Sunday, November 15, 2015

Just Released! Book Five in the 'Forever' Series

Forever Christmas is now live

at Amazon, iTunes, B & N, Kobo and Scribd.

The moment the words are out of her mouth, Tori Stanley wishes she hadn’t refused to decorate Devon Ballard’s home for Christmas. What is it about the handsome lawyer that frightens her? Is it his penetrating gaze, his impossibly good looks, or the fact that he awakens a need in her that she’s suppressed for far too long?
Devon Ballard only wants someone to decorate his home for Christmas. He’s not interested in the small, feisty woman with the delightful sprinkling of freckles across her nose… is he? Unaccustomed to being turned down he tells himself it’s just as well. So why can’t he get her out of his mind? It must be Christmas…

Each book in the ‘Forever’ series focuses on a woman at a crossroads in her life. These romances contain no graphic sex, but instead focus on the woman’s story, and how her journey leads to love. Novella-length at between 28,00-40,000 words, they are complete stories, and may be read in any order. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Do Authors Fall In Love With Their Characters?

I suspect that most of us do. After all, we’re writing about these people for months… sometimes years… so we’d better at least like them.

And that’s a good thing, because with that love comes the ability to convey sincere emotion to our readers.

For a romance writer like myself, I suspect we all carry a little torch for the alpha male in every story we write – the one the heroine falls in love with. For example, in my recent free release titled Forever Changed, I knew from the beginning that I was going to fall in love with Blaine, the tattoo artist. I fell in love equally with the other leading men in this series, but I don’t want this to sound like a roll call.

This is about a young boy, and I have a confession – I’m head over heels for him. When I’m exhausted after a long day of work, I sometimes call up the book on my computer and read one of the most delightful and heartbreaking passages I’ve ever written… at least I think so. It’s from Now and Forever. Our heroine has been swindled out of everything she owns and is temporarily living out of her car. Then Danny comes along…

Here’s an excerpt:

Exhausted, she fumbled for a tissue, dabbed at her eyes and blew out a breath of air. Feeling lighter, she reached for her coffee. It was lukewarm by this point, but she sipped it thoughtfully, wondering how soon she could repay Jodi for her kindness.
When the reality of her situation had sunk in four days ago, the first thing she’d done was count her cash. She hadn’t gone to the bank while visiting her friend in Nanaimo, as they had stayed home with Andrea’s new baby, so she still had the cash that had been in her purse when she left. Fifty eight dollars, and it hadn’t lasted long. Jodi’s generous gesture would allow her to eat for a few more days, and perhaps put something in the gas tank.
She picked up the hamburger, but she was still too upset to eat. Disappointed at herself for wasting even a few dollars, she set it down with a sigh and picked up the coffee.
“Are you going to eat that hamburger?”
The small voice startled her. Some coffee spilled down her hand but she ignored it, turning instead to look into the back seat. A pair of bright, dark eyes smiled at her.
“What the… who are you?”
“I’m Danny.”
Jenna assessed him quickly. She’d seen a lot of kids since she started taking portraits, and this one was seriously cute. Almond-shaped eyes regarded her curiously.
“Well are you?” he said, glancing at the hamburger. “’Cause if you’re not, I’m hungry.”
She wasn’t sure what to make of the request. The child was clean and well-dressed, obviously from a good family. What in the world was he doing in the back seat of her car?
“You’re not supposed to take food from strangers,” she said, handing him the hamburger. “You know that, don’t you?”
“I know.” Danny took a bite and hummed appreciatively. “But you didn’t offer it to me. I asked for it.”
Jenna tried to hide her smile. “Yes, I suppose you did.” She handed him the napkin. “Here, you’ve got some sauce on your cheek. My name is Jenna, by the way.”
The child finished the hamburger and wiped his face and hands. Digging into a brightly coloured backpack, he brought out a bottle of water, took a drink and erupted in a loud burp.
“Oops,” he said, eyes sparkling. “My dad says it’s rude to burp, but it feels good.” He put the water bottle back in his backpack. “Why were you crying?”
Jenna studied the cheery little face for a moment, then turned away. “Trust me Danny, you don’t want to hear my story.”
“Why not?” He moved forward, placed one arm on either headrest and poked his face between the seats. “It sure must be sad to make you cry like that.”
“It was sad,” she said, “at least to me, but it’s over now. That’s the last time I’m going to cry about it.” She turned to the young boy and was about to ask him to get out, but something about the hopeful look in his eyes made her stop. “Don’t you have somewhere you should be?” The moment the words were out, she realized it was a foolish question.
She gave him what she hoped was a no-nonsense look. “Then I guess you’d better tell me what you’re doing here.” She put her backpack on the floor and gestured to the other seat. “Come up here so I can see you properly while we talk.”
He crawled over the console and settled into the passenger seat, little legs straight out in front of him.
“How old are you, Danny?”
“I’m almost eight.”
“I see.” She almost blurted out that he was small for his age, but caught herself in time. No doubt he’d heard that often enough.
“Do you live around here?”
He hesitated for a moment, then turned his head and pointed behind them. “A couple of blocks that way.”
“So what made you get into my car?” It suddenly struck her that she must have left it open. “Was it open?”
“Yeah. I saw you go to the restroom, and I jumped in. You should never leave your car unlocked.”
Great, she thought. Now I’m getting advice from an eight year old. “You’re right,” she said, and you shouldn’t get into a stranger’s car.”
“I know, but you looked nice. I watched you for a few minutes when you pulled up.”
“Danny, please. You can’t trust people. Even the bad people look nice most of the time.” Why was she the one lecturing this kid? “Where are your parents? They’ll be going crazy looking for you.”
“My Mom’s in heaven,” he said, not meeting her eyes, “and my Dad works all the time. So I’m running away to look for a new family.” He gave her a look that was far beyond his years. “You looked like you could use a friend. So here I am.”
Good Lord, thought Jenna. I’m in the middle of a made-for-television movie.
She knew she shouldn’t get involved, but she couldn’t help herself. “Who takes care of you during the day?”
He rolled his eyes. “I used to have a Nanny, then when I started school we got a housekeeper, but today was her last day. The new housekeeper was supposed to come at ten o’clock, but Mrs. Jessup didn’t wait for her.” He shot her a sideways glance. “She left early so she could get to Bingo on time.”
“And you’ve been alone all day? The new housekeeper didn’t show up?”
He sat up straighter. “It wasn’t so bad. I have lots of video games.”
“Your father isn’t going to be pleased about this.”
Defiance flashed in the child’s eyes. “He won’t care. He doesn’t even look at me most of the time. That’s why I need a new family.” He made a show of looking around the car. “I could stay here with you. At least you talk to me.”
Jenna sipped at her now-cold coffee while she thought about how to deal with the situation. The young boy appeared to be seriously lonely, but she could see he wasn’t neglected. With no mother, a series of caregivers and what he claimed was a workaholic father, there was no doubt that he’d learned to manipulate. All kids learned that skill and Danny was no exception, but there was something about him that tugged at her heart.
She turned in her seat. “What about your friends? Where are they?”
He shrugged, “None of my school friends live around here.”
“No kids at all around here?” She widened her eyes.
“There are kids, but most of them are a lot older than me.” He scanned the small park as though a soccer game might magically break out. “So, can I stay here with you tonight?”
Jenna pulled back. “With me? In my car?”
“Yeah, why not?”
“Nobody lives in a car, Danny.”
He looked at her evenly. “You do.”
“Just temporarily,” she snapped, immediately regretting her tone. “Sorry. I’m a bit touchy about that.”
He lifted his small shoulders. “It’s okay.” He reached back to his backpack and dug out a chocolate bar. “Want half?” he asked, ripping the paper.
“No thanks,” she said automatically. The smell of chocolate permeated the car and she swallowed a sudden rush of saliva.
“Here,” he said, removing half of the bar and handing it to her. “I have another one.”
“Okay,” she said, with a faint smile. “I love chocolate.”
They sat silently for several minutes, eating the chocolate and watching the last rays of the sun fade from the park.
“I have to take you home, Danny. You know that.”
“Yeah,” he said, licking his fingers and wiping them on his designer jeans. “I know.” He offered her a grin. “But I still like you, Jenna.” He looked straight ahead as she started the car engine. “We’ll probably get back before my Dad comes home anyway. He won’t even know I was gone.”
“Really?” Jenna wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or not. She had envisioned answering some questions about why Danny was being brought home by a stranger. She’d also planned to ask a few questions of her own.
“Yeah. He works late a lot of the time. He’s a sturgeon.”
“You mean surgeon?”
Danny giggled. “When I was just a kid, I couldn’t say surgeon, but for some reason I could say sturgeon. So that’s the way I still say it.”
“When you were just a kid,” repeated Jenna with a wry smile.
“Yeah.” Something in the tone of his voice made her glance over at him. His head was turned and he was staring out the window. “It used to make my Mom laugh.”

When I found the above photo on a commercial photo site, I just knew the young boy was Danny. Those cheery little eyes stayed with me all throughout the book.

Is it any wonder I’m in love?

The Forever Series is available on Amazon, iTunes, B&N and Kobo.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Just Released - Book Four in the Forever Series

Now available on Amazon, iTunes, B&N & Kobo!

Readers continue to enjoy the Forever Series, and I hope you'll enjoy this one as well. Here's the description:

    Winner of an Olympic silver medal in show jumping, Mackenzie Bradford is expected to win gold the next time around. When her career is shattered along with her hip, she becomes lost and bitter.
    Knowledgeable, brash and oh so appealing, veterinarian Joel Springer has had disappointments of his own – particularly with ‘little rich girls’ like Mack.
     With Mack’s personal life falling apart, can Joel convince her to focus her strength and determination on finding a new career, and will she forgive him when she finds out he isn’t who he pretends to be?

As with the other books in the ‘Forever’ series, Forever My Love focuses on a woman at a crossroads in her life. These romances contain no graphic sex, but instead focus on the woman’s story, and how her journey leads to love. Novella-length at between 32,00-44,000 words, they are complete stories, and may be read in any order. Enjoy!

Here are the links:

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Finding My Niche

I took a much-needed break last week to attend my local writers group. I’d spoken a few times about my current WIP – the first three books in a new series. I’d been claiming they were different from the ‘normal’ romances available today and one of my fellow writers finally got around to asking the important question:
“How? How are they different, Mona?”
Time to fish or cut bait.
I probably should have kept my mouth shut. After all, what’s ‘normal’ in romance? There are so many different sub-genres of romance these days one can hardly keep up. Remember the good old days when Harlequin/Silhouette told us which stories fit into which category? No, I’m not suggesting that we revert to that system, but when the reader picked up a Harlequin Blaze in the store, they knew what to expect. Now they pick up (electronically) an e-book with a hot looking cover, looking for a sizzling read, and find it’s rather tame… or sometimes the opposite.
Am I evading the question here? Yeah, probably. So okay Mona, how is this new series different?
First: I don’t specify Book One, Book Two etc. on the front cover. For books to be listed with the retailers as a series, they have to be assigned One, Two etc., but it doesn’t have to show on the cover, and I like that.
Second:  There isn’t a bare chest in sight. Wait… there isn’t even a man on the cover! Are these really romances? Definitely. They are touching romances that focus on story. But hold on… the reader will get at least a couple of sex scenes… right? Sorry, no. We may join the lovers the morning after the fact, but that’s all folks. As I said, this series focuses on story.
Third:  No cliffhangers. This won’t surprise my readers, because I’ve never written one, but cliffhangers are becoming common, and I’ve made it clear that these all self-contained stories. One character appears in every story, and I have vague plans to give her a story of her own at some point, but each novella is about a fresh set of characters.
Fourth: Releasing three books at once. This is not usually the way it’s done, but I know that when I find an author/series I enjoy, I’m often ready to read another book right away. So I’ve released three in the FOREVER series.
Fifth:  Length. These are novella-length. So far, they’re 32,000 – 38,000 give or take a few words. You’d be surprised how much story can be packed into that number of words when we don’t have several sex scenes taking up ten pages each.
Hold on! What’s the matter with sex scenes?
Nothing. Just look at the number of ‘hot’ books out there. As the old adage goes, sex sells. But other authors are doing a great job already. I’ve written some books with sex scenes and they were fun, but these days I prefer to focus on stories that resonate with me.
The result? I’ve found my niche, and I’m quite comfy here, thanks.
I hope you’ll read this new series. Response from my Beta readers has been positive. The first story – FOREVER CHANGED – is free at Amazon, iTunes, B&N & Kobo. 
In the meantime – whatever’s on your e-reader – Happy Reading!

Here are the links for FOREVER CHANGED:

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Birth of a Series - Part Three

As I write this, I’m busy working on Book Three of the Series.

Before I started writing any of the books, I considered marketing. Most authors will tell you that there are two aspects of being an author that are a pain – one is writing a catchy blurb, and the other is marketing. I would have to agree.

From what I’ve observed, each genre requires slightly different marketing. There are dozens of books willing to tell you how to do it, but frankly I’ve found that experimenting works for me. Yes, every once in a while an ad or a promo is a complete bust, but I’m not likely to forget it and repeat the mistake.

My first consideration was the ‘look’ of the covers. I wanted to convey an emotional read, and as I said in an earlier post, each story is about a woman at a turning point in her life. Issues so far have been work-related, health-related, and the one I’m working on now is about the end of a relationship.

Look on any e-book sales site these days, and ninety percent of the romances have either a hot looking man with no shirt and 6-pack abs, or a male and female in a clutch. Makes sense… the author and cover designer are showing you what to expect when you start reading.

I’m taking a bit of a chance with this new series. I’m portraying just the female protagonist on the cover. Each story will have a romantic interest involved, but he won’t make the cover. Not because the man isn’t important, but because I want the series to stand out as something just different enough to attract a potential reader’s interest. Each book is a romance, but it’s primarily about the story.

After much discussion back and forth, Elizabeth Mackey has come up with an amazing series of covers. I’ll post four of them here, and I hope you agree with me that she’s done a wonderful job.

Time to get back writing. These darn books don’t write themselves!  Release date for the first three looks to be somewhere in the middle of August. I’ll be sure to let you know.

ps:  If you’d like to receive notices from me on new releases, and free or discounted books, please sign up for my e-mail newsletter. Sign-up form is on my facebook page. See the envelope graphic in the left-hand panel; that’s where you sign up. Here’s the link:

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Birth of a Series - Part 2

One of the toughest decisions I made when I started this series was to release the first three books concurrently. Why? Because I believe that for a reader to become involved with any series, and the style of storytelling, they need to read several. Of course it’s in my best interest to have readers buy the subsequent books, and if they like the stories, I’m confident they will buy more than one.

This new series – or collection of stories – will have one thing in common. Each story starts at a turning point in the central character’s life.  The stories will revolve almost solely around one character, and as a result they will be shorter than my other novels. These would technically be called novellas, but that term is misunderstood and misrepresented, so I’ll be making it clear that they’re an encapsulated story line with the focus being a romantic story. I’ve read a lot of romances recently that are nothing more than a beginning and an ending, with multiple sex scenes spliced in between. A sex sandwich, as it were.

There’s nothing wrong with that – if they weren’t popular, readers wouldn’t buy them, and they’d fade away into obscurity. But I’ve learned that my readers like a bit more story between “hello” and “I do”. And with this new series, I intend to give them that. Don’t get me wrong – there’s lots of romance, but there’s an interesting storyline as well.

I’m one work day away from finishing the second one. It’s an exciting time, and I’m getting anxious to share them with you.

In Part Three, I’ll show you the covers designed by my incredible cover artist. She’s done an amazing job, and I can’t wait to share them with you.

See you in a couple of weeks!

ps:  If you’d like to receive notices from me on new releases, and free or discounted books, please sign up for my e-mail newsletter. Sign-up form is on my facebook page. See the envelope graphic in the left-hand panel; that’s where you sign up. Here’s the link:

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Birth of a Series - Part I

Ask five authors for a description of a series and you’re likely to get five different answers. I’m one of those who believe that there’s a certain amount of latitude allowed in describing a series.
  For example, is a series similar to the old serials that were shown before the main feature at movie houses? Those generally featured a main character, who managed to get into, and out of, a different dangerous situation each week.
  Or is a series a set of books on a theme?
  Or is a series an evolving string of stories? This type is often set around a family. In the romance genre, you’d be amazed how many families have 5 or even 6 dazzlingly handsome, incredibly successful brothers. Oh, I musn’t forget… they’re all great lovers, too.
  Am I making fun of those? Not a bit… I’ve written my share of similar men. After all, romances are fantasy at heart.
  What’s my point? I have embarked on a new series. It will be the longest series I’ve written, and I’ve devoted a lot of time to considering all the angles. No doubt there are some I haven’t considered, but that’s what keeps me learning all the time.

This blog (Part I) will concentrate on genre. Sounds silly, right? After all, I write romance. What’s so difficult about qualifying that? Fair enough. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that this blog will concentrate on the heat index – or how sensual the series will be, if you prefer that terminology.
  Does it matter? Yes, I think so. I have written everything but erotica. A couple of my books have what is termed sexually explicit scenes. A couple of my books have sex scenes between the two main characters, but the heat index is quite far down the scale. And recently, I’ve been concentrating more on story, with any sex being what we call ‘behind closed doors’.
  When I advertise my books with sexually explicit scenes, I put a warning in the book blurb that goes to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, etc. Not only is there a sensuality level warning, but the book blurb itself is unambiguous. And so on, through the sensuality levels of my various books.
  Why is this necessary? Because I would never willingly offend my readers. Some of them have come to know me through my very first books – the ones published through a small press called Avalon. Amazon now owns those titles and continues to advertise and sell them on my behalf, and they are considered Sweet Romances.
   Let’s face it. There are plenty of books out there with a lot of sex… that’s no secret. And those authors do it well – far better than I. So I cheerfully leave that market to them while I work to develop my style.
  And what’s my style? As evidenced over my past two series, it’s tender romances with well-developed characters and an interesting, unique story line. Some old-time writers say there’s no such thing as a new story line and that may be true, but I try to come up with something fresh for each book I write.
  In part two of The Birth of a Series, I’ll tell you about the new series I’m working on. In the meantime, I’m hard at work on the second book. So keep in touch.

ps:  If you’d like to receive notices from me on new releases, and free or discounted books, please sign up for my e-mail newsletter. Sign-up form is on my facebook page. See the envelope graphic in the left-hand panel; that’s where you sign up. Here’s the link: