Why Little Red Hen, or How I Found Unexpected Success as a Self-Published Author

hen-logo-goodIt always seems that I’m posting in my blog when the world just becomes too much.  Today isn’t really an exception but I think that I will rekindle some hope by the end of it, so here goes.

I’ve been a published author since October of 2010.  Yep, I’m coming up on my five year anniversary as a “real” writer.  If you’ll notice, I’m writing this post from the computer at my day job.  I’d like to say that I was reciting it to my assistant while I sat by a pool in some tropical locale, but alas I’m still a peon.  I have lots of irons in the fire and I’m still pretty excited about my career as a whole, but some days I just wonder why I bother.  Case in point….

I spend an awful lot of time on social media.  Most of us do, but to an author, social media becomes extremely important.  You find yourself perusing Facebook because you HAVE to, not because you want to.  I actually had to force myself on to Twitter the other morning.  Social media is a great way to get your name out there as an author.  Unfortunately it’s also a cesspool of depraved and broken idiots an awful lot of the time.  It’s really easy to fall into a black hole of thinking that you’re alone in a room full of goldfish.  People have fabricated intellect on nearly every topic.  Their misguided and uneducated opinions that ten years ago they would have kept to themselves are now all out in the open for everyone to see.  And everything feels justified because even if you say that putting babies on spikes is a great idea, there will be a thousand people to rush to your cause in the all-powerful “comment” space.  There are days when I feel as if Facebook, Twitter, Google+, tumblr, etc. are the death knell of life and civilization as we know it.  Days like today when I was perusing my feed and noticed that someone was in a group trying to sell me a book that had a cover with a picture of a woman with her nether regions almost completely exposed and a title that I won’t repeat but had the phrase “bitch ass” prominently featured.  And if memory serves, a woman wrote this book.  And was selling it as a romance.  Another had a teaser with “enticing” lines from the book that were full of grammatical and spelling errors, degrading phrases and just terrible writing.  And this was what the author wanted to FEATURE on her advertising.  On days like today, I start to wonder why I’m even bothering.  If my stuff is going to be drowned in a sea of crap, what is the point??!!

This conversation is not new.  My sister, author Lucy Blue, and myself have had this discussion ad nauseum.  In fact, our brother-in-law told us one day if we didn’t stop that we couldn’t sit at the table with him anymore.  And I’ve also talked about this quite a bit on the blog (see archive).  But today, I’m going to pick myself up by my bootstraps and tell you what Lucy and I have decided to do about this.

Now, I’m giving ALL the credit to Lucy here.  This whole thing was her idea, I just jumped on her bandwagon.  In case you didn’t know, Lucy’s been around for quite some time.  Back in the mists of time she wrote a tie-in novel for Forever Knight, a series of medieval fantasy romances for Simon & Schuster, and another series of vampire romances for Pocket Books.  In other words, she ain’t a newbie.  But several years ago people in positions of power decided that romance was either pornography or nonexistent and she took her ball and went home only to re-emerge as an indie author two years ago.  And what an eye-opener that was.  Suddenly she was dealing with social media and a really strange market.  A market where people weren’t buying good stuff.  They were buying crap because it was either really cheap or so outrageous that it was funny.  A market where people just aren’t willing to spend 8 bucks on a book anymore.  So she did some research in that most unlikely of places:  the beauty salon.

If you’ve never been to a beauty salon in the South, I highly recommend it.  In the small town where we live, we don’t need a newspaper, we’ve got Cuttin’ Loose.  Anyway, while sitting in the beauty salon she could hear some women talking about what kinds of things they were reading on the new Kindles they got for Christmas.  The things that all of them kept saying they wanted:  good stories, without “nasty” language, explicit but not “gross, romantic, things they could read fast, authors that produced a lot of material to feed their appetite, easily accessible, and cheap.  And thus, Little Red Hen Romance was born.

The Coop opened it’s doors in May of this year and since then I’ve seen more success there than I have in the five years I’ve been writing professionally.  So what’s the deal?  What is it?  Little Red Hen stories are short (except for some coming releases that I’ll tell you about later).  They only take about an hour (the space of your lunch break) to read.  They’re extremely romantic stories.  Nobody will be degraded, “hit and quit,” spat on, cursed at, etc. in an LRH story.  The hero and heroine may not be in love when the story begins, but they are by the end.  The writing is strong.  Really strong.  NYT Bestseller strong.  You don’t have to worry about plot abysses, unbelievable turns of events, bad vocabulary, poor word choice, horrendous dialogue.  It doesn’t exist.  We only accept the most talented writers we can find.  Our stories are love stories that are funny, sexy, and have excellent dialogue.  LRH releases 3-4 NEW stories each month, so your appetite is constantly fed.  Even better than that– the first weekend they’re released they’re FREE. And if you’re a member of Amazon Prime, you can read on Kindle Unlimited for FREE anytime.  And once they go off promotion, the shorts are never more than 99 cents.  Never.  In the coming months we’re looking to expand into novels and anthologies but those will still be sold at a rock bottom price.  Most subgenres are represented, but historicals seem to be our bread and butter lately.

So give us a try.  You can peruse our selection at the website by clicking on the picture above.  I promise you won’t be disappointed.  You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter.  We’re constantly having release parties, livetweets and just having a great time.

Just in case you still have any doubt… here’s a sample:

He winked and bid her to sit.  “Please.  Sit with me here.”  She was very careful as she lowered herself on the end of the queenLRHbench, arms crossed over her chest.  He was close, making her anxious.  As he sat she realized that she was actually leaning away from him.  She didn’t want him to see how her hands trembled even weighed down by the magnificent ring of diamond and sapphire.  “You can sit by me, Joanna.  I don’t bite.”

“Of course,” she said, inching closer.  “You’ll have to forgive my nature.  I’m not used to much company.”

“Well, in a convent…”

“…not that they were a silent order.”

“…but what could nuns possibly have to talk about?”

“Indeed.” 

“Our Lord Jesus, hellfire and the virgin Mary are pretty much their repertoire of conversation topics.” 

Joanna giggled, covering her mouth with her hands.  She’d been taught that a lady should never laugh out loud, but she was just so relieved to find that Will was not the wretched king from a child’s story.  “You mustn’t be blasphemous.”

“Oh I should warn you now, then.  I am the most wicked of blasphemers.” He placed his hand atop hers and squeezed affectionately.  “But I hope you’ll forgive me, my queen.”

Joanna looked down at his hand, so large and calloused against her own small and delicate fingers.  She laced hers between and admired the contrast.  “Your Grace is always forgiven.”  She moved closer to him, and he welcomed her into his side, sliding an arm around her shoulders.

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Forgive Me Somehow, Danielle Steele

CLICK ME to buy!

CLICK ME to buy!

In case there’s someone out there who didn’t know, my big sis, Lucy Blue, is a much better writer than me.  So much better that I’ve let her take over my blog today to talk about her new release, Alpha Romeo.  It’s a scintillating tell-all book written in the style of a Hollywood memoir.  Think about it this way– it’s the book about Angelina Jolie that you’ve always wanted to read.  Lucy herself describes the book as being  throwback to the old Danielle Steele/ Sidney Sheldon days.  Anyway, today she’s taking over to talk about how she came to write Alpha Romeo and why it’s such an important book for her. 

***********

When I was a teen-ager, my mother’s favorite writer was Danielle Steele.  It was one of the many things we fought about.  “Those books are just garbage,” I would tell her.  “They all have the same stupid, melodramatic plot.  The characters are paper dolls.  They read like the back of a cake mix.  You read Thomas Hardy for fun, for heaven’s sake.  How can you read that crap?”

                As I recall, her defense usually ran along the lines of different strokes for different folks.  But if I’d been particularly obnoxious, she might point out that she couldn’t understand how her beautiful daughter could enjoy “sickness” like Stephen King and Anne Rice, either, but she still loved me.

                As I got older and started writing fiction of my own, she read every word I wrote.  She was what that sicko Stephen King would call my “first reader,” and she praised it all, even the stuff outside her comfort zone, even the stuff I never finished.  She encouraged me every step of the way, and when I sold my first book, a horror opus about vampires, consumptive whores, and Shakespeare, no one could have been more proud.

                Mama’s health was never great, but about ten years ago, she took a definite turn for the worse.  I was in the midst of writing about medieval vampires for Pocket Books.  I actually made my first draft deadline for The Devil’s Knight during a two-week leave of absence I had taken from my day job to take care of her after her second open heart surgery.  I don’t remember ever having the conscious thought to write a “Mama book.”  I was very happy with my vamps.  But right around that same time, reading a tabloid account of a celebrity divorce, I got the idea for Scarlett Cross, a movie star who’s been haunted her whole life by the violent death of her mother.  I started writing about her in first person, a technique I hadn’t used for anything but short stories since college, because that was just how she came out of my head.

                There are no supernatural monsters in Scarlett’s world.  Maybe at that point in my life, the real world seemed a lot scarier than any horror I could think up.  Maybe I lost the knack for believing in fairies and witches and vamps for a while.  I know I made Scarlett a movie star to keep the fantasy, to keep that distance–the same reason, I suspect, that all of Danielle Steele’s heroines in those days were fashion models and lady business magnates and the daughters of Russian nobility.  Those women go through hell, but they look fabulous doing it, and they never have to worry about stuff like money or bad plumbing (at least not after the first fifty pages).  I know for me at that time, the story of an ordinary woman watching her mother waste away was beyond my talent and strength.  But I could write the outlandish trials and tribulations of Scarlett Cross at lightning speed, wallowing in her pain.  I wrote her made-up memoir right alongside my paranormals, hundreds and hundreds of pages of her voice telling the lurid story of her life while my own life as I had always known it fell apart.

                And out of that came my latest book, Alpha Romeo, the story of Scarlett’s first love.  Mama passed away in 2008, years before my notebooks full of Scarlett gelled into anything like an actual book, but sections of that manuscript were the last of my writing she ever read.  “I love this one,” she told me.  “This one is you.  This is the one.”  And while I know my vamps are as much me as Scarlett, and I still think Danielle Steele’s writing kind of sucks, I love this story in a way I’ve never loved anything else I’ve written.  Because I know she would love it, not because her daughter wrote it, but because it’s her kind of book. 

****************

Our poor mother always wondered how she ended up with two daughters who liked to hide in a fantasy world.  I think it’s safe to say that we are exactly what she made us. Here’s more about the book:

If the tabloids only knew.

Scarlett Cross is the classic Hollywood princess. Daddy is a movie star; Mama was a supermodel murdered when Scarlett was only four years old. Now she’s eighteen pretending to be younger for the sake of her father’s image and starting her own career as the muse of a famous European auteur. But bad boy actor Romeo Kidd is everything she’s ever wanted. He makes her feel safe and loved and wanted for the first time in her life, and she’ll do anything to keep from letting him go.

If Alpha sounds like your kind of book too, you can click the image above and zoom right over to buy it!  It’s also available from Purple Sword Publications and All Romance if you prefer a different format.  They also have nifty-neato excerpts so you can test drive first!! 

American Girls are Weird, or The Desolation of Lexxx’s Ovaries

imagesCA1Y3W1LSo y’all know I’m a fangirl right?  If you don’t then obviously this is the first time you’ve ever visited my blog.  I mean, yes, I’m a writer of steamy romance, but every girl has to have a muse right?  Besides, reading the same three posts over and over about how GREAT my books are and where I get my ideas is just boring as hell.  So I often digress into prattling on and on about various and sundry pop culture obsessions.  Okay, so maybe just #Benedict Cumberbatch (like that hashtag?  hehe.. I made it myself).  So let me start off by telling why I like him.  I mean, there are many folks out there who don’t get it.  He describes himself as looking like a posh alien and in a way he does I suppose.  My sister, Lucy Blue, once said that he looked like he was some kind of alien shapeshifter who only had some vague idea of what a human was supposed to look like.  Ben (why yes, I like to be on a first name basis with my muses), has also said that his long face and neck generally implies some kind of inbreeding.  If that’s so, then truly incest is the best.  Honestly, I think he’s ethereally physically attractive.  I like striking features, what can I say?  But all that aside– that is only 5% of why I like him.  Ok, maybe 10%.  The rest of it has absolutely nothing to do with what he looks like.

1:  I’m a sapiosexual and that boy has an impressive brain.  He has a command of language and it’s obvious that he does not get his world view from the crawl on Yahoo.  Watching him being interviewed, while he usually seems at ease and is always personable, you can see him thinking.  When he talks about reading books, you know he’s telling the truth and not just being photographed holding them because he can talk intelligently about them. Upon being asked which ones are his favorites, they are not trendy books that EVERYONE has read, but books for which a movie hasn’t been made.

2.  Talent.  If you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t seen any of the movies/ television in which Cumberbatch has appeared this year, then you have to check one out to see what I mean.  I mean, we all have actors we think are good:  Russell Crowe, Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep, Daniel Day-Lewis.  And those folks are great, but holy shit— I’ve never seen anything like BC (yeah, he’s got his own abbreviation too. shush… get yer own!).  I’m a theater nerd from way back and was, in fact, on a slow moving train wreck to being an actress myself (story for another time).  So I feel pretty snobby when evaluating actors.  If they aren’t good, I can’t be bothered.  Even if they look like they were carved out of cream cheese, I just can’t like them.  I’m not naming any names (ahem… James Franco…) but if you can’t act, don’t be an actor.  Your angelic face and heavenly body will be lost on me.  This is why I can’t get excited about Magic Mike 2 (I didn’t even see the first one) or The Fast and the Furious franchise.  Honestly kids, go and find the BBC movie about Stephen Hawking.  Cumberbatch plays the title role and his portrayal of fear, sadness, determination, genius, elation and hope– even without dialogue– is just breathtaking.  And don’t get me started on the physicality that role demands.

hawking

CLICK HERE to watch part of “Hawking.”

 

3.  And he’s a nice fucking guy.  When did this become such a rare commodity?  He’s always polite (even in situations when, by all rights, he probably shouldn’t have been), personable, quick to compliment, funny, tolerant, and just a genuinely nice person.  He doesn’t take himself too seriously and knows that fame is fleeting.  He strikes me as a guy that, although he’s quickly becoming a superstar, would still shop at your grocery store and help you get something off the top shelf if you asked (this is important to me– I’m only 5’2″ and have T-Rex arms).  And as of yet, we haven’t seen any stories about him beating the shit out of some schmuck who put their cell phone in his face to snap a picture while he was standing at a urinal taking a piss.  And yes, he’s reached that point in his celestial path where people have made him an unfeeling object.  People who would have no trouble whatsoever in walking up to him and snapping his picture at point blank range without so much as a “hello.”  And the fact that he hasn’t clobbered someone yet speaks volumes.

Okay, now that I’ve finished gushing, let’s get to what brought this to mind today.  I was reading a site called Celebitchy today, having followed links, and got to a page that was talking about Ben’s recent stint in Malaysia (he hosted the Laureus Awards and did some presenting for the BBC at the Formula One Championship last weekend).  The article was snarky, but complimentary for the most part until it got to the end where the writer was talking about how he seemed to be trying to “butch up” his image and I thought— wait, what?  “Butch” up his image.  As if he’s been effeminate up to now?  And then I thought– ohhhh…. American girls are weird.

We seem to be having some kind of cultural crisis in America right now, ladies and it’s time we talked it over. It seems to me that over the past several years, we’ve taken a real swan dive in the qualities we value.  It seems that we can’t be bothered with men who aren’t impossibly beautiful (as in photoshop beautiful), cut like Greek statues or adults.  That’s right, I said it.  In our Red Bull guzzling, not going to work so we can play video games, teetotalling, Frat Boy arrested development male culture in America, we seem to have forgotten what real men are.  So now we’ve decided that any man who dresses like an adult (meaning he wears a freshly laundered button down shirt or dress pants or God forbid– a suit), shaves regularly, combs his hair and has a real job is gay or effeminate or a snob that thinks they’re better than everyone.  And I’m so sick of it!  I love men.  MEN.  Not boys.  And Benedict Cumberbatch is very obviously a man.  Just because he prefers a gin and tonic to Budweiser should not imply that he needs to “butch up.”

Isn't he cute!

Isn’t he cute!

As an aside, my husband combs his hair every day, wears clean clothes and has a real job.  He also has a Master’s degree in history, a funny accent and an IQ well over 140.  He doesn’t like racing or video games though– maybe he needs to butch up his image.  #NothingToDoWithWriting

Ho Ho Ho-liday Giveaway!

IHolidayGiveawayt’s that time of year where good things abound and Holiday giveaways are around. Welcome everyone to our little give away for the Holiday Season. Gifts included in this giveaway are from five wonderful authors, Lucy Blue, Alexandra Christian, Crymsyn Hart, Selah Janel, & Siobhan Kinkade.

We have banded together to bring you a wonderful holiday celebration to bring you cheer and a little bit of hotness to warm you on the cold days.

Prizes include:

Grand Prize:

Holiday Gift Box:

USB Flash Drive containing copies of the following books:

“Under the Mistletoe” by Siobhan Kinkade

“Marked” by Siobhan Kinkade

“Jingle Balls” by Crymsyn Hart

“Hairy and Hung” by Crymsyn Hart

“Masquerade” by Alexandra Christian

“Second Skin” by Alexandra Christian

“Tender Bites” by Lucy Blue

“In the Red: by Selah Janel

And other surprises!

 

Second Prize:

$10 Digital Amazon Gift Certificate

 

Third Prize:

$5 Digital Amazon Gift Certificate

 To view the rules and enter the contest, you can find the link to our RAFFLECOPTER widget on my sidebar, or click our delectable Santa Claus button to be whisked away to Crymsyn Hart’s blog for entry.  Contest runs from Dec. 2nd – Dec.21st.

 

VNV Nation– Muse of the Day

Ok, I think we already discussed how much music plays into my life as an author.  I simply cannot write without it.  I’ve tried to write in silence, and it just doesn’t work for me.  My wonderful sister, the dynamic writer Lucy Blue, was talking about how I like a lot of Industrial music that sounds to her like “tractors being ground up by the Death Star.”  So I introduced her to VNV Nation, one of my favorite Industrial groups.  They have the pounding electronic sound, but their songs have melody and purpose that I find to be both brilliant and beautiful.  With that in mind, I decided to post a short playlist of some of their music so that those of you who haven’t heard them can get a little sample:

Illusion:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MVHT-EJyqGI

Beloved:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kfc3zcnrWMQ

Holding On:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nCUHClheiZk&feature=related

Carbon:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o2q6gQkYkaQ&feature=related

Electronaut:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pjJk3bbE87c&feature=related

Darkangel:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u3-IPG-XnaU&feature=related

Firstlight:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ltpC0VfgEE8

Forsaken:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NYjFD1QSttQ

From My Hands:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GyqS133L17A