. Honor, breaking her fixated stare at this brutish man, snapped into action. She grabbed the teapot, whisked off its woollen jacket and took it over to the kettle. While she busied herself adding tea leaves and filling it with boiling water, she glanced back over her shoulder. Bryan shovelled food into his mouth as though he hadn’t eaten in weeks. Dermot chatted on the phone, something about a delivery of lucerne bales. She placed the now filled teapot on the table, grabbed the toast and placed it next to Bryan.

He looked up at her and again their eyes held. This time, though, she noticed that some of the fire had gone out. In fact, he appeared tired. Exhausted. There were fine lines etched at the corners, near the place where his thick, dark brows ended and his beard began.

“Your eyes. You have Dermot’s eyes.”

She stared, unblinking, as his deep voice resonated in her ears. It was as though he had two personalities, she mused. For some strange reason, she felt a surge of tenderness for this aggressive, bad-tempered, beast of a man.

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Web links

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Buy link

Noelle is kindly gifting one $10 Amazon gift card to one lucky reader. To be in the running all you have to do is sign up for Noelle’s newsletter during the duration of this competition. The link is here or here.

The winner will be drawn at random and announced here. This competition is open world wide.

 

Thank you for taking part in our Author Spotlight, Noelle!

Thanks so much for having me, Sarah.

Romance … as reflected on Publisher’s Weekly’s Bestseller Lists

Browsing the ‘net for some inspiration, I came across Publisher’s Weekly’s most recently published bestseller lists. They did inspire me, providing proof as they did that romance thrives ‘out there’ in the real world of book buyers and readers. But they also caused some twinges of annoyance.

Why is it that American authors, publishers, readers and reviewers have free access to regular bestseller lists, but Australian authors, publishers, readers and reviewers do not? Nielsen BookScan supplies the data in both countries, which makes the lack of information in Australia doubly disappointing. Bookseller and Publisher Australia do publish a weekly paragraph on bestsellers, but you have to be a subscriber to access the information which does not include sales data.

COME ON FOLKS WITH THE DATA. We know we don’t sell as many books as they do in America. After all, our population is only about 23.5 million while the Americans have a whopping 320 million potential and future readers. However, we would still like to see some figures. Stop with the secrets please!

Below is a brief reveal of romance and erotica titles featured in PW’s latest bestseller lists: the Top 10 Overall; Top 20 Hardcover Fiction; Top 20 Trade Paperbacks; Top 20 Mass Market Paperbacks; and Top 10 Romance. I have listed the book’s position followed by title, author, publisher, release date and sales figures. There are two sales figures provided. The first is that week’s sales, and the second is total sales year-to-date.

PW bestsellers Oct 2014

 

Raise a glass of bubbles to Nora Roberts; Blood Magick, book three of her Cousins series, is at #5 in the Top 10 Overall with over 135,000 copies sold to date. Congratulations again to Nora as well as to Debbie Macomber, Robyn Carr, Diana Palmer and Nicholas Sparks, all of whom have more than one title featured on the current bestseller lists. As a genre, romance dominates the mass market paperback category, accounting for 10 of the top 20 bestsellers.

Not surprisingly, Christmas stories and anthologies feature strongly at this time of the year with no less than nine books featuring festive love stories. Debbie Macomber appears to be the 2014 Queen of American Christmas Romance with three books on the lists: Mr Miracle, A Country Christmas and Starry Night.

An interesting footnote is that the first book in the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy is still hanging in there at #9 on the Romance bestseller list despite being over two years old at this stage.

Top 10 Overall

5. Blood Magick: Book Three of the Cousins by Nora Roberts (Berkley, October 2014) 41,052/ 135, 607

Hardcover Fiction

13. Mr Miracle: A Christmas Novel by Debbie Macomber (Ballantine, October 2014) 5,303/ 49, 428

Trade Paperback

1. Blood Magick by Nora Roberts (Berkley, October 2014) 41,052/ 135, 607

7. The Best of Me by Nicholas Sparks (Grand Central Publishing, August 2014) 7,726/ 172,586

17. Shadow Spell: Book Two of the Cousins by Nora Roberts (Berkley, March 2014) 3,964/ 279,312

Mass Market Paperback

2. A Country Christmas by Debbie Macomber (Mira, October 2014) 16,110 / 30,958

5. Starry Night by Debbie Macomber (Ballantine, October 2014) 12,922/ 25,889

7. Wyoming Strong by Diana Palmer (Harlequin, October 2014) 12,630/ 28,504

8. Tis the Season by Robyn Carr (October 2014, Mira) 11,196/ 23,969

9. The Best of Me (movie tie-in) by Nicholas Sparks (August 2014, Grand Central) 10,906/ 225,673

12. Snow Angel Cove by RaeAnne Thayne (Harlequin, October 2014) 9,313/ 19,845

candlelight-christmas13. Candlelight Christmas by Susan Wiggs (Mira, October 2014) 9,155/ 17,092

16. The Longest Ride by Nicholas Sparks (Grand Central, September 2014) 8,915/89,514

19. Christmas on 4th Street by Susan Mallery (Harlequin, October 2014) 7,962/ 16,195

20. Snowflakes on the Sea by Linda Lael Miller (Harlequin, October 2014) 7,765/ 15,908

Romance

No sales data is provided with this bestseller list although the first four books appear in the above lists where sales figures are provided.

  1. Blood Magick by Nora Roberts (Berkley, October 2014) 41,052/ 135, 607
  2. The Longest Ride by Nicholas Sparks (Grand Central Publishing, September 2014)
  3. Starry Night by Debbie Macomber (Ballantine, October 2014)
  4. Mr Miracle: A Christmas Novel by Debbie Macomber (Ballantine, October 2014)
  5. Christmas in Cowboy Country by Janet Dailey (Zebra, September 2014)
  6. California Dreams by Nora Roberts (Silhouette Books, September 2014)
  7. Texas Born/Maggie’s Dad by Diana Palmer (Harlequin, September 2014)
  8. In Your Dreams by Kristan Higgins (Harlequin, September 2014)
  9. Fifty Shades of Grey (Book One) by EL James (Vintage, April 2012)
  10. Forbidden Falls by Robyn Carr (Mira, September 2014)

All I wanASTR-cover-300dpit for Christmas is … a love story set in sunny Australia. Any suggestions?

Despite the absence of a prawn barbie, I’m going to start with Amy Andrew’s novella, Tis the Season to be Kissed, set in Vermont but with plenty of sizzle. There are also the four short stories in A Season to Remember. In the spirit of Christmas, authors Susan Bellamy, Elizabeth Ellen Carter, Noelle Clark and Eva Scott are giving it to all readers as a free download from Smashwords in various formats. Thank you ladies. It’s a lovely gesture that I’ll remember when late-night shopping and long queues threaten to fray my nerves :)

 

Notes

* with the exception of California Dreams, which is available in paperback only.

Author Spotlight: Sexy Contemporary Romance novelist, V. K. Black…

Welcome to the Author Spotlight, V.K and congratulations on the release of ‘Unexpected Places’. Can you give us the blurb, please?

One treasure map; a pair of priceless emeralds; two very keen hunters — only one can win, but who says that competition can’t be a little fun?

When sweet, pretty Ariana Noonan knocks out treasure hunter Luke Donahue with a champagne bottle and steals his treasure map, he vows to get his map back, find the missing priceless emeralds…and exact a fitting revenge.

When Luke finally discovers Ariana in a dingy hotel on a remote tropical island, she’s in desperate straits and he finally gains the upper hand. Of course he will rescue her. His price? They act on the attraction that’s been simmering between them from the very beginning.

But all is not as it seems, and Luke’s sexy bargain turns up not only an unbelievable secret, but Ariana’s reasons for wanting the emerald. Suddenly, nothing is clear-cut anymore, and map or no map, Luke and Ariana are sailing into uncharted territory.

Unexpected_Final (300)

 

You write what you like to read, which is sexy romances with open bedroom doors. How have sexy romances changed in recent times to become more mainstream?

I really don’t know the answer to this one. The romance world, of course, has been enjoying sexy romances for ages. But the mainstream world? My bridge club is a good example of mainstream society. We have a copy of Fifty Shades of Grey in the bridge library. Lots of Nora Roberts. Danielle Steele. No HM&B though. In the members’ attitudes to me, I haven’t experienced contempt or rude questions about when I’m going to write a “real” book. There seems to be a genuine admiration of and interest in the fact that I write and am published. There’s amusement about the sexy bit. Quite a few members have bought my books.

Who are your favourite sexy romance authors and what impact have they had on your writing.

There are a few authors who are automatic buys for me. Maybe my favourite is Kelly Hunter, closely followed by Heidi Rice. I really enjoy the tone of their books, their voices. There’s a light-hearted readability about their books I admire, and which I think has influenced my writing. There’s lots of other authors too. Melanie Milburne, Abby Green, Lynne Graham, Kristan Higgins, Julie James. And at the hot end of town, Cherise Sinclair and Lexi Blake. 

You write in a number of genres, do you have a favourite?

Contemporary is my favourite genre, although I love World War Two historicals too.

Do you think that writing in different genres has improved your writing skills? Are there any other genres you are going to work in?

I guess by simply writing, your writing tends to improve. And by reading craft books. And by reading other authors’ books with an eye to their craft. When I re-read my first book, Lies and Seduction, a World War Two historical, I scrunch up my nose in a couple of places, as I’ve written things I wouldn’t now – although I still think the book is fun and a good read. I’m not sure if writing across the genres has improved my writing, except by keeping myself fresh, perhaps. There’s a World War Two/Time Travel in the wings.

When you’re not writing, what do you do to relax?

Read, play bridge (though more for the chatty fun – goodness, some of those bridge players get serious!), go to exercise classes, which means chat with friends at coffee afterwards, cook (eat) spicy food. Love curries. A nice glass of chardonnay of course helps with that relaxing.

Can you tell us about your current work in progress?

It’s another sexy contemporary, set on an island in the Great Barrier Reef. Originally, I wrote it as a short story told entirely from the man’s point of view. But the two publishers I submitted to both wanted to hear about the heroine’s story as well. So that’s what I’m doing now. I’ve had to change the heroine’s character, because as a damsel in distress she wasn’t terribly interesting. Although I rather enjoy reading about distressed damsels being rescued by big strong bad boys. Okay, it’s the big, strong, bad boys I’m interested in…

What does the future hold for Victoria Black?

It’s actually V.K. Black these days. I used to be the one and only Victoria Black, Author, out there, but there are heaps of us now, one of whom writes Wow, O.M.G., taken-by-the-team-you-get-my-drift erotica. I mean, what would the bridge club say? Hence the name change.

What I enjoy writing most, and what I’d like to investigate with a view to publishing, is short stories. I know everyone is self-publishing these days, but I’m so bad with technology, I’m really nervous about dipping my toe into that pond. Travelling is also on my agenda. Two months eating and drinking my way around the U.K. has but whetted my appetite.

Could you give us a sneaky peek at one of your favourite parts of ‘Unexpected Places’, please?

This excerpt is from early in the first chapter, where Luke is about to meet Ariana.

Luke watched with interest as she approached him. He’d noticed her earlier, when he’d been chatting with his dad’s old secretary. A tiny, pretty little thing—the approaching blonde, not Mrs Abercrombie. She’d been standing all alone, gulping her wine. Then her attention had suddenly fixed on him. She’d started on the long approach, unaware, he was sure, that he knew she was coming.

There’d been the noise at Bob’s door last week. Someone had been listening, he was sure of it, and that person knew all about the missing emeralds and the map. He’d been expecting a stranger to approach him at some point, all week. And well, well, here she was. Another girl. Another one of Changpu’s little off-siders.

Of course, he could be misjudging her. Maybe she was a pretty girl who wanted sex badly, and had lousy timing. But he didn’t think so. There was a steely purpose behind the way she was currently stalking him.

Again, an unfamiliar fury rose within him. For Changpu to follow him into his own company was the final straw. He’d played nice up until now. He’d been a perfect gentleman to Mai Ling. But no more. Neither the old man nor this little employee of his could expect any mercy. Luke traced the still-painful line of his scar beneath his shirt.

His eyes roved leisurely over her sweet curves, enjoying the enticing bounce of her white breasts revealed by her sexy black dress. It hugged her trim little body and came to rest at her knees. Her femininely curved hips swayed with the help of heels that must be adding inches to her height. Pretty green eyes fixed on his face. Her cute half-smile, half pout drew her lovely full lips up at their corners.

Clenching his teeth, Luke felt the muscle tick at his jaw. His stomach tightened for battle. But, to his surprise, his cock rose in enthusiastic greeting. Luke smiled, enjoying the widening wariness of her eyes, enjoying how his fury and desire for revenge had mixed into a heady, potent cocktail of lust. Grabbing a glass of the cheap champagne they were serving tonight, he stepped toward her, crowding her.

He smiled again. Or at least did his best, forcing his lips to curl up into something approximating genuine warmth. “Hi. I’m Luke. Would you care for a glass of champagne?”

Victoria

 

Author Bio: V.K. Black is from Queensland, Australia. She loves tropical islands, snorkelling on the Barrier Reef, good wine and hot spicy food. Amazingly, all of these appear in Unexpected Places (published by Escape Publishing). Sadly, treasure maps and priceless emeralds have been in short supply in her real life, so she has written a story about them.

As well as her action/adventure contemporary, Unexpected Places, V.K. Black has written an erotic fantasy/sci fi called Heavenly Revenge (published by Secret Cravings) and a World War Two historical called Lies and Seduction (published by Cobblestone Press.) There is a unifying theme. They are all fun sexy romances, with a handsome hero and a lovely heroine.

V.K. Black has been a member of RWA for many years now, and enjoys the company of her fellow RWA members at her monthly Sultry Scribes writers’ meeting.

Web links

Website: victoriablacksexystories

Blog: victoriablacksexystories

Facebook: V.K. Black

Twitter: @VKBlackAuthor

Goodreads: Unexpected Places

Buy link: Escape Publishing

Kiwi Author Breaks North American Stranglehold on Amazon’s 2014 Top Romance Picks

Amazon editors have released their annual Best Books lists, including their pick of this year’s romance novels. We were delighted to find, Nalini Singh, New Zealand’s Queen of Paranormal Romance, firmly entrenched on this best books’ list. Nalini, who was nominated for the Psy/Changeling series novel Shield of Winter, was the only non-North American author to feature on the 2014 list. All the rest were US citizens with the exception of Canadian indie author Sarah Castille, who squeaked in at #20.

Nalini Singh composite

Lists are great places to pick up on trends and find out what others are reading. They also generate debate. This particular list is quality-based on the Amazon editors’ preferences rather than being based on absolute numerical values such as the number of books sold. However, most, if not all, of these authors are NY Times and USA Today bestselling authors, proving once again that quality and popularity DO mix.

The top 20 is an eclectic mix of sub genres, highlighting the diversity of romance writers: historical (time travel, Regency); contemporary; new adult; multicultural; suspense; fantasy; science fiction; paranormal; inspirational; and erotica. In short, there is something for almost every reader! Of course, some titles such as Diana Gabladon’s Written in My Own Heart’s Blood cross multiple sub genres ensuring we read because we love the story — and not because it got classified as a such-and-such book! Interestingly, this cross-genre love story is also the bestselling book on the 2014 list.

Other universal favourites include writers such as Nora Roberts, Sylvia Day, Debbie Macomber and Eloisa James. There are three indie authors on the list – Bella Andre, Courtney Milan and Sarah Castille. Charlie N. Holmberg is agented but published under the Amazon imprint 47North. Hmm. Does that make her an indie author or not?

An analysis of the publishers reveals that Penguin dominates this list with four titles from three imprints (Berkley, Ace, Jove). Harlequin, Avon, Random House (Ballantine, Delacorte), Kensington Press, and St Martin’s Press are all represented by two titles. The rest of the publishers are a collection of big houses, independent presses and one more Amazon imprint, Montlake Romance. All the books are published in paperback and ebook although some paperbacks are only available from Amazon.

The complete list of editors’ picks in bestselling order is listed below:

  1. Written in My Own Heart’s Blood by Diana Gabaldon (Delacorte).
  2. Shadow Spell (Cousins O’Dwyer) by Nora Roberts (Berkley).
  3. Son of No One (Dark Hunter Novels) by Sherrilyn Kenyon (St Martins Press).
  4. The Paper Magician (The Pager Magician Series Book 1) by Charlie N Holmberg (47North).
  5. Night Broken (Mercy Thompson) by Patricia Briggs (Ace).
  6. Blossom Street Brides: A Blossom Street Novel by Debbie Macomber (Ballantine).
  7. Thankful: Return to Sugarcreek, Book 2 by Shelley Shepard Gray (Avon).
  8. Before We Kiss by Susan Mallery (Harlequin).
  9. Ultimate Sins (The Callahans) by Lora Leigh (St Martins Press).
  10. It Happened One Wedding by Julie James (Jove).
  11. Kiss Me Like This: The Morrisons 1 by Bella Andre (Oak Press).
  12. Three Weeks with Lady X (Desperate Duchesses by Eloisa James (Avon).
  13. Once in a Lifetime (Lucky Harbour) by Jill Shavis (Grand Central Publishing).
  14. A Man’s Promise (The Grangers) by Brenda Jackson (Harlequin MIRA). Shield of Winter (Psy/Changelings) by Nalini Singh (Berkley).
  15. Shield of Winter (Psy/Changelings) by Nalini Singh (Berkley).
  16. Single by Saturday (Weekday Brides Series Book 4) by Catherine Bybee (Montlake Romance).
  17. Kiss and Tell (Sisterhood) by Fern Michaels (Kensington).
  18. The Sufragette Scandal (The Brothers Sinister, 4) by Courtney Milan (Femtopress).
  19. The Stranger I Married by Sylvia Day (Kensington).
  20. In Your Corner (Redemption) by Sarah Castille (Sourcebooks Casablance)

So, what do you think? Do you agree with the Amazon editors, or would you like to nominate another book/books for this year’s top 20 reads?

 

Links

Amazon 2014 Best Books, Romance: http://tinyurl.com/q89cewl

Amazon 2014 Best Books (all): http://tinyurl.com/os3y9cd

Author Spotlight and Giveaway: Erotic / Fantasy novelist, Rhyll Biest…

Editor’s note: This post contains content unsuitable for people under the age of 18 due to sexual content.

 

Welcome to the Author Spotlight, Rhyll and congratulations on the release of ‘Unrestrained ’. Can you give us the blurb, please?

When the reclusive Holly Unthanks finds some very naughty photos, both the star—a muscular Teutonic god with some serious ink and a knack for knots—and the way he’s tied his lady friend to his four-poster bed, make her more than a little curious. But to get to know the big, built stonemason better, she’ll have to overcome his vengeful ex and her own inhibitions—and pray that the walls she’s built around her guarded heart and dark secret remain safe from a man who has a way with stone.

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Can you tell us the differences between erotic romance, erotica, and sexy romance, please?

Different authors might disagree with my definition of the differences, but to me a ‘happy ever after’ or ‘happy for now’ are optional in erotica whereas they’re not in romance. And in erotic romance sex is an essential plot element (e.g. trigger for character development and conflict) whereas this isn’t the case in sexy romance (no matter how much heartfelt boffing goes on). For example, because Unrestrained is an erotic romance, whether Holly can move past her inhibitions is an important plot element (and a happy ending depends on it).

Erotic romance has certainly taken off as a genre in recent years, why do you think that it has taken so long to become mainstream?

My theory is that once e-books and e-book readers such as Kindle became ubiquitous, this allowed women to consume/purchase what they wanted without being slut-shamed at the library or bookstore.

Some readers hold the perception that erotic romance is just about sex, but it’s more than that. What else will a first time reader find in an erotic romance?

Because sex is an important plot element (i.e. either a trigger for character development, relationship change, conflict, or a crucible – something that prevents the couple from leaving one another) I often find the sex scenes in erotic romance a lot more meaningful (story-wise and for characters) than those in stories where they’re inserted to spice things up or for pacing reasons. In other words, because sex is an important plot element, the sex in erotic romance is emotionally charged rather than mindless bonking.

Also, human sexuality is such a highly emotive and fascinating subject, with a million different facets and variations with every individual—the character and dynamics possibilities are endless. Good erotic romance explores that variety, and the highs and lows of sexuality, and—most importantly—the vulnerability people experience when it comes to sex. Sexuality issues also seem a very realistic and natural romance plot conflict to me, and less artificial than say, for example, a secret baby or mistaken identity. I think erotic romance also offers writers a lot of freedom in terms of genre boundaries, which means there are some really unique characters and stories out there.

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You write about heroes and heroines with unusual occupations. Which has been the most interesting and why?

I do love unusual occupations, it’s true. I think stonemason is the most interesting one I’ve written about so far, and I really enjoyed researching the different types of stone, tools and techniques involved. To me it’s a type of craftsmanship close to art (sculpture) and because I’m a hobby artist learning about materials and methods appealed.

You’ve lived in many different countries, do you have a favourite? What was it about that place that made it endearing to you?

Prague was my favourite city to live in because it’s so very beautiful, cultured and historic. I don’t know that ‘endearing’ is the right way to describe the Czech Republic but I certainly enjoyed my time there.

I love that you write about things that don’t always happen in real life, but should, such as the plain looking girl getting the hot guy. How have your readers responded to this change of character stereotype?

I think readers have always loved that sort of thing, think of Mr Rochester and ‘plain’ Jane Eyre. It’s pretty common in popular culture, too, and I’ll confess that I’m totes waiting for Oliver to fall for ‘plain’ Felicity in the TV series Arrow. I don’t see anything wrong with authors or scriptwriters offering their audience a bit of wish fulfillment. After all, who else is going to offer it?

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You are the co-founder of the Naughty Ninjas. Can you tell us a bit about being part of a ninja group?

Being a ninja is awesome as I can always count on my fellow ninjas for tips, ideas, shameless pimping, merkin discussions, encouragement and support. Being a writer/author can be tough at times, so it really helps me to know that a half dozen ninjas have got my back. Plus they’re all funny, creative and filthy—my favourite kind of friends.

What is your current WIP about and what does the future hold for Rhyll Biest?

I’m currently writing book two in a saucy fantasy series about demons. My spiritual guide assures me that writing about sex and demons will keep me young forever, so I feel that’s the way to go.

Could you give us a sneaky peek at one of your favourite parts of ‘Unrestrained’, please?

Carving headstones for a living didn’t make him the Grim Reaper. He was just a man, a man being blackmailed.

To call or not to call? She hated that the very idea of doing it immediately made her skin prickle with discomfort, and that it wasn’t just the thought of the man himself that made her uncomfortable, but the physical act of calling him. It was hard to pass for normal, to be normal, with her almost pungent aversion to phones. Landlines, cell phones, business and personal calls, she hated them all and it wasn’t unusual to catch herself pretending she couldn’t get to the phone in time to answer it, or deliberately letting her cell phone batteries go flat, sometimes for weeks at a time. It had lost her many editing clients and yet still she did it. Because she remembered the shrill sound of her cell phone ringing and ringing while she was busy dying.

Don’t be a pussy, Holly. Man up.

She had to force herself to do it, to take out her phone, which actually had some charge left. Poor planning on her part. Her fingers misdialed twice on the suddenly too-small keys before she nailed the third attempt. Three rings, four rings, five. No answer. Maybe he’d changed his number to dodge the stalky, threatening Luisa. Maybe his hands were full of tombstone. Maybe he was busy tying someone up. Or perhaps he was ignoring the phone like normal people did now and then. Except there was nothing ‘normal’ or ‘like most’ about Herr Stein, the butcher of stone, and now there was no hiding the truth from herself, that his looks, his very being, intimidated her. Thoroughly. As well as everything else about him. His job. His name. That stare.

Fuckity-fuck.

“Stein.”

She hung up, the rich baritone reverberating in her ears. She focused on her hot chocolate as she replayed the sound. His voice was subterranean deep, wrapped in a harsh German brute of an accent. He’d uttered a single word, yet it had transformed him instantly from a picture to a flesh-and-blood man, a man she didn’t know, a man who didn’t look at all friendly, and who more than likely had an attitude to match his insanely powerful body.

Sweet splicing semicolons, Holly, you would have to be out of your gourd, bat-shit, flesh-eating crazy to get mixed up in this.

 

Author Bio: I’m an Australian writer of erotic romance published with Escape, Ellora’s Cave, Momentum and Mischief. Living in Prague, Shanghai and Germany as well as studying Russian and German have given me a taste for the exotic, and I populate my writing with sexy Soviet men, Teutonic hotties and alluring Aussie vixens. Yes, I’m host to the United Nations of Hotness (in my writer’s imagination, at least).

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Rhyll is kindly gifting one Ecopy of ‘Unrestrained’ to one lucky reader. To be in the running, all you need to do is leave a comment below.

 

This competition is open world wide and will be drawn one week after posting.

A Day in the Writing Life of Cassandra Samuels

A Scandalous Wager_Final (1)Today we find out all about Cassandra Samuels. Welcome!

In one or two sentences, please tell us what genre you write in and what made you decide that particular one is your calling.
I am currently writing Regency Historical Romance. I fell in love with the era when I first read Pride and Prejudice (as you do) but I fell in love with Historical Romance when I first “borrowed” a Johanna Lindsey (Malory series) from my mother’s bookshelf.

What time of the day do you write? Are you a morning, night-owl or anytime writer?
I mostly write at night after my youngest is in bed, but I often take notes during the day. I would be more productive during the day but for the full-time job. (sigh).

Where do you write? Do you have your own special place? Does the location vary?
I have a desk in front of a window in my bedroom. I prefer to write here, although I confess to writing in bed in winter, much cosier.

Are there any particular rituals you do to set the mood / harness your muse?
I try not to feed my muse chocolate but she responds so well to bribes. ;-)

What’s the first thing you do before you begin to write?
I like to listen to music. After a while it becomes white noise and keeps me from getting distracted by banging doors or the TV in the living room. I know some people like total silence but in a house full of kids that is usually impossible.

Are you a plotter / planner or a pantser? Do you edit as you go or prefer to edit after completion of the ms?
I don’t plot the whole novel/chapter etc but I do usually have an overview (not quite a synopsis) when I start. I usually have a good idea of at least one of the main characters going in. I edit per chapter (usually with my critique partners) and then go over it in total when the whole ms is done.

Do you have a schedule that you follow for your writing time? Are you a goal setter with your writing?
I try and write between 9pm and 10.30pm every night on the weekdays. When I am in the zone and the Muse Fairy is feeling frisky I can write on until much later, but with a full time job I try and keep to a more doable timeframe. My goal is to write as much as I can that night rather than a word count.

Do you use whiteboards, posters, visual aids to help in your creativity?
I do use visual aids (why wouldn’t you? They are so much fun to find). They are usually in the form of a collage with the hero and heroine and other pictures relevant to the plot. For The Wager my hero is Henry Cavill and my heroine is Eva Green. It certainly helps me to keep them clear in my mind and Henry is awfully easy to look at.

Do you give yourself any writing rewards for achieving goals?
You know I don’t and I probably should, but my goals are sketchy at the best of time I am happy to just get to bed most nights.

Do you take time out to stretch, rest your eyes etc and if so do you do any exercises at your desk or between sessions?
I do try and make sure that I get away from my desk every so often to rest the eyes and do some neck exercises. There are some great exercises out there for writers. There was a great hand out at last years The Claytons Conference, so I use that.

Can you name five objects that are always on or near your work desk while you write?
Ah, yes. I currently have Jon Snow, Tyrion, and Rob Stark from Game of Thrones guarding my desk and they do a fine job too. I also have a dictionary, Thesaurus and usually a research book of some kind. My desk is sometimes being warmed by my cat Angus. He likes paper, especially lying on it.

Is your writing space messy, organized or somewhere in between? CSdesk
My desk is more often messy than tidy. If it’s tidy there is usually a reason. I am either looking for something or hoping that some sort of inspiration will come to me while I tidy.

What’s the last thing you do before you finish your daily writing session? Save and back up. Very important. I know the computer does an auto save but I try and do an extra save every half hour or so while I am writing. When I have finished I like to back up to my flash drive and the hard drive on my pc. I have also emailed myself in the past, especially finished whole ms.

Thanks Cassandra and good luck with your new release A Scandalous Wager which is available from 8 November 2014.

This ms used to be called The Wager and has won/placed/been a finalist in quite a few contests/Awards. Most notable are: Gold (1st) in the Marylands Writers’ Association (Historical), 2nd in the Valerie Parv Award, 2nd in the Selling Synopsis, 3rd in the Hearts through History’s Regency section, 4th in the Emerald 2014.

 

You can find Cassandra at her web site and at her blog.

 

NEW RELEASES NOVEMBER 2014

It’s November, and the big girls are coming out to play, releasing lots of new books so that we can join in the fun and games. The lead up to Christmas is my favourite time of year because the abundance of  wonderful books makes me feel like a kid in a candy shop with an unlimited budget. The only problem is where to start? With a  fellow RWA member’s book, of course, but even then, the choice is almost overwhelming. May I suggest a pinboard, a pencil and a blindfold? Pin the back page of Hearts Talk to the board, blindfold yourself and take a stab with your pencil. It doesn’t matter where it lands, you know you’ll end up with a great read!

November new releases from RWA members.

November new releases from RWA members.

eBooks Encourage People To Read More

A just released survey* by UK market research company Mintel confirms that the priStory formatsce and availability of eBooks are encouraging people to read more. Whilst it would be nice to have an Australian survey to compare it to (hint to all market research companies out there!), we can probably safely assume that there are more similarities than differences in market trends.

The Mintel survey found that:

  • One in four (26%) of eBook buyers read more because eBooks are cheaper than paperbacks
  • Price is an even bigger factor amongst younger readers in the 16-24 age group, with 38% reading more because eBooks are cheaper;
  • About a third (31%) of eBook buyers said they still preferred print books but bought eBooks because they cost less;
  • 23% of book buyers believe that print books are too expensive whereas only 16% said they same about eBooks;
  • Over a third (36%) of the UK readers surveyed buy both print and eBooks, with nearly half (42%) of this group saying they will always buy the cheapest version of the book, no matter what the format;
  • 7/10 eReader owners have bought a paperback in the the past year BUT
    • only 3/10 print book buyers have also purchased eBooks AND
    • over 36% of UK book buyers say they generally read print books but buy eBooks when travelling for work or holidays.

The Mintel study also revealed that Brits now buy more fiction thanks to the innovation of eBooks. There was a 6% year-on-year increase in the sale of fiction titles from 2012 to 2013.

There are clear distinctions between male and female reading habits:

  • Most women (86%) of women have read a book in the past year, but only 74% of men have done the same;
  • Women are more likely to read in either print or digital format;
  • Women are also more likely to favour fiction. 63% of woman have purchased a novel in the last 12 months compared to 48% of men.

When it comes to NOT reading, about a third of Brits have not purchased a book in the last 12 months:

  • 34% said it was because they were not interested in reading – although this figure rises to 42% in men;
  • 21% said they do have time to read them, and
  • 12% say they can’t afford to buy them.

The survey results are fascinating. Long live the story, I say. And long live libraries and librarians too (seemingly left out of the survey, surprisingly), to nurture those of us going through tough times.

 

*To read the full report, go to: http://www.mintel.com/press-centre/technology-press-centre/e-book-boom-sparks-growth-in-brits-reading-but-what-will-the-next-chapter-bring

 

A Day in the Writing Life of Reba Ritchie

Let’s welcome new RWA member Reba Ritchie as our guest today.

photo-1In one or two sentences, please tell us what genre you write in and what made you decide that particular one is your calling.
The series I am working on now Keys to Erravilla is Fiction – Romance/Mystery. I had no clue before I started writing this series which genre I was writing in – it just sort of came out that way. There is an historical element to the series, probably because I am a keen history buff and have read many historical romance novels.

What time of the day do you write? Are you a morning, night-owl or anytime writer?
I always write at night, as my head seems to be clearer and less distracted than during the day. I have three children and I work shift work, so really the only time I am able to write is at night.

Where do you write? Do you have your own special place? Does the location vary?
I almost always write in my bedroom, sitting up in my warm, comfortable bed! photo

Are there any particular rituals you do to set the mood / harness your muse?
Often I write to music, which sets the tone of the chapter I am currently writing. Sometimes the music is varied and other times it is specific.

What’s the first think you do before you begin to write?
I always check my emails just before I start to write! Reading and responding to my emails puts me in the right headspace for writing.

Do you spend much time reading over the previous day’s work? Do you have a special system in place in order to begin writing or go with the flow?
I usually read over the previous few pages so that I know where my characters have just arrived at, and then I decide which part of the book needs to be written next.

Are you a plotter / planner or a pantser? Do you edit as you go or prefer to edit after completion of the ms?
I have never plotted or planned any of my books. I usually have an entire book in my head before I sit down to write. I prefer to give the characters and storyline as much free reign as possible. As I am writing one part of the novel another part usually springs to mind.

Do you use whiteboards, posters, visual aids to help in your creativity?
I do tend to research and download pictures of people, places, animals, plants etc to use as visual stimulus as I am writing – particularly if the characters are going to a location I have never been to. Most places they go to I have already been to.

Can you name five objects that are always on or near your work desk while you write?
In my direct workspace I have photos of my kids, internet access, my favourite books stacked beside me for inspiration and reference, a lamp and a drink bottle. My key essentials!

Do you give yourself any writing rewards for achieving goals?
Before I finish each writing session I make sure I am satisfied that the characters and plot line has progressed in some profound way since the previous session. There has to be development and movement with each session for me to stop.

What is your favourite form of procrastination? Do you have any tips to beat off that old foe “procrastination”?
The only time I ever procrastinate with my writing is when I am not 100% sure what I want to happen next in the plotline – getting from A to B – (which doesn’t happen often). The only way to beat this is to simply sit down and start writing and let my fingers do the work! This always works for me.
What’s the last thing you do before you finish your daily writing session?

photoHosts of Erravilla is the first book in this three part series to be published through Serenity Press and has been awarded a 5 star review by Readers’ Favorite Book Reviews.

Hosts of Erravilla is available through www.serenitypress.org, Amazon.com and other leading online stores, as well as some local stores in the Sydney area.

Book 2 The Guardian’s Curse will be available from 2015.

You can find me on Facebook or contact me by email at reba.ritchie@outlook.com.

Print Books Outsell eBooks In First Half of 2014

There is good news for all those who love ‘the book’ with all its comforting familiarity and solidity over the more ephemeral ‘eBook’, often referred to by those with a technological bent as, horror of horrors, ‘content’.

According to the Nielsen Book & Consumer survey released this month, print books outsold eBooks in the first half of 2014. Actually, BOTH hardcovers AND paperbacks outsold eBooks individually as well as when combined.

Overall print book sales accounted for 67% of the market, leaving eBooks with a 23% share. Hardcovers on their own accounted for 25% of sales while paperbacks dominated all other formats at 42% of sales.

These figures further reinforce predications that eBook sales will stabilise and that there will always be room in the hearts and libraries of readers for both paper and electronic books.

The launch of the Kindle by Amazon in 2007 saw triple digit growth in eBook sales for several years. However, in 2013, that growth slowed to single digits and the new 2014 figures suggest that trend will continue.

In an interview with HuffPost Live recently, bestselling author Stephen King said, ‘I think books are going to be there for a long, long time to come.’

King doesn’t believe books will suffer the same dismal fate as vinyl records and CDs.

‘Audio recordings of music have only been around for, I’m going to say, 120 years at the most. Books have been around for three, four centuries … There’s a deeply implanted desire and understanding and wanting of books that isn’t there with music,’ he said during his HuffPost interview.

That’s all good news for those of us who like the availability and pricing associated with our eReaders but also love to surround ourselves with overflowing bookshelves and hard copies of those books that are really dear to us.

So, which format do you prefer? Paperback, hardback or eBook? Or, like me, do you enjoy all three in equal measure?

 

Further reading:

Publisher’s Weekly: http://tinyurl.com/o9szp4e

HuffPost Live: http://tinyurl.com/pkm2r9h

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