Monday, December 16, 2013

BOOK RELEASE: Scars


I think of my life in two distinct parts.  The accident separates them into neat parcels.  Or, more correctly, separates me into pieces, which has made pieces of my life.  Whereas, before the emergency workers pried me out of what was left of my car, I ran my sales office like I was still twenty-something, worked out at the gym three times a week and slept a full eight hours every night, now I’m lucky I can walk upright, much less lift a dumbbell, and I get maybe four hours of sleep, at best.
Kathy has been great about it.  Very patient.  Which is good because I’ve given her plenty of reason not to.  After every operation, while I was flat on my back, I got demanding and ill-tempered.  I snapped at her for no good reason other than she was in the room and I had no-one else to take it out on.  And, ever since the first time I came home from the hospital, I’ve barely been able to stand having her in the same room when I get dressed.  Especially when she has to help me.
One night, the air was hot and muggy.  Kathy would have filled a bowl with water and wiped my whole body, if I’d asked.  Instead, I got up from bed because I was too uncomfortable to just lie there, went into the bathroom and took off my shirt.  I was wringing the washcloth for the third time when the bathroom door suddenly opened.
“Oh!  I’m sorry.”
The door closed quickly, but I recognised the voice.  Tess, Amelia’s friend in town for their ten year high school reunion.  It took a couple of minutes to get over the sudden intrusion, and my heart to beat normally.  I put my shirt back on and headed to my bedroom.  As I passed the living room, I saw her sitting on the couch.
“Sorry, Tess.  The bathroom’s free.”
“I’m sorry, Mr Neel.  I didn’t notice anyone was in there.”
“It’s okay.  I should have locked the door.  I used to, all the time, but since the kids moved out, I got out of the habit.  Anyway, you can use it now.”
“Mr Neel?”  She kept her voice down.
“Yes?”
“Can I ask you something?”
“Sure.”
“Your back – ”
“I’m sorry you had to see that.”
            “Is that what happened in the accident?”

Scars - a Rebel Ink Press title now available at:

Amazon 

Barnes and Noble 

All Romance e-books 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

BOOK RELEASE: Accommodations





A bead of water crawled down the wine bottle on the coffee table.  Trish leaned back against me, head pressed to my shoulder.  Strands of hair tickled my nose.  Dusk had succumbed and we began the first of two planned nights at her beach house in southern New Jersey.

“I’m glad you came,” she said, just loud enough to be heard over the music.

“I’m glad you let me.  This is a nice place.  I can see why you like coming.”  I kissed her hair and she hummed with pleasure.  “Ever rent it out?”

“No, I use it too much.  Especially during the summer.  After a hard day laying out on the sand, it’s nice to relax on the patio.”

“Yeah, I’m sure you work up quite a sweat getting a tan.  It’s a nice night.  We could go out there now, I think.”

“Mmm, no.  I don’t wanna get up.”  She reached a hand back to my face.  “I never wanna get up.  This feels too good.”

“Don’t get used to it.  I can only stay to Sunday and then it’s back to reality.”

“Don’t remind me,” she said with a mock pout.

For a few minutes we sat together.  I listened to her breathe and felt her chest rise and fall under my hand.

“Funny, isn’t it?”  She took a sip from her glass.

“What’s funny, beautiful?”

“The way things happen.  You know, how we met and all.”

“I guess.”

“We know each other so well.  Even though we’ve only talked online and on the phone, I feel more comfortable with you than just about anyone else.  It wouldn’t hurt if you let me win a game, once in a while, though.”

“It wouldn’t hurt if you increased your vocabulary a little.”

“Go to hell.  My vocabulary is just fine, thank you very much.”  She giggled.  “Besides, it’s hard making words with seven random letters.”

“So you think I should throw a game every once in a while.  Is that it?”

“Well …  Put it that way … ”

“Want me to tell you when I cheat for you or should I let you think you’ve gotten better?”

“Have I told you to go to hell, yet?  Jerk?”

“I love you, you know.”

“I love you, too.”  She let out a big sigh.  “I just wish we’d met before.”

“Before?  You mean, before you met your fiancĂ© or before I met my wife?”

“Exactly.”

“If I remember the math, you would have been twelve when I got married.”

“Shut up.  You know what I mean.  We have so much in common.  We like the same things.  We think alike.”

“Sometimes.”

“And I can tell you anything.”

“Yes, you can.”  I closed my eyes as I stroked her hair.

Look for the rest of Accommodations at:




Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Qs With E




Just so everyone is clear on what’s happening with today’s posting: I’m interviewing my editor and publisher who will henceforth be referred to as E.  There are reasons for that but the explanations will go begging.  Except for the fact everyone calls her that.  It’s true.  I swear.

When I proposed to E she turned me down and rightfully so as we’re currently married to other people who are pretty understanding but not to that extent.  Needless to say there are no plans to change our respective situations although while doors are closed they aren’t locked.  But I digress.  Somewhat.

So I suggested the idea of an interview with E and she jumped at the opportunity.  She jumped with less than full enthusiasm when I told her she’d be providing answers without having seen the questions beforehand.  What you’ll read below is therefore something of a hit and/or miss experiment in trust and mind reading.  How successful we are will depend entirely on luck and creative excuses.  Not to mention the forbearance of you the reader.  The sharp eyed will note the absence of a commonly used punctuation on my part.  There are reasons for that as well.  There are reasons for everything.  There might be a prize to the first person who figures it out.

And so we begin.

NSR: I want to thank you for the opportunity to talk to you this way.  People rarely let me do this kind of thing.  I’m sure you can imagine why.  Before we get started I’d like to give you an opportunity to make a blanket statement/retraction/apology for whatever results from this adventure.  With that in mind . . . GO!

E: When you talk to Nick, you’d better have your coffee handy.  You’re going to need to be awake and have your head in the game.  When I first met Nick, I mistook him for the academic given his gift for communicating and his vast knowledge in a multitude of areas.  Rest assured, Nick isn’t a professor.  Rather he’s as modern a businessman as they come, complete with several cell phones and flash drives full of data.  Spreadsheets to be exact.  Apparently he’s a wizard like that.

Although I haven’t seen his spreadsheets so I can’t attest to the laws of his Excel excellence, I can tell you the moment I first fell for Nick and why I fell so hard.  Nick is an editor’s writer.  And if anything, I’m first and foremost an editor.  So what in the world does all of that mean, you ask?  In this industry?  It means a hell of a lot.

But I’m going to save gushing over Nick for another time.  At present, I’ve put myself on the hot seat and agreed to play a little Nick Santa Rosa game of Q and A.  More like a game of Blind Answers to be exact, as Nick refused to give me his questions ahead of time.  Make that at all.  Never let it be said I don’t have a sense of humor.

So that brings me to the moment at hand, staring at a blank page, pondering the top ten things Nick would most like to ask me.  Might they be personal, professional, about literature and words and books and this industry?  Might they be what I think about him or his work?  If only I knew…

Before I consider my answers, it’s only fair that I say while Nick and I are a lot alike, we have some notable differences.  Nick has a better sense of humor than I do.  He likes a fine cigar while I prefer a fine pastry.  Nick likes lemonade while I fancy myself an iced tea kind of girl.  Whatever in the world might he want to ask me?

So the task at hand is ten thoughtful answers to ten invisible, yet relevant and interesting questions.

NSR: Who was the first boy to have a crush on you?  The first you were aware of.  How old were you?  Were you interested in him at the same time?  How did it turn out?  (I know that’s really four questions.  Sue me.)

E: What do I most admire about Nick Santa Rosa?  I love so many things about you but two things stand out as they pertain to Nick, the writer.  Dead Love crossed my desk and I read it instead of sending it to one of my editors.  I was impressed that save for the errant comma here and there, it was a clean, concise and well-put together story.  It was refreshing to say the least.  Truthfully, however, I have to say Nick is the consummate editor’s writer.  He’s not afraid to make a change when needed to enhance or better a story.  He’s not so married to the name or the color or the town or the paragraph that he sacrifices the whole for the part.  As I said before, this is a rare, rare trait.  If there were one thing I could bottle and gift to all of my Rebels, it would be this understood detachment.  But don’t misunderstand; Nick isn’t cold with his work.  Far from it—he’s wildly passionate about his stories.  But Nick gets it.  He’s a big picture guy.  And that’s a quality that’s hard to find.

NSR: If I gave you a million dollars -  Wait.  That’s something else.  What prompted you to start your own publishing house?  Were you encouraged by friends and family or did some of them try to talk you out of it?

E: I ask myself this question every day.  Yes.  I’d do it all again.  In fact, I don’t plan to stop.  Rebel can grow or shrink.  It doesn’t matter.  If we look up one day and there stand the founding five, I’m fine with that.  If we end up bigger, as long as we’re stronger, that works, too.  Like we talked the other day, it’s a coat tails thing.  If one of the Rebels skyrockets, I hope to get a mention somewhere along the way.  We all win in that scenario.  If something the team does to elevate Rebel as a company gets attention, we all win that way.  The running joke is which Rebel is going to get a made for television movie, cable series or big screen contract first?  I have my thoughts, but seriously, I can’t share that here…

NSR: If you couldn’t do what you’re currently doing . . . how shall I put this . . . what would you turn your attention and talents to as an alternative?

E: Outside of the ever-present, over-inflated ego, social media is the biggest blessing and curse I wrestle with these days.  I think author image is important.  You are your brand.  But I’m beginning to feel like I stand alone on this.  I desperately want my authors to present themselves to the public with class and dignity.  But the disturbing trend for writers of all calibers is to degrade themselves through social media sites.  Why do I want to see an author naked?  Are you a better write in a G-string and stilettos holding a toy crop?  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you’re not hot.  Maybe you are.  (And yes, Nick, I know YOU are!)  Just help me understand what that has to do with promoting your written work and building your brand.  I don’t believe in success at any cost.

NSR: Do you like lemonade?  Forget that.  Where do you go when you need to get away to some peace and quiet?  Tell me about it in the style of the first Rebel Ink Press writer who comes to mind.

E: This is probably the number one question (with slight variations) I field.  What am I reading?  What’s the most graphic thing I’ve read?  What are my top ten favorite books of all time?  I have to admit, my reading list is a bit of a contradiction.  Wander through my Kindle and you’ll find military romance and inspirational nestled amongst m/m and New Adult.  How’s that for confusing?  Given I read over three hundred books year (yes, I keep a spreadsheet that I share with close friends and I even write a short sentence or two to jog my memory in the event someone asks for a recommendation), my top ten is very rare air.  While I can list answers to all of the questions posed above, the bigger question that often goes unasked is why?  No one ever asks me why!  Why does someone that reads over 300 titles a year put Whispers in the Dark in her top ten?  Because the emotional connection between Nathan and Shea wrecked me.  Why does someone that reads two books a day some days put Life Over Easy in her top ten?  Because I’ve never seen illness handled with such deftness.  Why is Plan B, or Easy or Don’t Let me Go or Try, Try Again or Sunrise Point right up there near the top?  Trust me, ten is selling my list far short.

NSR: What would you say is the greatest professional accomplishment of your life to date?  How would you improve on it if you could go back and do it again?

E: I have no idea where we’re headed as an industry.  It used to be that everyone wanted a big six contract.  Yet lately, it seems people want to be number one on Amazon, even if they have to give their work away and pay to get a few hundred five star reviews to make it happen.  In fact, two of the biggest names in romance recently decided to self-pub some of their upcoming work.  I’m talking contracted six and seven figure types.  This confounds me.  Nearly everyone I know in this business would die to be on a first name basis with a big six house, not to mention on an editors speed dial.  There’s a prestige and wonderwall of hidden perks that come with the big contracts.  I have no idea what’s going on but it can’t be all about the math.

NSR: If Disney called and said they want to buy Rebel Ink Press and offered a Nigerian lottery size buyout but stipulated you could never work in publishing again would you take it?  Why (not)?

E: Maybe that begs a few questions a deeper discussion.  I’ve noticed you’re quite the flirt.  For instance, in your hypotheticals, you raise two interesting points.  So let me ask, is it always about sex?  Of course, sex fuels our species—so there’s the biological aspect.  And yes, with the biological comes the physical, the release, that feel good moment as you readily admit.  A pleasure principal of sorts.  But what about the emotional connection?  Is it possible for two people to be satisfied through an emotional connection without a physical component?  I subscribe to the knowledge that what makes us strongest also serves as the point where we’re weakest.  So really, is it the release or the intimacy?

NSR: What’s one thing you swore you’d never do but wound up doing anyway?  Be specific.  Use examples and cite references.

E: Medium rare on that steak.  Greek salad.  Baked artichoke with an inky, peppery Zinfandel.  Fudge cake, about five minutes under baked, please.  Mountains with a lake over the beach.  Sunrise over sunset.  Sonoma over the city but dinner and shopping in town once a week.  Sports over live theatre but movies.  Lots of movies.  A bit of television, mostly cable over the networks.  Music.  A ton of music.  But never while writing or editing.  That’s a big no no.  Grey hair (happy, now, aren’t you?) and big brains are a must.  The rest is just for fun so it really doesn’t matter.  Bed over floor (good-bye youth).  Dim but not totally dark.  Someone who can make me laugh as opposed to the compliment or gift giver.  A present under the tree over a gift card.  Coffee in bed every morning.  Yes, I’m spoiled.  But hey, you asked.

NSR: How old were you when you lost -  Sorry.  Different interview.  Do you ever see yourself retiring from publishing?  Would you become a lady of leisure or find something to keep your busy?

E: There are several core elements that define a good writer.  A good writer is always learning.  There are more tools available to authors now than ever before.  Go find them and use them.  A good writer is well read in their given genre as well as other mainstream genres and cross over categories.  Who are the top ten authors in your genre?  Who’s at the bottom?  Have you read the top five bestsellers within the last year?  A good writer does just that.  A good writer is flexible.  You said something to me when we spoke earlier this week that I think should qualify as one of the ten keys in Writer 101:  “I’m not afraid to change or cut anything if it makes the story better.”  What I adore about you is that you understand that while a writer can love their words, if those words don’t serve the whole to push the story forward and create an experience for the reader, they’re just fluff.  That’s a huge deal and a concept seven out of ten writers don’t fully understand.  A good writer pushes the limits.  What do I mean by this?  Within every genre, there’s a comfort zone.  You know?  The read one, read them all type thing you’ve come to know about certain authors?  I see writers settle far too often when a little stretch would catapult their work to the next level.  I hate to see writers get too comfortable.

NSR: You’re shipwrecked on a desert island – an island that just happens to have the required electrical resources to answer this question.  What ten books and/or records (45s, LPs, CDs) would you want with you?

E: I’m surprised you asked that given your blog clearly states you don’t date.   I would love to go, but it seems you have all of these rules.  So that means having you hand me a signed copy of your novel someday soon over lemonade will have to suffice.  Granted, I need you to promise your writing haunt will have unsweet iced tea at the ready.  In fact, I’ll go one better.  Let’s invite the CW and CH for dinner and I’ll buy.  You do at least double date, right?  I mean, you’re older than I am.  We’ve already discussed this so please don’t be offended.  Didn’t your generation create the double date?

NSR: Who would you say was the biggest influence on your life (not limited to people you actually know in person) and how did he/she influence you?

E: Yes, I write.  In fact, I’m a published author, which means I play in the same pool you do.  Albeit at a slightly different depth.  Under a pen name, of course.  I’ve been published for almost five years now and have several novels under my belt.  I like happy endings but I’m also a sucker for a good cliffhanger.

Thank you for joining me for this.  You’ve been most gracious.  A real gem.  A goddess.  All those good ‘G’ words.

Come on!  Let’s give it up for E!  There she goes.  <sniff>  I’m going to miss her.

To my loyal reader I’ll just take this opportunity to say that when I first merged E’s answers to my questions I was a bit disappointed.  It didn’t turn out quite as I’d hoped.  On first blush.  But in reading it over it actually works very nicely.  Kind of like the usual Q & A with a politician or professional athlete.  Haven’t you ever noticed they almost never answer the damn questions?  Really.  Pay attention next time.  Especially in presidential debates.  So to that end I deem this experiment a total success and thank you for reading to this part.  And now if you’ll continue reading a little further you’ll find a second round of the same questions with E’s answers after she had a chance to read them.  Once again I thank her for her time and effort.  It was a true gift of trust I will never understand . . . I mean I’ll never forget.


Now for the answers to my real questions from E herself:

As you might have noticed, I’m back hogging Nick’s blog, taking you away from his work, which I know is quite a concession.  But as you saw above, Nick’s experiment was a blind Q and A.  Even though he’s tried to play it off, I think several of my answers surprised him.  But as you know, I adore Nick so whatever he wants, he gets.  And what he wants is answers to his original ten questions.  I’ve even allowed him to kick in a bonus, as if I had any say in the matter.  Which is very kind of me if you think about it.  Nick likened me to a politician.  Did you catch that?  That alone might warrant a flight to Nick’s location.  Hmm.  Maybe that was his intention all along.  Crafty…

NSR: Who was the first boy to have a crush on you?  The first you were aware of.  How old were you?  Were you interested in him at the same time?  How did it turn out?  (I know that’s really four questions.  Sue me.)

E: I don’t think a boy has ever had a crush on me.  Seriously.  I remember having to chase every boy I dated until I caught I my CH.  That’s not to say after we’d dated a bit they didn’t want out when I did.  But I think that’s another question.  I’ve been married over twenty years.  Clearly this catching thing worked out.

NSR: If I gave you a million dollars -  Wait.  That’s something else.  What prompted you to start your own publishing house?  Were you encouraged by friends and family or did some of them try to talk you out of it?

E: Picture it:  five friends who happened to share a love of writing, all disgruntled with their current publishing houses for various reasons.  The question is raised.  Could we do better?  Indeed we thought we could.  So we are.  I’ve been blessed to be encouraged on this journey but I won’t lie.  As this industry pitches and heaves, I get asked if it’s still worth it all the time.  If I still enjoy what I do.  Not often, of course, but enough.  The founding five keep me grounded.

NSR: If you couldn’t do what you’re currently doing . . . how shall I put this . . . what would you turn your attention and talents to as an alternative?

E: If I couldn’t be E any longer and serve in this capacity, I’d teach creative writing at the college level and I’d coach.  But I can’t say which sport.  We evasive types are prickly that way.  (Seriously, you guys should laugh.  Nick deserved that one).

NSR: Do you like lemonade?  Forget that.  Where do you go when you need to get away to some peace and quiet?  Tell me about it in the style of the first Rebel Ink Press writer who comes to mind.

E: When I need to get away, I either put the boat in the water, take it out on the court or I write.  In fact, creating characters I can then beat the hell out of is one of my favorite past times.

NSR: What would you say is the greatest professional accomplishment of your life to date?  How would you improve on it if you could go back and do it again?

E: I’ve satisfied a bucket list wish for over 80 people—checking off “being published (writing a novel)” on their list.  That wins hands down.  To improve on that, if I could go back, I’d have called every single person I’ve ever offered a contract before I signed them.  That also happens to be my goal for 2014.

NSR: If Disney called and said they want to buy Rebel Ink Press and offered a Nigerian lottery size buyout but stipulated you could never work in publishing again would you take it?  Why (not)?

E: I’d have a few questions.  Could I still write and be published?  That would be a deal breaker.  Would all of our current contracts be honored?  That would be a deal breaker.  If those two things stood, I’d take the cash.  Why?  Because I have no doubt I could leverage a windfall and do some serious good for even more people.

NSR: What’s one thing you swore you’d never do but wound up doing anyway?  Be specific.  Use examples and cite references.

E: Personally:  my son’s chores.  I always drop the hammer then end up feeling guilty so I cave.  In fact, the washer is running as we speak.  Professionally:  working with people I really don’t care for.

NSR: How old were you when you lost -  Sorry.  Different interview.  Do you ever see yourself retiring from publishing?  Would you become a lady of leisure or find something to keep your busy?

E: I’ll never retire.  In fact, I’m probably the most hyper person you’d ever hope to meet.  Too much leisure scares me.

NSR: You’re shipwrecked on a desert island – an island that just happens to have the required electrical resources to answer this question.  What ten books and/or records (45s, LPs, CDs) would you want with you?

E: Ok—give me some credit.  This is one of the one’s I got correct.  I didn’t tackle the music aspect because honestly, it’s more complicated than my answer about books turned out to be.  I have over 100 favorites in my top ten music list.

NSR: Who would you say was the biggest influence on your life (not limited to people you actually know in person) and how did he/she influence you?

E: I don’t see one person when I think of an answer here.  I see my grandma because she was larger than life and loved a crowd and I always admired that about her.  I see my dad because he has a work ethic that’s second to none.  I see my mom because I have her heart for people.  I see my high school Latin teacher because saw potential I didn’t yet see.  So what did she do that was so special?  She told me about it.

NSR: Bonus question: Would you do this again if given a chance?

E: Ah, the bonus round.  Indeed I would.  In fact, I agree right here in front of God and everyone that I’ll play blind Q and A with you any time you want, about any subject.  It doesn’t always to be just this boring work related stuff.