Friday, May 30, 2008

Mommy's all right, Daddy's all right, they just seem a little weird...

Here's the first of some exciting, forthcoming print releases through Phaze. Surrender is collection of some of our biggest selling BDSM romance shorts, with work by Eden Bradley, Eliza Gayle, Reese Gabriel, and Alessia Brio. All are names you will or should know if you enjoy the genre, and what an incredible cover! Can't wait to see what it looks like on my bookshelf.

Many of the authors are excited to be included in these special print collections. We have so many talented writers who deliver such wonderful novellas, and often fall short of the print requirements. Also, not everbody has enough material with us for a solo anthology, so we decided it was time to let these stories shine in print as themed books. So perhaps the next time you attend RT, NJRW, or any other conference or festival, you'll see one of these books and congratulate the author(s) on a job well done.

After Surrender, we have plans to roll out an all-shifter collection featuring Skylar Sinclair, Sapphire Phelan, and Jude Mason (I previewed the cover - it's AMAZING). In the works, too, is an all BBW collection which will feature Meg Winston and Sammie Jo Moresca. In 2009, we have a special project in the works that will be revealed very shortly.

Another thing I am pleased to announce is that starting this summer select titles will be released simultaneously in eBook and print. We've managed to do it in the past on a sporadic schedule with Piers' books and the Coming Together volumes, but it's been a goal of mine to get the more anticipated titles out there at once so readers who prefer print won't have to wait so long. We are only at the stage where we can do a few at a time, but maybe one day it will be standard with all novel releases. Your support as readers helps, and we are grateful for that.

For now, sim-pub releases include forthcoming titles by L.E. Bryce, Marie Rochelle, Mychael Black and Shayne Carmichael, M. Christian, and Brenna Lyons. Also, when the fourth installment of Eliza Gayle's Pentacles of Magick series is release, the entire collection will come out in print, too. It's going to be a busy summer, hope you'll join us.

By the way, the subject header is from a Cheap Trick song. ;)

Book Event

If you're in the Virginia Beach/ Norfolk area, be sure to stop by the MacArthur Center Barnes and Noble tomorrow at 1 PM. I'll be signing books alongside Bridget Midway / Crystal Bright and Monique Lamont / Yvette Hines. Yes, it was a requirement to have at least two names to do this event.

I'll have copies of Pithed, Daring Young Man, and the newly arrived Saints Preserve Us on hand to sign and sell. We'll have chocolate on hand, and we're just going to have a great time.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

13 Dares

I'm feeling a bit dry in the well with regards to posting ideas, so I'll tip my hat to the Thursday Thirteen and see if I can come up with at least five. As I am in a writing mode this month, this topic will concern book titling - namely for the Dareville series.

At present, there are three full length Dareville novels out with Phaze, plus two shorts, and a supplementary short. All but the supplemental (Dulce) include "Dare" in some form in the title. We have:

Truth or Dare
Dare Me
Daring Young Man
Dare to Dream(forthcoming)
Double Dare
A Winter's Dare

Of all my books, these stories sell the best, more so than my M/M romance, which surprises me since, with other authors I know, it's the other way around. Their het suffers and the gay skyrockets. Well, I like the Dare stories, too, and could feasibly write them forever. I can always blame urban sprawl for the influx of new characters and situations to write. Of course, I'll need titles, and trying to use one word to tie them all together can be challenging.

So, for my Thursday Thirteen, I'll attempt to come up with possible new titles for this series, maybe a hint to get me writing in the future. One day I'll have to set up a contest for readers to suggest combinations that have escaped me.

Get out your wallets and sit back for the next (hopefully) installments of Dareville:

1) Daring Red - I've actually started work on this one. The storyline will run concurrently with Dare To Dream and will center around Jared (from Truth or Dare, he worked in Brady's building...then on Brady) and Red, Jake Marbury's son and J.J.'s brother. This will be the first all M/M Dareville story, we'll see how that work.

2) Dare Devils - I have a story in mind for this, featuring minor players from Dare to Dream

3) Where Angels Dare to Tread - Sounds inspirational, but I like the way it sounds. Don't know what I'd do for it

4) A Dare For All Seasons - This was a proposed holiday anthology, shorts set at different times of the year. I had it mapped out, but Phaze is doing something similar with Victoria Blisse (Seasons of Blisse). I might still do this, though.

5) Delicious Dare - Maybe another story centered around the grocery. Pastry chef finds fun things to do with the whisk...

6) Deadly Dare - I toyed with doing an erotic murder mystery set in Dareville. Couldn't bear to kill of anybody, however.

7) Scareville - Proposed Halloween story, possibly for Phaze's Raven line.

8) Daring Diva - This came up for an idea I had for the Coming Together: At Last anth, an I/R featuring Cal Briscoe's band singer, who is African American. Don't think I'll make the deadline for that, but I may still do it.

9) Dare's Woman - An idea for an historical Dareville, a prequel to A Winter's Dare featuring the woman of Dare House. This would be an all F/F romance. If I write it, I may offer it for free.

10) Handle With Dare - Punny.

11) The Daring Dozen - Group sex? Dunno.

12) Dare Not Speak - Would have been an alternate title for the F/F.

13) By the Chimney With Dare - Ho ho ho.

Okay, the hard part's done. Now to write.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Today's Chocolate

Today's chocolate is a half-ounce of Dagoba Mon Cherri - dark (74%) chocolate flavored with berries and vanilla. I had a number of open bars I wanted to finish, but since today is such a horrible rainy one, I thought it nice to break into something new. I've had my eye on this for a while, and now my nose is picking up the sweetness of the cacao.
Like other Dagobas I've tried, this one is infused with tiny dried specs of berry pulp, their flavor only really evident when you bite directly into them. The vanilla, I'm not sensing so much until the lingering aftertaste, and even then it's faint. Still, it's a nice bold bar, though the lavendar selection still sticks out in my mind as the one from this company that leaves an impression.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Z double O M Box three-five-oh Boston Mass oh-two-one-three-FOUR!

My boss asked me for RT BookClub's address and I rattled it off at the top of my head. I don't even know the address of the new place where my parents moved!

Next week I'll compose a Schoolhouse Rock song about getting a review there. Do I have what it takes? Stick around.

Yesterday's Chocolate

Monday being a holiday, I didn't get online much. Monday is now designated as my writing day, so I spent what little computer time I had working on Why, Why Zed?, which now has a release date of July, 2008. So I'll be stepping up that project before I move to the next, Daring Red. YYZ is going to be a short, probably under 10K, which is good because all Phaze Urban stories are going to print in anthologies, and I expect this one will be paired with the 3 M/M Urbans we have out now.

Anyway, while at the Heritage on the Oceanfront I noticed a sale on Equal Exchange chocolate bars, and I picked up the Organic Very Dark (71%). Can I just say, yum? This was a very smooth bar with a rich flavor that didn't have that bitter tang of other darks I've tried. I don't if being organic makes the difference in taste, but definitely I'm kicking myself for not getting more bars while they were on sale.
Speaking of chocolate, I saw that Pier One now has a display of chocolate from around the world. I was tapped out, otherwise I would have stocked up, but I noticed they have a nice selection of New Tree bars which I'd like to try. I'm sure they'd taste great in that papasan chair Little One adored so much. She buried herself in the pillow and wouldn't come out. I know what she's getting for her birthday.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Say Goodnight, Dick

Goodnight, Dick. :(

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Everyone would gather on the 24th of May

...sitting in the sand to watch the fireworks display.

Dancing fires on the beach, singing songs together, though it's just a memory, some memories last forever.

Happy Victoria Day to our northern neighbors.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Saints Are Marching Again

Good news. Saints Preserve Us is once again singing in the vestibules. This book is available in eBook and print formats from my own imprint, DLP Books, via You can click here to order today.

Saints is a cozy, non-erotic mystery I had with another publisher and pulled when I took over Phaze, along with its sequel Pray For Us Sinners and my first book, the inspirational Little Flowers. I am reviving the mysteries on my own as motivation for continuing in the genre, with work on a new book independent of this series in progress. If so inclined, I may pursue the third book in this series that I abandoned, Deliver Us From Evil.

So why did I go the self-publishing route with these, when I could have tried with another pub? Well, there are a number of reasons. For one, I wanted control over these books, as I plan to market them primarily through personal appearances I have booked over the next few years. Also, the word count prohibited me the first time from approaching NYC mystery pubs (it was under, and I really couldn't expand without making it look like unnecessary padding), and ePubs primarily want steamier romance because the market is better for those books. Mystery readers like print books, too, and were I able to move this elsewhere there is no guarantee I'd make it beyond eBook format.

This way, I have a print book in hand I can take to book festivals and signings and mystery cons. The book will be made available via so well-wishers can buy it there (though I get more royalties if you go through Lulu, hint).

Just to clarify, too, I'm not starting a new company. This is only an avenue for two, possibly three books of mine. With new works written as L.K. Ellwood, I'll try to get my foot in the door at other places, too. In the meantime, I hope you'll try this one out. Blurb is below:

Where's Lorena Alger? This is what everyone in Ash Lake, Florida is asking about their most famous resident...a young girl about to be canonized as a saint, a young girl who hasn't moved from her grave in over 150 years. Now she is gone, and her grave is now occupied by the fresher corpse of the cemetery caretaker.

Great grandniece Ronnie Lord is determined to aid the town sheriff in Lorena's safe return. She finds it isn't an easy task when obstacles like a nosy reporter and stubborn relatives get in the way. Meanwhile, as an object of ransom tucked away in a single-wide trailer belonging to two petty thieves, Lorena is in for the adventure of her...well, death.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Today's Chocolate

Today's chocolate is a miniature bar of Vosges Macha, deep milk (41% cacao) with Japanese macha green tea. Have to tell, this is an interesting one. Not quite sure how to describe the flavor - the chocolate is undeniably creamy and is melting easily in my fingers. Holding the chocolate on my tongue to experience the full effect yields a dull taste that, while not savory like the bacon bar, seems to complement the cacao. I'm not much of a green tea drinker, so maybe I was expecting more bitterness, like one would find in black tea. Unusual, not unpleasant, but on a personal preference scale I'd take the Creole bar over this one.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Cheesesteak, Furries, Sexy Books

Today's chocolate is a repeat, the last of the Dagoba Super Fruit bar. Nice taste for the day; I need it to replenish the energy spent in Philly. All in all, a good weekend for me. Of course, any day I sell one book is a great day, and I sold more than that at the festival. So I am totally pumped up for future book events with the East Coast gangsta chicks! And, it appears I may have another gig closer to home. More news on that later.

Things I learned on my trip:

  • Left turns in New Jersey are few and far between. I had to perform something called a "jug handle," which sounds dirtier than it actually is.
  • You can't pump your own gas in New Jersey. Union or legal thing, I forget.
  • Bernadette Peters is a tiny slip of a thing (everybody is next to me) but just gorgeous. She walked past me down an alley behind the Free Library after her signing.
  • Stella Price is afraid of furries. There were storybook characters greeting kids around the fest. Everytime a Berenstain Bear walked past Stella would hide behind us. But that's okay, she does a bang-up promo job. I bow to her cleverness.
  • Older men like the sexy. Robin Slick turned to me and said, "I haven't sold a book to anyone under the age of 75!"
  • Bridget Midway knows everybody. People in Philly are walking up to her. "Hey, remember me from such and such!"
  • Alessia Brio designed some AWESOME Coming Together buttons. If you come to Collingswood in October, I'll give you one.
  • The 4th Street Deli makes incredible kugel.
  • Cheesesteak with Cheez Whiz is pretty damn good.
  • White Castles will keep on a seven-hour drive down the Eastern Shore.

Can't wait til next year!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Then the Whippoorwill of Freedom Zapped Me, Right Between the Eyes

Yet none of it landed on the car.

Tomorrow I'm off to enjoy some Philadelphia Freedom, and if you're in town this weekend you should drop by the Philadelphia Book Festival. I will be signing copies of Pithed, Phaze Fantasies Vol. 1, Daring Young Man, and Truth or Dare. Thought I had some copies left of Dare Me, but I'm running low. Anyway, I'll be there with Alessia Brio, Bridget Midway, Robin Slick, Tilly Greene, Stella Price, and Cat Johnson, along with other authors making up the grand East Coast Authors table. We're going to have candy and tiki torches and places to sit, maybe a neck rub if we're feeling generous. I understand, too, we have prime signing territory: Booths 29-30 between Wood and Callowhill on 19th Street, near the Free Library entrance where the restrooms are. Lots of foot traffic!

I'm excited. I've not been to Philly before. We've talked for years about making a weekend trip up there, but of course life gets in the way of those plans. I've worked plenty of book fairs before, but none of this scale. I don't count BEA because that is an industry event, not necessarily for readers. Events like these, I find, are good for helping me overcome my introverted nature. Part of being a successful author is being a good salesman, and if I can't get excited about my books, a reader certainly won't.

If you can't make it this weekend, we'll be back nearby around October for the Collingswood Book Festival in Collingswood, NJ. Maybe by then I'll have the massage chair out.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

When To Go E, and When To Go Eeeeeeee!

Today's chocolate is a yummy repeat, the New Tree Sexy (dark chocolate with ginger). In its place, the running of the bull(sh-).

With regards to agent/editor one on one time at conferences, I have yet to sit on the author side of the table. At this time, what I have in the cooker is earmarked for release with a publisher, and what I plan to pitch is still in the formative stage. Being the editor, hands neatly steepled before me as I listen to story ideas, I feel I have a good sense of what will work and what will not for my house. I will admit, I like talking to authors in this venue, because I get to see upfront the enthusiasm they have for their books and can share their passion for writing and dreams of print. It's a bit of an ego boost, too, to be approached with work, despite that nagging feeling in the back of your mind that taunts you about being "the safety publisher" for when the big houses say no.

With this thought in mind, I'll add that being the publisher of a primarily eBook house can have its disadvantages at pitch sessions. Authors talk to me of their biggest dream: the day they can walk into a bookstore and find their title on a shelf. I can understand that. It's my dream, too. It came true once when we managed to get Truth or Dare shelved. People would send me cell phone shots of the book at Borders, and I can tell you there's no greater high than that for an author. But I came down pretty quickly, too. We pulled off this feat before chain store policies on POD books tightened. Now you hear of stores cutting back on inventory and squeezing out the Davids in favor of the Goliaths, and though the lone copy of Truth at my local Borders sold I haven't seen it reordered. I'd have to do it myself.

So it may surprise some to know that I have actually advised authors who have pitched me material to persue the houses that can make their dreams come true. Am I crazy for doing that? I don't know, a lot of people think I'm crazy anyway, so why not give them a solid reason? to believe it? Does this mean I'm incapable of getting books into stores? No. We recently secured a standing order with a small indie book chain, yay us. We don't have a problem moving print via the Internet, either, so why would I suggest to an author to explore other options?

It's simple: I will not make a promise unless I know I can deliver. Two years of working as a publisher has taught me my limitations in the business. There are times I may opened my mouth too soon, and I feel badly about it. I know now I can provide solid editing and proofing, attractive cover art, wide Internet distribution and promotional assistance, but I won't claim to have a book buyer wrapped around my pinky when it isn't true (never did anyway). Also, though we offer print titles, the meat of our company is eBook sales. An author coming to us must be as enthusiastic about the eBook as the print book. This is where our money is made, the author stands to earn more in royalties through eBook sales, and while we can argue sales and visibility versus print I stand by the maxim that eBooks are the future, especially in romance. Amazon wouldn't have launched the Kindle, and Harlequin and Red Sage wouldn't be widely touting new eBook lines if there wasn't a kernel of truth in this.

When this glorious future becomes the glorious present, who knows. It is my hope, however, when it does happen that authors and readers alike will be excited about it and willing to spread the gospel. What this means now for authors is that they have more options to explore with their works. Not all authors are the same - I have experienced that before and during my tenure as publisher. Some fully embrace the new technology of eBooks, others simply write their stories and start the next ones as they submit for consideration...and do little else. Some plan multi-city tours for their summer breaks, others won't leave the house. As each author persues his/her dream in their own way, they should also be aware of how well they can fit into the industry.

I know of some authors who won't touch E. That's fine. I know some who will only persue E. That's also fine. Which format is best for you, your work, and your abilities? I can't say, only you can answer that. I can merely make a few suggestions for you to consider or disregard.

When to go E

If it is your dream to be published by a heavy hitter, be it Harlequin or Kensington or Avon or whatever...if your goal is New York, New By God York, persue New York. Write the book, revise the book, shop the book. If New York doesn't want it, write another one and start over again. Don't stop until you are dead. If you never make it, you can't fault yourself for not giving it 100%. If you do make it, wonderful!

If you have that orphaned manuscript and want it to see the light of day, think before acting. It can be argued that an author's chances of seeing publication in eBook is greater than that of traditional print, and it can be argued that submitting to an eBook house is a form of settling for an alternative that you feel you can live with until the next book is written. If you are confident you can get your foot in a New York door, consider eBook publication. At best, you'll have an opportunity to build a readership you can carry over.

But think about it! Research what E can do for you and what it can't do. If you want to go to the spring social with Jack, but he's taking Jill, do you settle for Bob? Are you going to dance with Bob all night while looking over his shoulder at Jack? Are you better off skipping this dance for the next one? Are you better off hosting your own dance (self-pubbing) and inviting people (booksellers)?

Length Considerations

Most, if not all, traditional publishers have length requirements for submissions. They could be anywhere from 50K to 100K words, depending on their respective lines. eBook houses are more flexible: some will publish shorts as low as 5K to epics in the 100Ks. Perhaps you have a nice 15K word paranormal that a NY pub won't touch for an anthology unless you are in-house. You can hold it until you write that novel length and get it accepted for publication, or you can approach an ePublisher for standalone release consideration. Study the market for your style and length of work. Most ePublishers feature bestseller lists on their sites, and you can track bestsellers at Fictionwise and All Romance eBooks. If you feel the gamble of ePublishing will bring in readers, give it a shot.

The Genre That Dare Not Speaketh Its Name, Because It Doesn't Have One

You got my werewolves in your peanut butter. No, you got your peanut butter...well, you get the idea. In the eBook world, splicing sub-genres is fairly common, sometimes encouraged. A New York pub may be interested in urban fantasy right now, but not urban fantasy time travel with MMF menages. Yes you don't have the heart to cut Sven and Bjorn's big scene because it's just that integral to the plot. Here is another opportunity to consider E, or else wait for New York to relax its guidelines. Your choice.

Show Me The Money

Not being NY pubbed, I can't confirm how the pay schedule runs. You may receive an advance, it may be a lot of money, and you may see royalities on a quarterly, twice-yearly, or annual schedule. With eBooks, most I know pay quarterly or monthly...yes, when they do pay. With traditional pubs, you might see 15% or more of what your book brings in. eBook royalties may range from 30%-50%, plus additional print royalties if you book goes POD. If money is not too much of a concern for you, you have a number of options here. If writing is your sole income, the same rings true. I know writers who exist on freelance fees, royalties and other means of generating cash. Consider how often you would like to receive a check (or eat), and make your decision from there.

Am I discouraging authors from submitting to ePublishers? No, I only want to encourage authors to submit smartly. Know what you want, set those goals and keep reaching. Know what you are getting into when you sign a contract, know what to expect of your house, and should things still not go the way you planned, move to the back-up plan. Happy writing.

Monday, May 12, 2008

New Phaze of the Moon on Monday

Here's what's new from Phaze this week:

True Hollywood - James Buchanan

I've talked about this one before. Great fun to edit, and M/M fans will find it great fun to read as well. James is a great chameleon of a writer who can hop from historical fantasy (as with the Lutin series with Phaze) to interracial romance (the Cowboys) to a true slice of life vignette as this. If you prefer prints, this will be out eventually with a collection of M/M Phaze Urbans. Need to collect the right combination.

Head Over Heels - Jamie Hill

Jamie is another prolific talent, having written steamy M/M stories and menages for us. This is a contemporary het romance, complete with love at first sight, jealous would-be suitors, and family secrets. This is the longest work of Jamie's we have so far. If you have enjoyed our current contemporaries like Jayelle Drewry's, you'll like this one.

The Big 4-Oh - Beth Wylde

Beth is new to Phaze, but hardly a beginner. REC named her F/F Author of the Year, but for Phaze she delivers a raunchy, at times funny het with a bit of group "therapy" thrown in. This was originally a 39 and Holding sub, but Robin singled it out to me for standalone release. With this cover, it certainly shows!

If you enjoy Beth's work, you'll hopefully be seeing more of her at Phaze. More news on that later.

Against the Current - Christine London

Trying to remember if this was a Force submission, I believe it was. Most of our works have evolved from HeatSheet contributions. What I like about this story is the characterization, Christine seems to have a gift for creating people who are real, and putting them in real yet compelling situations. This is one of her shorter works with us, but it's no less enthralling.

Today's Chocolate

New moon post to come, but now here's today's sweet. I hit the mother lode (no pun intended) on Mother's Day and was gifted with an incredible chocolate selection - thank you, sweetie! Though I said I'd finish off what was already open, I couldn't wait and dove into my mini bar of Vosges Creole, 70% dark Sao Thome with chicory and cocoa nibs.

First off, you can smell the difference of this chocolate compared with other darks. This has such a rich aroma which I imagine is associated with single origin chocolate. It seems stronger than a Lindt I have of the same percentage, anyway. Texture-wise, it isn't very glossy, and the bottom is raised to show evidence of the coffee and cocoa bits inside. The flavor of chicory is strong throughout, grainy with each bite as the bitterness of the chocolate melts around it. Unfortunately, I don't any more Moonstruck Espresso Bar for comparison, but I would definitely say each holds it own in taste and texture. Great way to start the week.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Read and Give

Buy a Book - Help Someone in Need

Your purchase of Coming Together: Special Hurricane Relief Edition benefits the American Red Cross, which is now concentrating efforts to aid cyclone victims in Myanmar. Purchase this eBook today and receive 50% off toward your next purchase! Buy the paperback and receive 75% off your next purchase!

*Discount coupons will come in a separate e-mail following completed purchase. Visit our Coming Together page for more information on our charity anthologies published with Coming Together.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Reprint, Resurrection, or Reincarnation?

Since today's chocolate is a repeat of the yummy Green and Black's Maya Gold (see here for original post), I'll talk today about a subject with which I am familar on a number of levels: publishing reprints.

If you are an avid eBook reader and have followed the recent dramas of ePublishers closing or faltering to the point that some authors, you might be inclined to check up with favorite authors to see what will happen to their previously published works. I've seen the process from both sides: as an author, I have pulled works from ePublishers and placed them elsewhere. In all but one case, I revised and lengthened the stories in hopes of generating some more sales appeal. In the case of my story The Stars Look Down, I felt I couldn't do much more with the work and now offer it as a free read through Phaze Flares.

As a publisher, I have worked with authors wishing to place previously published works with Phaze. The situations vary: some are from defunct pubs, others come from expired contracts and the authors are seeking a better alternative. While it is flattering an author would think of us in the respect that their work could perform better under our logo, there is also the concern of becoming a clearinghouse for "used goods." This is not to say we will stop considering reprints. In fact, two reprinted titles (Emma Wildes' The Arrangement and Bridget Midway's Fascination Street) have done very well for us. Also, there have been situations where a reprinted title led us to bigger things. Alessia and Will's Artistically Inclined, formerly with Venus, spawned a sequel, which led to the print book we gave away at RT this year.

Reprint publishing isn't exclusive to eBook publishers, either. Case in point: Janet Evanovich, who cut her teeth writing category romances with Bantam's defunct imprint, Loveswept. Some time after those titles faded from view, Evanovich gave birth to a juicy, profitable Plum and interest was renewed in her earlier works. Those romances went through a makeover and are now available again. Also, consider Anne Rice, who published several works under two pen names before becoming a household name with her merry band of vampires and Mayfair witches. Works like Belinda and The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty found new life as credited by Anne Rice, writing as Anne Rampling (or A.N. Roquelare, in the case of the erotic works). If there is the possibility of finding a new audience for older works, reprinting a book can be beneficial to an author's pocketbook.

There are also instances where a book, once available exclusively as an eBook or POD, made the transition to a wider distribution through a traditional publisher. I believe Vivi Anna's Hell Kat, now with Kensington, started life as an eBook with a smaller house. Amanda Brown's Legally Blonde, which has been adapted for screen and stage, was actually a self-published novel with before the author sold the rights to Dutton.

In my writing career, I have moved four titles across the virtual street. The Healing (M/M, vampire) and Under Covers (shifter, romantic comedy) had once been with Venus Press, and I was fortunate to get the rights back before they imploded. Of the two, The Healing perfomed better with Phaze than it had with Venus, but I attribute that to the popularity of M/M works among Phaze readership. Under Covers is a more challenging sell: it is first person, and contains F/F scenes. The romance is not showcased as much as the humor is, and that may account for the slower sales. Also, I tend to notice that work not of M/M or Dareville origin tends not to leap too far from the starting gate. I have that to consider, too.

Standing Guard (formerly Venus) and The Stars Look Down (formerly Silks Vault) were shorts, under the Phaze word count, and I hadn't the energy to work more with them, so they became free reads.

Under my real name, I have five orphaned works. Two are cozy mysteries formerly with Wings ePress (Saints Preserve Us, Pray For Us Sinners), one is a co-authored thriller formerly with Echelon Press (Dangerous Words), one is a mystery that I briefly self-published (Murder Most Trivial), and one is an inspirational that bounced between two publishers (Little Flowers, with Highbridge Press and Wings ePress). The reasons for my pulling these works vary. Dangerous Words was a collaboration with an author inexperienced with eBooks and e-marketing. Also, it was not a romance and proved a harder sell compared to other Echelon titles. I understand now Echelon focuses more on mystery now, but in 2002 romances were big there in my view.

The Wings titles were pulled because I did not feel at the time I could effectively promote the works while acting as Phaze's publisher. Also, they were mysteries and sweet stories in an industry where erotic romance is the 500-pound gorilla. Little Flowers especially is a niche book with Catholic characters and backgrounds, and is a challenge to sell to inspirational readers who prefer non-demoninational stories.

Eventually, I would like to revive the cozy mystery series, and may consider injecting a bit more sensuality in the works...enough but not so much as to compromise the characterizations. Dangerous Words has the potential of being a great erotic thriller if I could have the opportunity to revise it, but the co-author refuses to cooperate. I've offered to buy his share of the rights, and he refuses to sell. One note of caution among you who partner with writers, have an agreement for these kind of situations.

Now, it appears I will have a few more free agents. I am working to release three stories from Midnight Showcase. My relationship with or perception of the publisher is not the issue, however. As I am finding the balance to publish/write as Kathryn and write as Leigh, I want the opportunity to do better by three stories I chose to pull. I would like to revise, expand, and maybe serialize them to attract a broader audience. I won't divulge sales, can't even recall them off the top of my head, but I believe I can do well by adding a fresh pint of blood. Two other stories I have with MS will remain there, as they are tied to a particular series, and removing them wouldn't be in their best interest right now.

So, what will happen. Could lightning strike again and even brighter with these works? It's possible, but before I open those files I will prioritize original writing. Dare to Dream is coming along nicely in its second draft, and I am 600 words into Why, Why, Zed? for the Phaze Urban series. Time for some new blood before I tend to others in triage.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Today's Chocolate

Today's chocolate is a miniature square of Ritter Sport Nugat, a milk (about 42%) with a creamy, somewhat chewy hazelnut center. It's not a "nougat" filling like you would expect in a Snickers bar - in fact, it also says praline on the package but it most definitely refers to the flavor and not the texture. There are crunchy bits in this piece, but a smooth, strong nutty taste that complements the chocolate. A bit too sweet, perhaps. I'm glad I have only a small square of this and not a whole bar to last a while. It's good, but one would really need to crave hazelnut to eat more than an ounce of this.

I forgot to mention this weekend, too, we tore through a 55% dark Chocolove bar at the wine festival. Good pairing with some of the merlots we tried. We brought along a 65% plain dark too, but that is untouched. Well, it warped a bit in my purse from the heat, but it's still good. A little morphing never hurts a candy bar. Hopefully some of the calories disappeared along the way.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

In Vino Veritas

Tonight's wine is a 2006 Petit Manseng from Veritas Winery in Central Virginia. This is a dessert white, very sweet and tropical and offering the tartness of citrus, sweetness of pineapple, and the slight tang of cinnamon in the finish. We bought this bottle a few months ago during one of two trips to the winery made over the last year. Veritas also was present at Montepelier, but as we try to visit when we're in town we didn't stop at their booth. Perhaps in a few weeks if we decide to go to the Wintergreen Festival.

Anyway, I'll have that laundry list of wines bought at Montpelier soon. We're building quite the cellar in our garage.


Here's what's cooking at the Phaze Phactory:

True Hollywood - James Buchanan

I tell you, I am really digging the Phaze Urban line. When we first proposed it I couldn't believe how excited our authors were to contribute. We still just have the one out now (Detroit), but expect a slew of other cities soon. James' True Hollywood is short, but it's so real. James is from the area and knows his stuff - this is a hot littler number about stuntmen who really do all their own stunts. Even with the length, the characterization is pat and the dialogue so natural. This is could almost be a short film in itself, and it's a nice glimpse into a part of the film industry we don't get to see often. There's a bit of social commentary in there, too, which will definitely resonate with some of us writers.

39 and Still Holding - Robin Slick, ed.

I still remember when Robin bemoaned the lack of solid erotic fiction featuring over-40 heroines. I don't think she expected me to offer her the opportunity to edit such a book. Here we are now with a second volume ready to go because so many authors had sent in work for consideration. This is an amazing collection, too. We have a few in-house Phaze folks in the mix (Kate Burns for one) and a few established writers from elsewhere: Donna Storey, Barbara Foster, N.L. Belardes, Greg Boose. Our cover girl even has something going in this one. Really looking forward to this release in June. The first volume received quite a bit of press in Cali, and with the Sex in the City movie due in a few weeks, it's time to proclaim 40 as the new sexy!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Today's Chocolate

Today's chocolate is a square of Frey Supreme Hot Chilli Pepper (that's how it's spelled on the package): 55% dark chocolate with chili pepper bits. For comparison, I'm trying this today with half a triangle of the remains of my Moonstruck Dark Chocolate Chile Variado bar. I don't have the cacao content of the latter, but will guesstimate that's it's around 55% as well.

As far as smell goes, the Frey seems to evoke a sharper aroma, almost cinnamon like on the nose, while the Moonstruck bar has a smokier scent. Tasting the Frey bar first, all I can say is holy freaking' cow! The bite is immediate and the chili sensation is powerful, it seems to separate from the tang of the cacao and linger in the back of the throat. The Moonstruck bar I had always found spicy, but by comparison it gives a milder impression. The smokiness of the chile flavor tends to blend better with the chocolate, though it packs a competitive punch against the Frey. It's not common for chocolate to bring me to tears, but the Frey is a good contender for that title.

Obviously this is not a chocolate for gobbling, but periodic savoring. I think in the future I'll pair this with some of the merlots and cab francs I got at the Montpelier Wine Festival this weekend. Did I mention that I bought 16 bottles of wine this weekend?

New Phaze of the Moon on Monday

Here's what is new from Phaze, erotic romance, this week:

Caught - Marie Rochelle

This is the first of a two-parter from one of Phaze's more popular authors. This title is a bit different from Marie's other Phaze offerings. Where her current and future works with us tend to focus on relationships and conflicts involving acceptance of interracial romance, Caught is more suspenseful. This is also an interracial, centered on a woman trying to prove her innocence in a string of jewel thefts. Her persuer actually becomes the persued (by her) in this installment. This is the first of our Outlaw line, and the only interracial in the line so far.

Gold Fever - Missy Lyons

Missy is starting to show a nice prolific nature to her writing. With Phaze she has an urban fantasy, a contemporary BDSM, a menage, some poetry, and a wild over-40 erotic piece in our 39 and Holding anthology. Here is an historical western - The Odd Couple with a gold mine. I believe Missy had sent this as a possible Frontier piece, but we contracted for an extended work, which offers a nice sense of place and tension between her hero and heroine. It gets a bit wild toward the end, but what do you expect from the untamed West? ;)

From the Shadows - Jae Knight

Here is an ambitious debut work, an epic vampire romance that takes the reader from turn of the 19th century decadence to present day passions. I must admit, as much as I treasure all of our authors, I have a soft spot for our first-timers, and I was pleased to have received this submission from Jae. Vampires and urban fantasy are a strong genre for us, and I look forward to introducing readers to this fascinating piece.

The Invaders - Gregory L. Norris

IIRC, The Invaders came to us originally as a submission for either a themed sheet or an anthology. However it landed in my reading queue, we decided to let it shine on its own. This is our first M/M science fiction work that isn't a vampire story (not counting Tombstone Ranch by Shayne Carmichael, which is also part-historical). It's also contemporary, lending the story a unique feel in contrast to our other M/M works. Gregory is already a fairly known name in science fiction, having written for the Sci-Fi Channel, among others, and with this remarkable piece it would be wonderful to see him cross genres into greater success.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Today's Chocolate

Today's chocolate is a miniature square of Ritter Sport Marzipan - sweet white marizpan filling enrobed with semi-sweet dark chocolate (% not listed on wrapper). I picked this up at Taste Unlimited with the other Ritter squares because I used to love marzipan. In college I used to frequent this German deli where they sold Mozartkugeln, amazingly rich bon-bons of chocolate, marzipan and nougat. They were hard to find where I lived, and this deli doubled as a gourmet import market, so I bought them when I could. Expensive little buggers.

Anyway, the Ritter marzipan bar does bring back some memories of it. It is incredibly sweet - the marzipan just conquers the flavor of the chocolate. I don't know how bitter the cacao is in this piece, probably no more than 70%, but I would definitely want to try something stronger with marzipan to see if it makes a difference. Overall, I like the flavor. Marzipan is like a dry nougat - imagine hardened, grainy sugar frosting with just a hint of almond flavoring. Not something I'd have on a daily basis, and no more than this tiny square, but a nice treat to begin the weekend.

No Mozart candy for me this weekend, but I'm going to try to hit up Gearhart's Chocolates after hubby's bike race. Their Maya bar sounds awesome.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Sneak Preview - Dare to Dream

Since Today's Chocolate is a rerun (more of Mo's Bacon Bar, it's starting to grow on me), I thought I would offer a preview of the forthcoming Dare to Dream. In the spirit of maintaining that erotic romance can offer the reader a satisfying story in addition to sweltering love scenes, I'm submitting the unedited Chapter Two here.

A bit of backstory, even though this excerpt is fairly easy to follow. Dare to Dream is the fourth novel-length work in a series I do for Phaze. This book begins in the time concurrent to the events closing its predecessor, Daring Young Man. A planned fifth book, Daring Red, will be set along the same time to offer alternate scenes that happened offstage during books three and four. All the Dareville books are available through this link, as well as Fictionwise, All Romance eBooks, Kindle, and will be made available in Coffee Time Romance's store soon.


From Dare to Dream by Leigh Ellwood

Chapter Two

Redding Marbury breezed through the small kitchen and squealed to a halt before the refrigerator. His gaze hadn't so much as darted in his older brother's direction, yet clearly the journalist's keen eye proved omnipresent.

"Jay, for Christ's sake," Red moaned. "It's not his funeral."

"It might as well be," Jake Marbury, Jr. groaned. He slumped at the small breakfast table, squirming in the discomfort of his best Sunday suit. Used to be he could find solace in a stolen moment in this kitchen. He and Redding had grown up in this house, shared countless meals and animated conversations with their parents and friends right here. Even after Cynthia Marbury's death, J.J.—as he'd always been known—could sit and savor the ghostly aroma of sugar cookies long ago eaten, comfort foods that nursed him through many difficult times.

This morning, however, there was no aromatherapy or welcoming sight to heal or even soothe his misgivings. Not the homely floral wallpaper, nor the ever percolating carafe of Jake, Sr.'s favorite dark roast provided enough balm to counter the bile rising in Junior's stomach. After today, all of this would belong to Lauren McKenna. Lauren McKenna-Marbury—because she seemed the hyphenating type…Mrs. Jake Marbury. A woman half Dad's age.

The gold-digging cow.

After an intense inspection of the refrigerator's contents, Red selected a bottled root beer and took the chair to J.J.'s left. The abrupt hiss of the cap's release took J.J. by surprise, and he awoke from his reverie to find his younger brother scowling at him.

"What?" J.J. protested. "You don't like the idea of Dad marrying Lauren any more than I do. Why get on my case?"

Red took a quick but audible pull from the bottle before answering. "I know. I'll admit I'm not too thrilled about Dad marrying somebody my age, but I never expected him to curl up and die alone, either," he said. "I know I didn't want that to happen, anyway. So, what choice do I have but to be happy that he's finally happy again?" Don't you want that for him, too?"

"Yes, I do. We've been over this. I told myself a long time ago that if Dad wanted to get into another relationship, I wasn't going to stop him. But," he sighed, "I always figured he'd go for somebody closer to his age. Somebody with whom he'd have things in common." Indeed, when he'd learned once that Jake had a date with Marlene Robeson, who used to do the books at Jake's store, J.J. had been thrilled. The older divorcee seemed just the ticket to bring Jake out of his mourning. Apparently they didn't mesh as well as J.J. had hoped.

"What commonalities? Medicare?" Red snorted. "He has plenty in common with Lauren."

"The store. Big whoop. Her and half the town." That their father had made Lauren manager of his organic grocery shop still nettled under J.J.'s skin. The woman had been a teach with no real business experience. She only ended up working for Jake, initially as an office manager, after a scandal involving racy pictures forced her resignation from Dareville Academy. Falling in love might have been a happy accident according to Jake, Sr., but J.J. wasn't fooled. He knew Lauren had orchestrated the whole plan—she weaseled into Jake's life, his bed, and now his home and livelihood. J.J.'s home. It wouldn't be his anymore—even though he hadn't physically lived here in years, the place held his heart. Damned if Lauren didn't have plans to renovate everything and remove any evidence of Cynthia's existence.

"Why are you looking at the wallpaper like that?" Red asked.

"Like what?"

"Like you're afraid it's going to melt, or bleed. Will you just relax, Jay?"

"What if she changes it?" J.J. asked. "What if she redoes the whole damn house until we don't recognize it anymore?"

Another long drink. The bottle hit the table as Red let out a mild belch. "Dude, it's just wallpaper. Let it go."

"It's home. It's Mom." It's over. Whoever said change was good was full of shit, J.J. decided. Sure, his father might think life was better for having Lauren, but where did that leave him? Red wasn't wholly concerned, but Red had a home and family of his own, while J.J. had a condo in Virginia Beach and an equally nice place in Dareville. Neither, however, was really a home. Not like this place.
Home was where he found love. Lauren threatened that security. Her brand of love involved things that vibrated and moaned, and would certainly prove risky for his aging father, J.J. knew.

"You know about Lauren, don't you?" J.J. felt the strain crease his forehead as his right eyebrow raised. "All the kinky shit she's into."

Red twisted his lips in an expression that rendered J.J's argument irrelevant to him. However, his brother wasn't about to be silenced. "Remember those pictures that got her booted out of DA?" J.J. prodded.

"No, because I never saw them, and it's none of my business," Red said. "Nor is it yours."

"And she hangs out with Brady Garriston and his weirdo friend. Come on, you've heard the rumors about them, right?" Sex freaks, and God knew what else. Not that J.J. was a monk, he loved a nice, sweet piece of ass as much as the next red-blooded guy, but the stories of the rock star's regular "house parties" were too bizarre for him to comprehend. To picture his sixty-year-old father humping around in a pile of naked flesh in Brady Garriston's living room was just too much.

"She's going to give Dad a heart attack," J.J. warned. "We're going to get a call and come here one night to find him dead with a ball gag in his mouth and a dildo up his ass."

That did it. Root beer sprayed the expanse of the Formica tabletop and lightly misted J.J.'s suit. He scooted back.

"Watch it!"

Red's howling laughter lasted for several seconds. His own suit, unfortunately, was not spared the brunt of the spilled soda, and he frantically dabbed at his opened collar with a napkin. "Dude, don't ever do that," he gasped.

J.J. fumed. "Let's see you laugh when it really happens."

"Jay, come on." Now tided, Red twined his fingers on the table. "Lauren hangs with those guys because they're married to her friends, who are also our friends. Second, it doesn't mean Dad and Lauren are rolling with that kind of crowd. I know for a fact the spend a lot of time at home."

No doubt looking for a place to hang the Pleasure Swing 3000. J.J. didn't share his thoughts on that.

"Third," Red continued, "I think it's great Dad has a sex life still, after all these years. Give the rest of us hope when we're that age. And fourth," Red's smile slipped into a devilish grin, "I think you're jealous because you never get invited to those sex parties."

J.J. straightened and attempted a blasé attitude. "Who says I haven't? Have you and Charlene?"

The expected smart-aleck retort never came. Red rose and pitched his empty bottle in the trash can by the refrigerator. "Come on," he cajoled. "Let's go see what's keeping Dad. We need to get moving."

J.J. glumly followed his brother. With any luck, his had decided to play runaway groom.


There you have it. Will be posting more excerpts in anticipation of a Fall/Winter release!

Call Me Madam

After years of procrastinating, I bit the bullet and joined Romance Writers of America. Being a publisher and an author, I felt my career was at the point where I needed to do some networking in order to take the next steps. What those next steps are, I don't know. I joined as an author for a few reasons: 1) voting privileges, and 2) I may not always be a publisher, but I do know I will always be a writer, and would prefer to identify myself as such. I don't plan to always write romance, but I imagine everything I write going forward will have some romantic elements, and the reader base for romance is enormous. So I should always take advantage of it.

So I plunk down my money, get my number and handy Web site login, check out the latest Romance Writers Report, and discover I'm a whore. Well, that wording is a bit strong, but apparently there are kerfluffles in this great big organization that make it to the Letters to the Editor section of the RWR. There are members who don't care much for erotic romance. That's fine, you don't have to like everything. You certainly don't have to read it. This is the RWA, emphasis on A as in America. We have the freedom to choose the books we want to buy. Others places don't have it so good.

That a reader or writer doesn't like erotic romance does not bother me. It is the implication that all erotic romance is plotless, veiled porn in a prettier package, and the inference that all erotic romance authors are classless tramps that irks me. Going by this logic, I'm not only a tramp, but I'm also a pimp, since I publish it. Look, I even have a nice hat.

Having read lots of erotic romance stories, published and potential, I have to disagree with the assessment that all of it was written with one hand. Some readers might challenge my perception of a good story, but when I do read for publication I try to picture the story without the sex to see if it holds up on it own. Yes, the story must have the sexual elements there to be marketable - Phaze is an erotic romance house. This is what the readers want to buy from us. We offer short stories with memorable characters and hot sex, and longer works with memorable characters, hot sex, and good stories. I can cite a number of examples right off the top of my head - books that stand very well on their own if you eliminated or toned down the sex. Robin Slick's books, Jayelle Drewry's two titles with Phaze, everything L.E. Bryce has with us, Sammie Jo Moresca's Smolder and Sarah Winn's For Old Times Sake, both of which were All Romance eBooks Books of the Month. All solid stories. We have many more, too, and as long as readers come to us for more we will give them more.

Now, I do realize reading trends are cyclical. Erotic romance is big right now - companies like Harlequin and Kensington would not have launched erotic imprints if they didn't think they could benefit. Should erotic romance eventually decline, we won't go away. We will merely adapt to what the readers want, and so will the big houses. I, in particular, do not care for many inspirationals. This is not because of the lack of sex, but because many of these books are marketed toward Evangelical or non-denominational audiences. Often I find I don't identify with the stories, so I don't read them as much. I don't go around calling the authors prudes. Once while reading one of Jan Karon's Mitford novels I became miffed when a character inferred that Catholics knew nothing about the Bible. Apparently Jan Karon never met me, or my father, or Scott Hahn. But you know what? It's just a book, I let it go.

In the introduction of one of her novels (either Southern Discomfort or Sudden Death) Rita Mae Brown wrote, "If don't like my book, write your own." I love me some Rita Mae, but to be honest I didn't like Alma Mater. So I took her advice. I wrote Little Flowers, which was also set in Williamsburg, then the two Ash Lake mysteries, then Pithed, then all of the Leigh Ellwood books. I didn't call Rita names, I didn't dismiss her works as crap, I just moved on to read and write books that I enjoy. To be certain, I continue to read her Mrs. Murphy books because I enjoy them.

As readers, you have the choice to read what you wish and not return to what you find disagreeable. If you don't like erotic romance, don't read it. It's that simple, you'll save yourself many headaches. I can't speak for all authors, but I can assure you my feelings will not be hurt. If you would rather read Pithed over Dare Me, that's fine. If you want it the other way around, fine. If you aren't interested in either, fine. If you choose to blog about me or another author in particular, calling me a whore or a hack...yes, I'll be hurt. But why would you expend the energy in doing something like that? How do any of us benefit from negativity?

Life is too damn short to gripe about books. Last night I talked to my father on the phone. He'd come home from the hospital after a life-saving organ transplant. You should have heard the emotion in his voice when it hit him how damn lucky he is to be alive. You think a man in that situation is going to use what precious time he has complaining about the content of books he doesn't like to read?

Well, it appears I may have wandered off topic a bit, but the point (and it's coming) I wish to make is - read what you want. Write what you want. Be happy. If what you write never makes it to print, be happy you wrote it. Be happy that you have the ability to read and enjoy what you like.

I'm off to get a purse to match the hat. Let's see if I can prove later on that not all erotic romances are alike.